Not seeing Thor simply because a black man was cast in what you think ought to be a white man’s role may be racist; however, not seeing it because you think the casting may be symptomatic of many other boneheaded directorial choices isn’t. It’s not okay to complain about this because you’re a racist. It is okay to complain about this if you’re a fanboy, the same kind of person objects to the casting of Stargate: Atlantic actor Jason Momoa as Conan the Barbarian because his eyes are brown rather than the “volcanic blue”2 described by Robert E. Howard (who was a racist, which complicates matters).3
2. Whatever “volcanic blue” means. I’ve never understood this one. Last time I checked, volcanoes were grey to brown and threw up in reddish orangey colours. This must be what they call colour-blind casting.
3. As much as I love his pulp fiction, imagine how badly someone like Robert E. Howard would do as a casting director, given his reliance on broad, crude racial stereotypes. “Need a sinister villain? You want a Chinaman. Get me Jackie Chan’s agent.” “Crafty? Let’s get a bankable Jew. How’s Adam Sandler sound?” “Brutish? That part’s made for a Negro. Is Sidney Poitier still working?” It just wouldn’t work.
How cute. My response is below:
Oh come now, that's just ridiculous and not borne out by any sort of analysis of Howard's fiction. The vast majority of villains in Howard stories are white men. Pick a Conan story: it's more likely than not Conan's enemy is a sinister white sorcerer, a crafty white general, or a brutish white warrior. Sure, Howard was writing in the age of Yellow Menace and Jim Crowe laws were still in effect, but if you break down the stories, white men outnumber all other ethnicities combined. It is simply false to state otherwise.
Besides, if you pluck most pulp fiction authors of the 1930s, of course they're going to have "broad, crude ethnic stereotypes." That's how bad it was in the 1930s. It was illegal for a black person to marry a white person in most states. Miscegenation was outlawed. Lynchings, while not common, were frequent in the south during Howard's lifetime. Scientific theory, at the time, was inundated with the pseudoscience of racial theory. Is it really any wonder that Howard said and wrote things that would be considered incredibly insensitive nowadays?
In any case, Howard would clearly cast Sidney Poitier as Ace Jessel, the intelligent, cheerful, courageous, sympathetic boxer, the only of Howard's boxing heroes to be a world champion. For a supposed racist, it's strange that Howard wrote two stories featuring an intelligent, sympathetic black man, especially one where he has to overcome the town's prejudice towards him - and succeeds.
"Volcanic blue" is a reference to larimar, a very rare and highly prized variety of volcanic rock noted for its vibrant, intense blue hue.
So, I have a few more things to put up on the Newcomer's Guide: "How many of Howard's villains were black/Asian/Jewish/Not White," and "What does volcanic blue mean?"
I've already answered the latter, though a more in-depth explanation of what larimar is and a helpful image wouldn't go amiss. However, for the latter I'll actually go through the stories, and note the ethnic origin of each villain, as well as heroes. Can't forget the heroic minority characters like Ace Jessel, N'Longa, Sakumbe, Ajonga, Yasunga, Laranga, N'Yaga, N'Gora, John Garfield, Lala Tzu, Conchita, Belit, Juan Lopez...