From Comic to Screen – Diversity and Representation

From Comic to Screen – Diversity and Representation


The Internet is in an outrage again over the latest “race-swapped” character, as Biracial Zendaya Coleman is cast as Mary Jane Watson, a character that has been White since the 1960s. From reasonable discussions to personal attacks, this is just the latest upset among geeks over changes to their favorite characters. This isn’t the first time, as there’s been backlash against everything from Michael B. Jordan cast as Johnny Storm to even Samuel L. Jackson’s casting as Nick Fury (a role that was actually based on him in the Ultimate comic series years prior to the movies!).

In all the debates about these changes, its important to avoid fallacious arguments or perceptions. I’ve compiled some of these below, primarily based on statements made by those who oppose these changes. Even then, I’ll start with a single point that those who support diverse casting often glaze over: the logic and humanity of the opposition.


For those upset at the haters, please understand they do have a valid argument… even if you or I don’t agree or have good counterpoints. There is something to be said for consistency and continuity for characters; we all get upset when a preferred actor is replaced, so the same applies to changes between page and screen. When creating a movie or TV representation of a comic character, it makes sense people will be upset when they don’t match the visuals we’ve grown accustomed to.

Also remember that this isn’t a perspective unique to a singular, dominant demographic: White, heterosexual, CIS-males. Discussions with women, minorities, and LGBT individuals have shown no small number who are unhappy with recent changes, both on-screen and in comics. They don’t like the changes because (to them) these aren’t the characters they grew up with… regardless of how lacking in diversity or sensitivity those characters were. They expect Johnny Storm to be a cocky White guy or Thor to be the name of a Nordic man… they don’t expect them to change anymore than Black Panther not being an African prince or the Ancient One not being an elderly Asian man.

The point is, while there are a number of haters that simply can’t stand changes and/or may harbor discriminatory beliefs… there are also people with valid arguments against changes in movies and comics. While we may disagree with them, we can’t just disregard them as “haters”. Don’t try to dehumanize your opposition, talk to them… you’ll sway people’s opinions more with reasonable discourse than simply demonizing them.


Now, that being said, many more fallacious arguments arise from those opposed to the changes from the comics. Some of these are based on personal preference and others on ignorance, but they’re all easily countered. (I’m not going to even go into those who use these arguments to cover up their own inherent discrimination.) The following are simply some of the most common claims against “x-swapping” in comic book adaptations.

“It changes the character!”

Unless race, ethnicity, or gender is key to the character’s personality or plot, it changes nothing. The Ultimate universe (and MCU) changed Nick Fury to African-American with no problem because race wasn’t important to the original character. You couldn’t do that to Black Panther or Luke Cage because their ethnicity is important to their origin, story, etc.

You can see this by looking at many of the replaced characters in comic book adaptations. Wilson Fiske, Heimdall, Johnny Storm, Tulip O’Hare, etc… while the adaptation may have criticisms, the character’s were not “ruined” by a PoC actor. In fact, these same performances were often praised even despite the movie or show. Since there’s no evidence that changing an unimportant physical aspect hurts the adaptation, and in fact evidence it helps, then there’s no support for this assertion.

“It doesn’t make sense!”

It only doesn’t make sense if you won’t let it. It’s amazing how people can accept all manner of fantasy, science-fiction, and horror nonsense, and yet not accept a race- or gender-swapped character. They can even change entire origin stories and characters for the movies, yet make someone Black or gay and people throw a fit.

No one said all Asgardians are White; this is an assumption based on the Norse ethnicity that produced the mythology… which the comic adapted. Yet, the comic isn’t faithful to that mythology in the slightest, so why should the Asgardians be anything like real-world Nordic people? Plus, Heimdall could easily be Asgardian (a culture) but from another realm (a race). After all, Hogun wasn’t Aesir (the movies claim he’s Vanir) and yet he’s considered Asgardian and a decorated warrior of that society.

Similarly, Johnny Storm and Sue Storm don’t have to be the same race. Adoptions, re-marriage, and extended families are nothing new and quite common in the 21st century. If someone easily accepts fantastic elements (aliens, magic, etc.) but can’t grasp elements based on our own reality… then that’s a problem with the viewer, not the material. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief or logic for everything else, you can certainly do it for things easily explained.

“If minorities can swap, then White actors can too!”

Ummm, no. This perception ignores the entire problem in current society regarding representation and opportunity. I’ve already covered the difference between equality and equity numerous times. This isn’t about equality but equity and equal opportunity. A White actor losing a role to a PoC doesn’t affect the larger picture, because there will always be more roles for White people. The same cannot be said when Native American actors are passed over for an American Indian character for a popular White actor.

When a playing field is unfair to start, fairness is not doing the same for both sides. In tabletop gaming, players in a lop-sided scenario are often given bonuses or extra points to compensate. You don’t see the player who starts with the advantage complaining about that, do you? No, because they realize that the fairness in the game is by helping the disadvantaged player through other routes.

The same should occur in society, from Hollywood to social support, with those who have the advantage helping the disadvantaged. Groups who are disenfranchised need extra opportunities to compensate for their lack to begin with. That’s why African-Americans and women need organizations dedicated toward equal opportunities while those with special needs receive additional support like parking spaces or closed captioning.

Yet those with the advantage ignore this, concerned only with themselves. Then they create all sorts of fallacious claims to justify their disregard for other people. In fact, I’ve already discussed this (and many more of those poor arguments) before. The point is, casting Mary Jane with a Biracial actor doesn’t strip White actors of anything; casting the Ancient One as White does do that to Asian actors.

“It feels shoe-horned, unnecessary, inorganic, etc.”

This is one I’ve heard from the original group I was discussing. Unfortunately, I feel this is still based on a lack of larger picture. At times, as a society, we have to force people to change… because otherwise, they won’t. It took major social movements, full of protests and civil disobedience, before laws were altered to allow equal opportunities for women and Blacks. Even then, you had to have the federal government step in, to force local governments and citizens to adhere to the new social norms. That’s not even going into the continuing fights by women and minorities today despite those same laws, plus newer social movements.

The same is true in geek media, where newfound popularity, exposure, and changes in demographics have warranted new standards in comics, games, and fiction. Many involved, from fans to industry, have been slow in adapting and adhering to these new norms of inclusion and representation. That means someone has to force them to change, complying with the new diverse standard. You could consider the gender- and race-swapping as the “National Guard”, sent in to force the “integration” of Hollywood and its audiences despite their resistance to the “Civil Rights Laws” of an increasingly diverse popular culture.

“These aren’t my characters!”

This is another common claim by those I talked to in my original point. The truth is… they’re absolutely right. These aren’t your characters, not anymore. The new adaptations weren’t necessarily made for you, they’re more likely for a new generation and society. One that is more diverse and open-minded than the generations prior, and faces many different social and political issues.

The original Star Trek was made for an era full of racial discrimination and wars. The Matrix targeted the tech-savvy, alt-culture, anti-establishment people sick of the dystopian corporatocracy behind their socioeconomic woes. Now we have new movies and shows intended for audiences that have become far more diverse, inclusive, and sensitive.

Many of the geeks throwing fits refuse to accept a fact: we are old and society has changed. The same way we look at racial insensitivity, exclusion, and female stereotypes from the early- to mid-20th century? That’s how younger generations look at current whitewashing, appropriation, and tropes. Just like how Jar-Jar Binks was targeting the youngest Star Wars fans and the new Ghostbusters was meant to inspire a new generation, these new versions of comic characters are meant for the latest generation of audiences.

Your choice is to adapt and accept them… or become reclusive and exclusive. Do you want to be the cool older person, like Betty White, changing with the times? Or do you want to be the bitter asshole, like Clint Eastwood, clinging blindly to archaic values.

To summarize this, there is a lot of reason why arguments against “x-swapping” in comic adaptations are unfounded. In fact, the opposite can be said in that changing a character’s race, gender, orientation, etc. is a good and necessary thing, given changing demographics and societal norms. That being said, understand that some who argue against the changes may have a valid argument. The best way to convince them is to not disregard them, but instead to discuss the matter. We may not come to a complete agreement, but we can at least find some mutual ground in our fandom and its effects on society.

Walking Dead Diversity Watch – 7.0


In the past, there’s been a lot of debate about the diversity in the Walking Dead TV series, often focusing on the “revolving door” of PoC characters throughout the early seasons. Although there definitely was a trend that was rather disturbing, I decided to take an objective look at the numbers. The original “diversity watch” occurred via notes on social media, so this is the first time I’ve moved it over to my public blog. Here everyone can see a statistical analysis of the 219 named characters and their demographic trends.

Total Racial and Gender Demographics

  • White – 77.06%
  • Black – 12.84%
  • Latino – 7.80%
  • Asian – 2.29%

As you can see, the TV show follows the typical White majority often found in entertainment. Although Caucasians do make up a majority, current U.S. demographics show they are nowhere near as strongly skewed as the cast. Most importantly, there should be much more Asian and Latino representation.

  • Male – 68.81%
  • Female – 31.81%

In addition, the 2:1 Male-to-Female ratio is obviously way off compared to U.S. (or even global) demographics.

However, when you look at the individual demographics you find that the living vs. dead rate is more in favor of PoC and female characters.

Percent Alive, Dead, or Unknown

  • White – 19.64% Alive, 74.40% Dead, and 5.95% Unknown
  • Black 25.00% Alive, 64.29% Dead, and 10.71% Unknown
  • Latino 11.76% Alive, 29.41% Dead, and 58.82% Unknown
  • Asian 40% Alive, 40% Dead, and 20% Unknown

As you can see, almost 3/4 of the White characters have ended up dead, followed by almost 2/3 of Black characters. Despite that latter fact, Black characters have mostly stayed alive, with 1 out of 4 making it, a rate only behind the Asian characters (thanks solely to Glenn). Sadly, Latinos appear to be most often left unknown as background or forgotten characters.

  • Male – 19.33% Alive, 68.67% Dead, and 12.00% Unknown
  • Female – 22.06% Alive, 69.12% Dead, and 8.82% Unknown

Gender-wise, men and women fare about the same. Female characters tend to be alive or dead slightly more often, while male characters have a small chance more to be left fate unknown.

The reason behind these trends is the average lifespan of characters. Although there are far more White male characters, most of them only last for a short bit, whereas the minority characters often make it much further.

Lifespan (in Episodes) of Characters

  • Average Lifespan – 10.99
  • White – 10.30
  • Black – 16.54
  • Latino – 5.82
  • Asian – 20.60

As can be seen, White characters are just below the average, only above Latino characters (most of whom are simply fate unknown). Black characters, on the other hand, have a lifespan50% further than the average. Asian characters have the best lifespan, but that is skewed by their small population and the single, consistent character: Glenn.

  • Male – 9.67
  • Female – 13.90

Here we see that men fare slightly worse than average, often only lasting about 1/2 a season. In comparison, women fare much better, making it almost an entire season.

Going into further detail, we can rank the characters by their lifespan to determine importance. (Note: By lifespan, we’re counting first episode to most recent episode, ignoring any gaps in between. Actual screen presence is a different matter and far harder to calculate.)

Grade of Character (A through E)

A-Grade Characters (42+ Episodes – Main characters; half the series or more)

  • White – 66.67%
  • Black – 25.00%
  • Latino – 0%
  • Asian – 8.33%

B-Grade Characters (21+ Episodes – Supporting characters; a season or more)

  • White – 70.00%
  • Black – 20.00%
  • Latino – 10.00%
  • Asian – 0%

C-Grade Characters (10+ Episodes – Supporting or minor; half a season or more)

  • White – 83.33%
  • Black – 16.67%
  • Latino – 0%
  • Asian – 0%

D-Grade Characters (5+ Episodes – Minor or background; small story arcs)

  • White – 73.81%
  • Black – 14.29%
  • Latino – 4.76%
  • Asian – 7.14%

E-Grade Characters (1+ Episodes – Background or fodder; around for a short bit)

  • White – 78.70%
  • Black – 8.33%
  • Latino – 12.04%
  • Asian – 0.93%

As you can see, Whites still dominate all categories, but they mostly represent C-grade and E-grade categories. These are often half-season supporting cast (e.g. Patricia and Jimmy, Lizzie and Mika, Deanna, etc.) or  episodic background and fodder characters (e.g. Woodbury and Prison residents, Terminus cannibals, etc.). Blacks show up more as A-Grade and B-Grade categories. They’re often supporting characters for a season or more (e.g. T-Dog and Tyreese), or move on to become main characters (e.g. Michonne and Sasha). Asians are, as usual, skewed by Glenn; other than his presence as a main character, the rest are relegated to the background. Latinos have it the worst, with only a single almost-main character (Rosita) and the rest background characters that simply disappeared after a few episodes or single story arcs.

A-Grade Characters (42+ Episodes – Main characters; half the series or more)

  • Male – 41.67%
  • Female – 58.33%

B-Grade Characters (21+ Episodes – Supporting characters; a season or more)

  • Male – 70.00%
  • Female – 30.00%

C-Grade Characters (10+ Episodes – Supporting or antagonists; half a season or more)

  • Male – 58.33%
  • Female – 41.67%

D-Grade Characters (5+ Episodes – Antagonists or background; small story arcs)

  • Male – 69.05%
  • Female – 30.95%

E-Grade Characters (1+ Episodes – Background or fodder; around for a short bit)

  • Male – 75.00%
  • Female – 25.00%

Among gender, the demographics still lean toward males dominating almost every category except one: main characters. For characters that have lasted more than half the series, women slightly edge out men.


In review, Walking Dead suffers from most of pop culture, in that they usually cast White males… in everything from bit parts to leads. In contrast, however, those characters are more likely to end up dead than minority roles and have a slightly lower than average “life span”. Black characters, despite the “revolving door” of earlier seasons, have become much more resilient as the show progresses. Asian characters appear to have the best chance, but solely because of small population and a single character. Latinos are probably the worst demographic, with small population, limited lifespan, and a tendency to simply be relegated to “unknown” with no further resolution or development.

As always, this is a continuing project that is regularly updated as new characters, episodes, and statistics arise.

Bonus Facts (Spoilers!)

Who are the top 10 “Grade A” characters in lifespan?

  • Glen Rhee (83 episodes)
  • Morgan Jones (83 episodes)
  • Rick Grimes (83 episodes)
  • Carl Grimes (83 episodes)
  • Carol Peletier (81 episodes)
  • Daryl Dixon (81 episodes)
  • Maggie Greene (76 episodes)
  • Michonne (65 episodes)
  • Judith Grimes (61 episodes)
  • Sasha Williams (57 episodes)

Which 10 dead characters made it the furthest?

  • Beth Greene (52 episodes)
  • Hershel Greene (36 episodes)
  • Andrea (34 episodes)
  • Tyreese Williams (34 episodes)
  • Merle Dixon (33 episodes)
  • Lori Grimes (23 episodes)
  • T-Dog (22 episodes)
  • The Governor (22 episodes)
  • Shumpert (21 episodes)
  • Caesar Martinez (21 episodes)

Who are the longest living characters in each racial demographic?

  • White – Rick & Carl Grimes
  • Black – Morgan Jones
  • Latino – Rosita Espinosa
  • Asian – Glenn Rhee

Who are the longest-running groups with an unknown fate?

  • Grady Memorial Hospital (Season 5)
  • Morales Family (Season 1)



Not All Opinions Are Created Equal


Not every opinion holds the same weight or is equal to others. Some opinions may be based solely on personal belief, which can originate in misinformation, ignorance, or bias. Opinions may also be harmful towards others, encouraging social, psychological, or physical consequences. Just because someone has an opinion, doesn’t mean it’s a worthwhile one, especially compared to those that are more grounded and balanced. Opinions, like theories, may find more validity and reliability than others; those that have the most support are the ones that are more likely to be credible.

Case in point is the opinion about gays by many Conservative Christians in America. This anti-LGBT opinion is often based on personal interpretations of a religious text, interpretations that have divided Christianity for a millennia. There’s a reason there are an estimated 41,000 denominations (and countless individual churches) in that faith. If an opinion cannot gain even national consensus, let alone global, from a singular faith, then how could it be considered valid or reliable? Such an opinion has less credibility and worth and is therefore likely less equal than others. (And that’s without getting into the problem of whether an opinion based on a singular faith holds much worth at all, especially in a place like America.)

Therefore, if all opinions are not necessarily equal, then being opposed to intolerant opinions does not mean one is necessary intolerant themselves (short of semantics). It means you are opposed to a belief or actions that are unreasonable, unsupported, or outright harmful. This is what’s going on with attacks on extreme conservative opinions about same-sex marriage. Their opinions about Gays are no more valid than historical opinions about Jews, Blacks, Women, etc. In addition, these opinions can cause actual harm, socially, psychologically, and physically, due to hostile environments. When these opinions take hold, they can create from social norms that ignore violence committed against minorities. They also form the basis for manipulating politicians, who in turn create legislation that allows discrimination without recourse.

In the end, this is not about “Freedom of Religion” and these opinions are not valid. No one is oppressing “Christians” (and I use that term sarcastically) by forcing them to deal with an evolving, inclusive society. Did we cry about the rights of racists, who were “forced” to accept Black during the Civil Rights movement? Did we claim “reverse discrimination” against misogynists, who were “forced” to accept Women as during Women’s Suffrage? No, because their opinions were based on nothing valid and had no place in a society espousing equality. Certainly these individuals still exist (and we’re still struggling to provide Blacks and Women with equality), but a KKK march or GamerGate blog is given the same validity as the guy on a street corner with a tinfoil hat and an “End is Nigh” sign.

No, if your opinion is not only based on nothing but personal conviction but is also used to encourage discrimination, division, and/or violence, then your opinion is bullshit. I’m not being intolerant toward other opinions, I’m being real about what it takes to live in a truly equal, inclusive society. If you can’t tolerate that, then there’s no place for you here in mainstream society. The world has moved on… keep up or get off.