While Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are taking a knee during the National Anthem to address police brutality, DC Comics used their CW television show, Supergirl, to take on the issue.
During season 3’s 19th episode, Supergirl uses a Black superhero to spark a conversation about police treatment of Blacks in America. To help bring this storyline to light, the network tapped actor Mehcad Brooks (The Game, True Blood) to portray James Olsen (also known as Jimmy Olsen), who DC Comics’ fans best know as a spirited photographer, and one of Superman’s closest allies.
All grown up, Jimmy’s no longer the plucky photographer that held Superman as his primary lens. In fact, he’s now the magazine editor and head of CatCo Media. And while he reports the news by day, he takes on the persona of DC Superhero Guardian at night. Much like Batman and Captain America, Guardian has no superpowers of his own, but he still takes on gods and monsters.
[Editor’s Note: Guardian was actually created by the same creator of Captain America].
In the clip above, James Olsen (Brooks) is unmasked while preventing the kidnapping of a Black girl named Tanya. When the police arrive, they automatically assume Olsen is the threat while the Caucasian characters on screen — although recently being disarmed — are considered to be in danger — a tale frequently seen in the Black community.
Although Tanya screams out, “This is Guardian!” the police order Guardian to get on his knees and ask the white characters if they’re okay. But as the officers get momentarily distracted, Superman’s closet ally throws a smoke bomb and grabs Tanya to safety.
In order for the bad guys of the week to recover Tanya, they threaten to oust Olsen out as Guardian. Although the fear of unmasking is a typical theme in comics, James has significantly different fears of being exposed. He addresses the fact that even though he is a known hero in National City, no one knows he’s Black. Despite anytime he has helped Supergirl saved the world, which is multiple times if we’re being honest, the perception of being considered a vigilante or criminal comes into play because of his race.
— Supergirl (@TheCWSupergirl) May 22, 2018
When James’ girlfriend, Lena Luthor — sister to Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luthor — says she will stand by him, he explains that she doesn’t understand what he’s going through.
During a scene in the next room, Olsen narrates an emotional story from his childhood that many African Americans can identify with. James reminisces about he and his cousin playing hide-and-go-seek while on vacation with his parents at a 5-star hotel. He’s remembers trying to find somewhere to hide to being blinded by police lights and questioned if he belongs here.
The altercation goes from bad to worse as Olsen and his cousin are placed in handcuffs at 7 years old. Olsen recalls being so small that the handcuffs had to had to be clasped around his forearms because his wrists were too small. With tears streaming down his face, James recounts being ushered into the hotel alongside his cousin so that hotel staff could verify they belonged there. Once the hotel staff confirmed that the two boys did in fact belong there, James’ moms started screaming to get the cuffs off her boy.
As the episode draws to a close, Olsen tells Supergirl that one day he will come out as Guardian. His explanation? That young girls like Tanya (aka Black youth) need to see someone that looks like them stand for justice and do what is right.
Supergirl‘s attempt to address social and racial issues is one of Hollywood’s many (and latest) attempts to tackle ongoing injustices. This is significant in a political climate where White House and GOP members refuse to acknowledge there is an issue with the policing of Blacks in America.
The question we must ask ourselves is, “Why are fictional entertainment properties doing a better job of discussing police brutality than elected officials?”