According to IMDb, the “B” in Michael B. Jordan stands for Bakari, which means “noble promise” in Swahili. It is a perfectly wholesome middle name for an actor who comes off so perfectly wholesome that he’s transcended Internet Boyfriend material and is now just Straight-Up Husband, Let’s Not Waste Time Here material. But I don’t think that “B” stands for Bakari; I think it stands for “Burn.”
Perhaps you’ve seen the latest trailer for the upcoming HBO film Fahrenheit 451, an adaptation of the Ray Bradbury book of the same name, in which Jordan plays Guy Montag, a “fireman” whose job isn’t to put out flames but to make some—specifically, to burn books. “I want to burn,” Jordan fervently tells Michael Shannon, who, presumably, is playing another Evil Michael Shannon Character.
Montag isn’t lying—this dude really seems intent on burning books. Look how happy he is about it!
This put me on literal Jordan burn notice (unrelated, but Jordan also appeared in an episode of Burn Notice). Because doesn’t this feel super familiar?
Oh right. Black Panther, that movie the entire planet has seen at least once. In Black Panther, Jordan’s Erik Killmonger—an all-time great Marvel villain—didn’t just have grand ambitions to bring Wakandan technology to the rest of the world and begin an era of expansionist nationalism. He also wanted to burn things.
“Imma burn it all down,” Killmonger intoned once he became the King of Wakanda. He wasn’t just speaking metaphorical, either—like, literally, he wanted to burn some crops. He set fire to the remainder of Wakanda’s heart-shaped herbs—which the king ingests to acquire the powers of the Black Panther—and then he turned away from the inferno, because turning your back on gigantic fires is never not cool.
Jordan and fire just go together. If there is one positive takeaway from Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four—which might be, no exaggeration, the worst superhero movie of all time—it’s that casting Jordan as the Human Torch was extremely right. It’s one thing to surround Jordan with flames; it’s another to turn him into a man who’s actually on fire, shooting flames out of his hands.
How is this so satisfying?!
It’s hard to explain exactly why Jordan + fire = the good shit. Is it because Jordan’s best performances feel so explosive; that he’s tapping into a seemingly endless well of rage, passion, or a bit of both? Maybe it’s just something innate to the actor himself?
“I was a pyromaniac growing up,” Jordan admitted on last Thursday’s episode of First We Feast, while chowing down on increasingly spicy wings. “I used to live next door to my grandmother and she used to always have incense. I used to light a match and I used to just spark that on fire. Just literally light it on fire. I would take the incense and poke it through the shower—the plastic shower curtains. Yeah, I had my fair share of whoopings off of that.”
OK, just, wow. Are casting directors aware of Jordan’s affinity for fire? Did the folks at HBO approach him for Fahrenheit 451 like, “Hey, Michael, we heard you like to burn stuff. Want to burn stuff for money while we film you?” Or maybe Jordan is thumbing through scripts until he sees, “[Character starts giant fire]” and then he stands up like, “JACKPOT.” Or is this just one of those things in the universe that poetically and inexplicably lined up?
Michael B. Jordan just wants to watch the world burn. And honestly, more power to him: He looks good doing it, and he seems really happy about it, too. Just don’t give Michael B. Jordan matches if you’re ever in the same room as him.