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Why Race Shouldn’t Define Comic Book Characters In Film



Last week The Hollywood Reporter announced that Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jurnee Smolett-Bell, and Janelle Monae were testing for the role of Black Canary in the upcoming Birds of Prey film.

Canary has traditionally been white in the comics, but Warners are looking to change Black Canary’s ethnicity to African American. While many people were thrilled with the actresses they were testing, and that Warner Bros. were making an effort to have a diverse cast, some were not.

I understand how changing a character can be annoying to fans, but race does not change who a character is and has no effect on their personality because it is purely aesthetic. DC has already changed the ethnicities of Aquaman, Perry White, and Deadshot in the DC Extended Universe.

While these portrayals were different from their comic book counterparts, it was not due to the person’s skin colour, as they managed to get the cores of the characters right. It all came down to the unique spin the actors and directors brought to these characters.

We’ve had dozens of different actors play Batman and Superman over the years, all of whom have been white and each performance has been different from the other. This was because each individual actor brought something new, fresh and exciting to these iconic characters and if a person of colour were to play Batman or Superman one day, they would do the same.

There are those of you wondering why a white characters ethnicity can be changed, but a character of colour cannot be made white, the answer is simply this, there has never and will never be a shortage of roles for Caucasian actors and characters. For many years there has been so little diversity on screen and that is not a accurate representation of our diverse world we live in today. Having a diverse group of characters is much more interesting than every single character being Caucasian.

People have mentioned that Huntress should be a woman of color instead of Black Canary because DC recently changed the characters ethnicity in the comics. If DC can change Huntress’s ethnicity in the comics after many years of her being white why can’t they change Black Canary’s?

In 2010, DC introduced an African American Black Canary, who is part of a future Justice League in Justice League: Generation Lost, she was a descendant of Hawk and Dove, both former team mates of the original Canary.

I believe Warner Bros. have decided to switch it to Black Canary due to her and Harley Quinn both being caucasian blondes, while Huntress is an Italian brunette. Having Quinn and Canary standing next to each other is too visually similar. If Warners still want Black Canary to be blonde, any actor can dye their hair or wear a wig for the role.

It’s important to remember that race has nothing to do with who a character is or their personality and its important for everyone to get the chance to be represented on screen. At the end of the day, all of these characters are fictional. They are made to change with the times, they’re not exclusive to the time they were created because as we progress, so to, do these characters.