When a coloring mistake means much more
One year ago this week, DC Comics killed off Ryan Choi. The only male Asian superhero of prominence was murdered and shoved into a matchbox. The reason? To make the Titans look evil and, of course, to pave the way for his white predecessor Ray Palmer to return to comics. The timing of this latest fumble on race by DC would be amusing if it wasn’t so enraging and sad because
Oh, that’s social justice and that’s not their job. Their job is to write
Why not make it both? What’s the downside to it? And why is including faces that are non white social justice?
The downside is when agenda comes before storytelling. That tends to lead to didacticism, and crummy stories.
How painful is it to hear a representative of Marvel, a Disney company--a company who does “corporately mandate” diversity--dismiss diversity so casually? As if it was an effort that wasn’t important? As if it were something that in the scheme of things didn’t really count? That the idea of being inclusive is less important than allowing writers to do what they want.
Is it any wonder why their medium is in a slow, painful decline?
And that brings me back to this “coloring mistake.” It is easy for DC to hand wave it. “We were rushed” “There was a miscommunication” “The artist and writer didn’t communicate the right way” I can go on and on thinking up the reasons they could give (because they haven’t given any reason). But the bottom-line is this. Somewhere along the line, somebody didn’t care.
They didn’t care to check. They didn’t care to think that a black woman would be in a “white family.” This is an industry where superheroes are “99% white” and where including characters who are not the white default is considered “social justice.” Where killing off and marginalizing characters who are not white in favor of characters that are white is done over and over. Where we have seen, time after time, readers who are not default of white, male and straight are not a main focus.
I get lots and lots of aggressive responses from people when I post about race and gender on this blog. And many of the responses fall into the same meme, “white males are the majority of readers in comics so why shouldn’t comics consist mainly of them?”
And you know what I say? I say comics is better than that. I say the majority of comic readers are better than that. I say Warner Brothers/DC and Disney/Marvel are better and smarter than that.
You don’t grow a business in a global and diverse world by catering to a minority. And that’s what white males are. Sorry guys, you are a minority. The world is far more diverse than that and is getting more diverse everyday. And it is time for big two comics to smarten up and pay attention. To care. Because if they don’t, the big two comic companies will get left behind.
In fact, the truth is the other way around. If you write "white" comics despite the country's demonstrable diversity, you must be the one with an agenda. And that agenda isn't hard to understand. You're promoting a return to the whitewashed 1950s and 1960s. A sanitized view of reality where the heroes were white, middle-class professionals. Where Father Knew Best and trouble was nothing worse than a goofy Gilligan, a super-intelligent gorilla, or a Joker in a jack-in-the-box. Where women, blacks, and gays weren't demanding equality; global warming and pollution went unmentioned; and no one knew anything about Muslims or terrorists.
In short, these writers want a nostalgic return to their whitebread childhoods when Mommy and Daddy protected them from the world's complexities. When life was safe and sane just like the fireworks. And that isn't an agenda?! The hell it isn't.
For more on the subject, see 19th-Century Cartoons About Indians and Native Women = Whores in SCALPED.