Red-Head Lives Matter

Anna Diop/Starfire

If you haven’t heard, there’s been a recent casting in the DC live action series Titans with Anna Diop (known for 24: Legacy) being cast as Koriand’r, also known as Starfire. Starfire is an alien princess from a warrior planet with orange skin and vibrant red hair. Titans will be written by Akiva Goldsman (Star Trek: Discovery), Geoff Johns (The Flash, Arrow), and Greg Berlanti (Arrow, DC’s Legend of Tomorrow, The Flash, Supergirl) and is based on the comic book superhero team which includes members such as Robin, Beast Boy, Raven and Starfire herself. This casting has caused some controversy and disputes between fans, stating that red-heads aren’t being cast for any roles in comic book movies or TV shows and their roles are being given to black women. This occurred with Zendaya on her role as Michelle in Spider-Man: Homecoming, as well as with Kiersey Clemons on her role in the upcoming movie Flashpoint as Iris West.

Zendaya and M.J

Most comments stem from these women not having natural red-hair so they should not have been cast as these prominent characters who are known very well for their standout hair. However, is the issue with their non-natural hair or is it the fact that these roles are played by black women? Movies, especially comic book movies, have a history of casting people who look very different to their comic book counterparts in terms of height and hair colour. Examples include: Kirsten Dunst (not a natural red-head), Hugh Jackman (not 5ft3 in real life), Famke Janssen (not a natural red-head), Evan Peters and Aaron Taylor Johnson (not silver-haired in real life), just to name a few.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Evan Peters as Quicksilver

What’s interesting is that there were hardly any comments about casting these people for comic book roles despite them not looking like their characters but when it comes to black women doing the same, suddenly it is such an issue.

So are people genuinely worried about natural red-heads not being cast in comic book roles or are they more concerned about black women increasingly being more involved in these type of roles as characters who are usually white and red-headed? There has been much debate about the hypocrisy of race-bending and whitewashing, suggesting that it’s unfair to remove roles from white people if they can’t be cast as POC — people fail to realise is that they are two majorly different things. Race-bending incorporates more diversity into Hollywood films while whitewashing is removing what diversity there could have been. We’ve had some white red-heads in comic book movies and we’re now in an era where we can change that and include different people in these prestigious roles. Being a natural red-head isn’t what should matter most, but whether or not the person cast can live up to the role as the characters we’ve grown to love and care for is.

Regarding Anna Diops role as Starfire, black women have been fancast as this character for a long time and it’s huge to see this come up in real life and be an actual thing we can witness. It’s not like the casting directors were going to find a natural red-headed orange woman so there should be no issue. Instead of complaining about black women apparently stealing roles, we should instead congratulate them on taking comic book roles by storm (pun intended). I am very excited to see what Anna Diop will do as our favourite red-headed alien princess as she encounters the Titans in this hopefully great series we’ll all be tuning into.

Author: Chidera Ajuzie

Editor: Juwairiyah Khan

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