On Thursday’s episode of The Nightly Show, host Larry Wilmore turned his attention to “dork diversity,” and fan resistance to such changes as the possibility of a black Spider-Man in the rebooted movie franchise, or the female-led Ghostbusters. To explore the subject, he turned to a panel that included Sana Amanat, Marvel’s director of content and character development, and artist Phil Jimenez.
“Let me see if I can explain it to you,” Wilmore said in his introduction. “Nerds don’t have a problem with women; they have a problem with change. I’ll give you an example: Nerds are upset at black stormtroopers in the new Star Wars movie. Do they have a problem with stormtroopers being black? No. They have a problem with you changing their definition of a stormtrooper. I’ll be a little clearer: If the first time you introduce oatmeal to a nerd it has maple syrup in it, it better have maple syrup every fucking time, or it’s not oatmeal.”
Turning to the panel, which also included hip-hop artist Jean Grae and comedian Mike Lawrence, Wilmore asked, “What’s the real problem here, is it racism, sexism or nerdism?”
“It’s all of the above,” replied Amanat, co-creator of the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. “You can’t limit to one particular thing. I think people are just afraid of change, and they don’t like it when their toys are played with. I don’t; I like my Barbies and I still have some. I’m OK with that. […] The reason it’s important is we’re just trying to show we’re not trying to take away your toys, we’re just showing them in a different light.”
“It feels strange to me that we would partition race, gender and nerd as if they were distinct things,” Jimenez interjected. “All human beings are this combination of experiences and ideologies. […] Everybody’s get some nerd in them. But the idea that, somehow, being a nerd is separate from one’s religious or moral or political beliefs is strange to me. We all bring everything to our decision-making on a daily basis.”
Asked about the initial reaction to Kamala Khan, Amanat replied, “There was not much resistance at Marvel. I think people were excited because they said, ‘Oh, fundamentally, this is a Marvel idea. Kamala Khan is just like Peter Parker.’ At the end of the day, though, the response that we had … Apparently, I’m trying to convert people to Islam through a superhero story.
Turning to the audience, she jokingly added, “You guys are all Muslim now — I tricked you!”
Watch the panel segment below.
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