the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: The CW

5 Reasons you should be watching The CW’s “Black Lightning”

November 13, 2018

As a long-time CW stan, going back as far as One Tree Hill, when I heard that they were finally doing a show about a Black superhero family I was ecstatic. Then, the first episode aired and I found out that one of the lead characters is a queer woman; and that was the icing on the already-perfect cake. In case you’re not yet convinced, here’s five reasons you should be watching the CW’s Black Lightning.

1. Black people, hello!

According to GLAAD’s 2018 Where We Are On TV report, of the 857 series regular characters on broadcast TV, 187 of them are black, and Black Lightning contains like seven of them.

With an almost entirely Black cast, Black Lightning is the show to see. It’s centered around vigilante-father, Jefferson Pierce, as he navigates being a high school principal, rekindling the relationship with his ex-wife, managing his two young-adult daughters, and returning to crime fighting as his masked alter-ego Black Lightning to save his town, after nearly a decade in retirement. Jefferson’s two daughters Anissa and Jennifer spend the season discovering their own super-powers in secret and learning how to navigate being super-human and Black women in a label-obsessed society. They struggle to find the balance, if it even exists at all.

2. TV’s first Black lesbian superhero

Black Lightning’s Anissa/Thunder, played by Nafessa Williams, is TV’s first Black lesbian superhero… ever.

It’s 2018 folks; I’m still shocked that there’s been no other Black lesbian superheroes, considering that both black women and lesbians are already real life superheroes. But I’m also grateful that it’s happening now, so I can witness it live.

Anissa spends the season on a social justice crusade to protect the people from corrupt cops and systematic shortcomings. But on another note, Anissa has a potential love interest named Grace, who’s Asian. I mention that she’s Asian to highlight what most TV shows and movies don’t: White women are not the only lesbians. Typically in TV, relationships between two women are between two white women, likely of a different hair color. And if there is an interracial lesbian relationship, it’s usually between a white woman and a woman of color. Interracial relationships between women are still important even when there isn’t a white woman involved. Also the club Grace bartends is called “Ruby Red Lipstick Bar” which is just top shelf, ladies.

Across all of broadcast TV, just 28 of the 113 LGBTQ characters are lesbians. Coincidentally, the same statistic is true for Black LGBTQ characters across broadcast TV: There are 28 Black LGBTQ characters—9 of them being lesbians.

Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce/Thunder in Black Lightning. Image credit: The CW.

3. It’s socially relevant

In most superhero or fantasy shows, they’re located in some far off land that has little reference to reality. Black Lightning is quite the opposite. Throughout the season, the Pierce family is battling corrupt cops, exposing the government for putting drugs in Black neighborhoods, and trying to end gang warfare.

Specifically, in Season One Episode Six, we see the aftermath of a Confederate monument protest turned violent where a student drives his car through a crowd of peaceful protestors, killing one woman. This episode specifically stood out to me because as an African American native of Charlottesville, Virginia, it’s still a pretty touchy subject, but Black Lightning addresses it well and gives the victims of that day the respect that they deserve.

4. It’s not in the Arrowverse

No shade, but all of the other CW superhero shows exist within one universe, and while that does allow for some dope crossover episodes, Black Lightning being in a separate universe is definitely for the best.

Black Lightning doesn’t follow The CW’s regular “villain of the week” arch. Instead, creator and executive producer, Salim Akil, states in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that they’d rather “explore the characters, even the villains” and have villains present for the full season. This idea is so important for Black TV characters, because when Black characters are given the chance to be more in-depth, they become more realistic, more relatable, and less stigmatized. So, if Jefferson/Black Lightning and Anissa/Thunder are continuously fighting one enemy, we’re forced to get to know more about their weaknesses and strengths, as well as the villains. We learn what makes them human.

5. Season Two just started!

Starting a Netflix binge of a show with only one season sometimes doesn’t seem worth it, but trust, Black Lightning’s season two premiered on Tuesday October 9th, 2018. So you’re not too far behind; there’s really no reason not to start the binge today!

Corinne Beverly is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying psychology and world religions. Corinne is a volunteer with the Shepherd’s Way Relief Center in Richmond, VA.

the voice and vision of a new generation