As I put fingers to each key, I pause...I am feeling a wide array of different emotions ranging from rage to fear as the events of the George Floyd protests and the struggles of the Black Live Matters movement play out before my eyes. Being black myself but born and raised in a predominantly black nation, I still can't to this day fully relate to what most people of colour who experienced prejudice purely as a result of their skin colour. I was largely ignorant to such issues growing up and was way more concerned about defeating Bowser in Mario 64 and Goku fight against Freeza. Luckily for me, I was also a huge fan of the Kids WB Saturday cartoon block and the Static Shock series in particular. The episode 'Sons of Father' first aired on December 8 and successfully opened my eyes to the world of racism and the continuous fight against it.
Of Course, in my early school years, I learnt of the Atlantic Slave Trade and the immense sacrifice of many that ultimately brought us freedom, but none of it resonated with my young mind as much as this Static Shock episode did. Here you have one of my favourite superhero cartoons of all time taking a drastic turn in tone to focus on an issue I thought was a thing of the past. 'People still hate black people? But I thought that kind of thinking ended with the abolishing of slavery?' I questioned myself as the episode unfolds. I was honestly in a state of bewilderment, unable to compute what I was seeing.
After watching this Static Shock episode, I became more interested in Afro-Caribbean history which inspired our own animated take on the Christmas Rebellion(above).
For those of you who have forgotten the episode or who had never watched Static Shock (shame on you), here's the Plot synopsis:
'Vergil wonders why Richie never invites him over to his house to hang out. Richie tries to avoid the question, but Virgil presses and Richie invites him over on a night he thinks his father will be out. Things are fine until Richie's father, Sean, shows up and starts making derogatory comments that Virgil tries to ignore. But then Virgil overhears Mr. Foley make a racist comment. He turns to Richie, and they both feel sad. Richie argues with his father, then runs away. Mr. Foley goes to Virgil's dad to see if he knows where Richie is, and they reluctantly work together to search for him. Static finds him and says they are still friends and to go home. However, in the shadows, Ebon lurks, overhearing this and kidnaps Richie to lure Static into a trap. Robert and Mr. Foley find Richie first and try to take out Ebon and Shiv, but soon Static finds them and makes a rescue. Richie's father changes his racist attitude and tries to listen to his son now.' Source credited to https://dcau.fandom.com/
Here we have a superhero rendered powerless not by guns or Kryptonite, but a few racially charged words of hate. This was blowing my mind back in the day, and as my anger grew, I just wished Static had just zapped the bigot, vaporize him to teach him a lesson. Hell, I even wanted all white people wiped off the face of this earth. Then the episode rolled onto this:
Virgil's father hated the bigot that stood before him but overlooked his hate so they could work together for the well being of his white son. A decision that ultimately leads to a change of character by Mr Foley, eliminating a racist without the need for superpowers or violence. You see, hate and violence often breeds more hate and violence, but showing a racist that despite skin colour we are all the same (in this case, fatherhood) have a greater impact on their humanity while preserving ours.
This was such a great series!
In conclusion, what am I saying here? Can this random episode of animated fiction change the minds of racists? Nope. I am saying racism is real and cannot be ignored. The real fight against it starts at home so, don't be afraid to introduce your sons and daughters to the topic, and have a real conversation. Open their minds and hearts like this Static Shock episode did for me. I truly believe this generation is a lost cause, but there is genuine hope for the next generation.
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Hey I am Marlon Mcfarlane the writer here at Blue Crescent Studio & a longtime lover of all things Animation & Gaming.