How 'Black Lightning' Is Advancing Superhero TV
How 'Black Lightning' Is Advancing Superhero TV
Jay Ruymann
Jay Ruymann
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Though Black Lightning is only three episodes into season 1, the series has already begun with a unique twist on hero origins, and the potential for the show is enough to change how The CW conducts their superhero business going forward. On every topic that fans are concerned with, Black Lightning hits the mark and goes well above expectations in every episode.


Representation

First of all, Black Lightning follows a black superhero as the main star of the show, rather than as a sidekick or lesser hero (like we've seen with Jax on Legends of Tomorrow and Wally on The Flash.) Jefferson, Anissa and Jennifer are all on their way to becoming heroes, and the most interesting fact is that the writing isn't trying to ignore their race or their origins. All too often, race is often ignored in the superhero world unless it specifically pertains to a particular story, but most of the series is about addressing racial issues and how it affects their abilities to be heroes (and how they're accepted by the public.)

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Race relations and prejudice are already a large focus of the series, and it's only been three episodes since the premiere. While many of the characters we've seen on the series have been black, the series has the opportunity to tell a story of how white people perceive Black Lightning being a hero and the racial bias and prejudice held against him.

Also, this series is the first superhero series to fully embrace the sexuality of one of their characters and integrate it into the story, while still taking it seriously and not treating the character as a token LGBT+ character where their identity is basically just their sexuality. Anissa's sexuality is just a natural part of the story. It's not trying too hard to show an attempt at representation with witty jokes, but it's showcasing Anissa as a woman of color and blossoming superhero, who happens to be a lesbian. How Anissa is portrayed is different from other LGBT+ characters because her identity is who she is and not her sexuality, which other shows often mistake for the same thing by making sexuality the main trait of the character's identity.

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Hitting the Mark

Political stories on television shows often fail to hit the mark because writers are too afraid to take a stance and address unpopular opinions and prejudice behind many issues. Other superhero shows have attempted political topics, like gun violence, but the story failed and the episode was forgotten because of the writers' and showrunners' fear of taking a stance on a topic in order to avoid alienating any part of the audience.

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Black Lightning has already shown it isn't afraid of tackling political stories and actually taking a stance. The show is successful because the writers are actually acknowledging and focusing on these topics, rather than refusing to put themselves and the show on a side. This show is the perfect outlet to address race issues in the real world by using a fictional world, and this could change how superhero TV shows connect to the real world in the future. While shows featuring a white lead can't tackle racial issues in the same way, there are other highly debated issues plaguing the world (gun control, LGBT rights, etc.) that could be addressed within superhero shows.

Superheroes are people, too, so there should be some sort of conversation involving these characters about things going on in the world. With how Black Lightning is handling this, it's opening a door for other shows to do so, too, and for other shows to embrace heroes of different races and sexualities without overemphasizing these things.

What do you think? Is Black Lightning changing the future of superhero television? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Black Lightning airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on The CW. Like our Black Lightning Facebook page!

(Image courtesy of The CW)