For decades, Black fans of science fiction have yearned to see faces similar to theirs on screen. The first major recurring Black sci-fi character was Lt. Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, who was encouraged by Dr. Martin L. King Jr. to remain on the show because of the importance of viewers seeing a future that included Blacks. Since then, there have been Black characters in sci-fi TV shows and movies from “Battlestar Galactica” to Black Panther. Despite these strides in a formerly all-White genre, Black actors are constantly being attacked by White fans who object to Black people with superpowers. The latest to feel the wrath of the racist fanboy is actress Anna Diop. But the strange thing about her critics’ complaints is that in the comic book Starfire is orange, so the fans now have an issue with Black people playing orange-skinned people, comic book colorism mixes with racism.
Diop will star in the latest installment of the DC heroes to take the screen as Starfire, a member of the Teen Titans. In the comic book, Starfire is a princess from an alien world stuck on Earth when she joins with other Titan members, Nightwing, Raven, Beast Boy, and Cyborg. Interestingly, Cyborg who is Black in the comics does not seem to appear in the Titans trailers, making many wonder why there cannot be two Black heroes on screen. When the Titans trailer appeared at ComicCon last week, racists hit the roof and rushed to Instagram to vent. Comments were so hurtful toward Diop, the young Black actress has deleted her Instagram account.
But even on Twitter the hate toward her is strong:
“It isn’t racist to say Anna Diop shouldn’t play #Starfire. Yes nobody has orange skin, but Starfire’s features are clearly based on a caucasian woman’s. She has red hair and green eyes! This is as stupid as when Jessica Alba played Storm. #truthhurts #notracist #teentitans” – Claire Frances @itsJustClairey
“I also don’t care for her skin color I just wish she was cast as a prettier person than Anna Diop,” wrote another user.
Diop responded to those who feel that because she is Black, she should not play a character who is orange in the comics with the following:
“It’s out of context and it’s a misrepresentation of the incredible character I get to play. And also a misrepresentation of the phenomenal production behind it all. With that said, the hate speech that followed was deplorable. And though I am highly unbothered, I do want to use this as an opportunity to say that tearing people down is not something that I tolerate. For myself or anyone else.
“Too often social media is abused by some who find refuge in the anonymity and detachment it provides: misused as a tool to harass, abuse, and spew hatred at others.
“This is weak, sad, and a direct reflection of the abuser. Racist, derogatory, and/or cruel comments have nothing to do with the person on the receiving end of that abuse. And because I know this — I’m unfazed. But for anyone out there who may not — I am here to remind you that whatever ugly and negative thing anyone ever chooses to say about you is always a reflection and revelation of themselves — it does NOT define you, and it certainly does NOT make you any less perfect than you are.”