Nobody Does It Better – Legends of Tomorrow and Representation

This is part two of a two-parter. I don’t think they need to be read together, but they will reinforce each other. Part one is here.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (LoT) is the best show currently on television. I wrote about how much I like it a few years ago. I’m not here now to debate the merits of the show. I’m right. It’s great. Trust me and watch it. Instead, I’m here to talk about one particular aspect of LoT that they do better than anyone else.

Most people will have guessed from the title that I’m here to talk about representation. Legends of Tomorrow has one of the biggest and most diverse cast of characters around. That’s in large part due to the nature of the show. They travel all through space and time, so there are lots of opportunities for new and different characters. It’s also because LoT is constantly switching out members of the crew. There are only two original cast members left, Sara and Mick (Well, three if you count Gideon, and I’m fond of Gideon, so we’ll say three). Some have died, some have left for other opportunities, and some have started families. Because the rate of attrition is so high, they are always adding new team members. So, there’s a lot of diversity, a lot of representation, just from sheer numbers. But, that’s not what makes Legends so good at it.

The reason why LoT gets representation better than anyone else is because they are normal about it. I know, I know, no one who’s ever watched the show would use the word normal to describe it, but I’ll explain. I’m aware that this is a show about time travel, has super-powered characters, has magic and aliens. I know they once had to stop a murderous unicorn from slaughtering all of the hippies at Woodstock (and they did it using Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, and Gary’s nipple). I know they once brought all of the totems together which transformed the team into a giant children’s toy (Beebo!) so they could battle a demon. There have even been sentient puppets. All kinds of craziness happens on the show, but it remains normal through it all.

What I mean is that the characters are simply themselves. Most of the time, when shows are diverse, they are doing it in order to be diverse. There’s an old joke from Scrubs (another great show) where Turk complains about being on the cover of his college brochure twice because that was the only way they could make it look like black people attended the school. That’s how most mainstream media handles diversity. “Hey! Hey everyone. Look at us. We’re diverse. Aren’t you impressed?” I love Star Trek, but the first time Culber and Stammets kissed on Discovery, I could practically hear the producers yelling, “Look! They’re both men,” and patting themselves on the back.

In Legends, it’s not like that at all. Sara and Ava are a couple not because the producers decided they needed a same-sex couple on the show. If you know Sara and Ava, of course they’re going to fall in love and spend their lives together. It would be weird if they didn’t. It’s as simple as that. Zari didn’t join the crew because they thought it would be nice to have a Muslim on board. She lost her family and found a new one on the Waverider. It was very organic. The show is so normal about it that someone could watch without realizing how diverse it is. They don’t draw particular attention to it, it’s just who these characters are.

What I’m really getting at is that everyone should be watching Legends of Tomorrow. It’s not just a high quality show: well written, well acted, and well directed. It is actively making the world a better place. Plus, it’s incredibly fun while doing so.

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