Our Hero: Why Aquaman Provides Representation for the Biracial Community
On November 18, 2017, Justice League will debut in theaters. The ensemble includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Flash and Aquaman. A diverse cast of characters which represents so many individuals in this country. Represents one group most do not even realize: the biracial community.
As a kid, I wondered why on television there was always white men with white women, black men with black women, Asian men with Asian women, and so on and so forth. I grew up in the 1990’s where it was relatively taboo to display interracial couples in commercials, television shows, and to an extent in films. The lack of interracial couples, ultimately leads to the lack of biracial characters as well. For a boy with a white mother and a black father, this was confusing.
The biracial individual’s experience throughout life can be just that, confusing. Growing up, I often struggled to find acceptance. The African American community in America is fiercely strong and proud of their skin, as they should be. However, when you are biracial it can cause you to be an outsider of the community. Often I would be referred to as an “oreo”, a “halfrican”, or a “halfbreed” among other things.
The flip side to my ancestry is even less inviting. While the black community saw me as not being black enough, the white community did not view me any differently from a dark skinned black male. Through their lens I was black, plain and simple. What I thought were friendships would be lost to passively racist comments such as “You aren’t like the rest of them”. Relationships would end because of parents who would not stand to see their daughter with a black guy.
Comic books and other super hero mediums provided an escape from the ugly reality. Although, there were not many heroes I could identify with. Black superheroes such as Black Panther, Falcon, John Stewart, and Static did not represent me. Sure, they look similar to me and I love them for what they represent, a half of me. That other part was represented by the plethora of white superheroes, who I never could fully relate to for a magnitude of reasons. I felt as if there was no one for me to see myself fully manifested in. That is until I came across Aquaman. A hero who did not just represent me, a black and white individual, but all individuals of mixed race.
When I tell most people that the hero I feel I can best relate to is Aquaman, I often receive a blank stare. Besides the casting of Jason Momoa, Aquaman is generally depicted as a white male. This causes most people to curiously wonder why on Earth I would choose the white guy over the black characters available. How can I possibly relate to the white skinned, blonde haired King of Atlantis they wonder. Well, the exterior of Aquaman is deceiving. For those that do not know his story, Aquaman is indeed biracial.
With a human father and Atlantean mother, Aquaman is the product of an interracial relationship. While he may still show an exterior of a white man, his interior struggle within himself is something biracial individuals can relate to. Like most biracial people, Aquaman also known as Arthur Curry, struggles to find acceptance. On one hand, he is the King of Atlantis and half Atlantean. But on the other, he is Arthur Curry the man. In the recent Rebirth line, Mera describes Arthur as, “A man of peace, at odds, at war with everything around him”. Her words are a sentiment many biracial people may find meaning in for themselves. His struggle to find a place in the world where he feels accepted causes inner turmoil, something biracial individuals surely can relate to.
Arthur is also a victim of the external conflicts that arise in so many biracial people’s lives: the lack of acceptance from both sides. While Arthur’s strength, birth right, and wisdom led him to become the King of Atlantis, he is not welcomed by all. Seen as an outsider, a lot of Atlanteans, while loyal, still resent him. A faction of Atlanteans led by Arthur’s half brother, Orm also known as Ocean Master, hated him and refused to acknowledge him as the King of Atlantis. The other side is not so friendly to him either. On land, the humans fear or hate Arthur. Some make jokes about him, and do not give him the respect a hero deserves. While others fear him for what he is.
It is hard for me to not draw a parallel to the biracial experience of my reality. Not black enough for the African American community, but black enough to be feared and hated by the white community. While I do not intend to blanket statement all white people as racist, or all black people as dismissive toward biracial people, I do ask that you acknowledge both exist. I can only speak for my experiences, but I do know that it is hard for biracial people of all mixes to find the acceptance and representation of either side of their lineage. This is an experience fully manifested in Aquaman.
When the DCEU launched, I grew worried that Aquaman’s story would not fully display the elements of the character that make him relatable to the biracial community. I was surprised to find by the casting, James Wan and Warner Brothers have doubled down on those elements. By casting Jason Momoa as Arthur, Temuera Morrison as Thomas Curry (Arthur’s father), and Nicole Kidman as Atlanna (Arthur’s mother), they have literally made Arthur mixed with not only Atlantean and human, but also with brown and white. In fact, so far most Atlanteans who have been cast have been white. Along with Kidman, Patrick Wilson will portray Orm, Willem Dafoe will portray Vulko, and Amber Heard will portray Mera. As of right now, it seems as if Arthur’s human half will not be the only thing making him an outsider in the Atlantean world. This also makes his relationship with Mera an interracial relationship.
Later this year, Jason Momoa is set to depict the half human, half Atlantean character for the first time in a substantial way. While Momoa provides important much needed Polynesian representation in the film as an actor, his character will provide the representation of interracial individuals everywhere. So as you watch Momoa become Arthur Curry, and you see his internal and external struggle with his lineage on both sides, recognize that this story is not just a fictional tale. Everyday biracial individuals have to battle for acceptance within a certain community, as well as battle within themselves to find who they are. Aquaman embodies that narrative, Aquaman is our representation.