Change is something that does not come easy, especially in comic books. I sometimes find myself getting frustrated with comic book fans who will lament any and all major changes made to a character, storyline or franchise; it can be petty at times. And yes, I will admit right off the bat that sometimes the complaints about a comic book character’s ethnicity being changed are overdramatic and small-minded. That being said, the current wave of changing comic book characters’ ethnicities needs to stop, and here’s why.
A Cheap Reboot Ploy
How do you sell something that is so beloved in a reboot form? Sometimes it can work brilliantly to update a concept for a more modern audience (e.g. The Mummy, Mission Impossible, Ocean’s Eleven), and other times it can go horribly wrong (Bewitched, Man of Steel, Taking of Pelham 123) One way that studios and comic book publishers seem to think they can make it work is by rebranding the character as a different gender (a topic for another time), a new “younger” version of the character, or as a completely different ethnicity. It’s a cheap tactic to draw your attention to the character, because now it’s somehow different and you want to know how different.
DC Comics is one of the biggest offenders. The new 52, which is mostly awful sans a few exceptions like Aquaman, shows that DC is trying to be hip and appeal to the young’uns. This strategy would work if it weren’t for the fact that the younger crowd doesn’t read DC Comics, because they’re too caught up in the “Disney-fied” cartoon Avengers to care. It also doesn’t help to alienate your loyal fan base with gimmick-filled promotions and character arcs.
B-B-But SJWs Will Love Us!
The other big reason that comic books and video games race-bend their characters is they hope they’ll bring in a new crowd of fans. They hope that the SJWs will buy their comics because now they’re getting to see their pet demographics represented. Well, I hate to burst their bubbles, but there’s a reason why people love A Different World and not Tyler Perry’s House of Payne: one is a good show and the other isn’t. Representation has nothing to do with it. If the product is good, people will find it… eventually.
SJWs are also notorious for never buying anything, aside from the crap everyone else already buys. For example, back when Ubisoft announced there would be no female assassins in their next Assassin’s Creed cash-in—I mean game—the Twitter- and Tumblrspheres raged about the company’s “sexism.” But Ubisoft had made a female based AC game just a few years before… that nobody played! Even though the game was frequently talked up on Tumblr, nobody bought it!
Maybe SJWs just can’t afford to buy games because they all majored in Women’s Studies and simply cant afford to buy the products they clamor for? Either way, catering to them is pointless, because they will never buy your product and will find something to bitch about regardless.
When Can You Race-Bend?
So when is race-bending acceptable? When does it work?
I think one good example of race-bending working is with the CW’s recent show The Flash. Iris West was originally a white woman, but was changed into a black woman in the finished show, with the comics following suit. Now, as a lover of white women this should upset me, but it doesn’t. Why? Because Iris West simply isn’t that big of a character in superhero lore. This isn’t Lois Lane, Black Widow or Wonder Woman, it’s the woman that most of you forgot was the wife of the Flash until I just mentioned her.
The same with Zoe Saldana playing Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy. In the comics, she was originally more of a white woman with green skin based on her features, and now in most iterations she’s black-green. It’s cool, she’s an alien, and the rules of human races don’t apply. I feel that when it’s minor characters getting switched up, it’s passable. You could probably make them a potato and it’d take us a while to notice.
When Is It Not Okay?
Virtually every other time.
Seriously people, there are plenty of superheroes out there who are a myriad of colors who deserve some spotlight. We don’t need to make Electro black: we literally have Static Shock, a character kids could look up to and could possibly be the star of a really cool movie. We’ve got so many heroes of different backgrounds and ethnicities who deserve their moment, but they’ll never get it because we’re so concerned with forcing the superheroes we already like into being something different. It’s never about creation, it’s always about destroying what’s already been built and modifying so less effort is involved.
One of the most disgusting recent examples of this was DC’s introduction of a black Power Girl…
Tanya Spears is the new Power Girl, or at least that’s what DC wants us to say as they ram down this politically correct offal down our throats. But of course, people are voting with their wallets and buying the Harley Quinn comic instead, because in there the white (and pretty) Power Girl is kicking ass and taking names. Nobody wants this, and it doesn’t make sense to do this.
Who was this for? Black girls? They cosplay as white Power Girl Karen Starr, not Tanya Spears. I have never seen a black woman cosplay as the Tanya Spears version of this hero, because women emulate who they look up to, and very few would ever look up to her. With the stroke of a pen, a character’s legacy and moniker are tainted, and all for the equivalent of comic book clickbait.
So please people, stop supporting these comics that are trying to ram these half-cocked attempts at being edgy and “progressive” down our throats. We control the tempo with our dollars, and it’s time we start getting the beat back on track. If we don’t, it won’t be too long until Lara Croft is Asian, Wonder Woman is black and Vixen becomes a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan superwoman.
And yeah, that last example was a joke: the characters of “color” and other non-white ethnicities never get race-swapped. But maybe we should take a character like Kasumi from Dead or Alive and make her European. I wonder if people would start to understand some of the pain we feel when our heroes are race-bent for a quick buck? No, they’d just cry racism. But when I look at someone like Tanya Spears, that’s what I think too. They’re just bigoted against white people.
Racism is not a one way street, folks. Let’s stop acting like it is.