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”Hi there! Want the appearance of more diversity on your white show, now that the audience is savvy (because they weren't before, it's not like they just didn't have the means to spread awareness)? Look no further! In casting a minority as your white lead's love interest, you'll get the appearance of diversity without having to put in any work! Who is this love interest? What do they want, what motivates them? Who cares! As long as they're around to cheer the hero on when necessary, no need to fuss. Come Season 2, you can start leaving them in the background, their sole existence based on their white romantic partner (or, if all else fails, the other men in the narrative!)”
It's a tendency that's become apparent recently, notably in superhero television, seemingly as a short-cut to appear to finally give main roles to characters of color. For the lead roles, it's more of a In Name Only second billing, but the character gets neither the screen time nor the independent development afforded the lead, nor, importantly, the independent characterisation afforded their white counterparts, sometimes even the other supporting characters. If they do, it's usually in an otherwise all-white cast which isn't exactly reflective of the real world communities the shows are supposedly trying to depict.
There are also examples to be found that are not a lead character on a show, but compared to other main characters' love interests, the discrepancy is evident. Say a show has an ensemble cast and two of its main characters are given love interests. The white love interest will most of the time get more screen-time and development than the minority love interest.
- Harry Potter — Cho Chang, criticised for being a character named with two last names as an indicator of not taking care to properly represent a non-white culture.
- “She’s written mainly as Harry’s love interest, which means that we learn absolutely nothing about her, apart from the fact that she plays quidditch and joins Dumbledore’s army. Despite a brief comment by Hermione on how much Cho is going through in "The Order of the Phoenix," we learn nothing about her. She does not get the challenge the stereotypes that Rowling has placed upon her.”
- Agent Carter — Jason Wilkes
- The Flash — Iris West.
- Legends of Tomorrow — Desmond Laveau
- Riverdale — Zig-Zagged: Toni Topaz has agency and gets a story of her own when she is first introduced. Then, she is paired with a Psycho Lesbian and becomes this trope, abused to boot.
- Supergirl — James Olsen.