I love Sci Fi — the shows are packed with excitement, awesome action/fighting scenes and every episode usually leaves me on the edge of my seat. It gives us an idea of how human beings create a structure for themselves in scenarios like:
- Being stranded on an island (LOST), living in a community with people that have undergone supernatural mutations (The 4400)
- Testing a planet’s habitability while fighting for their lives (The 100)
- Surviving a zombie apocalypse (The Walking Dead).
Despite its high entertainment factor, i’ve noticed a trend with how each of the aforementioned shows are set up and diversity is clearly not the top priority for the writers of them.
LOST is a show about the Oceanic 815 who are survivors of a plane crash and end up on a mysterious island. It didn’t take long for them to designate Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox) as the leader and determine who would do things like build tents, get food, use the weapons etc.
With a predominantly white cast, there are stand-out characters like Sayid Jarrah (played by Naveen Andrews), Michael Dawson (Harold Perrineau) and Walt Lloyd (Malcolm David Kelley).
There’s also a married Asian couple, Jin Kwon (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun Kwon (Yunjin Kim). This is a favorite show of mine but with the exception of Sayid, the other characters pretty much fade into the background, don’t add much to the plot and are easily forgotten.
At the beginning of The 4400, a ball of light is showing hovering over the river and it bursts open, revealing 4,400 people. We later find out that they have been missing or dead over the last 50 years. They all look the same as they did when they left but they have special powers.
Richard Tyler (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter Isabelle (Megalyn Echikunwoke) are the only main characters who are black. According to Wikia: Richard Tyler [a St. Louis, MO native], “joined the U.S. Air Force and piloted their fighter jets in the Korean War.
When his fellow officers and “friends” discovered he was having an affair with a white woman, Lily Bonham, they beat him.” It was interesting to see how he was gone for 50 years but returned only to find himself still being the only black man around.
The 100 is about 100 juveniles that are sent to Earth to determine its habitability. A nuclear Armageddon destroyed all civilzations so the only survivors were the 4000 people living in 12 international space stations.
They’ve built what I call, a city in space, which seemed to be doing pretty well, however, three generations later, the resources and oxygen levels began to shorten. They needed another plan.
The stand-out characters are, Thelonius Jaha (Isaiah Washington), Lincoln (Ricky Whittle) and Indra (Adina Porter). Thelonius is the last Chancellor of the Council that governed the Ark (city in the sky). He was the one who made all of the major decisions such as what to do when the oxygen levels fell.
Lincoln, a warrior from the Woods Clan, is seen as a traitor for falling in love with one of The 100 members, who are referred to as “Sky People.”
Indra is Chief of Tondc and apart of The Woods Clan, who live in the area where the drop ship full of the 100 members landed. Aside from that, you only see black people when they’re doing mindless tasks like gathering wood, I guess, to make it seem like the population is diverse.
The Walking Dead, another popular show, is about the experiences that a group of survivors face during a zombie apocalypse. The stand-out character is Michonne. Don’t be fooled by the placement of black characters in the promotional shots as shown in the featured image for this post — Michonne is the only black character that actually brings something valuable and memorable to the show.
What I love about her is that she is a leader. She is introduced as a person with a hard exterior (who is a highly skilled when it comes to using her sword). She eventually opens up and reveals that she is a kind-hearted person who is protective of her team.
In this show, it seems like there’s a limit for the number of black characters that can be on at once. In order for a new one to be introduced, another must die. I’m still upset that Bob & Porsha never happened (if you watch the show, you know what I mean). I understand that it’s the zombie apocalypse and that people die, but why is it that the black people are treated as disposable?
The writers had a clear opportunity to create a black-love storyline and ditched it. I expressed this to another regular-watcher and she basically said “well everyone has to die.” I get that, but why is it that the other (non-black) characters get to experience long lasting and fulfilling love?
If Rick was black, would “Richonne” still be a thing? A lot of people might think that it’s an absurd idea for Rick to have been written in as a black man instead of white. If this angers you, my point has been made.
Representation goes far beyond just including black people here and there — it means having substantial individuals. If you’re going to include a small number of black characters in your show, please develop them — not with stereotypical roles and storylines. Don’t get lazy and kill them off. Introduce characters that can strategize good moves and fight. Stop bringing gullible people on board that lack leadership skills and fall into traps.
Why not designate a black character as the leader? — Not a villain, which is pretty much the stereotypical role for most shows – but a character who can take charge, hold their own and look out for others.
The idea of a white man or woman being a leader/superhero is treated as the default and when this is criticized, some people make it seem like it is an unnecessary complaint. We deserve to see black superheroes and leaders of the nation too. This is why black directors bring on black writers and hire a predominantly black cast. It’s because you (white writers) already have the platform but you’re not using it to include us, so we have to do it ourselves.
This doesn’t neglect the fact that there are some black writers with access to huge platforms that still choose to display stereotypical roles. Even with shows like Black-Ish and Empire (which is another discussion, for another post), you assume that the representation is no longer needed because it’s enough…but how many shows are like that, on a major network?
When writers bring on characters with stereotypical roles, it tells me that it reflects how they see us — if you saw us any other way, you would have written it into the script. Also, since it’s a sci-fi show, you have the flexibility to bend the rules and create any world that you want but you still choose to create an all white world with the exception of a few black people who are not fit to survive and must therefore rely on (white) people to guide them.
This has absolutely everything to do to race! — especially when we have kids out here saying that they hate their features because the toy aisle is full of white characters and they don’t have enough visibility to say “hey, i’m just as talented, intelligent and skilled.”
I love Sci-Fi but it upsets me how white washed these shows are! Most of the best shows out there don’t have any black leads. I am extremely disappointed in how everyone gets these exciting storylines but the black characters are so boring…why? For the purpose of saying “oh here’s your diversity…1 black person” ??? I don’t know how else to end this post other than to ask you to get it together because Sci-Fi show lovers like me still feel left out.