A new American TV superhero series Black Lightning on the CW Network will feature a black lesbian superhero. Nafessa Williams will play Anissa Pierce whose superhero name is Thunder who is one of the two daughters of the title character Black Lightning. The series will feature a love interest for Thunder called Grace Choi who is half-Amazonian and half Asian-American.
The series is based on the same characters who appear in various DC Comics with Black Lighting debuting in 1977 however his lesbian daughter Thunder does not appear until 2003. Williams described her character as “timely and necessary”.
If DC Comics and CW want to have a black lesbian superhero that is fine, however whenever a character like this is announced in any show it is always described as “groundbreaking”. It is also met with cynicism from the public who feel that the elevation of characters such as this is more about pushing a political agenda that actually creating compelling entertainment.
Given the recent sexual harassment scandals that have engulfed Hollywood many would argue that the entertainment industry is in no position to preach to the rest of the population about the virtues of diversity and inclusion.
Recent history has shown that entertainment companies that go down this road of appealing to identity politics and containing story-lines with social justice causes see their popularity plummet. DC Comics would do well to see what has happened to the rival Marvel who saw their circulation fall over the past ten years after it due to the influence of social justice warriors on the company. Marvel recently launched a comic about a queer Latina teenager with lesbian parents.
Time will tell whether Black Lighting is good television but it will need more than a character that ticks all of the right diversity boxes and a belief that factor alone will see it rate.