In recent weeks there has been a major shift in the current cultural climate in the United States when it comes to issues of racial inequality. Much of that has centered around issues of racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, the conversation has been far broader than that, shining a light on the entertainment industry and the areas in which Black representation has been lacking — as well as opportunities for greater diversity and equity. When it comes to DC shows, that means updating characters for the modern era something that Arrow creator Greg Berlanti addressed.
During Variety‘s Virtual TV Fest on Wednesday, Berlanti explained that there’s a “responsibility” when bringing characters from the past into the modern era, one that means keeping the heart of iconic characters, but giving them new takes that make them more representative of the world we live in now.
“In the DC Universe especially, there’s been a focus on us recognizing that we want to create heroes that look and felt like today, not the 1940s or 1950s,” he said. “They were all very well intentioned when they created those back then, but there’s a certain responsibility that you have if you’re going to escort these iconic characters into this generation to make sure they have the heart of that character, but they don’t have to have the gender or the color of that character or the sexuality.”
Those updates are things that show themselves in different ways across Berlanti’s shows. In the Arrowverse, a major example of an updated take on a classic character is The Flash‘s Iris West. Traditionally a white woman in comics, The CW series’ Iris is a Black woman, played by Candice Patton. The Flash has also seen gender bent versions of characters as well, most recently with the addition of Eva McCulloch/Mirror Mistress played by Efrat Dor. On Supergirl, the character Dreamer — who is on that series an ancestor of Nura Nal/Dream Girl in the future — is a transgender character played by a trans actress, Nicole Maines.
Even on the newest of the DC television series, Stargirl, classic characters are getting a bit of an update. That series is giving some of the characters refreshed back stories and while they don’t deviate too far in terms of gender or race, the shifts are allowing those characters to have a larger role than perhaps what they had in comics — such as Stargirl’s Beth Chapel/Doctor Mid-Nite, played by Anjelika Washington.
“Well, as a whole, I find a lot of responsibility, just as a black woman. I think representation for young black and brown girls is so important,” Washington recently told us. “I didn’t have anyone who looked like me playing a superhero when I was a kid. So, for generations that are coming up and I love bringing this new, fresh take to her because we’re all… All of our characters are a lot younger, we’re more naive, we’re not super informed and educated on the JSA or even just superheroes in general, in Blue Valley.”
What do you think about Berlanti’s comments? Let us know in the comments below.
Disclosure: ComicBook is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.