The layers to colorism.
*Originally written March 24, 2018*
It never fails to make me smile when I reminisce about all the kids from the 80s and the 90s that think about how important Storm was to them. Her presence was so important to them on Saturday morning cartoons. We were all able to see her so powerful-so gorgeous, with all of the powers of the elements and with all of the powers of every weather manifestation imaginable. She constantly had the best dialogue or the best vice actress that imbued her character with so much life and vitality. She had the coolest battle uniforms that really enabled her powers to be on display — and her hair was just everything! Storm essentially made them want to be a better writer, comic book creator, and cosplayer which was only the tip of the iceberg.
So in this outcry for better representation, for true representation and how we perceive Storm has always been…its not just us wearing nostalgia glasses…okay, maybe it is, maybe we are wearing nostalgia glasses because we remember how Storm came to be, how Storm came to be visualized so beautifully, so radically, so authentically. We remember Storm for the super-hero that she was…and the super-model that she was.
The Battle for the Perfect Storm
I’d like to segue from last week’s conversation about tornados (from a past Wizard of Oz video) to this week, a very significant week because Black Panther has surpassed the billion-dollar mark. Number one, this billion-dollar mark is very significant because it shows that once again Black films make money; and number two, Hollywood still isn’t getting he message that when you make Black films or films with diverse non-primarily white casts with more Black control and Black images you are going to receive a healthy return on your investment. In particular, I wanted to discuss a person that hasn’t received their just due yet in regards to their onscreen comic book movie representation, a person that has been at odds in more ways than one in regards to the conversation about image and why its important to have it. So this week I’m going to talk about the socio-political, racial, and pop culture significance of the comic book/movie character Storm, the powers of natural weather phenomena that she wields, and the import of a Black Woman having all of this power.
First and foremost, let’s talk about Storm’s comic book appearance: Tall (5’11 or 6’0), dark-skinned, and with Kenyan features; Also, from her genealogy of African priestesses she has white hair, blue eyes, and the potential to wield magic. Many fans of Storm’s character feel that it’s an affront to Kenyan (and/or darker-skinned) African/African American people that Storm has constantly been miscast. Via casting call or established actresses, Storm could easily receive the ‘Hollywood treatment’ and the platform that other superhero movie characters have had. The Marvel films have caused more than an uproar — a cavalcade of articles, tweets, and message boards have discussed the incongruity of Storm’s miscasting. The fandom continues to be livid that Storm’s notoriety has been stripped away by bad writing, a terrible or forgotten accent, diminished power level, placement as a ‘sidekick’, and paltry screen time.
Secondly, there are a plethora of story possibilities for Storm’s character. An origin story that would be set before or after her parents’ deaths during the Arab-Israeli conflict and her subsequent life as a thief trying to survive in the city of Egypt. They could begin her story where she’s already the established leader of the X-Men, or when she meets King T’Challa and becomes another protector of the Wakandan people or her travels as an Inter-dimensional protector throughout the Universe; if a screenwriter’s so inclined she could somehow bump into the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Avengers’ Infinity War has changed the game about which Marvel comic book characters can show up and its time for Storm to descend from the clouds and take her place in the sun.
Third, Storm’s powers are unlimited and unparalleled in scope. Imagine the various natural weather phenomena and manifestations that exist on our planet alone. Hailstorms, waterspouts, tornadoes, hurricanes, typhoons, blizzards, tsunamis, thunder snows, Catatumbo lightning, floods, and fiery whirlwinds. Storm has these powers and more across the known Universe, to include the powers of flight, air and oxygen pressure control/manipulation, excellent marksmanship, and communication with a planet’s ecology. So, I find it very interesting that Storm’s powers have not be given the full breadth and depth of their fullest potential…and sadly. we all know why. Storm would be too super-powered and we can’t have that for a Black Woman, now can we? It actually terrifies me how they would go about depicting Storm during the adversity part of her story. I pray they would not fall on tired damaging tropes that have harmed various Black characters (and other people of color) in their stories. My greatest hope for Storm is a Black team of directors, writers, costumers, etc. akin to Black Panther that could allow Storm to be humanely, respectfully, and fully realized.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Now that we have this new frontier with Disney Studios and its acquisition of Fox and the subsequent rights to Storm’s character and now that we’re getting new representation in various ways with Black Panther…what else lies on the horizon for dark-skinned Black Women in Hollywood, dark-skinned Black Women in comic book films, in movies, and in television? A space has already been carved out but not enough in one of my favorite comic book tv shows called Black Lightning. No spoilers, but if you aren’t watching it on the CW, please do yourself a favor and get your entire life, you won’t be disappointed and you won’t want to miss an episode. Black Lightning is one of the first tv shows I can recall in a very very long time, where are all of the women represented are dark in skin tone, have natural hair, and aren’t racially ambiguous, which is really a breath of fresh air. It’s really life-affirming when a cast and its issues aren’t whitewashed or diluted for palatability. We need to make sure we do the hard work and the heavy lifting to make sure that the promotion of dark-skinned Black women isn’t forgotten, ignored, or denied. Moreover, we need to ensure that their presence and voices are uplifted. We need to make sure that Black women get the promotion that they deserve and we need to make sure that we all get the Storm that we deserve. I don’t think it’s a fruitless endeavor to keep the buzz going about the Storm we all want to see, nor is it a fool’s errand to keep the conversation going about the Storm that we’ve all been yearning for.
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