Not Just an OTP: In The Beginning, Fandom Created Snowbarry

There are a lot of ways I thought about tackling the racism aspect of this editorial series. The microaggressions, the double standards, the blatant racism. But I think the easiest way would be to begin at the beginning, and that means studying the chronology of The Flash as a television show.

There are lots of stories about when Snowbarry shippers first fell in love with their ship. Some will say it’s when they went on their karaoke date during the first season. Some will say it was in the pilot. Some will say it was a “slow burn.” But what you may not know is that a great many started shipping it before the show started. One story says that it happened when Candice Patton was cast, while another says that it happened the day the trailer came out, and still more say it was when they saw the pilot for the first time. It was, in actuality, all of those things.

The first person cast for The Flash that was related in any way to the Flash mythos was Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, who was cast in August of 2013 and appeared in two episodes of Arrow prior to the mid-season finale. Danielle Panabaker and Jesse L. Martin (January 2014) were then cast. Candice Patton was actually the second-to-last person cast (Carlos Valdes was cast later in the same month); following a chemistry test (which I have promised not to talk about, it being subjective and all) with Gustin, she was cast in early February 2014.

How the Blacks Robbed Redheads: a True Crime Story

Following the somewhat predictable reactions about “black-washing” and whining about how white people were losing an inordinate number of roles to people of colour, there were people who immediately declared that they would start shipping Barry with Caitlin, and they would make Barry/Caitlin happen “like they made Olicity happen.”

I want to be completely clear on this: those people are racist.

There is no pretty excuse, no caveat, no ifs, buts, or maybes. They’re racist. They saw a Black woman in a position that originally “belonged” to a white woman, decided that she did not have the right to be there, and decided that the white woman that they could see would be a better fit for the hero and more deserving of an epic love story based on the colour of her skin. They’re the kind of racist to complain when black and brown people start to be part of science fiction and superhero movies, calling it “pandering,” even though the number of impossible white man movies is not in the least bit of danger from people of colour getting roles. They’re the type to hide behind the excuse that Iris West and Wally West are supposed to be red-haired, and boldly say that people with red hair are a subjugated group. And they’re the kind of people who can truly and genuinely say things like “well if there were a White Panther movie, all of you would be calling us racist,” without a single ounce of self-awareness even though second-hand embarrassment is swallowing the rest of us whole.

Because what those Snowbarry shippers (and all of the people with this privileged view) are saying is that they don’t want to see people who aren’t white on their screens as epic, world-changing characters. They’d much rather they be in the background, serving as accessories, to pat themselves on the back because they noticed the (usually lone) character of colour who’s in the back, cracking jokes. Or they can be the comedic sidekick who’s constantly in awe of the main white dude, and so is always written to be inferior so they don’t bruise the fragile ego of male fanboys.

When they whine that creators should “create new characters of colour” instead of changing the ones that already exist, they’re not just showing their ignorance about the structural inequality of the comic book industry tied in with the fact that unless we are slaves, we just stopped being slaves, or are suffering from some other hardship that at some point during the movie will link back to the fact that Black people used to be slaves, Hollywood is curiously reluctant to give us money to make movies. They’re acknowledging, albeit unconsciously, that majority-white films are allowed to be mainstream, but if we want films to feature people of colour as leads, we need to “make our own” – thus agreeing that everyone is supposed to be able to relate to white people, but Black and brown people are a special interest group when it comes to film. These people will also be curiously silent on the subject of whitewashing.

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