Wednesday 13 April 2016

How Superhero TV Shows Are Leading the Way for Diversity

You know me guys, I love my superheroes. You know what though? Superheroes on TV are really getting their sh** together in terms of diversity. And it rocks.

Bad-a*s Chicks

Marvel's Agent Carter is one of my favourite TV shows. Peggy Carter's cool, and she kicks a*s. She doesn't take sh**.
Also, and fantastically in my opinion, if she gets in a fight? Her hair isn't magically OK the next minute. It's tousled. It's out of place. It's realistic!
Yes, we have a TV show that allows its female lead to have messy hair if she's been in hand-to-hand combat! This is the way forward dammit!!!
Also, being set in the 40s, it doesn't ignore the prejudice against women of the period. In fact, Peggy uses it to her advantage. And successfully runs rings round the dudes in the process.
Seriously, Peggy Carter is a feminist hero if ever there was one.
And of course, she's not the only one:
Agents of Shield is brimming with female bada*ses - Melinda May, Jemma Simmons, Bobby Morse, and Skye/Daisy.
Arrow has the butt-kicking Black Canary and Thea/Speedy.
Legends of Tomorrow has both White Canary and Hawkgirl.
And of course, Supergirl is pretty damned cool herself.

Disabled But Rocking It

OK, aside from the 'my superpowers/the super-villains have damaged me for an episode or two' we don't see too many long-term disabilities in superhero TV shows.
What we do have my friends is Agents of Shield's Leo Fitz - who (*mild spoiler*) becomes brain-damaged while saving himself and Jemma Simmons.
I defy anyone to not be genuinely touched by actor Iain de Caestecker's performance. It's amazing.
But he isn't OK by the next episode. It takes him a long time (like a whole series) to feel close to 'normal' again.
And even now, with that storyline all but by the way-side, he stumbles over words and clicks his fingers while he's trying to find the right one.
I'm sure a lot of people don't even notice it, but the fact that they've left it in means that they haven't just conveniently forgotten his disability. Which rocks.
And Fitz himself? A genius scientist with an all-consuming love for Ms Simmons? He keeps rocking it, and keeps getting better and better at it.

PoC Moments

OK, things could definitely be better in terms of non-white people in leading roles in superhero shows. I get that.

But there are moves forward. And good ones at that.

John Diggle/Spartan is a main part of the Arrow team, and an invaluable friend to Oliver Queen from almost the very start of the series.

Cisco Ramon/Vibe is one of the most beloved characters from The Flash. He's also a genius, funny as all hell, and has a good heart.

'Mack' from Agents of Shield is moving further and further into the limelight as the series moves forward.

Melinda May, also from Shield, is Chinese-American, and the character of Daisy/Skye (who, aside from Phil Coulson, is the closest thing to a lead that the ensemble cast of Agents of Shield has,) has a Chinese mother.

And Barry Allen was raised by the West family - an African-American father-and-daughter duo who remain an integral part of The Flash's set-up.

There are plenty of other examples too, but the point is that the more we have non-white characters who rock, the better it's going to be :)

A Little LGBTQ+

There aren't many LGBTQ+ characters in superhero shows. I don't know why.

The most prominent is Sara Lance, aka Arrow's first Black Canary, and Legends of Tomorrow's White Canary. She's had romance-moments with Oliver Queen, but her longest relationship was with her girlfriend, Nyssa Al Ghul.

Sara's a bad-a*s bisexual assassin, with a minor killing addiction. She rocks. But she's also kind of scary.

Elsewhere, we have the police captain from The Flash who is engaged to his boyfriend and bemoaning planning the wedding. A minor character, yes, but it's nice to see an LGBTQ+ character in a position of authority which stereotypically would usually be seen as too 'macho' for a gay character.

There's also Curtis, a gay black man, who works for Felicity Smoak in Arrow.

Room for Improvement

Yes, there's definitely room for more diversity in superhero shows. Particularly in terms of LGBTQ+, disability, and mental health (which is hardly, if ever, mentioned in superhero shows.)

There's also room for more main characters who aren't white, or male.

But there have been strides forward. And we have to celebrate the baby steps if we want the bigger steps to follow.

And, overall, I'm proud of the superhero TV shows - a lot of genres aren't doing this well in terms of diversity, and the efforts of the superhero shows blend seamlessly with the characters and plots we all love.

Hopefully, some of this will rub off on other genres, and on the movie arms of the Marvel and DC stables.

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  1. I really agree! These tv shows bring a fresh new take in the new age than their movie equivalents did back then. It's really great to see.

    1. Movie equivalents 'back then' - oh, you make me feel so old sometimes :D

      But yeah, I love the way series really seem to be moving forward with this - I just hope the studios have the b*lls to allow it in the movies :)

  2. I like my superhero movies and shows and it seems like this was well enough done. But as you did say in the end, there is room for improvement. My little sister is superhero crazy and has invented her own wheelchair bound superhero. Kind of like Professor X from X-men, really. I would like more multi-ethnic superheroes though!

    1. I think it's kind of a filter - first diversity is in the comics, several decades later it's in the TV shows, and then, eventually it *might* end up in the films.

      What REALLY annoyed me was that Hawkeye in the Avengers movies is not disabled. Hawkeye in the comics is deaf - and I really see no reason for them to have re-written that so that he isn't. I'm there like NO. HE'S DEAF. WHY WOULD YOU WASH THAT OUT?!?!?!

      Likewise, the new ret-conned Wanda & Pietro origin (which totally was not just so that they had movie rights, of course not, why would you think that?!) whitewashes out their status as Magneto's kids - Jewish, oddly enough, at least in the more modern era, who were raised by Roma foster-parents.

      It's like, well done studios, you've got rid of two forms of ethnic diversity at once! ARGH!

      Sorry, didn't mean to rant at you. :)


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