Worst Trends was a bit of a downer, so who needs it? Also, I could only come up with two (heroes behind bars, since two shows opened their seasons with lengthy arcs of their leads in prison; and introducing plotlines that wouldn’t happen until a future season, but in, like, a bad way… that second one was going to take some explaining). So let’s look at some positive trends from the past season! The word is literally on fire, let’s be positive!
Bronze: LGBT+ representation
I honestly don’t think I have time to cover every LGBT+ character in comic TV this season, because there are a lot. So, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No. There is too much. Let me sum up.”
We had great trans stories on Supergirl and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, where Nia Nal shared her truth and Susie Putnam became Theo, then gave us a moving coming out scene with his father. And then we had strong, positive gay and bisexual characters all over the place: Ambrose on Sabrina, Mr. Terrific and William Clayton on Arrow, Nora and Captain Singh on The Flash, Klaus on The Umbrella Academy, Anissa Pierce on Black Lightning, Maze on Lucifer, Danger Boat (you heard me) on The Tick, Nico and Karolina on Runaways, Larry on Doom Patrol, Alex Danvers hooking up with Jimmy Olsen’s sister on Supergirl, and Sara Lance, her girlfriend Ava Sharpe, and John Constantine (breaking free of NBC’s old rules to be canonically bisexual) on Legends of Tomorrow.
I’m as straight as a man can be in a world where Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zachary Levi exist, but it warms my LGBT+ Ally heart to see this much representation, and all of these characters are just accepted by their loved ones.
(Also Penguin on Gotham is at least bi, but it didn’t really come up this year.)
Silver: Standing up to bigotry
Making bigots and fearmongers your villains isn’t just for X-Men adaptations anymore.
As I discussed, basically the entire Arrowverse took this on in one way or another. Obviously The Gifted had to get into it, persecution of mutants was their whole deal; Cloak and Dagger dug into institutional racism in the police and elsewhere; Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is at war with the patriarchy; and Doom Patrol goes a few rounds with the Bureau of Normalcy, enemies of anyone who dares to be different. They’re the worst.
Gold: Destigmitization of mental illness
Several characters this season were battling mental illness, something normally reserved for villains in stories like this. From Polaris on The Gifted, who has bipolar disorder, to Runaways’ Gert, who shows us what withdrawal from anti-anxiety meds looks like, to The Tick making Arthur a neurodiverse hero. Even dissociative identity disorder, the most common mental illness to be associated with villainy, gets positive representation through Doom Patrol’s Jane and her 64 personalities, Flash‘s Caitlin/Killer Frost, and, to a lesser extent, Iron Fist’s Mary Walker.
Sure the Walker personality helps Davos trap Danny Rand, but in the end, neither Mary nor Walker are all good or all bad, just two people with one body trying to get by. And yes they imply that there’s a third, more murdery personality hiding in there somewhere, but the franchise is over so we’re never going to see her. And frankly, her only victims were all terrible people who kinda deserved to die, so that’s fine.
Really, the only shows letting us down are Daredevil, where borderline antisocial personality disorder absolutely turns Agent Poindexter into a murder machine, and The Punisher, where PTSD is a thing but any attempt to examine the effects of trauma is undermined by how irredeemably awful at her job psychiatrist Hardly Quinn is.
Damn. Iron Fist should not be the best Marvel Netflix show at anything, yet here we are.
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