Sunday, June 23, 2024

Dear White WLW, Your Concern is Unnecessary

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WLW fandom, I have a bone to pick with you. Not all of you, but a very large chunk of you. Can y’all explain to me why it’s acceptable to put a warning about Black Lightning not being good LGBT representation because it’s on the CW?

Some of you will say it’s because of Lexa on The 100 and the 2016 Spring Slaughter (not only LGBT characters), or because of Sanvers’ break up on Supergirl. See this is hilarious to me because the writers coded Lexa as non-white, but a white actress portrayed her. Maggie’s role originally written for a Latina had a white actress too!

That’s racist!

I’ll pause here for a second and say I’m using them as examples because they’re the two that self-identified white lesbians have used as examples for their fear about Black Lightning being on the CW which “kills all of its gays.” (False statement, thanks.)

Even funnier are the people saying this who didn’t even know that BL has Anissa. The lead’s daughter, a Black, dark-skinned lesbian with superpowers. (Who in the comics is practically BULLETPROOF!?) Or that it will introduce a queer (identified as such by the actress) Black woman with her own love interest, Chenoa, as well as Grace, Anissa’s love interest, an Asian-Amazonian woman!

If you don’t get why I and so many women of color are pissed, I’ll spell it out.

Using ships treated poorly by white showrunners as a barometer for a show run by Black writers with an almost entirely Black cast for Black people (and all of America) is incredibly offensive and ridiculous.

It’s racist!

If a show has an ounce of white LGBT rep, all of us are told we need to support it. Yet, when we have three canonical LBQ women of color, you’re warning viewers? (And don’t act like there haven’t been other issues around WoC ships, but that is for another non-Black Lightning discussion.)

Look, I’ll be the first to say that The CW sucks at positive, sustained rep for LGBT characters. I even wrote an article about it. However, unlike those shows run by white people; a Black Muslim couple, Mara Brock and Salim Akil, are in charge of Black Lightning. They haven’t baited us, unlike Rothenberg or the last guy at Supergirl…you know, the one who got fired.

Every single pilot preview has mentioned Anissa is a lesbian, the actress is incredibly excited to portray her, and the Akils have stated more than once that they want to portray a real LGBT couple as real people, not just a cause of the week.

Black Lightning’s treatment of Anissa, Chenoa, and Grace might suck. (I highly doubt it will when the writers are committed to doing it right. Plus, they had LGB characters on past shows, like Being Mary Jane.) If it does suck, I  will be the first to call the showrunners out on their crap.

But the show hasn’t premiered yet. So can y’all stop and think about what you’re saying, just once? Don’t stop others from watching the first show with a dark-skinned, Black, lesbian soon-to-be-superhero!

And for people saying that the CW executives don’t have anything to do with representation so we should only blame the showrunners and writers, well I get what you’re saying. But that’s not completely accurate.

While showrunners and writers introduce the plot points for major character moments, the network execs will still have a say on major character deaths, rebirths, pregnancies, weddings, time jumps, etc. (Though I’m sure some showrunners are exempt once they’ve reached a certain point in their careers, like Shonda Rhimes). This especially matters for the events airing during ratings grabs. (Come back in February for a longer explanation of this.)

As someone who writes about media representation, I am the first to be wary about new characters on broadcast television. But I’m also not going to assume the worst of people who are using canon and have stated multiple times that they want to do this right.

So check out Kori’s awesome primer on the show, watch the show, and come back Wednesday the 17th for my review of the premiere.

Image courtesy of The CW

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