Blog: Race, Gender, Character Bending: Cut it the heck out

I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time: I completely reject the notions implied in the term “angry fanboys.” Us “angry fanboys” are the ones that supported comics and comics related media before they went mainstream. Us “angry fanboys” are the ones that made these characters popular in the first place. And when comics related properties fall out of favor and go the way of the American Western? We’ll still be here, loving them.

I have never seen an industry where its creators make a point to diss the very people that they owe their careers to. I kid you not.angry-computer

So: what is race bending? That’s when a character from the original source material is changed to another ethnicity in a different medium/presentation of that material. Gender bending is when the gender is changed. Character bending however, is the most egregious of the three. It creates CINOs. That stands for Characters In Name Only. It means that there’s nothing about the character you’re looking at that’s rooted in the original, except their name.

Now, I know that there are lots of examples of this all over Comicdom and its associated spinoffs and media. I’m just going to mention the one that embodies all of the problems in one place. And that would be:james

James Olsen on Supergirl: Good gravy from the navy, that is not Jimmy Olsen. Nothing about him is Jimmy Olsen except his name. Not the kid-like goofiness, the clumsiness, the camera (although that was there and has been discarded), nor the little brother relationship with Superman. Where are the defining characteristics? Nowhere. THIS is Jimmy Olsen: jimmy_olsenAnd THIS is the character on the TV show Supergirl: melissa-benoist-and-mehcad-brooks-in-supergirlWho is now also THIS character, Guardian: guardian3Yeah Guardian is James Harper, not James Olsen. Just no. Know what the problem is here? The problem is “James” on Supergirl is not a character. He’s a function. And that function is: “superhero’s love interest.” That’s why they chose an underwear model to play him. And once that function is either fulfilled or nullified, they no longer know what to do with him. BECAUSE HE’S NOT JIMMY OLSEN. So they have to start making stuff up to give the actor something to do. Which would not happen had they written the character properly, like us “angry fanboys” have stated repeatedly.

Know who else suffered (and suffers) from these exact same problems? That would be Kristin Kreuk as Lana Lang (Smallville)lana-lang-kristin-kreukand Candice Patton as Iris West (The Flash). candicepatton-iris-westRace bent for no reason, although you can justify Iris’ change more easily as the New 52 introduces us to an African-American West family. (I’ll rant on the New 52 later because BOY HOWDY has that been a work in progress and a constant mess nonetheless.) But again the problems are that they are not the characters from the comics, they’re just love interests. It’s why they struggled so with Lana after Season Three of Smallville. Because her character’s arc was done the way they wrote her. She had no purpose after that, so they turned Smallville into Dawson’s Creek just to keep her around. And then gave her powers. Lana from the comics did have powers at one point, but she was never worshipped and fetishized as Kreuk’s character was.

Iris West has always had her own life, and then she met Barry. (This also was the weakness of Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance on Arrow. Black Canary is a legacy character with her own life and crime fighting mission. In the comics she meets Oliver as an adult crime fighter in the Justice League. None of that was true with Laurel.) Iris West has always been a Lois Lane type, yet the character that Candice plays is only there because of Barry. Whether she’s his step-sister (ugh) or not, there’s no real reason to justify her constant presence at Star Labs. Does she ever work as a journalist? The few times we have seen that, it was always connected to Barry. Also, what happened to her dissertation that we heard about in the Pilot episode? Was her plan to be Dr. Iris West? Did that stop, and if so, why? Can you see the issues here?

superman_family_silver_age_001Supporting cast characters are necessary and fun to the main hero’s adventures. They often supply many things to the hero. But with the longest running heroes, the supporting cast has been around long enough to develop as characters, and many of them have gotten their own spinoffs from time to time. I don’t have a problem with race bending if it proves to be integral to the story. I rarely see the point of gender bending, making an established character switch genders. Because again, what does it add to the overally storyline? As an author myself, I’ve learned that the best changes are those that contribute to the story. Not arbitrary changes made just for the sake of change or to feed some politically correct agenda.

What ends up happening is that both the character and the story become diluted. And then they become convoluted because the top-billed actors have to have something to do, even when their character’s story is done. The Barry-Iris relationship on The Flash has not been earned in the slightest. They literally only have it this season because of “destiny.” Spare me. I bought Anakin and Padme more than I buy this version of Barry and Iris. Plus Grant Gustin clearly has more chemistry with Danielle Panabaker. Why they can’t see that Barry and Caitlin are the right connection on that show is beyond me. The Barry-Caitlin relationship has been earned. Barry even said so in the latest episode. And they keep proving every week that they’d be lost without each other.tumblr_nlquvnmdkv1rl5axho1_500

Clark and Lana should have been together on Smallville until the end. There was literally no organic reason to break them up, so they made up stupid reasons. Lois is supposedly the love of Clark’s life, but on Smallville, clearly Lana was written as that epic, once in a lifetime love. And they should have had it. But that would’ve required THE ACTUAL LANA LANG. Not the character that Kreuk played. That was unique to Smallville, and past season three, literally added nothing to the show. And “James” Olsen on Supergirl? Remember that he broke up with Lucy Lane over Kara. And he and Kara JUST MET. But Lucy was so threatened by James’ feelings for Kara until she left him. And then they don’t end up together, and Kara’s about to give herself to Mon-El. So what does “James” have to do? If he was actually Jimmy Olsen, and not a CINO, he’d be in Metropolis answering to Perry just like Clark does. He’d be getting award winning photos and helping Superman do ground work. And we’d have seen more of that ultra-cool watch that Kal gave Jimmy.

This guy? Yah he’s a poor substitute for the outstanding Calista Flockhart and oh yeah HE’S NOT GUARDIAN EITHER.

I can’t with this foolishness any more.13-1

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