Posted by: Doc Comics | May 19, 2011

The Invisible Whiteness of Being… a Superhero

‘Post-Racial’ Politics of The Green Lantern Corp?

As one entry on the Green Lantern Corps smirks: Space isn’t as dark as you think it is. Indeed, a very interesting American Prospect article on “Masked Identity Politics” similarly opens with a provocative rhetorical question about the upcoming Green Lantern film: “In a world with billions of people, what are the chances that the ring’s next owner is a white American dude? Pretty high, apparently.” Although the article goes on to note the 1960s hit-and-miss social consciousness of the comics, its pretty clear that an interplanetary (and inter-species) group like the GLC raises interesting questions about the racial politics of American superheroes. As Marc Singer explains in his essay “Black Skins and White Masks“:

“Comics rely upon visually codified representations in which characters are continually reduced to their appearances, and this reductionism is especially prevalent in superhero comics, whose characters are wholly externalized into their heroic costumes and aliases. This system of visual typology combines with the superhero genre’s long history of excluding, trivializing, or ‘tokenizing’ minorities to create numeorus minority superheroes who are marked purely for their race: ‘Black Lightning,’ ‘Black Panther,’ and so forth. The potential for superficiality and stereotyping here is dangerously high…”

As we have explored in this blog numerous times already, minority superheroes face several problems and paradoxes in their historically shaped media representations aside from even overt racism. Recently, the casting of British actor Idris Elba as a Norse God in THOR sparked racist backlash and controversy. And just this week, Prof. Cornell West’s stinging critique of President Obama’s NeoLiberal policies further stoked examinations of Identity Politics.

Heimdall knows: Midgardian haters gonna hate…

What remains to be seen, however, is how the conversations to follow seek to address or avoid the invisibility of White Privilege and the Colorblind Politics of Racial NeoLiberalism. As Kenneth Burke reminds us: “It is a principle of drama that the nature of acts and agents should be consistent with the nature of the scene.” More fodder for thought can be found in the infographic Superhero Movies By The Numbers.

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Responses

  1. The Muppets have gotten into the act…

  2. Now the Marvel media properties are being called out for their White Male Privilege, and how they should learn from the comics source material.
    http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/marvel-diversity-problem-avengers-shield-comics.html

  3. Latest ‘FANTASTIC FOUR’ casting provokes racist backlash and illustrates invisibility of White Privilege.
    http://m.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/02/the-incoherent-backlashes-to-black-actors-playing-white-superheroes/283979/


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