Seeing is Believing: Why POC representation in science-fiction matters

 Cast of Hulu's original show, Marvel Runaways.
Photo credit: Marvel

As a long-time lover of fantasy fiction, I know that anything is possible. Magical realms, superheroes, and utopian societies are just scratching the surface of what can be dreamt of. I also know that the genre’s books, TV shows, and films all feature majority white characters. In a genre that is supposed to explore the depths of imagination and other worlds, the inclusion of people of color (POC) seems to be a fantasy as well.

The genre of science fiction is disconnected from reality in the sense that POC does not exist in these worlds or that POC is only there to support the story, never to truly be the story. It’s not enough to have characters of color represented if they are taking stereotypical roles or just secondary characters with no development who do not progress the plot forward.

Pre-Elementary student Imani Jenkins is a very big fan of Storm, the black Marvel superheroine who is a descendant of African priestesses and can control weather patterns. She thinks that characters like Storm and others like her present a different side of being a black woman.

“It feels like it’s a step in the right direction because normally we are portrayed as angry or a stereotypical angry black woman and that gives a bad name for us because there’s a reason for us to be angry but we are only seen as that,” said. “So to be Storm, for example, she is not portrayed as angry, she is one of the top superheroes and excellent.”

When there is a call for diversity in science-fiction that does not just mean only race. It also includes but is not limited to gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Representation in science- fiction is important because it showcases the different types of people that exist in the world. It gives people of all ages a chance to see themselves in characters that resonate with something inside of them.

With the excitement of films such as Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, and the critical acclaim of TV shows such as Marvel’s Runaways and Black Lightning, the myth that no one will consume diverse content and that characters of color are not worth being portrayed continues to be debunked. POC have always supported science-fiction even when the genre was not inclusive of them. Our recognition is long overdue.

Growing up, political science student Kendrick Walker looked up to John Stewart, the superhero known as the Green Lantern in the DC Comics. Walker hopes that the recent success of Black Panther will bring more black male superheroes to the forefront.

“I hope to see more African-American heroes because you see a lot of white superheroes, some Latinos, more Asian, but not many black heroes. I can name like five total right now, but that’s it, that’s all I know,” Walker said, “More African American heroes give black men more inspiration, more heroes to look up to.”