Maybe I’m just being greedy. Last year, I lamented the glaring lack of a Storm solo series, along with my friend Tiara and Princeless author Jeremy Whitley. A few months later, Marvel granted our wish, and I had tears in my eyes when writer Greg Pak encouraged Storm fans to share their Storm love on Twitter in anticipation of the first issue.
Was I expecting too much when I wished that the next on screen incarnation of Storm would be a good one? That X-Men: Age of Apocalypse director Bryan Singer would choose an actress better suited to the rebooted role than Halle Berry? An actress who could act, and who would do her research to learn what Storm is about and thereby approach the character with pride, instead of the contempt that Berry initially offered in her phoned-in performance? Whatever her motivation, I’m glad Berry changed her tune once she came to understand how popular the X-Men actually are. But I still revelled in that blessed moment in X-Men: Days of Future Past when Berry’s Storm was finally removed from this pained existence—even if only for a brief moment.
I had hoped for more, but with the recent casting announcement for Age of Apocalypse, I am once again disappointed. I want to say “enraged,” but frankly, I’m not surprised by this choice and am so jaded at this point that disappointment is all I can muster.
First, there is the visibly obvious: Alexandra Shipp’s skin tone is lighter than how Storm—a woman of African ancestry and features—is usually portrayed in the comics. It speaks to the serious problem of colourism in Hollywood where dark-skinned women rarely portray any prominent character unless that character is a slave or a maid. When it comes to women, Hollywood is more comfortable with “racial ambiguity.”
But if you can’t give me an actress that looks the part, then at least give me one that can act the fuck out of it.
There are many young black actresses with proven ability who could have played Storm. Ardo listed several examples here. Even an unknown actress could have have worked well, bringing more fresh talent to Hollywood and to the X-Men franchise.
Instead, we have someone with a resume of uncritically acclaimed performances in Drumline 2, House of Anubis, and the Aaliyah movie that currently rates a 2.8/10 on IMDb. I can only hope that her audition was out of this world.
But Bryan Singer has made his choice. I have to look forward now. I would hate to be in Shipp’s shoes, waking up to the Internet’s wrath. She may not be able to laugh off the hate as Ben Affleck did when he was announced as Batman, so I won’t be a further part of the negativity. Instead, I will hope and pray that Shipp will use this opportunity to prove me oh so very wrong. I hope that she will do what, apparently, Halle Berry did not—that is, review the source material, because you cannot pick up an issue of any book that features Storm and not see this woman for the goddess that she is.
And I won’t put the pressure only on the actress. The writers have to do better too. An actor can only go so far. I have already had to scrape the memory of the Walmart bra-wearing Emma Frost fetching ice for Sebastian Shaw from my mind. For Storm to work in Age of Apocalypse, the writers are going to have to dig in and understand why fans like me are expecting so much more from this character.
I grew up with Storm. When I was ten years old and my brother handed me his comic collection, I discovered a world where powerful people did amazing things—with or without their mutant abilities. And Storm was at the forefront. In fact, the moments I loved Storm the most were when she was at her weakest. She showed me that it was okay to have flaws and fears. During her moments of weakness, Storm always overcame—not with her phenomenal powers, but with her incredible strength of will.
Shipp will be playing a younger Storm, but one in whom all the grace and poise and beauty and ferocity and compassion and strength and leadership should be evident. She might be young, but in her, I should see the woman she will become. The woman who can walk into a room and command with her presence alone, long before she summons the lightning to her fingertips.
This is the Storm I want to see on the big screen. This is the Storm I have been waiting for for so long. This is the Storm I will throw all of my money at, again and again.
Because this is the goddess that I worship.
The ball’s in your court, Hollywood. Give me a Storm that I can believe in.