The definition of the word diversity is simple. On Miriam Webster, it says, “the condition of having or being composed of different elements. Especially, the inclusion of different types of people in a group of organization.” The word is usually attached in sentences like, “The government wants to promote diversity in their schools.” This isn’t a confusing concept. While the concept of diversity isn’t confusing, I do believe it has evolved ever since its inception. What I mean by evolved, is the way in which diversity is shown has evolved. We’ve gone from just having “gangsta” black men in film, to not flinching when a black man is a nerd in a film. Hispanics were only portrayed in one way in film for years. Now, we, as a society, don’t blink when a Hispanic enunciates his words clearly. That’s a beautiful thing. At the same time, stereotypes still invade our minds like fat parasites. Suicide Squad is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
The optics of Suicide Squad, in terms of diversity, look great. Spectacular actually. We all know the characters by this point, but for every Will Smith in a film, there is a Killer Croc. I know it garnered laughs in the theater, but at the end of the film, when Killer Croc asks for BET (Black Entertainment Television) in his cell my heart sank a bit. That’s what DC thinks of black men in prison? That’s not diversity. I haven’t watched BET in 7 years. Oh yeah, I’m black. And then there was the matter of El Diablo. I talked about this in my Suicide Squad Review, but the pacifist gangster thing is something that has been done to death. The pacifist gangster thing where the gangster dies at the end, even worse. So the optics of DC’s diversity in that film are solid. But to me, to truly represent our diverse world, you must look past the stereotypes. Especially when you are attempting to explore other cultures and races. And even more so when you’re attempting to show diversity in a film. That’s the beauty of our world I think. This growing diversity gives so many people an attempt to let their voices be heard, because no one can truly experience everything in life. No one. Writers attempt to put their souls into other people’s hearts, but in the end, we are who we are first. Diversity cannot be achieved with the same people, of the same race, culture, and backgrounds, writing about situations they never think about until a paycheck is presented to them.
My points on the optics of diversity are relevant when it comes to Cyborg. The laziness DC showed when it comes to Suicide Squad’s diversity, manifests itself on the Justice League. It’s hard to describe though because it isn’t lacking because of the stereotypes they are clinging on too. It lacks because of their hold on the concrete definition of diversity. Fans want it sure, but doing it just to satisfy the meaning of that word, is laziness personified. So, let’s look at the Justice League shall we. Once again, everything seems to be in order. You got Batman (middle-aged white male) Superman (middle-aged white male) Flash (young, hip white male) Aquaman (Hawaiian, brown male) Wonder Woman (female) and Cyborg (black male.) This looks like some good ole’ diversity here! I’d be lying if I said seeing Cyborg on the Justice League didn’t look cool. The art, his new design, and the way they display his powers are pretty cool. But, where this turns into me hating the idea to move him on the League, is when I look back on who this character was. It’s sad too, because from what I read on the internet, people do think this is true, genuine diversity.
Everyone who knows anything about DC knows the show Teen Titans. I love Young Justice, but the Teen Titans have a special place in my heart. The show ran from 2003-2006. It was pretty basic in terms of animation. The effects weren’t blowing anybody away. But where the show shined like a white dwarf star is in its character development. Every character had deep, personal stories that affected them, and the team. No matter what, the team always rallied around each other too. They had their fights of course. They were even some times the team almost broke up. But in the end, they always came back stronger because that’s who the Titans are. For those of you who don’t know, the show consisted of Cyborg, Robin, Raven, Beast Boy, and Starfire. The main reason Cyborg shouldn’t be on the Justice League is because of the deconstruction of his character after this show. The main things involving his character are the same. He’s a black, athletic male who was a superstar at football. An accident caused him to become a machine. The numbers fluctuate but he’s roughly 70% machine. Those things haven’t changed in the comics. In the television show, Cyborg was hilarious. He had an awesome relationship with Beast Boy. They were always pigging out, playing video games, and cracking jokes. Robin joined them more often than not, but their relationship was awesome. Cyborg was also a solid inventor. He made a bevy of inventions that the Titans used in battles. He designed their building, and he also had a car he built that the team would drive sometimes. He wasn’t a complete jokester though. While he didn’t dwell on the fact he was mostly machine, when it did come up, the episodes were heavy. He hated it. But he didn’t let it consume him. Cyborg knew that his life meant so much more than data and chip readers. The coolest thing about Cyborg on this show though, was his confidence. He definitely maintained that superstar attitude from football, which makes sense. When you’re a star on a football team, or even a debate team, you feel like Batman. You think you can’t be touched. Cyborg carried that mentality into the Teen Titans. Some of the best episodes involved his frustration with Robin’s leadership. There was also an episode where Cyborg went undercover at a villain’s base. He further proved how much of a leader he can be. He wanted to lead his own team, and it felt natural on the television show. They did a great job portraying the different sides of his character. He was a complex person. The machine stuff bothered him, but he hid it well with pizza, jokes, and personality.
All of that feels great to remember, but pisses me off because it’s solely a thing of the past now. If you’ve read The New 52 or the new Rebirth titles, you understand what I’m saying. The New 52 was created after the event, Flashpoint. Geoff Johns headed the writing on this project. Johns is a sensational writer. The Justice League lineup was changed a bit here. The main trinity was on it of course. Flash and Aquaman as well. Things got a little fishy though after that. The Green Lantern who had been the dominant presence in the JL at the time was John Stewart. As a kid, he was the main Lantern I knew of. I had no idea who Hal Jordan was. DC brought back Hal Jordan though and put him on the Justice League. John Stewart was still around, but he just wasn’t on the League. That’s fine by me. Hal Jordan is more interesting than John Stewart anyway. For some reason though, DC didn’t want to put the Martian Manhunter on the team. That’s fine too. So, the lineup of Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Flash, Aquaman, and Green Lantern. Pretty legit right? So why does DC decide to throw in Cyborg? They’ll tell you a whole bunch of answers about story building and all of that, but it’s another classic case of “here you go” diversity. “Here you go” diversity refers to the Suicide Squad’s BET line. It is diversity for the sake of the optics, the sake of the concrete definition. I have zero proof that the reason Cyborg got moved up was to satisfy a quota, but it feels that way. It only feels that way because he IS NOT the same character he was from the show. To sum it up, he’s boring. Cyborg never cracks any jokes, his dialogue is written extremely poor, and the bulk of his story arcs involve his accident. None of those things defined him as a character on the Teen Titans show. He never talks or speaks up either (he is still roughly the same age.) Some of his powers are different, which is irrelevant. But the core of who he was as a character was stripped away for the sake of diversity. “Here you go” society. Don’t hate us. I would respect DC more if they just went ahead and kept their entire squad white. Develop the people of color so they have depth to them. Marvel’s Avengers in the first film included only one minority, but now, their black characters (Black Panther, Falcon, and War Machine) have evolved beyond their diversified purpose.
Even now, the main dialogue with Cyborg involves the fact he’s a machine. I read the new Rebirth special with him, and the actual plot was interesting. I’m intrigued to see where it goes. They are focusing on his relationship with his father. That’s cool, but it has been talked about numerous times before. Cyborg’s lines from the issue were horrendous. He said the word “pal” twice. He fails to crack any jokes, show any charisma, or show any personality for that matter. DC is determined to make Cyborg a shell of his former self. I’m tired of seeing him sulking and reading computer screens.
I hope I was able to convey how I see diversity and its ever evolving meaning. The concrete definition is definitely easy to achieve, but humans as a race are evolving rapidly. We still have people stuck in the stone ages, but I see people changing. Freedom in a free country is a constant battle, but overall, we are progressing. Like I mentioned multiple times, the look of DC’s diversity is breathtaking. It has people fooled too. DC knows what they’re doing. Black kids around the country are excited for Cyborg. He will no doubt have some popularity amongst children who don’t know him otherwise. His suit looks awesome, he will probably have a solid relationship with Flash, and that mentor-student thing he has with Batman in the comics will definitely be a thing too. But, when I think back to the Teen Titans show, I can’t help but want the charismatic leader back. Seriously, that’s all I want. So far, they haven’t shown me they want to progress in his character development. Martian Manhunter, Black Lighting (or Black Vulcan whatever you prefer,) and John Stewart were all easy choices instead of Cyborg. DC has two Green Lanterns on the League right now anyway in Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, so why John Stewart couldn’t join the fight is beyond me. Martian Manhunter has a deep history on the League, so that would’ve been an easy thing to do. Black Lightning is a chance for something completely new for the League. There is an opportunity to create a new story for him, as well as new interactions. I honestly don’t even know much about him, but I’m happy that he might be getting a television show. Any of those characters would’ve been better than Cyborg. He is a lazy attempt at diversity and an insult to anyone who truly loved the character on the Teen Titans. I’ve tried to get used to this new character, but at the end of the day, DC may have permanently ruined this character’s legacy.