Dear Comic Fans, It’s Been Four Years And I Still Don’t Get How Y’all Are So Darn Angry About Racebending

Dear Comic Fans, It’s Been Four Years .png

Aren’t you people tired?

I know I am.

Every year since 2015, I’ve written a post about fandom’s backlash against and racist responses to racebending – where “historically white” characters are reimagined as characters of color in media. Every year, I watch the months tick by as I hope fandom will, for once, not be full of turds that think the response to racebending – especially when a Black woman is involved – or any sort of representation for people of color, is to go full fucking racist over it.

Harassment campaigns.

Abuse tweeted at the performer and anyone that defends them.

Gaslighting.

Seriously, it’s exhausting to watch these temper tantrums play out by folks that’ll then turn around and accuse anyone who points out how ridiculous they are, of being “sensitive snowflakes”.

Especially because we’re not the ones harassing performers of color and generally just being racist chuds because they’re playing fictional characters.

Acting is a job.

I assumed y’all knew that because that’s what gets trotted out the second marginalized people talk about being erased in media. When Scarlett Johansson set herself up to play a trans man in the (probably now-canceled) Rub and Tug, y’all were falling over yourselves to explain how acting works to every single person that criticized her choice to star in this film.

If a cis actor like ScarJo should play a straight trans dude – as a cis lesbian, which is so much erasure – because she’s “the best performer for the role and she’s just doing her job”, why is it that you poozers have yet to stop foaming over the mouth whenever a Black woman gets cast as your favorite white redhead in comics?

If she wasn’t the best performer for the role, she wouldn’t have gotten it.

Right?

After all, that’s your logic at work here.

Whitewashing vs Racebending (1).png

Since when is ScarJo the best actor for any role?

It’s been four years and (almost) five seasons since Candice Patton made her first appearance as historical redhead Iris West on The CW’s The Flash and she is still getting harassment because she’s playing Iris.

Recently, she had a minor plastic surgery procedure done – and posted about it on social media – which literally launched tweet threads from fans of Danielle Panabaker’s Caitlin Snow and the related non-canon ship Snowbarry that focused on calling Patton fat as an insult, saying that she’s ugly, somehow managing to shame her for the sex they think she’s having to have gotten the role –

These are things that the same folks would never say about a white actress in her role because they’d think a white redhead – like the incredibly wooden Panabaker, perhaps – was cast as Iris on her own talents instead of because “diversity hires” are their rationalization for more melanin on the silver screen and beyond.

Iris is five seasons into the role and doing an amazing job as Iris. Any shortcomings in how the character comes across aren’t her fault, they’re that of the unbelievably beige writers room and showrunners who don’t seem to realize that the Bechdel Test is a thing they can uh… move beyond and then give female characters meaningful relationships with women who aren’t their mothers or sisters.

But, that’s not what y’all are out here raging against.

You’re not fighting for Iris to get more complex storylines or relationships that don’t revolve around Barry. You’re not fighting for her to get better dialogue or more chances to do her job as a reporter.

You’re wishing that she was no longer on the show.

You’re sending her actress death threats.

You’re mocking her character and turning her cute “We are the Flash” line into something awful and entitled – until you can apply it to your white faves.

You’re out here making half-hour long videos about how she’s “the worst thing about The Flash” as if that incredibly obnoxious and out of character take on Ralph Dibny didn’t chew scenery for most of the show’s fourth season.

You’re out here trying to get the show to bring back “the original Team Flash” but ignoring that Iris has been there since day one.

False claims about wanting better for Candice and Iris are transparent in how disingenuous they are. For years, we’ve been going through The Flash fandom’s unending anti-blackness and how it’s directed square at Candice for daring to be a Black woman in a space they believe belongs to a white woman.

At the end of the day, it’s that y’all don’t want Black people to have anything.


Last year, I wrote about the racist backlash against Anna Diop being cast as Starfire/Koriand’r in DC Universe’s live action Titans series after images of the actress in a purple dress and with a less than stellar wig appeared. I showed comments from nerds on different websites dismissing Diop and saying that “a Latina should’ve been cast in the role” as one of the mildest things people said.

It hasn’t stopped.

In fact, with the release of a Titans trailer at San Diego Comic Com in July 2018 that showed Diop’s Starfire in the aforementioned purple dress and using her powers, things only got worse.

I mean, you nerds really have ZERO home training if you’re going to tweet at length (often tagging Diop in these tweets) about how “I’m not racist for wanting an actress that looks like ‘the real’ Starfire” coupled with anti-sex worker slurs (“she looks like a hooker” they say about a character who a) is actually probably super sex and sex worker positive and wouldn’t be okay with that language and b) has rarely worn significant amounts of clothing).

Even after Diop’s costar, actress Minka Kelly, attempted to shut down the racist haters by revealing that the outfit seen in the trailers is only a temporary look, Teen Titans fans are still fixing their fingers to spew misogynoiristic hatred poorly disguised as sensible critique.

Starfire Diop

As we saw with the folks missing the point about the racism and misogyny that Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kelly Marie Tran received from fandom, y’all still don’t seem to get that disliking a performer of color’s portrayal of a character – or even the entire thing they’re in – doesn’t excuse harassment.

Many people try to brush off critique of their complicity in the kinds of harassment present in these racist and generally toxic fandom spaces by arguing that they’re not being racist towards these performers of color, that they’re just passionate about having a childhood nerd favorite ruined.

But y’all…

I hate – I mean, truly can’t stand – The Last Jedi.

Seriously, despite a lukewarm review after watching it the first time, I have yet to stop writing posts about how much it and its fandom failed me.

And somehow, I’ve managed to keep from @-ing Rian Johnson or Jason Fry with my intense criticism of their work and I’ve never emailed or tweeted the cast members whose characters I’m not fond of to inform them that I think that the Star Wars universe would be better without them. I’ve never sent so much as a single death threat even to other fans who I loathe and actively made my time in the Star Wars fandom a racist hellhole because of the fanworks they create and support and how they make crapping on Finn/John Boyega a competitive sport.

Why?

Because I’ve got home training and a mom that taught me not to be an absolute turd to people as a first or last resort.

Maybe there’s an online course y’all can take so you can understand that grievance airing doesn’t have to be harmful and doesn’t need to involve the cast/crew of a thing you hate?

Because whenever people bring up the problems that these fandoms have with performers and characters of color and how rampant harassment is part and parcel of their experience, y’all trot out the “well actually, I just disliked their character/the thing they’re in so much that I needed to yell at them”.

What are you? A toddler?


Every single day, online fandom spaces are inundated with racism directed towards performers, characters, and fans of color. Reddit and Twitter are rife with it as hubs of so-called “curatorial fandom”, but blaming white dudes for everything is, for once, not the actual answer here. (Actually, it’s never an answer because that doesn’t change anything…)

Because they’re not the only problematic people in any fandom space.

In Kayleigh Donaldson’s “Star Wars Has A White Male Fandom Problem”, she talks about the way that nerd entitlement fuels harassment of marginalized people in fandom spaces. She makes several valid points, especially that “the toxicity of white maleness in fandom spaces forces such figures to pretend they’re the true victims”.

Because this is all about people who have had the majority of nerdy figures look like them from the first moment these nerdy things were introduced and, once a scattered handful of characters are racebent or new characters of color are introduced, they feel as though they’re having their precious toys snatched out of their hands.

However, it’s not just white dudes.

It’s whiteness.

While we’ve all seen our fair share of toxic fandom behavior from white dudes – ranging from those weirdos who do what I do but racist-ly to the lengthy (and horrifying) harassment campaign directed at Leslie Jones for having the gall to be a Black woman cast in that 2016 Ghostbuster’s revival/reboot – they’re far from the only people making fandom spaces unsafe for people of color.

Thanks to your whiteness and your willingness to weaponize your white womanhood against marginalized people of color even in this space where, we keep being told, all fans are welcome and equal… white ladies in fandom? Y’all are part of the problem too.

Off the top of my head, I remember that white women in fandom spaces have:

  • Been at the forefront of harassing Candice Patton for years because they don’t see her as the “ideal Iris West”
  • Made up a huge chunk of the people being incredibly racist to Teen Wolf leading dude Tyler Posey (who identifies as a person of color/Mexican-American) because he/his character “got in the way” of the white dudes they felt should’ve been the mains
  • Harassed Black, Jewish, and Latine[x] Star Wars fans on Tumblr and Twitter because of their opinions on the films and fandom
  • Written tons of racist fan content (examples include: black characters reduced to their genitals and sexual performance, rape-and-torture stories to put Black female characters “in their place”, slavefic) that somehow can’t be critiqued in any way. because of the sanctity of their sexuality

I have even seen white women in fandom rail against racebending with the same arguments and excuses that their dude counterparts do. They tweet the same racist nonsense that makes headlines on nerdy websites when the dudes do it, but somehow… they never get the same press and racism in fandom gets portrayed as a thing that only dudes do.

White women’s hatred of racebending tends to come up across two fronts: when a white woman they see as a handy self-insert is racebent to be a woman of color, and when a white character they ship with another historically white character – or see as the object of desire for their self-insert – is racebent.

That ties into how part of what I’ve noticed from being a Black person in these fandom spaces is how often desire and attraction come into play as a means to excuse the reactions folks have to these racebent characters.

Much of the backlash against Black women in these racebent roles comes from the fact that nerds only find a tiny handful of Black women attractive enough to fantasize about. Those women tend to be biracial (or “racially ambiguous”), with straight hair, and light skin.

Anna Diop is dark skinned. Since she isn’t racially ambiguous in the slightest, that means she can’t possibly be attractive to these folks that cling to Starfire as an ideal (despite only likely knowing her from the two Cartoon Network shows and maybe the animated Teen Titans movie we got a few years ago).

As we saw with the impotent nerd rage following Netflix’s upcoming She-Ra cartoon and the age-appropriate redesign of the titular character, a lot of rage-inspired nerd nostalgia is tied up in hazy half-remembered images of women that aroused the dudes currently wilding out. The second that they can’t continue to objectify these fictional characters as they used to, they lose their shit, their common sense, and that thin pretense that they actually care about the content they’re clinging to.

However, let’s be real here: there are a whole bunch of white women in fandom who aren’t that much different from these dudes who think creative content should revolve around their desire and neither is the racism they bring to the table in transformative fandom that different from the racism present in curatorial fandom spaces.

The unchanging focus revolves around nostalgia that neatly cuts out the existence of people of color in earlier time periods of media and fandom while it tries to rule out or cut off the continued presence of fans and characters of color now because of their desire.

You see it in how a ton of white women in fandom are vocal about how they can’t ever bring themselves to imagine themselves as Black women – despite decades of Black women and girls managing to imagine the reverse in fandom’s “canon character/reader” stories – so when a Black woman gets to be in a role that white women have generally seen themselves in… They lose their crap.

You see it in the fandom reactions to Grayson’s Black Helena Bertinelli, The Flash’s Iris West, Merlin’s Guinevere.

These are just three racebent Black characters in relationships with white – or, in the case of Dick Grayson, “white passing” – characters that white women in fandom have seen and rejected as objects of love and desire. Due to the sad fact that they can’t begin to insert themselves into the shoes and minds of Black characters, in the same way that they can with Kat Denning’s Darcy Lewis (the most-shipped female character in the MCU fandom at one point), they lash out.

Darcy Lewis

The ridiculously relatable Darcy Lewis, hasn’t been in an MCU film since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, but since that film came out, she is present in over eleven THOUSAND stories written and/or updated on AO3 (a pretty decent “first glimpse” at what transformative fandom is interested in). Can y’all imagine a female character of color getting that kind of fannish response?

Heck, even in fandoms where Black female characters are the majority of the female presence in a piece of media or an already established character from the source material (the female characters of Black Panther or Michonne in The Walking Dead), white people in fandom still show how little they desire us as anything more than objects and would rather us be ignored or out of the way.

This includes the white “women-loving-women”/wlw who claimed to be “wary” of Anissa Pierce and Grace Choi’s romantic relationship on The CW’s Black Lightning because of the network’s supposed vendetta against wlw (because of the death of Lexa on The 100 several years ago).

It includes white women messaging multiple Black women who wrote Black self inserts or original characters shipped with the men of Black Panther, wailing in White Fragility at the idea that they read these stories and couldn’t imagine themselves as these Black original characters and that they should be able to feel included.

(Nevermind, that neither T’challa nor M’baku would have any serious interest in white women and Killmonger, on top of being a bit of a misogynist, literally and actively hates white people…)

The thing that folks don’t seem to get is that, for plenty of white women in fandom, Black women are just as big a disruption or “fantasy ruiner” as they are for white dude nerds in the same or similar spaces. Their negative reactions to Black women just manifest in different and slightly more subtle ways.


This is my fourth “Dear Comic Fans” letter in response to racebending and the absolutely atrocious ways that nerds react to not getting what they want. It’s my fourth year of watching nerds across the internet constantly lose the thin veneer of decency they try to paste on whenever racebending happens or people of color protest whitewashing in a thing they love.

Again, I have to ask: aren’t y’all tired?

Aren’t y’all tired of showing out and getting shut down? Aren’t y’all tired of raging every time a Black woman is cast as a character you see as an object of desire? Aren’t y’all tired of having people write articles about how fandom has a white dude or whiteness problem?

How about being tired of always missing the difference between racebending and whitewashing and acting a pure ass because you think “blackwashing” is a thing or that people of color didn’t exist before the 1960s or that they can’t play superheroes, gods, or iconic love interests to your nerdy faves?

Hell, aren’t y’all at least a little bit ashamed of yourselves and about how you treat real people over the fictional characters they play? Because I almost want to be ashamed on your collected behalves…

Geez.

I know I’m exhausted watching you weirdos lose your stinky shit every year because y’all still don’t get that racebending is a thing that shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of a piece of media – a decade after Samuel Jackson was cast to play an alternate (and infinitely more awesome) version of Marvel’s Nick Fury.

It’s been years since the word “racebending” was coined and long before that, media properties saw no harm in reimagining white characters as characters of color or giving them successors of color.

Just once, it’d be nice to see an announcement of a “historically white” character getting racebent without the comments being a racist dumpster fire by people who should know better. Just once, it’d be nice to have a Black woman cast in a thing you that nerds love not have to steel herself for waves of racist harassment because you don’t find her fuckable – don’t think the main character should want to be with her.

It’s 2018 folks.

You see your childish tantrums, lack of ability to differentiate between racebending and whitewashing (as in, the way y’all keep calling racebending a form of “white erasure” even as you argue in favor of “the best actor getting the role” in whitewashing), and constant harassment of performers and fans of color alike every single time racebending happens in a thing you like or to a character you’re unhealthily attached to?

That behavior doesn’t make y’all look great.

Keep it to yourselves and stop doing the digital equivalent of taking a shit in a supermarket store aisle in protest. You’ve got a problem with a “historically white” character being racebent? With Asian people speaking out about whitewashing? With Black women in anything?

Take the advice that y’all give us whenever we talk about whitewashing or erasure, you know… since you feel so oppressed because a handful of characters you used to fantasize about are now portrayed by people of color and you can’t have that:

Make your own and quit complaining or lashing out.

I don’t want 2019 to be yet another year of cringing my way through nerdy sites pointing out how bad y’all are at uh… handling change with more grace than the average six-year-old. Just make your own and move on since y’all can’t manage to handle race changes in your media without being racist or harassing everyone you think is responsible for it.

Please.

Xoxo

Stitch

PS.

I initially felt like I should apologize for the completely caustic tone of this piece since it’s far more frustrated than educational, but like… with rumors from August 2018 (when I wrote this piece) that Idris Elba might have been set to be the next James Bond following Daniel Craig finally deciding he’s done with the role hitting the internet along with the predictably racist “I’m not racist, but – “ comments in response, I’m finding it hard to be apologetic.

Dude hasn’t even been cast in the role (and is so unlikely to be Bond because of HIS acting preferences/the franchise’s racism) and y’all are out here shouting from the rooftops how ugly and uncouth you think he is… literally because he’s Black. Same goes for the ridiculously racist responses to rumors that Zendaya might be Ariel in an upcoming Little Mermaid live action film (because mermaids can’t have melanin?) and to the very idea of a woman of color possibly playing Dinah Lance/Black Canary in the upcoming (but not even in progress) Birds of Prey film. Wow.

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About Zina

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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3 Responses to Dear Comic Fans, It’s Been Four Years And I Still Don’t Get How Y’all Are So Darn Angry About Racebending

  1. lkeke35 says:

    But this is entirely in keeping with the general racism of a society, that tries to denigrate black people in every field of endeavor, from the arts to the sciences ,as affirmative action hires. I’m not at all surprised that this racism shows itself throughout fandom. I do know I’m done with arguments about fandom not affecting the real world, or the real world not affecting fandom.

    In the minds of such white people we deserve nothing, are worth nothing, and should be “allowed” to do nothing, that they consider to be theirs. And of course “everything” is theirs, so where does that leave any PoC, let alone black people.

    What I find galling are the same fans who are ranting about how intersectional feminism is important, will be committing every one of the above behaviors on the same Tumblr blog. (They very definition of the #feminismisforwhite women. )

    Liked by 2 people

  2. AmyCat says:

    Wow. On the one hand, I’m glad I haven’t run into much of this sh!t online… on the other, I almost wish I had seen some of the anti-Iris West kvetching just so I could’ve told those b!tches to stuff their racist whingeing where the sun don’t shine. Iris West ROCKS, and Barry should bloody well APPRECIATE her more! (Iris and her dad are two of my fave characters in the whole CW DC-comics universe…)

    Don’t blame you at all for being tired. Thanks for fighting the good fight, and keeping fans like me more aware of issues like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad I grew up in such a liberal family, because none of my parents (I have a step-father that I’m fairly close to, more so since my Dad died in 2016) who are big nerds themselves, EVER complained about this kind of thing, so to me the whole concept of being angry at race-bending and falsely conflating it with whitewashing is just alien to me. I mean, the ‘rents and I actually had a discussion about this a while back, and we came to the conclusion that it would honestly take a lot of effort to come up with more than one or two white comic book characters who should probably remain white in any reboots or adaptations, as just about NO white comic book character’s whiteness is an intrinsic part of who they are, while the opposite is true of most POC characters.

    The only name we both (me and Step-Dad) agreed on completely for that BTW was Steve Rogers. Not “Captain America,” as anyone can (and in the comics many people have) held that mantle. But for Steve, the reasoning was simple; his being a blonde, blue-eyed white boy was actually the point; the delicious irony of a man who fits the Aryan ideal being the one beating the ever-loving fuck out of the Nazis. 🙂

    Like

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