And since I am pointing to “subtle” shifts in already problematic media, I thought I’d play one more with you readers, this time from the land of “Super friends”:
Original Zan and Jayna
The originals were part of the DC comic franchise and became popular as part of the Hanna Barbara hour, and other HB offerings, on Saturday morning cartoons.
Smallville’s Zan & Jayna
It may be harder for you all to notice the difference this time around unless you are familiar with racial encoding in similar comic book characters for the same period as the original Zan and Jayna.
Suffice it to say that while The Wonder Twins original back story was that they were aliens, many saw them as people of color because of their visual similarity to other characters, usually stereotypical orientalist villains, and embraced them as one of the few positive images in this vein.
In typical Smallville fashion, Zan and Jayna have been white washed by both casting white actors and replacing their original storyline with the idea that they are meteor infected small town white teens.
Again, this is not really worth the amount of blog space I am giving it in isolation but certainly worth documenting as one of many moments in which Smallville has failed to depict diversity in any significant or lasting way. After all, though Smallville started out with a racially diverse cast, it’s Asian-Canadian female lead was in a role originally written as white and the character was never updated to reflect the background of the actress playing her. It’s African American character/actor original faired much better but soon degenerated to stereotype before ultimately being written out. Other characters on the show have been cast using white or white appearing actors for Latin@ roles & were written to be read as white by those who did not know their back story; while characters like Victor Stone were among the most under utilized.
In the sense of a pattern of increasing homogeneity, even at the expense of actual characters of color, The Wonder Twins reboot is worthy of note. (And yes, there is far more to complain about with said reboot than just race.) Outside of this context, not so much …