Written By Aspen S., – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series
Day in and day out, the students that I work with absolutely love to call me a nerd. In my youth, I’d be quick to fight anyone (with my slick words) who dared called me a nerd. I associated the word with someone who was easily picked on, who lacked social skills, and had virtually zero friends. And while I was at times made fun of for knowing weird facts or being enthralled in fictional worlds (I will forever be a Twi-hard), the fact of the matter is that there is nothing wrong with being a nerd. Especially if you own it.
Since I’ve gotten older, you will never hear me deny that I’m a nerd. It’s who I am and I’m fine with that. My proximity to the nerd world mostly comes through with my fandom obsessions: The Twilight Saga, Harry Potter, comic book multiverses, etc. I love it all and these fandoms consumed much of my formative high school years and have stuck with me throughout adulthood.
Now, my fandom allegiance doesn’t make me any different than the next person, but as a black woman deeply enthralled in these universes I think that a part of me has always been trying to bind together two worlds: My reality and the fantasy worlds that I temporarily escape my own reality to visit, especially when the real world gets too tough (you’ll always find me watching Twilight when I’m emotionally or socially drained).
When I say bind two distinct cultures, I think about how most of these narratives lack people of color so rarely have I seen characters who physically look like myself, but at the same time I relate so well to the quirky personalities of so many of the characters. Sometimes when reading I even imagine a character who may look more like me than the person who is then cast to play them in a movie. I think about how excited I was when I saw that The Flash cast Candace Patton as Iris West Allen, a historically White character. But then I see some of the negative commentary that she receives and start to question whether her sacrificing her own mental health as a result of playing this role is worth it. But then I think about all of the residual good that she is doing and the role modeling that she is doing for young black girls, even if that isn’t always communicated through social media.
In a similar vein, I think about one of the relatively newer comic book shows introduced to the CW, Black Lightning. Almost all of the show’s main characters are Black, it has fairly good character development, and the Black family dynamic that it portrays is super important. And despite all of this, it has taken me quite some time to get invested. With the season 3 premiere just being released earlier this week I took a minute to think about why I was not caught up on the show. The marketing. Now here is where I get a little nerdy so bear with me: All of the other primetime comic book series on the network belong to one universe: The Arrowverse, the phrase coined to the world that exists amongst the characters of now 5 shows that have previously appeared on Arrow at some point in its seven season run. When Black Lightning was released it was made very clear that it would not be joining the The Arrowverse and that it would exist in its own parallel yet very separate universe. I did not think too much into this at first but in doing some of my research I soon learned that the Black Lightning character was also a part of the Justice League, which is the link between many of these other characters. So why was the show not included? Why was it not given the same opportunities as say Supergirl, which takes place essentially in a different dimension.
From the start, the show was never given the same platform as the other shows, which almost seems as though the network was not willing to invest as much into it. However, three seasons later, the show has only gotten better and better and it now airs full seasons. Conveniently enough, the CW recently announced that Black Lightning will participate in this year’s annual crossover with the Arrowverse.
As a self-identifying nerd and Black woman I realize that the stories that consume me are not necessarily for me. I have found some comfort in online networks of others who share my passions but are also equally willing to engage in conversations around this and I am elated to see the increased casting of people of color in these literary universes. I think of the shear impact that movies like Black Panther and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse had, especially for people of color. Times are changing and with that people of color are being added to these narratives, creating a new generation of superheroes and villains and a more prominent space for Black nerds like myself.
– Aspen S., Official Contributor of The Crowned Series