There were three DC Extended Universe (DCEU) announcements within one week in late February, and the connecting threads are understandably set for scrutiny. Diversity has become more than a buzzword; it’s now a formidable principle for fans and creators alike. Bringing in a young actress with Colombian roots, a Puerto Rican director, and an acclaimed Black writer in a matter of days seems like progress to some. For others, the announcements serve as reminders of frustrations that go back decades. It’s the classic clash of two opposing forces — cynicism and optimism — that rivals anything seen among DC’s epic battles.
In a world where nothing seems to be a coincidence, even one official hiring would elicit a response, and this was no different. Everyone with a social media account, and an opinion on all things DC, came out in full force for the impressive reveals. Among the constantly scrolling barrage of tweets was one from Ray Fisher, who made it clear that he was weary of the studio’s recent hirings.
After news of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new role in crafting Warner Bros. next Superman film, Fisher took to Twitter with a thinly veiled reminder of his own experiences. “Do ya’ll remember that time Walter Hamada and @wbpictures tried to destroy a Black man’s credibility, and publicly delegitimize a very serious investigation, with lies in the press? But hey, Black Superman…” It was far from the actor’s first foray into the comic giant’s universe and constantly evolving structure.
Fisher’s name is synonymous with a dramatic period in DCEU cinematic history. Nothing appears to be more polarizing than the events surrounding Justice League. The film has arguably become a myth unto itself, much of which came from alleged incidents behind the scenes as opposed to anything on camera. It was set to be not only a new chapter in DC’s storied cinematic history, but a promising start towards catching rival Marvel.
Amid the introductions was that of Fisher; the actor — best known for HBO’s True Detective — proved to be a popular choice as Cyborg. The hiring also meant a moment to truly begin diversity in big-screen DC events. His appearance at 2016 Comic Con alongside co-stars was greeted with all the usual hoopla, even by the usual skeptics in attendance. A year later, and with little to no indication of what was to come, Fisher was clad in an “I Heart ZS” shirt — honoring director Zack Snyder. What would unfold years after its release led many to step forward, calling out Joss Whedon as well as the support system itself.
Fisher is adamant about his experiences during filming. Many of his charges speak directly towards bullying and racist actions among WB’s leading figures. “When it comes to matters involving race, I always try to give the benefit of the doubt to those who may be ignorant of their own biases,” he wrote in a statement via Twitter. “But when you have studio executives (particularly Geoff Johns) saying, ‘We can’t have any angry Black man at the center of the movie’ — and then those executives use their power to reduce and remove All Black people from that movie — they are no longer entitled to any benefit associated with doubt.” It’s important to note that, at no point, do his accusations mention Snyder; in fact, he returned to film portions of the Snyder Cut for HBO Max. He’s also been vocal in showing support for Snyder as he dealt with the tragic loss of his daughter, Autumn.
For their part, WarnerMedia — parent corporation of Warner Bros.— concluded their internal investigation into the matter. In a statement sent to several industry outlets last December, the corporation reiterated their findings as it pertained to Fisher’s claims:
“Once again there are false statements being made about our executives and our company surrounding the recent Justice League investigation. As we have stated before, an extensive and thorough third-party investigation was conducted. Our executives, including Walter Hamada, fully cooperated, no evidence was found of any interference whatsoever, and Warner Bros. did not lie in the press. It’s time to stop saying otherwise and move forward productively.”
All of this brings back into focus the timing of recent reveals by Warner Bros. Fisher is far from alone in his critiques of the studio and execs in charge of DCEU properties. Many fans, filmgoers, and those who cover the industry have their concerns about what those three hires could mean in the face of ongoing criticism.
DarkSkyLady, contributor to sites like Nerdist and SYFYWire, spoke about her reservations concerning WB’s timing. “No. I don’t think it’s genuine. But even if it were, it wouldn’t change that it’s their fault people are doubting them,” she said. “How does hiring demonstrate a change, when the issue was the environment that was allowed to foster onset and the retaliation Fisher faced and continues to face for speaking up? We are all familiar with being targeted or shut out when we are honest about problems we see or experiences we go through at work.”
Critic, journalist, and So Here’s What Happened podcast co-host Carolyn Hinds went even further in her assessment of Fisher’s accusations. “WB knew what Whedon was doing for years, they tried manipulating the investigation, and I don’t for a second doubt this news of a Black Superman is meant to manipulate public opinion, especially Black people’s because we were the first to support Ray. Them using a Black outlet to give the exclusive when they don’t even have a framework or a director is just another part of that.” Hinds’ criticism speaks closely to which outlets have been given exclusives, with some focusing on POC writers to break the stories.
Decisions about diversity may remain in the development stage for now, but Fisher is clear about where his role stands on future projects involving Hamada. In a Twitter post, he elaborated on rumors about the upcoming Flash film. “Despite the misconception, Cyborg’s involvement in The Flash was much larger than a cameo — and while I do mourn the lost opportunity to bring Victor Stone back to the screen, bringing awareness to the actions of Walter Hamada will prove to be a much more important contribution to our world.”
If anything, the actor can take solace in the fact that Zack Snyder’s Justice League‘ is receiving mostly positive reviews, at least compared to its 2017 release under Whedon. Many critics — including Consequence‘s own Clint Worthington — are praising the reworked cut for bringing back the towering vision its director once promised all those years ago in a crowded San Diego convention hall. Fisher’s Cyborg, formerly relegated to supporting actor, takes his place as a lead alongside the superhero team, and as he told Vanity Fair last year: “It feels kind of like kismet. It feels right. It does feel like justice in a way.”