In a world where cultural diversity is still extremely low in 2017, the CW Network is doing its part in terms of cultural inclusion. Specifically in their DC Comics programming.
The prime example that comes to mind when thinking of DCTV’s diversity is the racial switch of Iris West, love interest of Barry Allen on The Flash. This was praised by critics and fans alike. Another involves Vixen, specifically Mari McCabe who is the first iteration of one of DC Comics first black super heroines, who has her own CW Seed animation series. As much as there is to be praised, there is also issues with the programming’s handle of POC characters, including whitewashing these characters.
For this article, let’s focus on the four current DC Television series on CW: Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl.
Out of all the four CW DCTV television series, in the most recent season only Arrow has caught up with diversity needs. On Arrow, Diggle used to be the one of the only character of color. David Ramsey’s portrayal of Diggle, a character who wasn’t an actual comic character, was able to make an impact with viewers, comic fans, and regular people alike. DC even added him to the rooster of DC Comics characters in the new Green Arrow comics.
The beginning of the series only portrayed one other man of color, Manu Bennett who portrayed Slade Wilson (famed Batman villain). Manu’s performance was also praised by fans and critics alike. However, outside of these two, there was focus on white characters and villains. However, they managed to do that and still make Diggle a prominent character in the Arrow-verse. During the fourth and fifth season they added Mr. Terrific (played by Echo Kellum), Talia Al Ghul (played by Lexa Doig).
These characters being added to the main roster made a positive impact on the people of color viewers of this series. Having said that, Talia Al Ghul is half Chinese and half Arab in terms of descent, which Arrow failed to acknowledge. Lexa Doig is of Scottish, Irish, and Filipino ancestry. This isn’t first case of whitewashing on Arrow, Katrina Law, who portrays Nyssa Al Ghul, is Taiwanese, German, and Italian. As far as the man who played Ra’s. Fully white. As far as the girls go, yes the Asian representation is a step in the right direction, but it’s still miscasting and interchanging people of color which isn’t okay. Ra’s was still completely white washed. This isn’t addressed in Hollywood and it’s sickening. Not only did they interchange people of color, they also whitewash them. To conclude, Arrow’s diversity isn’t the best example of what proper superhero television, but it has made good decisions.
Next, one of the better examples of diversity of the four CW DC shows: The Flash. As it’s most praised for casting of Candice Patton as Iris West. This casting choice had a strong impact on African-American viewers in such a positive way. African-American women and girls alike felt represented. Candice’s performance was also extremely praised by critics. People found that the West family were as much of a highlight as much as the story of The Flash.
Another example is Wally West, Iris’ brother on the show played by Keiynan Lonsdale. Fans have been begging to see Wally take up the mantle after Grant Gustin, who plays Barry whose had it for three years. That’s where the problem comes in, Wally’s Kid Flash is given such little time on-screen. He’s still in his early stages, however it’s demanded by the show he looks up to Barry. The Flash has inclusivity, but they still look up to one man: Barry (and sometimes even Harrison Wells). In terms of Latino representation, Cisco was kept as Latino instead of being whitewashed. The Flash has done a better job with diversity however, it still makes people of color sidekicks to the white man.
Moving on to Legends of Tomorrow. I will admit I have to catch up on this series. From what I’ve seen, it’s done a good job with inclusion of people of color. Perhaps from what I’ve heard about the series, they could benefit from actually KEEPING these members and making a person of color the leader instead of Sara Lance. She might be a good leader, however it’s still another example of white saviorism at it’s prime. The white hero and their person of color friends.
Finally, Supergirl. This show has overall been a disaster with diversity. For example, Martian Manhunter. There’s a trope for African-Americans who are guides for the white characters and Martian fits that. Though the decision to be in the right direction because of his true preaches on being an African-American man and an alien, the Supergirl writers at times mistreat him and his niece. She wasn’t even given enough screen time.
Let’s move onto Floriana Lima. She’s not Latinx whatsoever. This character could’ve been white, but they picked someone who didn’t look white and made them Latinx. It’s damaging and, quite frankly, stupid.
Hopefully with the coming of Black Lightning, it will usher in an age where people of color aren’t just the sidekicks or the guides of the white heroes. While CW DCTV has done better than most, and it’s important to recognize it, it’s still in dire need of work and improvement. Diversity and inclusion are still very limited on television with some backgrounds and cultures still not even being shown. It’s important to talk about some faults (and wins), and CW DCTV has been making great strides, but ultimately, like anything in Hollywood, it needs a lot of work.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
(An article by Elise Claire Todd Lance.) Follow The TV Type on Twitter!
(Editors Note: The actor who plays Martian Manhunter is black, but not African-American. Sorry for the confusion.)