Lack of Positive Black Role Models in Film: Analyzing Superheroes

Posted: February 27, 2011 in Movies/Entertainment, Uncategorized

Over the past decades, movie companies have transformed cartoons  into real-life superhero movies. Comic book characters have been transformed into human superheroes. Warner Bros. casted Ryan Reynolds as the lead role in the new film Green Latern 2011. The casting of White actor Ryan Reynolds as the Green Latern exposes the reality of inequality in film. Why am I concerned with his race? What consequences result from a lack of positive Black role models and Black superheroes in film? The consequences are   detrimental to our youth.

When researching superheroes, I found an infinite amount of information on White comic book superheroes; I found one Black superhero, The Green Latern. Through film, we have transformed comic books into motion pictures. These superhero films mainly attract our youth. Film has an enormous influence on how our youth view the world, view others, and view themselves. I am concerned about the consequences of our decision to neglect the other groups within our society while focusing on only casting White actors to play positive superhero roles.

Just to name a few…Batman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Super Man, and X-Men Characters (except Halle Berry’s role as Storm in the recent X-Men movies) all provide our children with positive White role models and superheroes. White children are seeing role models that they can relate to and connect with. While our Black children are not seeing the heroes of their community. In a society that privileges Whites, all other races are being overlooked.

Through film, the only Black comic book superhero was transformed overnight into another White role model. Why is this? What consequences does this have on both the Black and White communities? The media focuses on the positive issues of the White community and on the negative issues of the Black community. The successes and positive mentors of the Black community are neglected in the media. Society fails to tell the story of the positive aspects of the Black community. The way superheroes and role models are portrayed on the big screen is only telling half of the story. Every group, race, and ethnicity has heroes within their communities. These heroes need not to be ignored and left in the shadows. Our youth require guidance. If they see no role models or mentors that they can relate to and understand, who are they suppose to look up to?

The one Black comic book character, The Green Lantern, was transformed overnight into a superhero of the White community. The consequences are detrimental to our youth. Once again, the Black community is neglected and ignored. I blame the media for the lack of positive Black role models in film.


  1. I loved your blog. I never noticed there weren’t any African-American super-heroes displayed in the media. I have another one you can add. The group “Power-rangers” had an African American ranger. His name was Zack and he wore the black suit. I do conur with you that the media needs to put more African-American superheroes because the youth need a character to look up to that’s similar to them. This kind of reminds me of the talk we had in class about African American Barbies not being available at some stores. Young kids are going to continue to feel that they are inferior if they do not have any kind of character or doll that is just like them. Blacks are being ignored, just as you stated. The increase of negative roles in the media are making the chance of a new African American superheroe nearly impossible. Blacks are seen as bad people versus good.

    Raven H Comm 275

  2. kids2011 says:

    I agree that is why we need more Tyler Perry producers, and more black stations to help show our youth that the hold power to be the most successful. Against all odds African Americans have gain a great deal of knowledge through the bad and good times so lets show the media that we will not except this stereotyping of their white super heroes.

  3. To start off I didn’t know that the person that played the voice of the Green Lantern was a White man I thought he was Black man. I do agree that the media is responsible for the lack of positive Black role models in film, but in reality I think its the Black Community’s fault because young Black children are growing up in a community where all they see is violence, crimes being performed, and drugs that’s not showing positive Black role models either . So then all they have to look up to is the White superheroes they watch on television because our younger Blacks generation don’t see the positive role models in the community in which they live. I also agree that the Black community is being neglected film because not all Blacks are bad to me Blacks are very smart and intelligent but that’s the representation the community its putting out about themselves.

    Shaniquequa Tyler

  4. Stephanie Underwood says:

    I honestly can say that I really do not look at comic books or movies with super heroes but you have brought up a good point. As I think back what little I have seen has been white men and women playing the good leading roles of the super heroes. As this world is trying to move more toward everyone being equal we have to look at the things like these in the movies and comic books. Everyone wants to be equal well you have to start and end somewhere why not start here, since these do influence children and it has been proven that children get influenced at young ages!
    Stephanie U Comm 275

  5. Shwin AAComm Online says:

    This is an intriguing point you’ve brought forth. I began to wonder reasons why they would cast someone white to take the place of the Green Lantern and conjectured that from a business perspective, the media group might have cast a popular white male actor as the lead to gross more viewership/ ticket sales. Then I began to wonder if there were any popular young black actors that could have played that role and was hard pressed to name any off the top of my head. This further proves your point that there are very few positive black role models in the media, super heroes aside. I’m still trying to think of one.

  6. (EMMA LUTZ) I did not explore looking at this from a business perspective. I understand your point. I wonder what differences in popularity would result from casting a Black actor as the super hero. Society is used to seeing White actors playing more heroic, successful roles. I agree with your comment. I can not think of any Black actors today that could have fit into that role. Maybe we just need more Black actors overall. White actors seem to out number Black actors. Black actors are not given as many roles as Whites. This is a major problem. We see far more White positive role models on the big screen than Black ones. That is why your having so much trouble thinking of a Black actor that could fill the Green Lantern role ! I bet you could make a list out of all the WHite actors that popped into your head without any effort. Yet you struggle comming up with just one Black actor. You proved my point !!

  7. Marjon Watson says:

    This blog opened up my eyes to another perspective. Not just action hereos but there really isn’t any black cartoons (except for Lil Bill that waas waay back).IAs I think back what little I have seen has been white men and women playing the good leading roles of the super heroes, just falis into how society is..because majority of the time the villan is black..I do agree that the media is responsible for the lack of positive Black role models in film, but I disagree with african american language, it is NOT the black communities fault! Did you think that maybe they don’t have the funds or means to live in a better place?? I’m sure they would want better for their kids, and not want them exposed to things such as you stated BUT they are doing the best with what they have……you can’t fault the ENTIRE BLACK COMMUNITY because of what some of the people do, or what you see on tv and how you “think” the black commnuity is. Not everybody in the black community is robbing people or doing drugs or whatever, there are black people in the community (and hood) who are making better for themseleves. I feel like the only one who is at fault for it is the media, why most a black person always potrayed as the villian and never the hero…soceity is all screwed up in the head.
    -Marjon Watson

  8. (EMMA LUTZ) The inequality in the media occurs not only in cartoons but in all aspects of television and film. Just look at the entire film industry. The media is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the negative stereotypes of the Black community. The Black community is underrepresented in every aspect of the media. In movies, Black men are portrayed as drug dealers, criminals, uneducated and violent. Black women are portrayed as poor, single mothers, and hoes. How the Black community is represented in film creates a distorted image of all African Americans. Not all Black men are pimps and not all Black women are hoes ! The negative images created by the media work to stregthen the negative stereotypes of the Black community and help stregthen their oppression.

    I agree, the Black community is not to blame for these images! American society is. The only way to eliminate the inequality in film is for Black actors to stop playing the roles that reflect their community negatively. Black actors are clustered in certain types of roles that only project negative images. How often do you see a Black man play a successful businessman or a politician? The type of roles the actors are playing are feeding into the negative stereotypes of society. White actors greatly outnumber Black actors. Maybe they are forced to play negative roles because they are not given leading roles? (EMMA LUTZ)

  9. afamnews says:

    This blog post really opened up my eyes. I don’t think I ever really paid close attention to superheroes. I was never big on superhero comics or movies but I have definitely grown up knowing who Spiderman and Superman are. They are all white and very positive role models for young children. I think that this is detrimental to our youth and I think that it may even, in a small way, be the reason for some children behaving the way that they do. Black children historically have not had as many positive role models as white children and maybe this is a reason for some behavior problems. This post definitely makes you think about things in a whole new perspective.
    -Jenna Dreher
    COMM 275-01

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