Imagination Connoisseur, Liam Carrigan, asks about the future for the X-Men in the movies. Will dramatic casting changes help or hurt the franchise?

Let us know what you think in the comments, below.

Hi Rob,

Greetings once again from Nagano, Japan.

Today, I wanted to ask your opinion on recent rumours regarding the future of the X-men on screen.

Rumours are going round that both Magneto and Professor X may be portrayed by black actors in future movies, with Denzel Washington being hinted as a possible Magneto. Now, I dont have a problem with diversity, but this particular case does seem problematic to me. On one hand, if you’re going to set the movies in the present day, then you need to change Magneto’s backstory as a Holocaust survivor, because for that story to still ring true, the character would need to be around 100 years old.

Considering that the creators are on record as saying that Professor X and his friend-turned-nemesis are based on Malcolm X and Dr Martin Luther King, recasting their backgrounds to run alongside the Civil Rights movement of the 60s makes sense from both a character and timeline viewpoint.

But what about the feelings of Jewish people?

Although he is an antagonist (I won’t say villain because I think he kinda has a point), Magneto is held up by many in the Jewish community as a character who reflects their history and the tragic experiences of their ancestors. Is it really fair to piss off one minority to appease another?

As a white guy who isn’t religious, I can’t really fully appreciate either the racism my black friends have to contend with or the anti-semetism which seems to be a big issue for Jews, too. But I know that both are terrible things to endure and as such both groups deserve representation.

It seems to me there already are a lot of good, black characters that could be adapted into movies, Black Panther has already shown the way. However, I struggle to think of any other Jewish characters who are as iconic as Magneto, and I think to remove that aspect of the character is kind of insulting to Holocaust survivors and their families.

Although its problematic in terms of timescale, I do feel that Magneto’s real origin is too important to the character to be changed out, especially when there are so many other characters who could make far better examples of diversity without compromising on faithfulness to the source material. For me, race or gender swapping works best with characters for whom their ethnicity or religious background isnt integral to their origin.

A good recent example of this was on the Sci Fi series Krypton. There’s nothing in General Zod’s background that says he needs to be white, and as such I think casting black English actor Colin Salmon as him was a stroke of genius. His colour didnt matter to me, but his performance totally captured the essence of the character, right down to his legendary catchphrase “Kneel before Zod” – and I’m sure having a more diverse cast got more people interested in the show, though sadly not enough to see it renewed for a third season.

So what do you think Rob, should we have a black Magneto?

Is there a way to strike a fair balance between necessary modernization and still paying respect to the real life tragedy which gives this character his origins? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks and keep up the good work.
– Liam C.