A discussion has been wafting around my Facebook concerning the “whitewashing” of the character of Mindy Park in the movie of The Martian. I found this a bit confusing, because I had never had a mental image of Mindy as being Korean. (I don’t think of “Park” as being necessarily Korean, unlike the way I know that “Nguyen” is Vietnamese.) The novel contains no descriptions of the ethnicities or races of any of the characters. It is an artifact of my white privilege that I tended to visualize the characters as Anglo, except for the head of Mars missions Vincent Kapoor (who I thought of as Indian, but the part was played onscreen by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is Nigerian) and astronaut Rick Martinez (who I thought of as Hispanic, and the part was played by Michael Pena). (I always saw astrodynamicist Rich Purnell as a dweeby white guy, and was delighted when I saw Donald Glover, an African-American, in the role.)
The discussion got me to thinking. What would the movie be like with a different lead actor? With Tom Cruise? With Chris Pine? With Brad Pitt? With Chiwetel Ejiofor as the lead? Or…
With Will Smith?
It would be different, surely. Smith would bring a swagger to the role, that Damon doesn’t quite present. I can see Smith’s version of astronaut Mark Watney as being akin to his Agent J from the Men in Black series. Both characters are smart-asses who are able to think quickly in emergencies. Both characters have a sarcastic sense of humor, and they enjoy tweaking authority figures. It really could work.
I loved The Martian. I though Matt Damon was great as Mark Watney. But I would really love to see The Martian, starring Will Smith.