How can a black female character be ‘useless’ and ‘annoying’ when she is the heart of the team? This one of many parts of the culture of racism in comic book fandoms and it needs to stop!
Racism in superhero fan culture is at its worst. It has become more present as the past few years have gone on but none cop it more than black, female superheroes. While not all are treated distastefully, there are those like Stargirl fan-favourite Beth Chapel who get the brunt of the abuse.
In the last few weeks, true fans of Stargirl have jumped to the defence the character of Beth Chapel as well as actress Anjelika Washington against those who have the nerve to call the brains of the Justice Society of America as ‘useless’ and ‘annoying’. This should not be tolerated by any fanbase.
Sadly, there is more at play than just racism. What toxic fans love to point out is the fact that because Beth is a black female character than, in their eyes, she has no purpose to be there. However, if the role was reversed and she was a Caucasian male that did everything she does in regards to being the brains of the operation, there would be applause. However, because of her gender and the colour of her skin, she’s branded as ‘useless’.
We’ve addressed racism before in a Babes Against Bullshit post about racist fans who don’t understand the idea of diversity.
Beth And Anjelika Are Not The Only Victims
Now, the character of Beth Chapel is not the first time racist fans have yelled from rafters of their towers. For any Stargirl fan who has also watched The Flash and Titans, might remember the angry uproar from toxic fans regarding the castings of Candice Patton and Anna Diop in the roles of Iris West and Starfire, respectively.
Now, let’s make one thing clear. We are not calling anyone out here. We’re also going to be discussing sexism too so just be mindful.
All toxic fans want to talk about is Beth’s white predecessor, Doctor Charles McNider who quite literally did the same things she can. He also founded the Golden Age of the Justice Society, according to Stargirl lore. However, Chapel is seemed ‘annoying’ because she’s a chatterbox. You know what? She is but that is NOT what makes her a great character. More on that a bit later.
Returning to the point, Patton and Diop, both black actresses, were criticised for the colour of their skin. Now, let’s get to the apparent ‘issue’ at hand.
In DC Comics, Iris West is portrayed as a Caucasian woman with red hair. Oddly enough, Jimmy Olsen, the best friend of Superman has the same features. However, when Mehcad Brooks, who happens to be a black actor, was cast as the character in Supergirl, very few complained. Yet, there were complaints galore when Candice got added to the the ensemble which would later add Jesse L Martin and Danielle Nicolet, both actors of colour.
Going over to the situation with Anna Diop, people threw a tantrum because she didn’t match the character of Starfire. Guys, you do realise that Koriand’r is an orange skinned alien, right? No human on EARTH matches the description of the character.
Another Example Of Racism In The Superhero Media Genre
Let’s jump over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a moment and look the situation that occurred with Black Panther.
One of the most amazing films in the MCU to date is Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. Not only was it a stunningly, beautiful movie, but it jumped away from the white superhero trope with as little as three percent of its main cast being Caucasian. These included Andy Serkis’ Ulysses Klaue and Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross being in that percentage. Let’s not forget that Sebastian Stan makes an uncredited cameo in a post-credit scene as Bucky Barnes to set up his appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.
Now, the film is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. What a minority of people were upset about was the amount of black actors in the movie. Umm… Black Panther is set in AFRICA which is home to a large population of people of colour. Also, the Marvel comics counterparts of the characters outside of Klaue, Ross, and Barnes are all black. The same principle applies to Beth in Stargirl which brings us to our next point.
Beth In The Comics Was Written To Be Killed Off
Now, for fans of Stargirl, it is a well-known fact that in the comics, Beth Chapel was basically written as a pointless character who gets killed off really quickly. She, alongside Yolanda Montez were both killed in battle by Eclipso, who will be one of two villains in Season 2.
In our honest opinion, we don’t think Beth is going to be killed off in Season 2. She wouldn’t have been set up as a main character if that was the case. It has caught our attention, that the second Doctor Mid-Nite is treated with respect in the show. Despite what some racist fans think, Chapel is the whole reason Rick didn’t go off and kill Cindy in the role she played in hurting Courtney.
Yes, you can argue that Yolanda played a part too but the second Hourman has more of a connection to Beth and the reason he listened to her is because she stood up to him when he attempted to bully her into submission. Now, it wasn’t his fault he snapped at her. He was angry at what was going on with Cindy injuring Courtney and was lashing out.
Beth in the comics was disposable as she debuted in the comics in 1985 and was killed off in 1993. She only existed in her original appearance for 8 years. Now, we don’t know the reasoning why she got killed off or whether there was racism involved. Characters get killed off all the time in comic book lore, it’s just the circle of life. If we’re honest, there has to be an in-universe reason behind it.
What Makes Beth Special
Beth has always had a special place in our hearts for several reasons and it has nothing to do with her skin tone. Without her big heart and ability to see the bigger picture, she is the whole reason the JSA doesn’t fall apart on their first mission. Yes, she comes to rely heavily on Dr McNider’s AI in her goggles, but there is a reason.
Before joining forces with Courtney, Yolanda, and Rick, Beth was considered a loser by her peers and while she might’ve seemed okay with it on the outside, inside she wanted a friend who didn’t judge her for being smart. She got that when she became the second Doctor Mid-Nite. Sure, Chuck was only an AI but he was and still is a member of the JSA.
The idea of Icicle destroying the goggles and therefore, Chuck gives Beth a challenge; how to continue being Doctor Mid-Nite without them. It doesn’t make her weaker. If anything, it makes her stronger than before.
Her friends showed they had faith in her when she wasn’t wearing the goggles. They make her see – no pun intended – that she herself is Doctor Mid-Nite and she doesn’t need Chuck in order to be an important asset to the group. Just because she’s not a physical fighter, doesn’t mean she can’t fight back in her own ways. Look at how she charged at Jordan and how she found a way to distract the Gambler. She even put herself in harm’s way to protect Barbara. Now that takes guts especially when the enemy has superpowers that could easily kill you.
Beth Chapel is neither annoying or useless, she is her own hero.