The Flash just lost its Elongated Man. Hartley Sawyer, who played Ralph Dibney, was fired from The Flash Monday after racist and misogynistic tweets were rediscovered by Flash fans. The community of fans of this series is taking a hard look back at statements and interviews with the storytellers and cast, specifically the lack of condemnation of racist and sexist messages sent to Candice Patton who plays Iris West-Allen. Many of these comments were born out of the “shipping” part of this fandom, specifically those who did not want to see Barry Allen in a romantic relationship with Iris, essentially the “Lois Lane” to the Flash’s “Superman.”
With Hartley Sawyer being fired from The Flash for racist and misogynistic tweets, it’s unclear what will happen to the character in season 7. Much of this season focused on introducing Sue Dearbon, Ralph Dibney’s comics-canonical love interest. Sawyer already had something of a reduced role this season, disappearing from the show for large chunks of it on his search for Dearbon.
Long before the current moment of protest, the CW publicly committed to diversity and inclusion. With their “Open to All” campaign, stars from their series, including Sawyer, shared messages say that all backgrounds and perspectives were “welcome” on the network.
How Hartley Sawyer Ended Up Fired from The Flash for Racist and Misogynistic Tweets
Image by Colin Bentley via the CW
Sawyer deleted his Twitter account, but screenshots of the offensive tweets are all over the platform. We won’t be sharing them here, suffice it to say that they were very offensive despite his assertion that they were meant to “get attention” and be humorous. He used a slur for homosexual men, said things that seemed in support of violence against women, and dismissed racism. Just last week, when others in the comics industry spoke out in support of the protests and before his old tweets resurfaced, he tweeted a mea culpa.
“I am white. I have white privilege. For too long I have not used my platform to advocate for POC. I apologize to all my brothers and sisters.”
The post below, from Grant Gustin’s Instagram, features a statement from showrunner Eric Wallace about the firing.
“This morning, many of you learned that Hartley Sawyer will not be returning for season seven of The Flash. Concerning his…tweets, they broke my heart and made me mad as hell. And they’re indicative of the larger problem in our country. Because, at present, our country still accepts and protects the continual harassment—unconscious or otherwise—terrorizing and brutalizing of black and brown people, which is far too often fatal….
“I, too, am committed to bringing permanent change to the work environment here on The Flash. Yes, this is a family show. But it’s for all families. That includes black and brown ones.”
Wallace committed to hiring black and brown writers, producers, and directors of all genders. He also said that The Flash stories need to reflect the American narrative, especially the stories that too often fall to the wayside or are told in inauthentic ways. He also named a number of victims of police brutality and spoke out against violence towards the press during the protests. Gustin only added that he was “shocked, saddened, and angry” at the racist and misogynistic tweets that got Hartley Sawyer fired from The Flash.
There is no further information on what will happen to the character in season 7, though there is a good chance he might be recast. As part of his power set, Ralph Dibney can change his appearance. They could cast a new actor and have an easily-explainable in-universe explanation for it. Or, they may just let the character run off with his comics-canonical love interest and move to new characters like Brandon McKnight’s Chester P. Runk and Kayla Compton’s Allegra Garcia.
View this post on Instagram
My words, irrelevant of being meant with an intent of humor, were hurtful, and unacceptable. I am ashamed I was capable of these really horrible attempts to get attention at that time. I regret them deeply. This was not acceptable behavior. These were words I threw out at the time with no thought or recognition of the harm my words could do, and now have done today. I am incredibly sorry, ashamed and disappointed in myself for my ignorance back then. I want to be very clear: this is not reflective of what I think or who I am now. Years ago, thanks to friends and experiences who helped me to open my eyes, I began my journey into becoming a more responsible adult – in terms of what I say, what I do, and beyond. I've largely kept that journey private, and this is another way that I have let so many down. I still have more work to do. But how I define myself now does not take away the impact of my words, or my responsibility for them. I am very sorry.
Featured Image by Katie Yu via the CW
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.