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Titans' Anna Diop Facing Harassment On Social Media Over Starfire Casting

The narrative around the live-action Titans series has taken a dour turn.

Anna Diop, the actress cast as Starfire in the upcoming DC Universe exclusive, has come under attack on social media from commentators who are critical of her casting. The central subject of their criticism? Diop's status as a dark-skinned black woman. 

Since the first image of Diop costumed as Starfire emerged online in early April, the actress has faced criticism over her appearance in the role, much of which can only honestly be interpreted as being racially charged. (You can see a representative ground zero for this criticism in the comments on the set photo, which was posted to Twitter on April 11.)

The crux of the criticism revolves around Diop being seen by some as being either too black or too unattractive to be a suitable fit for the role of Starfire — a bad-faith, no-win argument if ever there was one. For weeks, people who hold such opinions have been taking their insensitive-at-best concerns and posting them on social media, often addressing them straight to Diop herself via her Twitter and Instagram accounts. The fact that the character was originally written as an orange-skinned alien named Koriand'r who was seen by many readers in her initial design as being coded as black would appear to be completely lost on these people. 

Within days of the start of the criticism, Diop responded to the commentary with a post on Instagram, asserting that she was "highly unbothered" by the negative fan reactions, especially considering that the unauthorized set photo that started all of this did indeed make her costume look somewhat unflattering — a fair critique, which she acknowledged. She further used the post to say, in part, "I do want to use this as an opportunity to say that tearing people down is not something that I tolerate. For myself or anyone else." The post has since been deleted.

This is not the first time we've been here, watching as a performer suffered through an onslaught of criticism pertaining to their race, gender, or perceived level of attractiveness in a piece of sci-fi, fantasy, or comic book-related media. We saw the same reaction happen after Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four, playing a character who has traditionally been drawn as white. And we've seen it happen more recently to Kelly Marie Tran, an Asian-American actress under attack for merely existing in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

The judgmental commentary directed against Diop continued through the release of the Titans trailer on July 19. Since then, she has deleted much of the content of her Instagram page, which at the time of this writing features six photos, only one of which is still set up to receive comments. She hasn't tweeted again yet at all.

Obviously, social media is a two-way street — that's sort of what's supposed to be so revelatory about it. But the reaction to Diop's casting goes beyond the simple give-and-take of fan engagement, and instead has been, pretty much from the start, a one-way conduit for over-the-top abuse. 

Call it trolling, call it criticism, call it free speech in action — you can call it whatever you want. Nothing changes the fact that these are interactions which cause real pain. In the days since the Titans trailer was released, Diop has been defended by director Paul Feig, who wrote a message on Twitter denouncing the "racist trolls" attacking her.

"Comic book fan community: You have to loudly denounce these racist trolls who make these attacks," Feig wrote. "They do not represent the fan community and the fan community cannot allow itself to get painted with this brush when it's such a small number of hateful people doing this. Stand up."

Titans will debut this fall on DC Universe.