geek, pop culture

Why I hate fancasting

Friday, the WB announced that Jesse Eisenberg had been cast as Lex Luthor for 2015’s Man of Steel sequel and many fans were not pleased.

The great irony of this, of course: Jesse Eisenberg as an  billionaire who's kind of a dick? Who'd believe that?

The great irony of this, of course: Jesse Eisenberg as a rich dude who’s kind of a dick? Who’d believe that?

Granted, things weren’t nearly as venomous as they were back when the WB announced that Ben Affleck was playing Batman or even when The Fast & Furious’ Gal Gadot was going to be Wonder Woman, but there was still a backlash.

Because, you see, the thing is, the internet has already cast that part. Fanboys wanted Bryan Cranston – specifically, they wanted Bryan Cranston as Breaking Bad’s Walter White, because he’s the biggest, most award-winning evil bald dude that they’d seen around lately.

That’s fancasting for you. Fans see a character like the one that hasn’t yet made it to screen (recently, in the case of Luthor) and they immediately slot the actor into a similar role. They see Scarlett Johansson beating dudes up in in a black catsuit with a red dye job and they think Mara Jade. They hear a rumor that Benedict Cumberbatch may be up for a Star Wars role and, because he’s played Sherlock Holmes and a military genius in Star Trek Into Darkness, they start photoshopping him blue to play Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Fancasting is all about the easy targets; it takes next to no imagination. Scarlett Johansson hasn’t been invisible since 2001’s Ghost World, but no one pegged her as a potential Mara until Iron Man 2. Would people have been clamoring for Bryan Cranston to play Lex Luthor ten years ago, when he was best known as the goofy dad from Malcolm in the Middle? Hell, who didn’t do a double take when he showed up playing Walter White in the first place?

I’ve admitted that fancastings annoy me, and always have. Back in the 90's, Mara fans targeted Dina Meyer thanks to Dragonheart and Starship Troopers. In the same era, Tommy Lee Jones was a popular choice for Thrawn. And this was back when there were no post-Return of the Jedi films on the horizon. Now that we know there are going to be sequels, fans are quick to slot any rumored actor as an EU character, whether it warrants it or not. (It probably doesn’t, but it’s not like there’s much else out there to work with yet.)

Been there, done that.

Been there, done that.

Would Bryan Cranston make a good Lex Luthor? Probably. Could Scarlett Johansson play a young Mara? Sure. We’ve pretty much seen them do it already. And of course: would they, at this point in their respective careers, so close on the heels of such similar high-profile characters? I doubt it.

After the various casting ‘controversies’ over the years that have turned into beloved portrayals – Heath Ledger as the Joker, for instance – You’d think more people would know better by now. The fancasters, alas, will never learn.

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