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Character gatekeeping a real problem

Posted on August 9, 2018 by Sunny South News

When you are rebooting a beloved franchise, there is a very high bar to clear. In addition to appeasing a new group of viewers, you often have to deal with the viewers of the old show. It can be a very hard balancing act to perform, but if you get it right, then you will likely have a hit on your hands.

A rebooted franchise often has already done well in the past, and has a loyal fan base who — more often then not — grew up with it. They recall watching the show or film fondly, can laugh at the special effects that looked so real then, have favourite scenes and characters and are often looking forward to the reboot.

However, the new version is targeted at a different audience, in a new time, which means it’ll have a new look, and that alone can draw ire. The 2016 Ghostbusters film drew cries of boycott when the first trailer dropped because it was women doing the ghost-busting, unlike the original that stared four men, and when the live-action version of Beauty and The Beast first released photos of Belle’s infamous yellow dress, fans were crying over how boring it was compared to the original animated version.

More recently, several reboots have been announced for some beloved cartoons — whether into a new animated series,  a live action film and or a live-action t.v. show. Those shows include the Teen Titans, which is being made into a live-action series called Titans on DC Comic’s new streaming platform.

Titans is based off the characters in the DC comic series Teen Titans and the cartoons Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! Both these shows were aimed at youth, and the live-action series has generated excitement. However, new show equals a new look, and recent images of some of the main characters have generated some anger.

The first trailer dropped at Comic-Con last month has left some fan unenthused over the direction the show seems to be taking. The show isn’t due out on the DC streaming platform until later this year, but so-called fans appear to be freaking out over the three-second glimpse we’ve had of Anna Diop as Starfire, an alien princess with orange skin who can fly and shoot energy bolts.

In the glimpse we have of Starfire, she appears to dark skin, curly red hair that is aglow, sporting a fur coat and purple dress and blasting some presumed bad girls with energy bolts. The questionable outfit choice is later revealed to be a disguise she wears while attending a 70s themed party in the pilot episode, but the glimpse has also left people wondering why her skin isn’t orange like in the comics — after all, Beast Boy appears green in the trailer, so why not make Starfire orange while they’re at it?

There could be a ton of reasons for this — creative license, Starfire trying to appear more human, image-masking technology — and there’s no way to determine why from the very brief glimpse we’ve had of her. But horrible 70s costume aside, she looks like she can kick butt, and does so in the clip. But of course, trolls immediate began crying foul, saying that Starfire shouldn’t be played by a black woman, this is horrible casting, this isn’t my Starfire, how dare you. The harassment got so bad Diop had to disable comments on her Instagram account and limit her social media.

Minka Kelly, who plays Dove in the series, hit back against Diop’s harassers in an Instagram post featuring an image of Diop as Starfire against a comic-version of the character, stating how proud she is to work with her.

“In my humble opinion, @DCUTitans, @theDCuniverse and all of their fans are lucky to have her talent, her grace and her beauty on board. While the abhorrent racism in this country seems to be going nowhere anytime soon (#NiaWilson), the dignity, strength and couth my friend continues to exemplify in the face of it humbles and inspires me,” Kelly writes. “That so many racist cowards would take the time to attack her instagram so that she has to shut off comments after having already shut down her entire account once before over this bullshit makes me feel rage. Though I also feel a small relief knowing how strong and thick-skinned Anna is. I know she is and will be ok.”

Although Diop’s character clearly have her own supporters, this speaks to a worrying trend. Unlike the whitewashing outrage over the casting of Scarlett Johansson as the lead character in 2017 film Ghost in the Shell, which was based on a manga series of the same name, the outrage over Diop playing Starfire more to due with trolls thinking that she somehow failing to live up to an idealized fantasy of what the character should look like.

While Diop as Starfire may not be orange in the trailer or the released pictures, Beast Boy wasn’t green in the first released pictures either. Yes, the first released pictures of her dressed up for a 70s-themed party look messy, but you can’t base your assumptions on how well Diop will do justice to Starfire on three seconds in a trailer — especially when Dick Grayson/Robin appears to be shooting people in it.

There will always be people who are disappointed by the remake of a beloved favourite. However, the majority of these people are civil about it, and can still cherish the old version. The trolls targeting Diop here may be a small yet vocal minority, but they are determine to ruin something just because it isn’t what they envision.

Stories get remade for a reason — so they could appeal to a new crowd of viewers. If you are so enraged by the design choices of the new show, maybe you’re not who it is intended for.

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