If you’re like me, that means you’re a major fan of fantasy and you basically grew up on it. Also you might’ve spent too many hours in front of a TV. You’ve heard the names Frodo, Potter, Skywalker; even if you’ve never seen any of their movies. However, a genre that spurs witches and magical creatures seems to have a hard time incorporating diverse characters. Fantasy isn’t limited to European wizards, European elves, European knights…do you see where I’m going? Like many in my generation (shoutout to my other 90’s kids) we obsessed over Harry Potter, Narnia and Lord of the Rings but our faces weren’t represented on screen. Best case scenario we got a background extra with screen time. Which frankly sucks. If we’re able to have dragons or talking lions, why is diversity in fantasy so far fetched? Finally, a generation of fantasy lovers who got tired of being left out created amazing content that shifted the culture and conversation. Let’s check out this list of diverse fantasy adaptations and see if your favorite made it!
1. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Even though I’m not doing my list in any preferable order, it only felt right to start off with She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Despite the fact that the show is based upon powerful princesses, the show reflects a world we see today. In She-Ra we see people of color, women, individuals with autism and those of various sexual orientations and gender identities. It’s not hard to identify with a character (or two) and it’s honestly the show we all deserved growing up. Dive into even more She-Ra content with The Legend of the Fire Princess written by Gigi D.G.
2. Raising Dion
If you’re still wondering if you should get into Raising Dion, good news the universe sent me to convince you. Up until 2018, a black superhero lead wasn’t even fathomable. I’ve mentioned numerous times the reasons why Raising Dion just works; it could be that Dion while trying to navigate issues like losing his dad, racism, and making friends; now how to understand his (new) telekinesis powers to save the world. Or it could be also be seeing a superhero who looks like me kicking major butt with cool powers. Based on the comic by Dennis Liu, Raising Dion showcases that any of us can be a hero.
3. Wonder Woman
Whether you’re a fan of DC or Marvel, everyone remembered where they were when Wonder Woman’s trailer dropped. Even the existence of the 2017 film is groundbreaking, because it was the first female-lead superhero movie. I watched the film in it’s opening month and my mind was blown. Picture this: Me an avid Marvel fan was crying in a movie theater with my fellow movie watchers basking in Wonder Woman’s glory. Unlike many of the female-lead superhero movies that followed, Wonder Woman has heart at its epicenter which shows in every scene. It’s no surprise it was the sixth highest-grossing movie of 2017. As a woman I felt seen and inspired; finally we were leading the pack and not in the background.
4. Avatar/The Legend of Korra
Where do I even begin? I can say wholeheartedly that Avatar: the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra without a doubt changed animation, children’s cartoons and fantasy as a whole. Unlike its peers like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, ATLA/LOK excelled at excellent world building all the while including diversity. Avatar showcasing the beauty and richness in Asian culture has truly stood the test of time. Avatar and Korra touched upon topics like genocide, fascism, mental health and depression. Strong female leads, amazing character arcs and cool bending? Sounds pretty binge-worthy to me.
5. Marvel (Duh)
Knowing Marvel’s history, it’s no shocker that they’re on this list; Stan Lee created the X-Men comics as his response to the discrimination African Americans were facing during the Civil Rights Movement. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that Marvel truly broke the cookie cutter mold of what a hero can look like. Not only did Black Panther debut in theaters (and crush it), but so did Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse (who also crushed it). These films were significant for a wide array of reasons; Black Panther being the first superhero blockbuster lead by a black lead, majority black cast, black director and backed by Marvel? Yeah you don’t see that often. Then Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse showcased Miles Morales, the Afro-Latino teen who picks up the iconic mantle of Spider-Man while trying to make his own name. Both movies left my mouth agape (a habit if you haven’t noticed), with tears in my eyes and my heart fluttering. Their critical and commercial success showcased that it’s not risky highlight black artists. But most importantly, they reminded black boys and girls to be proud of their roots, I know I was.
6. Steven Universe
Be honest, you read the name and you were already singing the intro weren’t you? Regardless, a show like Steven Universe is needed on television. Everyone is celebrated no matter their gender, size, race or ability; and no one is made to feel less than. I’m 23 and Steven is still teaching me life lessons folks. The beautiful animation, comedy, amazing characters and lessons, truly make it perfect. The Legend of Korra crawled so shows like this could flourish and we’re definitely reaping the benefits. Steven’s adventures continue in the Steven Universe Original Graphic Novel: Crystal Clean, written by Rebecca Sugar.
7. Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
Here I am recommending another great show; I’m really the nicest person you know. Netflix recommended this show to me after finishing She-Ra and Avatar (again); and I just want to know: where has this show been my whole life? Three kids of color fighting magical creatures in a futuristic world, while dealing with mature themes and a great soundtrack? Yeah this is right up my alley. The animation? Amazing. Characters? Obsessed. If anyone has Wolf merch please mail it to me. The original comic that started this show is no more, but hopefully season three is coming soon!
8. The Walking Dead
Now save your Walking Dead slander for someone else. Despite how this show has made you feel in recent episodes (or seasons) let’s remember happier times shall we? Even if you’re no longer an avid fan, you have to acknowledge the diversity within this show. We have strong female characters, of all ages, deaf actors, people of color and LGBTQ+ characters. The cast actually depicts what a world in the apocalypse would look like. Growing up and seeing Michonne a fearless fighter meant the world; even though Black Panther had its debut in 2018, every Sunday night Michonne reflected me on my television screen.
9. Stranger Things
Depending on who you are this may be controversial, even debatable. Let me start off with this, I didn’t watch Stranger Things until this year while in quarantine and it was the fastest I’ve ever gotten hooked on a show. Without question it’s a great show and it will be a pillar in this genre. However, is the cast as diverse as some of the others on this list? No, in fact many have pleaded with the showrunners to do more. Let’s be honest we still don’t know what Lucas’ parents look like, unlike his peers, and that’s a problem. So why include it? While there are many talented actors in this show, it’s carried by a strong female protagonist, Eleven, who’s not afraid to stand up to scary monsters, bullies or even her boyfriend Mike. Without her and her stellar performance, the ‘upside down’ would fall flat. Not to mention performances by Joyce Byers and Erica Sinclair who stole the show last season (and who show creators promised more of in the upcoming season). Plus writing in Gaten Matarazzo’s Cleidocranial Dysplasia so viewers around the world could understand CCD and relate to Dustin. This show isn’t the most diverse (at all), but it’s already impacted pop culture and most importantly it has potential to improve. If you want more Stranger Things content read Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds.
A genre that has space for witches, vampires and werewolves should also include characters of all shades, sizes and genders. These adaptations represent a generation that is not only inclusive, but got tired of waiting for others to include them, so they created the content themselves. Did any of your favorites make the list? Are you adding any of these to your must watch list? Happy reading and happy watching!