The CW Fandoms Speak: Diversity and Good Representation Matter
Over the last several weeks there have been some very big things happening in several of The CW’s shows in regards to diversity and representation. Some has been amazing and some has been terrifying. One thing, though, that I’ve seen come up time and time again as I scroll through Tumblr or answer asks is how much diversity and representation matters to any number of viewers.
Many of those who are minorities in the general population seek comfort, validation, and escape from their favorite TV shows and their favorite characters. When something happens to those characters, it doesn’t matter that they weren’t “real” or living in “the real world.”
We rejoice with them and we mourn with them. And for some, the connection with them can become extreme and unhealthy. But it’s because, at times, there’s nowhere else to turn. When real lives are filled with bullies, hate, depression, suicidal thoughts, self-doubt, loneliness, and any number of other things, there isn’t always ready access to the type of support network needed to survive the pressures of day-to-day life. In those cases, it can be easy to turn to TV for that support.
For that reason, we’re going to take a look at the shows on The CW – a network that has always catered to high school students, college students, and beyond – to see how they are doing when it comes to providing the diversity and representation that many of their viewers so desperately need. We’ll also take a look at some show night twitter trends that fans can use as they try to make a positive difference toward even more diversity and better representation in our favorite shows.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (Mondays at 8 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Main character, Rebecca Bunch, accurately portrays mental health issues, particularly depression. Rebecca’s boss, Darryl Whitefeather, and his current love interest (“White Josh”) provide positive LGBT representation and address both gay and bisexual issues. Dr. Avorkian, Rebecca’s therapist who is black, and Josh Chan, Rebecca’s Filipino love interest provide very positive representation for People of Color (PoC).
THE NEGATIVE: No representation for the disabled (yet).
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #LGBTFansLoveCEG, #CEGgetsMHright, #PoCFansLoveCEG, #CEGNeedsDisabledRep
JANE THE VIRGIN (Mondays at 9 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Jane, her mother, her abuela, her long-estranged father and others provide positive Hispanic representation and an accurate depiction of Latino culture. Luisa, who has a very complicated relationship with Jane, provides mostly positive LGBT representation.
THE NEGATIVE: No ongoing representation for the disabled or for mental health issues, although the show did accurately depict post-partum depression and other post-partum issues surrounding being a new mother through Jane. One of Luisa’s love interests is now deceased. Outside of Latinos, other PoC are non-existent.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #LatinosLoveJtV, #NewMomsLoveJtV, #LGBTFansLoveLuisa, #JtVNeedsBetterLGBTRep, #JtVNeedsMHRep, #JtVNeedsDisabledRep
THE FLASH (Tuesdays at 8 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Strong PoC representation with the Wests and Cisco Ramon. Iris West is a smart, independent writer for the local newspaper. Her father is a very competent police detective. And Cisco is a brilliant tech guru.
THE NEGATIVE: Iris is often sidelined unnecessarily. No ongoing representation for mental health, disabilities, or the LGBT community.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #PoCLoveTheFlash, #IrisWestDeservesBetter, #TheFlashNeedsMHRep, #TheFlashNeedsDisabledRep, #TheFlashNeedsLGBTRep, #TheFlashNeedsDiversity
IZOMBIE (Tuesdays at 9 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Ravi, the show’s medical examiner, and Clive, the detective that main character, Liv, works with are both strong male PoC leads. Liv, through the brains she eats to stay as human as possible, occasionally provides representation of mental health and LGBT issues.
THE NEGATIVE: Characters involved with the case of the week are often shown to embody stereotypes of under-represented minorities. Stereotypes seen so far include: “The Angry Black Woman,” “The Crazy Lady,” or “The Over-Sexualized LGBT Character.”
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #PoCLeadsRockiZombie, #iZombieNeedsBetterMHRep, #iZombieNeedsBetterLGBTRep, #NoMoreStereotypesOniZombie, #iZombieNeedsGOODRep
ARROW (Wednesdays at 8 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Strong PoC main character found in Diggle, Oliver’s partner. Had a strong LGBT character in Sara Lance. Had strong disabled representation in Felicity, Oliver’s love interest. Showcases mental health issues accurately through Oliver with his PTSD flashbacks and with Felicity in her response to finding herself suddenly disabled.
THE NEGATIVE: The character of Sara Lance left for another show. Felicity’s disability was miraculously healed.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #ArrowGetsMHRight, #PoCLoveDiggle, #ArrowNeedsLGBTRep, #ArrowNeedsDisabledRep, #ArrowNeedsDiversity
SUPERNATURAL (Wednesdays at 9 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Accurate depiction of some mental health issues through the brothers’ responses to depression, trauma, and various situations they have found themselves in.
THE NEGATIVE: Little to no PoC representation. Little to no LGBT representation. Use of queerbaiting. Little to no disabled representation.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #SPNGetsMHRight, #SPNNeedsDiversity, #SPNNeedsLGBTRep, #SPNNeedsDisabledRep, #SPNNeedsPoC
LEGENDS OF TOMORROW (Thursdays at 8 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Has a strong LGBT main character in Sara Lance, aka White Canary. Has strong PoC main characters in Jax, aka Firestorm, and Kendra, aka Hawkgirl. Occasional personal storylines for various characters address mental health issues such as belonging, pressure, stress, and anxiety with overall positive outcomes.
THE NEGATIVE: No disabled representation.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #LGBTFansLoveSaraLance, #PoCFansLoveFirestorm, #LoTGetsMHRight, #LoTNeedsDisabledRep
THE 100 (Thursdays at 9 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Lead male, Bellamy Blake, is a PoC. There are many PoC secondary characters with important roles such as engineer, chancellor, guard, clan leader, warrior, and doctor. The best mechanic among the group is a female disabled PoC. Lead female, Clarke Griffin, is bisexual. There are several other LGBT characters including two guards, a trade post worker, and the now-deceased commander of the twelve grounder clans. The show also provides a fairly accurate depiction of mental health issues – particularly PTSD as experienced differently by each character on the show.
THE NEGATIVE: Use of “Dead Lesbian Trope.” The grounder commander was killed a minute or two after having sex with the bisexual lead. Her death was not because of her sexuality, but it was poor timing regardless. PoC characters and disabled character are sidelined at times. Disagreement in fandom over appropriate treatment of PoC, disabled character, and LGBT characters.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #PoCLoveThe100, #PoCWantBetter, #StopSideliningPoC, #RavenReyesRocks, #StopSideliningRaven, #NoMoreDamagingTropes, #LGBTFansDeserveBetter
THE VAMPIRE DIARIES (Fridays at 8 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: Bonnie Bennett, super witch, is a very strong PoC main character. In the current season, the show has provided LGBT representation through two more minor characters who are also antagonists.
THE NEGATIVE: Regular mistreatment of Bonnie. She often saves the day and is injured, killed, or otherwise sacrificed for the white mains. Fairly stereotypical representation of the two LGBT characters who are also villains. Lack of disabled representation. Lack of accurate mental health representation.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #BonnieBennettRocks, #PoCDeserveBetter, #LGBTFansDeserveBetter, #TVDNeedsDisabledRep, #TVDNeedsBetterMHRep
THE ORIGINALS (Fridays at 9 pm ET/PT)
THE POSITIVE: A couple of secondary characters, such as Marcel Gerard – the leader of the opposing group of vampires in New Orleans – provide PoC representation. Freya Mikaelson, one of the Original vampire siblings, provides LGBT representation.
THE NEGATIVE: Representation of LGBT character(s) is mediocre. Lack of disabled representation. Lack of accurate mental health representation.
SUGGESTED SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS: #PoCLoveTO, #LGBTFansDeserveBetter, #TONeedsDisabledRep, #TONeedsBetterMHRep
The CW Diversity & Representation Scorecard
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend = A
Jane the Virgin = B
The Flash = B-
iZombie = C
Arrow = C
Supernatural = F
Legends of Tomorrow = B-
The 100 = A
The Vampire Diaries = D
The Originals = D
I think it may be almost impossible to give a full grade to shows that offer good representation. It’s very subjective and as a Filipino mid-twenties woman myself, I do disagree with the (good intentions) of the list. I do enjoy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and I agree with pretty much all of the points on there. The thing is I don’t think – unless you are a huge show – you necessarily need to “tick all the boxes” for different types of representation … you just need that representation to be GOOD. CEG and JTV do that, in my opinion, which was why it surprised me when it came to The 100. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of that show if I ignore the majority of its scientific inaccuracies, but Pike, the black ringleader is a xenophobic tyrant? Lincoln, a POC, is constantly used as a shirtless torture boy? Raven, similarly? In 3×08, Abby, a perfectly capable woman in a position of power – was ignored pretty much completely. Lexa’s death marks the show down about 15 years in progression, and while I admire Bob is half-Filipino and has never denied it and is proud of his heritage, the show ignores it completely. He is a fraternal sibling of Octavia, who as the show has never hinted has come from a different father and I don’t think she did, and Marie is perhaps half-Greek? Certainly not half-Filipino, so while the actor may be, I don’t think the show is certainly giving that air off. I certainly do not feel represented by Bellamy, even though I enjoyed him in previous seasons. I think that instead of broadly including a Latina character here, an Indian one here, an LGBTQ one here, a disabled one here – inclusivity and presentation, for me, is not about that. I think that’s why the LGBTQ community backlash has been so seismic and covered by your website and by the BBC and Variety. Because that in Lexa and Clarke, there WAS good representation and it turned out to be dud. For the show in general, the colonialism themes, the number of POCs killed (Anya and Wells are notable)… I’m a bit uncertain about the A. I think all minorities if you look across all three seasons have been horribly mistreated by the show, and it seems off-set too, but I guess that is the business and the showrunner’s problem. I have to say my favorite one may be JTV. (See how subjective it is) but I’m in 100% agreement for SPN getting an F. Boy, that show’s bad on that front.
Looking through this quickly it seems to be hastily done. It seems to praise shows that should not be praised for representation and put down shows that are very good in terms of it. I’ve never seen CEG but I have to talk about JTV. There are several other JTV characters that identify as LGBT not just Luisa, including Luisa’s current love interest, Susanna. Also, Luisa is not a highly positive LGBT role model; She’s seen as a drunk, often depicted as crazy (which other characters have taken advantage of), and is often given poor moral judgement (not turning in Rose, whom she was in contact with, even though Rose threatened her nephew). Also, addiction is often seen as a mental health issue, and Luisa has been getting help for her addiction and has relapsed, depicting an ongoing mental health struggle. On top of all that there are other POC in this series. I think it’s fair to say they don’t depict them well (they have both been seen as the bad guys) but to say that they don’t exist is wrong. Given all of that, to give this show a B overall I think is highly subjective and biased.
Another show I think shows a great deal of bias in this list is The 100. Going through your articles it is clear that you write about them very frequently, including interviews with the cast. I think this may have skewed your thinking. I agree with the above comment that says that while the Bob is half-Filipino, the show largely ignores it and I believe Bellamy’s character is supposed to be white given the family we have seen. Many other of the POC in this show are often demonized (Pike) or tortured constantly (Raven). Simply because a TV shows has POC in its cast does not mean that the representation the provide on the show is not damaging and enforcing stereotypes. You’ve also touched on the continued representation of LGBT people on the show, which I agree is a good stepping stone but I don’t think that we can say it’s good representation. The m/m relationship on the show was shown recently to betray each other. And the use of the “bury your gays” trope should be enough to make this a very LGBT unfriendly show. Regardless of how they treat the remaining LGBT characters on the show, they have gravely wounded a large part of the community who felt that Lexa showed them that they could be more than their sexuality and still be strong, confident leaders. In addition, this is not the only show that has used the “bury your gays” trope and hurt community, it happens constantly and this was just another nail in the coffin of LGBT youth. But if we do focus on the remaining LGBT characters we see that the main character is bi and it has been hinted at will fall in love with the lead male. This is also damaging to the LGBT community. In real life bisexual people can love either gender and end up in a lasting relationship with them. But TV almost exclusively shows bi characters ending up in a relationship with the opposite gender. While we should be happy that bi characters are being represented shouldn’t we also ask that they be represented fairly? Shouldn’t we ask that occasionally (I would ask for half the time, but that is opportunistic) they end up with a female to validate those bisexual people who end up in f/f relationships?
I would recommend that this article be looked at again with a more subjective view and the grades changed. Particularly I believe that JTV deserves a much higher grade than a B. But I believe there are many shows on here that are not depicted accurately.