Should we care about The Shredder's casting in new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie?

William_Fichtner the new ShredderIn case you hadn’t heard, William Fichtner will be starring as The Shredder in 2014’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Through pretty much all the source material, Shredder’s alter-ego is Oroku Saki from Japan.

If you’re wondering, Fichtner is from New York. Just a bit different there.

Shredder in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990 movie
James Saito as Shredder in the 1990 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

I love Fichtner in every role — big or small — he’s in and I’ve got no doubt he’ll do a solid job as Shredder, but there really wasn’t an Asian actor who could fill the role?

It helps that Fichtner has previous experience collaborating with TMNT producer Michael Bay on “Armageddon” and “Pearl Harbor,” but it’s not like there’s a slew of high-profile Asian characters in comic books that have a chance to be featured in a summer blockbuster. And it’s kinda silly to have one less now with Shredder, arguably one of the more famous Asian characters of the last 20 years, being recast as an older white guy.

Zade Rosenthal/Marvel The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley)
Zade Rosenthal/Marvel
The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley)

Around this time last year, a lot of comic fan boys were annoyed with the announcement that Sir Ben Kingsley was going to be playing the role of Iron Man’s arch-enemy, The Mandarin in “Iron Man 3.” And that was even before they saw what the filmmakers did to the character in the movie!

Like Shredder, The Mandarin is portrayed as being of Asian descent — in his case,  he’s the son of a wealthy Chinese father and English aristocrat.

Some comic book purists get worked up when a character like The Kingpin or Perry White are cast in movies with black actors as they argue that the character should retain their original look and filmmakers shouldn’t be bothered trying to be overly P.C. by switching established character’s ethnicity.

The problem I’ve always had with that argument is that back in the 1950s and 1960s when the comic characters were created, there wasn’t a need to take into account minorities or at least portray them in a positive manner. The Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream comics in 1966 – a full 52 issues into “Fantastic Four” and three years after “The Avengers” first comic came out.250px-TMNTShredderComic Every character was white back then and female characters were treated like irritating, worrisome sidekicks.

While I’m not saying Idris Elba should be cast as Bruce Wayne in the next Batman movie, Robin could just as easily be black of Latino.  No one cared that Samuel L. Jackson was cast as Nick Fury in the Avengers’ franchise and that worked out pretty well for everyone.

It’s just very odd that there’s a small shift in that mindset to replace some minority characters with white actors. It’s not like that Black Panther, Shang-Chi or Blue Beetle movie is getting fast-tracked anytime soon.

What’s your thoughts? Not a big deal or do you think the characters brought over from comics don’t need to be switched out in any fashion? Vote (or Die!) now:

  • Barry Murray

    How is the casting of a white guy in a traditionally asian role any different from casting an african american in the role of the human torch in the new FF movie? Or having a young ril play Jimmy(Jenny) Olsen? There’s nothing really in the back story of the Human Torch that says he has to be a white guy(And lets face it, any new telling of the FF can’t have Captain America in it! It would confuse too many occasional viewers!), and likewise, there’s no hard and fast rule saying Perry needs to be a white guy, or Jimmy needs to be a dude(In all honesty, i think Jenny AND Perry were superfluous to the story of MoS). I think it mixes things up to go against type in these things. But you can’t have it one way and not the other. I always think of these kinds of things like an Elseworlds retelling. Like President Calvin Ellis as an african american Superman. Just think of it as a self contained alternate reality with it’s own little space in the continuity. No need for anyone to think about it too much.
    Until we see the movie(I am sure it will adequately explain why shredder is a white guy), it’s hard to judge.

  • As always, love the dialogue Barry and glad to know someone’s reading!

    For Shredder and Mandarin, both of their backstories specifically refers to their heritage. In Shredder’s case, that partly sets up the Shredder/Turtle rivalry.

    It’s more of a question that the default character is a white guy. I’m not ranting about it or anything, that’s just how it is from the old source material.

    Fury is a fringe character and he had to be switched to bring some diversity, but he’s still in the backdrop in Avengers. The Fantastic 4 had to switch Alicia and Lucius Fox had his role expanded in Nolan’s Batman films, but at the end of the day, most comic book movies feature white characters so it’s odd to switch a character who isn’t white in the comics to one in a movie.

    I keep hearing that Jimmy/Jenny rumor, but I couldn’t find anything that indicates she’s filling in for Jimmy. I just assumed she’s another Planet staffer.