With the success of The Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood is finally discovering the value of representation. Obviously, there's financial value - both films are among the highest grossing of 2018. But there's also cultural value. Many viewers have expressed sweet messages about good it feels to see someone on the big screen who looks like them - whether it's a superhero movie or a rom-com.
The television landscape has become more diverse as well, with the hit sitcoms Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat. But what about animated shows? How many cartoons can you name with a mostly black cast? Off the top of my head, all I could think of was The Boondocks (cancelled), The Cleveland Show (cancelled), and Fat Albert (cancelled, and starring a sexually violent predator). Most of the time, black characters aren't the leads, which South Park hilariously mocked by naming one of them 'Token.'
Tyron Handy, a Philadelphia-based comic artist and children's book illustrator, recently reimagined his favorite cartoons with all-black characters. And no, that doesn't just mean just changing the skin tone. "Most recreations that I see are just people putting designer clothes and jewelery onto the characters and changing their skin colour," he explained to BuzzFeed. "My recreations really look like they could be parallel versions of the characters."
So far Handy has re-imagined The Simpsons, Family Guy, Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Rugrats and Hey Arnold. He posted the drawings to his Instagram account, and they went viral, with fans raving about how the cool the race-swapped characters look. "Marge's afro hair finally fits the character," one Instagram user hilariously observed.
"There weren’t a lot of cartoons that I felt represented me much growing up," Handy told BuzzFeed. "Most black characters in cartoons and tv shows were stereotypical side characters and the best friend of the white main character. Black kids need to be able to see more representations of themselves in media... I hope that one day I can run my own animation studio. I want to create more cartoons with black lead characters that will better represent the black experience."
In addition to his amazing "re-imagined" artwork, Handy creates an original weekly comic strip. The series is called Apple Dapple Tactics, following Ty, a mid-20's software engineer for Coca Cola with complicated relationships. Maybe one day his online comic will get adapted to television, and his work will inspire the next generation of artists.
In the meantime, Handy can continue making noise on the internet with his viral re-imaginings. I mean, he's only scratched the surface of mostly-white cartoons. He could re-imagine Rick and Morty, Bob's Burgers, Futurama, South Park, King Of The Hill, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, etc.
As the entertainment industry embraces more diverse voices, the world gets more diverse stories. This year Supergirl announced they will debut TV's first transgender superhero and Marvel announced the first Muslim superhero in their 'Cinematic Universe.' Who knows what's next?