(Black female) fans strike back

The Emergence of the Iris West Defense Squad

Authored by: Kristen J. Warner

The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138638921
eBook ISBN: 9781315637518
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315637518.ch26

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Abstract

June 15, 2016 marked a big day for the Twitter section of the Iris West Defense Squad (IWDS). In response to the news that Warner Bros. was moving forward with the pre-production for their The Flash movie after hiring Rick Famuyiwa to direct, 1 IWDS set out one of their monthly pre-emptive campaigns for their eponymous character to be portrayed by a Black woman as she has been on the hit CW network’s series of the same name. #KeepIrisBlack emerged as fans of the televised version of the character realized that similar to how the film’s lead varied from his television counterpart, it was possible the feature could not only choose a different actor but a differently raced character. Television’s Iris West, #KeepIrisBlack argued, increased the diversity of representation for Black women within the DC comic universe thus, it would be in the best interest of the studio to continue casting Iris as Black in the film. A type of fancasting, where fans of a particular text collectively organize to suggest possible casting choices for producers and casting directors alike, the hashtag tagged Famuyiwa and DC Comics with various rationales for Iris’s Blackness. Attaching photos and Twitter accounts (when available) of up and coming Black actresses who could fit the Iris West type, these hashtagged tweets were designed to worldwide trend as evidence of their importance. While I am certain that this campaign, much like most fancasting, was not designed to actually force the studios into casting a specific actress, its goal was no less ambitious: get the powers that be to both acknowledge the possibility that Iris could be Black as well as owning the responsibility should they choose to go with a white actress.

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