On June 3rd, a #Bizarrochat Twitter Q & A was held to celebrate the release of Heath Corson’s Bizarro #1, when the geek feminist account Twitter account, Femmes in the Fridge asked a pretty standard question with regards to the lack of diverse characters. Specifically, the question asked if characters of colour would appear in the series and if not, why not?
Heath Corson inexplicably replied with a “joke”, which equated Bizarro’s grey complexion with people of colour.
Let that sink in for a minute.
In that one shitty “joke”, Corson equated the Bizarro character – the grotesque, Franensteinean monster who is the opposite of Superman, his negative; the Other – with people of colour.
To be fair to Corson, he did follow this up with a more serious answer, however, his answer could be best described as half-hearted, at best:
“A whole mess of folks” in comics tend to largely be white and male – though if you’re lucky, you might get a female character thrown in to the mix.
As you can probably guess, the response to Corson’s “joke” (and his half-hearted serious answer) wasn’t exactly positive. And it shouldn’t have been, because, whether he intended it to be or not, his “joke” was incredibly racist. If Bizarro represents people of colour, then Superman becomes (literally and figuratively) the Übermensch, the paragon of the white master race who will dominate, enslave, and eliminate those who are “inferior” (i.e. the Other, in this case Bizarro).
Dude, that’s so not okay.
This is just another example that shows how clueless some people in the comic book community are and how people are still unable to understand why representation and diversity – at the corporate, creator, character, and consumer level – actually matters in comics.
As The Mary Sue – – points out, DC’s current ad campaign, DCYou, has been trying to to emphasize the amount of diversity in its post-Convergence titles, however, it still doesn’t change the fact that the majority of creators and characters at DC Comics (not to mention consumers of DC Comics) are white males.
Representation and diversity in comic books matter at the corporate, creator, character, and consumer level. Full stop.
When Rhimes took the stage, she addressed depicting the different gender, race and sexual orientation as “normalizing” television. “You should get to turn on your TV and see your tribe,” said Rhimes. “Your tribe can be any kind of person, anyone you identify with — anyone who feels like you, who feels like home, who feels like truth.
That’s why diversity and representation matter in media. You need to be able to go to a cultural text and see yourself in it.
Characters in cultural texts have an impact on our lives. They shape who we are, what we aspire to be, and how we view the world around us. Representation and diveristy in cultural texts can and do reproduce and reinforce norms, mores, cultural conventions, and power relations. But as Rhimes points out, it can also challenge them. By “normalizing” difference and diversity in cultural texts, you start to unpack and challenge how we consume and reproduce that shared cultural inheritance.
Somewhere along the road to researching and writing this article, I came across a statement as to why representation and diversity matter: “If he/she can’t see it. He/She can’t be it.” I, and other diverse individuals, want to see ourselves represented in these cultural texts and not as sidekicks or damsels in distress. We want to see ourselves as human beings and, more importantly, as superheroes.