Sometimes, things happen that make you take a quick look around and find that the landscape is even worse than you once believed.
In this case, the recent flaps over Storm’s “It’s Not a Weave” scene in Fantastic Four #547 and the racially-lightened Misty Knight on the (infamous) cover of Heroes for Hire #13, made me stop for a quick moment and take a quick snapshot of Black Women in general within the world of Sci-Fi to find…
…That very few characters that can be identified as Black/African-American women are even present.
Normally, such an issue would be ignored or swept under the rug, as you don’t find as many Black Women who openly identify themselves as being fans of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy. They are out there, just not as visible.
However, the problem I speak of goes further than that. And outside of a scant few people who even bring up the issue, no one talks about it.
And it comes down to the general image of Black Women that is shown – and constantly bombarded, and that is one of the hyper-sexualized, out-of-control slut – especially in the poorly named “music videos” of rap artists and “top 40 urban” music artists. Male or female – it does not seem to matter that much these days.
(Side rant: Don’t bother wasting time with the defense of “It’s just TV,” or “These girls choose to dress like this,” or “These girls are actually very smart – if you check their interviews on how they’ve graduated college,” etc., etc., etc. I will tell you this right now – Those girls are not being chosen because they are smart. They are chosen because they match the look some producer and director are looking for, in this case being the “hawt” woman who can shake her hips and look like she’s sultry and sexy and someone the artist – male or female – would either go out with or be seen with. And the video is not highlighting how smart the hawt girls are – only how sexy (and slutty) the girls can be – AND IT DOES NOT MATTER IF THE GIRLS ARE OFFERING TO DO THIS FREELY!)
To tell you the truth, I, for one, cannot stand it. Especially given that counterbalancing images of Black Women actually doing any kind of tasks that do not require her to be loud, argumentative, or actively putting men down (Especially men of color) are non-existent.
This is a failure of the medium. Speaking of Science Fiction especially, Black Women are almost nowhere to be found – and if they are, they are background noise people, and will usually end up being a traitorous bad person or dead. Check out the list here. (Note, this list is not up to date, as since you could add the new Bionic Woman 2007 and Heroes to this list). For me, the saddest fact about this list is that the woman who is credited for being the first Black Woman to be prominent in Sci-Fi is still the woman with the most episode appearances and name recognition. And the show is more than 40 years old!
And Black Superheroines? Where are they? Black heroines in general? Are you kidding? You’ll have better luck finding the Anti-Life Equation for Darkseid. And, as for the ones that do show up, they tend to have little shelf life, are given poor villains – and cannot seem to survive without help from others. As point of fact, the 1990s era of toons yielded only 1 WoC as a heroine – Storm of the X-Men – and was given few chances to allow her powers to save the day. It only got worse for her in X-Men: Evolution.
But none in Iron Man. None in Spiderman. None in Fantastic Four.
Comic bookdom for Marvel? Here’s one: Captain Marvel. She was given her powers in a typical “accident” and was actually a somewhat capable superheroine. However, there was a single problem:
You see, “Captain Marvel” was actually an alien (who happened to look like a male Caucasian with pupil-less eyes). When that Captain Marvel went away, this one was born. However, when that Captain Marvel’s son decided, WoC Captain Marvel gave up the name.
However, Marvel could at least say they tried. DC’s track record of even having WoC as heroines, much less Superheroines, is even worse. Batman’s 1990 toon halfway featured a woman of Spanish heritage named Renee Montoya, who was a capable Gotham City cop who earned the respect of everyone she worked with by her ethic.
But she wasn’t a star.
And Black Women were not seen in Gotham as nothing more than background.
Superman’s 1990s return to TV was no better. Between Lois and Clark and Superman: Animated, black women were almost non-existent. Smallville? The same.
As a matter of course, we would not see a WoC as a super-heroine in DC until Justice League Unlimited, and only, as the producers point out in commentary, as a foil for the relation between Green Lantern John Stewart and Shayera Hol (Hawkwoman). While I believe that Vixen was well designed and written for a DC Animated character – and Gina Torres sells the role – it is still not enough.
So, where are they? Am I to believe that there is not a Black Woman who doesn’t have access to magic (Voodoo DOES NOT COUNT!)? Or that, somewhere in the universe, a dark-skinned woman with features similar to African-Americans (like Kryptonians are amazingly similar to you-know-who) that can run fast? Or fly? Or, the Deities Forbid, can wield a Ring of Power? Especially when you consider that you’ve had four men from Earth with this power – and three of them (all White, BTW) have lost their minds (and that power) at some point, with one of them destroying the entire universe afterwards?
Is there not at least a single WoC who can build machines to stop the evil forces from attacking the population? Is there a single WoC who can fight using the martial arts (and I know more than a few who could floor anyone who said “no”)?
(Now someone is going to write-in and say “Natasha Irons” fits the bill. My question is, “For how long? She is a scientist like her Uncle John, and she apparently found a way to keep her super-powers, despite the fact that Luthor took them away from her personally. So which Natasha will show up in the Infinity, Inc. comic book? Super-powered WoC or Scientist?)
And perhaps, just once, (and I am pointing this specifically at everyone) can I get heroes of color who gain super-powers and DON’T FIGHT VILLAINS IN SOME POOR URBAN NEIGHBORHOOD? PLEASE?!