It’s no secret that we are huge fans of Arrow and the whole universe of DC heroes on The CW. So the idea of the network spinning off yet another show — tentatively titled The Atom, by the way — set in that shared universe has got all of us Nerds salivating with anticipation. Ever since it was announced that Caity Lotz was also going to star in the spin-off, fans have been guessing how she would be brought back and which character she would play since she, you know, died on Arrow. Uh, spoiler?
Over on ComicsAlliance, they’re speculating that Lotz will be brought back as White Canary. Being a big fan of Caity’s, I’m stoked she’s coming back to the universe. The only problem is, despite the character’s name, White Canary ain’t, uh, white.
Right now, it’s all just a rumor, though I can pretty much confirm with 99% certainty that it’s true. For one, I was tipped off on her character’s identity back in February and two, the producers of Arrow have a troubling habit of arbitrarily whitewashing a lot of DC’s established characters of color.
First, a little background on White Canary. In the grand scheme of the DC Universe, it’s fair to say that the White Canary is pretty minor. Created by Gail Simone during her run on Birds of Prey, the White Canary was a mysterious villain who came to Gotham to blackmail Dinah Lance and challenge her into dueling with Lady Shiva. Oh, and she’s Asian.
With Sara Lance somehow returning to the Flarrow universe as White Canary, she joins a growing list of Arrow characters who have been whitewashed for the series. Maybe if this was the only time, I’d give them a pass1, but many folks have noticed this disturbing trend on the show.
The first time Arrow had me raising an eyebrow about whitewashing was when they introduced Sin in season two. Readers of Black Canary’s adventures in the Birds of Prey comics know that Sin was essentially adopted by Dinah after our hero rescues her from a nameless Asian village in which she was being groomed to become the next Lady Shiva.
When she was brought on to Arrow, the producers changed her back story and her ethnicity when they cast actress Bex Taylor-Klaus for the role. No longer is she a martial arts prodigy, Sin is a street kid living in the Glades who befriends Sara and Roy.
At last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, prior to the launch of season three of Arrow, the writers revealed that the big bad of the season was going to be none other than Ra’s Al Ghul. This wasn’t that much of a surprise since Nyssa and the League of Assassins became major players over the course of the second season. But the news of such an iconic DC villain appearing on the show had fans speculating about which actor could possibly pull off playing the Demon’s Head.
Many of us nerds of color assumed that they would cast a person of color in the role since Ra’s — despite the ethnically ambiguous way he’s sometimes drawn — has always been depicted as either Asian or Middle Eastern. Also, since they cast Katrina Law — a woman of color — as his daughter Nyssa, it only made sense that an actor of color would similarly be considered. That is, until they announced Australian actor Matt Nable was cast.
Of course, Liam Neeson already played Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins, so this isn’t the first time the character was whitewashed for live action, but the Arrow producers really missed an opportunity to cast an actor of color when they decided to go with Nable instead.
Nable/Ra’s isn’t the only DC supervillain whitewashed for season three of Arrow. Danny Brickwell, aka Brick, has been a presence on Arrow since the show’s inception. Though he had been mentioned in name only since the pilot, the villain took center stage in a multi-episode arc in the middle of the season. Of course, when it was time to shine the spotlight on the villain — who is typically portrayed as Black in the comics and animated series, the producers, once again went a different direction and instead cast Vinnie Jones, aka the Juggernaut, bitch.
Basically, the general rule on Arrow has been that if you’re a Black or Asian character in the comics, chances are they’ll cast a white person to play you on the show. So what happens when the canonical character is Black and Asian?
In the comics, before becoming Green Arrow, Oliver Queen was known as a womanizer and has several flings with multiple partners. One of those women was Sandra Moonday Hawke. However, when confronted with the news that she was pregnant, Oliver essentially pays her off to go away. Years later, her son Connor tracks down Oliver and the two train for months in an Ashram temple. Connor eventually assumes the mantle of Green Arrow after the apparent death of Oliver.
Anyway, on Arrow, there is a similar plotline about a woman in Oliver’s past who becomes pregnant with his illegitimate child but is paid off (by his mother on the show) to terminate the pregnancy and go away. This character is never named, but most fans assumed she was Sandra Hawke. The only thing? The actress, Anna Hopkins, is neither Black nor Asian.
The two eventually cross paths again and we learn that not only did she keep the baby, but he’s a boy — presumably named Connor. So if this character is ever revealed to actually be Sandra Hawke, that means they’ll have to whitewash Connor Hawke eventually too.
The oddest thing about the Arrow producers whitewashing so many characters is that they have similarly racebent several characters in the other direction to great effect. On Arrow, casting Maori actor Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson was a (Death)stroke of genius. They also seemingly merged the Hector Ramirez version of Wildcat into their depiction of Ted Grant by casting J.R. Ramirez in the role, though they haven’t given the character much to do since. Also, is he even alive anymore?
Similarly, the producers of Arrow are also the masterminds behind The Flash, and we’ve praised them on multiple opportunities for making that universe one of the most diverse on all of television.
Even on this Atom spin-off, casting Ciara Renee as Hawkgirl is another step towards diversity in the DC television universe. So why take a step back with white White Canary?
And before you say that I’m being hypocritical for praising a series when it casts a person of color in the role of a traditionally white character while complaining when the reverse happens, let me just point you to this tumblr to illustrate why such an argument is invalid.
- Oh who are we kidding? It would still be effed up. ↩