Did Stargirl just use Beth Chapel’s Blackness as a one-off plot device in season 2 episode 8?
“Oh, yeah, and I love being Black.” Is the line the ends the most stomach churning dialogue I’ve ever witnessed on the CW. That means a lot, when you consider the privileged, overdramatized works that have come through the CW network since it began. Stargirl isn’t groundbreaking drama about a group of kid superheroes. However, it is a decent tween drama from the CW. I mean, it was until Stargirl showrunners and writers decided that this would be the episode that we all discovered Beth’s Blackness.
As if we couldn’t tell from looking at the child, but okay.
I guess this is the moment I disclose my own Blackness. That seems to be the best move when dealing with this episode. I am a Black woman, mother of six Black kids, and I say that Stargirl did all its young audience members a disservice with this episode. Worse, the show has now succeeded in injecting an element into the story that it is probably not equipped to maintain. The fans will be let down once Beth goes back to being oblivious of her Blackness.
The show has never been so flagrant about Beth’s Blackness. In fact, the show skirted race so deftly that it appeared as if the character would get treatment similar to many of the CW characters. Her Arrowverse cohorts, for example only seemed to find their Blackness during Black History month sweeps episodes or those special social justice episodes that have become the norm since the murder of George Floyd during lockdown. Beth was in good company.
She was better styled than the rest with her natural curls and cute Black nerdy girl look. Beth does a good job of existing as that typical Black girl who is the “only one” of her friend group. Her outsider status as Dr. Mid-Nite helps complete the picture for her character. Therefore so many feel like they can relate to Beth. She feels like us. It doesn’t have to be said. I thought CW was improving in creating her this way.
Then, we get Episode 8 of Stargirl Season 2, the one where Beth discovers her Blackness. It’s the episode where CW reminds us that, yes, we have Black people. See? A quick look at the credits for the episode show that the writer responsible for Beth’s identity proclamations is Black as well. Congrats on having those, too, CW.
But are you ready to maintain this level of awareness? Are you ready to let Black writers inject dialogue calling Courtney out on her subtle microaggressions, or telling Dr McNider that she is tired of his nonsense, in a voice betrays her inner Black girl? Will they bring in a Big Ma to help Beth get her parents in order and off their nonsense as well? How Black do you intend to let this go, and will you maintain that level for the duration of the show, CW?
My line of questioning is essentially rhetorical as I know that the network is not going to follow up this episode with much more than a recap at the beginning of the next episode. Beth’s moment will be forgotten outside of the gifs and jokes made.
Why am I like this? As I said early in this commentary, sticking this episode of awakening amid the last 22 episodes was jarring for young viewers. Probably triggering for some. The things that little white boy Eclipso was saying did not feel great to me, an adult. It had to be hard for the young viewers. Sure, Beth’s confidence at the end was a great triumph, but what now?
It’s the uncertainty, the anticipation of another hit of Blackness that does not come which will cause viewers to jump ship. You see, if this is the sole moment where we get this epic Black girl Magic from Beth, and it comes as a result of such flagrant white supremacy, then its as fake as the home Eclipso made for the girl.
So many viewers were more shocked about the words coming from the little blonde boy’s mouth during this Stargirl episode than they were the reaction from Beth. Their shock was another part of this. It shows that race has NEVER been used in the show this way.
It’s weaponized, toss out against the Black girl like a cheaply made spear. A low blow, plucking the low hanging fruit. A More pointed target would have been her parents, which Eclipso did use. Even the racism is this was too low for this villain.
The CW could salvage this by allowing Black writers to continue to write Beth as the arbiter of her own Blackness. Make it a part of her Dr. Mid-Nite persona—a superhero fueled by Black girl magic. To do anything else would be a disservice to Beth and the fans who’ve followed her this far on her Stargirl journey.
About DC’s Stargirl
DC’s STARGIRL follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. This new drama reimagines Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, in an unpredictable series.
The project focuses on the character that started executive producer Geoff Johns’ career as a comic book writer when he created her in 1999, lovingly inspired by his late sister, who was killed in a 1996 plane explosion.
Stargirl Season 2 airs on CW every Tuesday, starting on August 10th.
Stream for free the next day on The CW
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Jonita Davis is a mom of six (ages 23 to 4), writer, film critic, and professor who writes about our culture from all angles. Her work appears in several publications, including Washington Post, Yes! Magazine, Vox, The Fix, Today’s Parent, Zora, Syfy Wire, The Guardian, and so many others. You can see her work on TheBlackCape.com. or view her portfolio on Muck Rack. Follow Jonita on Twitter. Follow The Black CAPE on Twitter.