The show avoids tired LGBTQ-related storylines by making the character's sexuality no big deal.
Ash Griffith | February 7, 2018
On Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 The CW premiered its newest superhero series, Black Lightning. The DC Universe hero is the first black superhero to appear as part of The CW’s revolving superhero portfolio — although, unlike other DC Universe series on The CW, it is not part of the Arrowverse.
The series features Jefferson Pierce, also known as the titular Black Lightning, who when we meet him has been retired for the past nine years, before he is forced to throw the tights back on. However, Black Lightning brings to the table something significantly more important. Jefferson’s daughter, Anissa, is not only the superhero Thunder but is also the first black lesbian superhero to be featured on television — or in any live-action format. Yes, you read that correctly.
And it doesn’t stop there. While just that information in and of itself is extremely important just for representation, it keeps getting better. Not only is Anissa already out publicly, but she and her girlfriend have a very healthy relationship. And none of this is treated as some sort of unnecessary plot point or point of tension.
“Will her secret be revealed? Will she be found out? How will she deal with it?” Just fine, actually, considering everyone knows, and it is treated as an everyday thing — as it obviously should be. The only secret she may have to worry about being uncovered is her dad finding out that she’s a superhero. But then, he would have to worry about her learning that he became Black Lightning again, even though he told her how dangerous it is to be a costumed crimefighter. Awkward.
Producer Salim Akil has made it a point to mention that there will be absolutely no plotline in regards to Anissa’s coming out. Akil emphasized that it should just be about Anissa’s life, and living her life. “In the second episode, we just open up on this scene, and there she is with her girlfriend,” Akil told Popsugar recently. “If you were to do that with a guy and a girl, it wouldn’t be anything. But to see these black women, natural, having a conversation not about their sexuality but about what she’s going through, to me that’s more profound than having a ‘very special episode’.”
Actress Nafessa Williams also feels good about portraying such an important character. “I’m really proud to play a role for young lesbian women to see themselves [and] to see how loving and supportive the family is,” Williams told The Advocate. “I believe that family of lesbian and gay teenagers need to see that, if they’re struggling with accepting their child’s sexuality.”
Historically, the Black LGBTQ experience has been underrepresented in media as a whole, let alone in the superhero genre, traditionally the playground for cisgender straight white men. To say that the representation of a character like Anissa Pierce and her alter ego, Thunder, is important is an understatement.
With the successful premiere of Black Lightning (and continuously strong ratings week after week for The CW), it’s a safe bet that Thunder is here to stay. The only question that remains now is… when will her sister Jennifer finally learn her true superhero identity?