“Hey Ben, like Tim said, Batman needs a Robin.” These simple words at the end of an audition video sparked a debate over which Robin should show up in the upcoming Batman films, which shined light on the real issues to debate about: diversity and representation.
Earlier this month, the hashtag #RyanPotterforTimDrake was trending on Twitter. Many DC comic fans on the social media site wanted Asian-American actor Ryan Potter to play the role of Tim Drake in the upcoming Batman film, directed by Ben Affleck. Tim Drake is the third iteration of Robin that accompanies Batman in the comics, and considering the direction the DC films are going, it’s definitely possible for him to show up in the Batman film. It seemed even more possible once Ryan Potter began to show interest in the role.
A few days after he discovered this trending hashtag, Potter posted an audition video of himself fighting as Tim Drake. It now has more than half a million views, and has given Ryan Potter a huge wave of support from thousands of fans. Many of these fans are excited about Potter as Tim Drake because of his parallels to the character himself. In the comics, Tim Drake approaches Batman and tells him that he needs a Robin, and in a similar fashion, Ryan Potter approached Ben Affleck and told him that he should cast him. Despite the overwhelming support from fans, the video and the hashtag itself still received some criticism.
Many have claimed that what Ryan Potter did was unprofessional and that many fans are being unrealistic about the issue. It’s true that, more often than not, actors who campaign for roles are largely ignored by film studios in favor of someone more famous. Ryan Potter might have choreographed and filmed a short scene of himself fighting, but that doesn’t mean studios will be lining up to hire a relatively unknown actor like him. However, there is a popular example of such a campaign being successful, and that would be Deadpool, which started as a simple concept video and ended up becoming a record-breaking superhero film.
Regardless if campaigning for cinematic roles is successful or not, it seems almost necessary for actors of color to do something similar in order to be considered for any kind of role. Asian-American actors in particular have been lacking in films, so a video like the one Potter created is very significant. Prior to the video and the trending hashtag, most people would not have even considered an Asian-American actor to play a superhero in a blockbuster film.
It’s important to realize that representation and diversity in Hollywood films are what the hashtag and the video are really about. When Potter first posted the video, he also tweeted a brief message with it, saying, “Representation and Diversity. Now. Not Later.” Being cast as Tim Drake was not Potter’s main purpose for making this video. It doesn’t matter whether or not Potter is cast as Tim Drake. It doesn’t even matter if Tim Drake shows up in the upcoming DC film. What matters is that after a campaign like this, Hollywood film studios should bring more diversity into their films. It’s especially important for them to consider hiring more Asian-American actors in their films, especially since they are hardly seen on screen.
DC and Warner Brothers Studios have made an effort to include more diversity in their films, like in Suicide Squad and Justice League. Whether or not they did a good job is debatable, but at least they created those movies with representation in mind. They have not cast an Asian-American actor for a major role yet, but it’s likely that they will soon, especially after the attention Ryan Potter brought to the issue. If Superman can shoot lasers out of his eyes and if Wonder Woman can live for centuries, then it shouldn’t be a problem if Robin ends up being Asian-American.