There’s a case to be made for the internet as the greatest invention of all time, especially when it comes to understanding diversity and inclusiveness. Whoever would have imagined that there would be a world in which people could communicate with almost any person, in almost any country, about almost anything?
We also have access to infinite amounts of information, a great platform to make each other laugh, windows into each other’s lives and even ways to send money to those in need. There has been no globalization quite like the that which has occurred in the digital age.
Like many other technological game-changers, however, the internet is a double-edged sword. There are catfishes, conspiracy theories, extremism and hacked elections. For as much kindness and love that exist on the web, there’s also plenty of hatred and abuse.
The role of the celebrity in today’s society provides one of the more prominent vessels for the internet to showcase its dark side. The most talented of the stars have the opportunity to create art so amazing that it deeply influences people’s lives, and all of them at least have an advantaged platform from which to serve as role models and do good on behalf of society and the world. Yet, their presence in the public sphere not only opens them up to praise and admiration, but also to vile bullying from users hidden behind screens.
The latest victim of social media trolls’ tirades is Anna Diop. Diop is not particularly famous — her filmography is mostly just one-episode appearances on network television shows. It is safe to say she is an up-and-comer with a strong future, though, as she has recently been cast in DC’s new web television series, “Titans.”
“Titans” will follow the characters of DC Comics’ “Teen Titans” series: Robin (yes, that Robin), Raven, Beast Boy and Diop’s character, Starfire. Starfire is an orange-skinned sexpot (for lack of a better term) from a faraway planet who finds refuge on Earth after escaping slavery.
Casting Senegal-born black actress Anna Diop for this role is, for some reason, a problem for the comic book purists/awful trolls. Well, I think we all know the reason. The same reasons “Star Wars’” Kelly Marie Tran also felt compelled to delete her social media accounts following streams of abuse. The same reasons John Boyega’s “Star Wars” casting caused a “controversy.” The same reasons comic book purists threw a fit at Idris Elba’s “Thor” casting. The name of that reason? Plain ol’ racism.
The issue here isn’t just that Diop is black — it’s that she’s either “too black,” “not pretty enough” or, like one user (ridiculously) wrote, that “black-washing a character is indeed racist in itself.” Diop’s abuse contains a specific offset of racism, with its own name — colorism.
Colorism seeks to assign value to the lightness of an individual person’s skin, or condemn the darkness of it, within an already discriminated-against race. It is a rampant problem in Hollywood — mixed-race or more racially ambiguous women are far more likely to be cast and are widely considered “more attractive” in and outside of the black community.
Anna Diop is beautiful, and I’m sure will be wonderful as Starfire. She can now say she’s joined the company of the also beautiful Kelly Marie Tran and Millie Bobbie Brown. She has an opportunity to show the world just how talented she is and be appreciated for it, an opportunity that her dissenters will never have.