At New York’s annual Comic-Con, where hundreds of thousands of self-identified nerds gather to celebrate the diverse and imaginative universe of science fiction and fantasy games, comic books, film and TV properties, attendees share how the fan universe is not always as accepting as it appears.
“There’s a lot of racism online,” one attendee, Christ Allen, told ABC News correspondent Ashan Singh. Allen – who writes and performs nerd-core rap music under the name EyeQ – is a fixture at conventions, representing the group Nerdy People of Color.
“If you’re turning around and you’re saying, ‘They’re putting politics in my comic books,’ you never read comic books,” said Allen. “There’s no way that you can look past the fact that most comic book creators always tackled those types of topics, right?”
Recent events have drawn attention to the presence of some racist attitudes within the comic book, sci-fi and fantasy universe.
Amazon’s billion-dollar series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” features actors and actresses of color playing characters in J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy realm. When the show was launched, Amazon Prime announced it was temporarily disabling reviews after the show’s page was flooded with racist commentary complaining about the show’s diverse cast.
Sophia Nomvete is one of the first Black women to play a leading role in the Lord of the Rings universe, playing the dwarf queen Disa. Of the backlash, Nomvete told ABC News, “It is violent. It is harassment. It is aggressive. It is racist,” and that “it has sometimes threatened the lives of us and our families.”
“It’s Middle Earth,” she said, referring to the fictional world where the adventurous plots take place. “It’s up for the taking. One of Tolkien’s most incredible joys is that he writes so much for us to delve into. Everything is up for interpretation.”
As sci-fi and fantasy films become less niche, and the expanding industry continues to push for more inclusive representation, a small yet vocal online community has been protesting in backlash.
When it was announced that Black singer Halle Bailey would play Ariel in the remake of the Disney film “The Little Mermaid,” racist comments flooded Twitter, with people writing #NotMyAriel.
The actress and singer Lea Salonga, who became the first Asian- American actress to win a Tony Award in 1990, told ABC News that seeing these comments “didn’t make any sense to me.”
“I think older actors of color who know what it feels like…should say something in defense of these younger actors,” she said, “who are navigating their way through this business and, you know, hitting walls that they probably did not anticipate they’d be slamming into.”
Joivan Wade, who plays the role of Cyborg/Victor Stone in the TV series “Doom Patrol” told ABC News the backlash is “sad” and “a reflection of where we are as a society.”
“Why are we talking about the five Black superheroes that we can count on our right hand?,” he said. “That is the problem.”
“If we had created from the writers’ room, from the creation, from the inception of all of these different characters and creations, then we wouldn’t be fighting to then, you know, cast a Black actor as something that was fictionalized as a white character,” he said, “because we would have our own.”
“To the majority who are our allies, I would say there’s work to be done to support us,” Nomvete told ABC News.
“It’s hard, it’s tiring, it’s emotional, it’s exhausting, and it hurts,” she said. “So please pick up your weapon of choice.”