Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for a show set in a high school in southern California, was always pretty darn white. Over the course of seven seasons and a wide array of stars, guest stars, Big Bads, little bads, Initiative members, fellow students and an army of potential Slayers, the show boasted a massive ten substantial characters of colour*, half of whom only showed up for the final season and none of whom ever made it into the theme song credits. The core cast and major villains? Whitey McWhitersons.
Karen, you say, this has nothing to do with comics. Get to the comics.
Dear readers, I shall!
I had great hopes for BtVS: Season 8, because when one can draw characters instead of needing to cast them, one has a better chance off sidestepping the massive inertia of Hollywood in regards to casting characters of colour. And indeed, my heart soars every time I see one of those gorgeous Georges Jeanty, Andy Owens and Michelle Madsen spreads that show dozens of Slayers, because there are very definitely large quantities of Slayers of colour hanging out at the Scottish base.
Two of them so far have had multi-issue speaking roles: Satsu, who is the best fighter among the new Slayers, fell in love with and briefly slept with Buffy. Renee, apparently a tactics chief, had a crush on and briefly dated Xander. “Huzzah!” thought I, all full of hope and joy. “At last, an expansion of the main cast to include characters of colour!”
By the end of issue #15, the final issue of a Drew Goddard-written storyline where the gang hits Tokyo to battle a goth vampire gang, Satsu decides to stay in Japan and Renee is dead.
“Huzzah!” thought I, but this time with extreme sarcasm.
I don’t criticize this comic because it’s irredeemably awful; I’m annoyed because it was going so well. I can see how these decisions get made. In terms of the story, a sudden death mid-romance is an excellent way to provoke horror and demonstrate the effectiveness of the bad guys**, and Satsu’s decision to stay behind was both a well-deserved promotion to field officer and a decent way of dealing with a romance neither she nor Buffy were ready for. But in terms of the meta-narrative, Buffy’s inner circle became abruptly all-white. Again.
In issue #16, Buffy heads to NYC, where Kennedy’s in charge. I’m really hoping she sticks around. But this time, just to protect myself, I’m not hoping too hard.
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* “Substantial” being defined as “turned up in more than one episode with lines”, which is a pretty wide net, I get the following: Kendra, Mr Trick, Forrest, Olivia, the First Slayer, Principal Wood, Kennedy, Rona, Caridad and Chao-Ahn.
** Even though this is now a Buffyverse cliché, and getting very tired, I try to recall that for someone, this might be their first Buffy text.