There’s a new fan movement in the works that is determined to get Ryan Potter cast as Tim Drake in the DCEU films. Who is Ryan Potter? Potter, 20, is a young half-Japanese actor who’s best known as the voice of Hiro from Disney’s Big Hero 6. A martial artist himself, Potter has quickly risen to be a fan-favorite choice for Tim Drake amongst DC fans. And it all started with a tweet.
Though Potter didn’t get the role of Peter Parker that was previously advocated for him, fans are now campaigning — with the full encouragement of Potter himself — that he be cast as Tim Drake, the third Robin who joins Batman after Jason Todd’s death. While no set plans, or script details have been revealed for the upcoming solo Batman film starring Ben Affleck — aside from Deathstroke potentially being a villain — speculation of Tim Drake’s inclusion isn’t far-fetched.
The DCEU has made repeated note that a Robin character was murdered by the Joker with Harley Quinn acting as an accomplice. This could be a reference to the famous Death in the Family storyline where the Joker murders Jason Todd, leading to Batman taking on a new Robin in the form of Tim Drake.
The possibility of Tim Drake appearing in the DCEU was already enough to get fans imaginations going with various fancasts. Logan Lerman, of Percy Jackson fame, has been a long-time fan-favorite for the role. However Potter offers something Lerman doesn’t: Asian American representation in a non-stereotypical and high profile role. Say what you will about the DC film franchise, they make money and reach a wide standing audience. Currently the landscape for Asian American representation in films — let alone comic book fare — is rather dismal. The inclusion of Potter in the role of Tim Drake, who is neither a minor character nor easily replaceable, could be a step in bettering the current frustrating climate of our current lack of positive Asian American representation in media.
The continued encouragement from Potter, coupled with the desire for further representation within superhero franchises has now pushed fans into action. Since Potter’s initial tweet, fans have since showcased strong support for his being cast. So much so they’re hosting a Twitter trend campaign #RyanPotterForTimDrake Thursday, September 8, beginning at 4:00PM EST.
Fan campaigns have been a point of contention for many — as has racebending traditionally white characters as characters of color. However, there’s also a strong case to be made for racebending traditionally white characters in adapted media. Considering many of the most famous and long standing superheroes aren’t white due to story, but due to a racist mindset that prioritized whiteness and white characters over the stories of characters of color. Iris West and Mary Jane weren’t white because story dictated them to be so, they are white because white is considered the default in our creative media mindset and they were created in 1956 and 1966, respectively.
Candice Patton and Kiersey Clemons — being cast as Iris West in the television and film adaptions of The Flash — have proven to be influential and inspiring to black fans, particularly black female fans. Patton stated at DragonCon 2015 that, “it’s great seeing a young black girl come up to me, so excited that I’m Iris West. I tweeted something months ago, some young girl said, ‘Iris West looks like me. We’re beautiful!’ That’s powerful!” The #AAIronFist movement was about reclaiming a specific cultural identity from white depiction and appropriation. And the casting of Finn Jones to play Danny Rand has been met with frustrated disappointment for many Asian American fans.
Some naysayers of racebending will argue that there already exists characters of color, so why not campaign for them? Magically, fans can do both. Celebrating the existence and continued inclusion of canonical characters of color doesn’t negate the need or desire to see more. Fans can celebrate and appreciation Latino Cisco Ramon and what he does for Latinx representation on The Flash, while also appreciating the fact he’s not the only character of color because of the inclusion of Iris and Joe West. If we think about it this way, comic book media becomes much more monochromatic. Take a look at the Avengers line up. Or Arrow, which only features a handful of recurring characters of color in its cast, while whitewashing others, and the only regular character of color after four seasons is Diggle. If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hadn’t racebent Daisy Johnson, we’d have one less character representing Asian Americans in positive roles. If Iris West hadn’t been racebent to be black, we’d have one less black woman on television in a positive role. If Jason Momoa wasn’t cast as Aquaman, Cyborg would be the lone character of color in Justice League. With the inclusion of characters like Daisy and Iris, we have more in addition to canonical characters of color and more characters of color is always better.
If we view it this way, racebending can be a positive step forward in our adapted media. Which leads us back to Potter as Tim Drake. Traditionally, there’s only been two non-white Robins, and both fans and writers hardly ever acknowledge Dick Grayson’s Romani identity, leaving many to read and write him as a white character. The other has been Damian Wayne who is part Arab and Chinese on his mother’s side. [Ed. note: For what it’s worth, there are also completely baseless rumors out on the web that Steven Yeun is a possible contender for Nightwing, aka Dick Grayson.]
The others — Tim Drake, Jason Todd, and Stephanie Brown — have all been traditionally white characters. In main continuity there’s only been one non-white Batgirl, Cassandra Cain. Further extended is the Fox family of Lucius Fox, and his two children Luke Fox and Tam Fox. Luke has appeared in various comics in mainly supporting roles, and had a role in Batman: Bad Blood. While Tam has disappeared since the New 52 began and hasn’t appeared or been mentioned in Rebirth.
Even with the inclusion of characters such as Damian Wayne, Cass Cain, and Luke Fox as masked vigilantes (since Tam was never had a masked identity), the landscape of Batman’s partners is startlingly and majority white. Potter’s casting as Tim Drake would be a positive tip in the scale towards a bit more racial representation.
Of course, there’s no guarantee or even large possibility that a fan campaign will get Potter the role. Fan campaigns are very rarely directly effective in the face of large, looming corporations and behind-the-scenes happenings none of us outside the direct circle are privy to. #KeepIrisBlack worked, in a sense, though it could be argued director Rick Famuyiwa advocated for Clemons as he previously worked with her before on the movie Dope and the fan campaign just made Warner Brothers more secure in giving the green light. Truly, we’ll never know with 100% certainty how much #KeepIrisBlack aided in Clemons’ casting.
However, what campaigns such as #KeepIrisBlack, #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, #GiveCapABoyfriend, #AAIronFist, and now #RyanPotterForTimDrake can do directly is open up a larger dialogue on the need for better and larger representation in our media. Fans are no longer satisfied seeing themselves and their communities as stereotypes, sidekicks, comedic best friends, or simply playing second fiddle to white, straight, male (or female) characters.
While #RyanPotterForTimDrake may not get Potter the role, it can express fans desire to see a further diversified DCEU. Which could lead to something substantial. That is something worth supporting, isn’t it? We’ve already had plenty of Batman films with majority white casts (including two with whitewashed characters) do we really need another one?