The Golden Age Of Superhero TV Is Still Tainted By White Nerd Racism

The CW has been one of the most racially and culturally inclusive television networks in existence since their founding in 1995 as the WB.  With Candice Patton starring as Iris West, love interest to Barry Allen, we have an incredible actress who has virtually become indiscernible from the subject material that she brings to life on the wildly popular The Flash.  

That phenomenon was successfully replicated with the addition of actress Ashleigh Murray on CW’s Riverdale.  Murray plays Josie, leader of the Pussycats.  Indeed, the Josie and the Pussycats of cartoon lore was lead by a white girl with the lone person of color being, stereotypically enough, the percussionist of the collective.  But the sister is leading the crew this time around. As matter of fact, there are two people of color cast in the trio.

Though these particular changes are cosmetic, the potential to shape the minds of the disenfranchised and marginalized cannot be overstated.  Before the naysayers even being foaming at the mouth, these are not “just” television shows, and they’re not “just” comic book characters.  From their own relative perspectives, both Candice Patton and Ashleigh Murray are actively reinventing a piece of Americana.  aking it blacker, bolder and more reflective of contemporary society than any of these works had been in the past.

For me, Iris West was traditionally white in the comic books. So, you know, comic book fans are very opinionated, very vocal. So it was very scary stepping into that role when I started the show, said Patton, who plays Iris West on The Flash, during a panel appearance at POPSUGARs Play/Ground festival.

And I remember our executive producer at this time, once I got cast, he was like Dont go online. Just dont go on, she recalled. But whats great is, I think over time, people have embraced me and have embraced this character and I think its really important. And I think whats great is, you know, years to come, people will remember Iris West as being African-American. And thats a really, really cool thing. on Twitter

TheFlash star Candice Patton and #Riverdale star Ashleigh Murray detail suffering racist backlash for their portrayals of characters who were white in the comic books:

Added Murray, who plays Josie McCoy of Josie and the Pussycats fame on Riverdale: Its the exact same thing, you know? With Josie, shes originally white in the comics, and so was Melody [Asha Bromfield]. And we all ended up coming as an all-black group.

Murray said she received similar advice: avoid online commentary.

And when I actually was testing for it, my aunt asked me How are you going to deal with it, if you book this? How are you going to handle people having an issue with it? And I was like, Well just worry about it when it comes, Murray said.

And then when it came, I did exactly that. They were like Just dont even go on the Internet. Dont check social media. And I have seen people say some really unfortunate things, but there was so much happiness and gratitude and support outside of that negativity, that it kinda outweighed it. And now its just white noise. I dont even notice it or see it much anymore. And its probably thanks to [Candice], because [she] had to go through it before I did. You probably made the transition a little bit easier.

And I think thats the thing, the more we do it, the more we get cast, the more we, unfortunately, take the brunt, the easier its going to get on every woman of color that comes after us thats cast on a show, Patton said.

Thats going to become the norm, I hope sooner than later. But, you know, if I had to deal with crap online and harassment online so a girl who looks like me, ten years from now, can successfully be on these shows without any of that, then its well worth it. I can take it.

With the way Zazie Beetz was kicking ass in Deadpool 2, you would think this argument would have had a stake driven through its hard, permanently.

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In the early 90s, the Marvel Comics mutant craze was in full swing as different titles shot off from the main X-Men title like lava flows from an erupting full volcano. New Mutants, which came along in the late 80s, was constantly introducing new characters.

Though the young women of the CW seem to have been able to come to grips with the reality of racism being superimposed onto imaginary characters, the phenomenon itself is as petty as it has ever been.  Of course, this is not the first moment that individuals have balked at the idea of a traditionally white character being changed racially or sexually.   

Comic book fans are notoriously fickle, and any change to a  character is met with wave after wave of criticism. However, after a while, that criticism eventually fades.  When Spider-Man first donned his all-black outfit back in The Amazing Spider-Man #252 in May of 1984 there were plenty of people who weren’t feeling it.

That’s just how it goes.  However, the difference between a change in costume and a change in race is as wide as a chasm in the minds of a race-obsessed nation.  Similarly, when Wally West aka Kid Flash, was changed people went straight for the superficial qualities they had familiarized themselves with.  

The Browning of American Comic Books

For better or for worse, there has been an increased effort to diversify the comic book realms of Marvel Comics and DC Comics over the past five years. Superheroes, many of whom have spent decades being household names, have been reinterpreted and transformed in ways that many have celebrated, while others have criticized.

“With the recent recoloring of several very popular, and formerly white, characters at Marvel and DC, these publishers are bringing new energy to several of their signature characters. Captain Americas garb and guise have been passed on to his longtime friend and former sidekick, Falcon because Steve Rogers is rapidly aging due to the removal of the vaunted super soldier serum. That new day of superhero-dom began in All-New Captain America #1. Is there any coincidence in this revelation being made a day after it was announced that the guise and power of Thor Odinson would be taken up by a woman? Probably not. Sensationalism or growth in art? One cannot be certain.

“As far as the recent trending of converting established properties to black or female I’m not a big fan,” said urban sci-fi writer and blogger Thelonious Legend. “I understand the excitement but it’s a microwave solution to appease the masses by leveraging the popularity of an established commodity.  I would rather that they put some skin in the game and invested in creating diverse characters from inception.  It’s not a quick fix but you can cultivate and grow the stories/heroes as your audience grows with them.  The audience will be more vested and it would be a great opportunity to showcase the skill and talent of diverse creators be it writers or artist who as of now have been invisible.”

Red hair and an obnoxious yellow suit are what people have been used to for nearly 70 years. However, when Wally West was changed to a young black man in the events of the New 52, white folks started losing their sh*t trying to figure out a way to say how much they hated the idea of changing the character from a white guy to a black guy without actually SAYING they hate the idea of the character being changed into a black guy because the guy is black.  

But it doesn’t matter why one is offended that a white character becomes black. It is this belief that changing the character’s race is a fundamental departure from anything that makes the character who he or she is on the inside is glaringly prejudicial.

Nick Fury was made into a black man in Marvel Comics before being immortalized on the big screen by Samuel L. Jackson, and it took me a minute to figure out whether or not I felt that was a good idea.  You see, I grew up on the old Cold War, spy versus spy version of Nick Fury that was formulated in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  

However, I eventually came to like Samuel L. Jackson’s version of Nick Fury even more. The “Cold War” Nick Fury was an antiquated, well-worn troupe.  A commanding black man in a leadership position? Not so much.  I understand that characters cannot be allowed to remain static over time because they become irrelevant. Hopefully, these faux fanboys spouting racism online will get the point sooner rather than later.

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