I’ve been noticing a trend in Sci-Fi shows as of late. Casting a Black female lead with a White male lead. In shows like Eureka, Sleepy Hollow and recently CW’s new Flash TV series, the female lead has been a Black woman. Some would say this is progress. But I say it’s going too far.
Don’t get me wrong I’m all for diversity in science fiction and fantasy. But I’m not a fan of token diversity. In the case of Eureka and Sleepy Hollow, both of these roles were written for White actresses. And in those cases they got lucky and found talented Black women who were a good fit for the role.
However, in the case of CW’s The Flash this kind of casting throws off the entire dynamic of the Flash mythos. In the comics Iris West is Barry Allen’s future wife. And her nephew is Wally West. And Wally West goes on to become Kid Flash. Does this mean Kid Flash is going to be a token Black character like in the wretched New 52 comics?
The Wally West most of the world knows and loves from the comics and Justice League Unlimited cartoon is a red-haired White kid from the Midwest. And everyone knows Wally West inherits the Flash role when Barry Allen dies in the Crisis.
I’d hate to see all that great storytelling lost in the translation of this adaptation if this show goes that far. And the casting of a Black Iris West seriously puts that at risk. The last thing comic fans need is a SCANDAL in a promising show like The Flash.
In a the case of shows like Sleepy Hollow and Eureka there were legions of fans who wanted to see the White man pursue a romantic relationship with his Black female lead.
However, I wonder if those same fans would be rallying for these interracial couples featuring White Men and Black women would want them to come togthether if a producer made a sci-fi show Black man in the lead role with a White woman. Would there be protest? Or would they give it the negative and downright hostile reception some viewers gave Hancock a few years ago when it was in theaters?
Sci-fi shows are trying to diversify their casts. That’s a good thing. However, there’s always been clear double standard when it comes to the casting of leads of color when it comes to gender. A Black woman can be seen with a White male lead performer as a love interest and the reaction is positive. However when the reverse is presented in the case of a movie like Hancock or a Worf/Troi or a Worf/Dax situation there’s anger and outrage.
In these cases I have to wonder if sci-fi truly about equal opportunity? Or is it about showcasing the same racism featured in shows like SCANDAL in a futuristic setting?
We always see White guys like Captain Kirk chasing all sorts of Alien females of different ethnicities and species. But we’ve yet to see Black men like Ben Sisko or a Blade pursuing all sorts of alien and vampire females in sci-fi and fantasy stories.
I have my concerns about Iris West’s change of ethnicity in CW’s The Flash. When it comes to intellectual property I personally follow the rule of do unto others as they’d do unto me. I wouldn’t want my Black charactes changed into White ones, so I don’t like watching White people’s characters changed into Black ones. Personally I’d be pissed at the idea of a White E’steem paired with a Black John Haynes. Or a White Isis in a Nubia filled with Black people.
And the reason I’d be pissed about it would have nothing to do with race. It’d have to do with story.
The way I structured stories such would be completely thrown off. Both Isis and The Temptaiton of John Haynes were structured to revolve around Black culture and Black history. Both characters are designed to be Black. And the whole idea of a White woman in those roles prevents people from enjoying a story about the way I originally intended it to be written and would prevent audiences from seeing the message that I’m trying to convey to them.
Yeah, I know a lot of these comic book and sci-fi novels came about during the time when White Supremacy was at its apex. And that the sci-fi, fantasy and comic book worlds are filled with mostly White characters made by White men. But shoehorining Black people into stories doesn’t help diversify them. It prevents people from getting an adaptation that’s true to the source material.
I’m hoping The Flash has a long run on TV this time. And I’m hoping to see the real Wally West, the red-haired kid who loved his uncle so much he followed in his footsteps to become a hero in his own right. I want to see that story come to the screen, because it’s compelling and powerful and would make for powerful television drama. And the casting of a Black Iris West can prevent that storyline from reaching the screen.
What truly helps diversify the Comic book, Sci-fi and fantasy genres is promoting Original Black Science fiction and fantasy produced by Black writers, artists and publishers like myself. Audiences deserve comic books, science fiction and fantasy stories where Black characters are featured as the main characters, not shoehorned into stories where they don’t fit or tokens that add nothing to the story.
Moreover, audiences deserve Black characters that are created to be Black. Characters like Cyborg that come from the Black experience are rich and multi-dimensional and add to comics like The New Teen Titans. They represent true diversity because they are intentionally part of a truly diverse cast, not a token who is just added there after the fact to make it appear the cast is diverse on the surface.
Again, I’m all for diversity. But I believe if a story features all the characters are of a certain ethnicity when the writer creates them, then all the actors who play them in the adaptation should be the same ethnicity. Shoehorning a Black or minority actor into a role that wasn’t written for them doesn’t make a story more diverse or enrich the experience, it reeks of political correctness gone too far.