When Voltron: Legendary Defender debuted in 2016, it brought quite a few changes to the plot and character designs shown in the original Voltron series. One of the most notable alterations to a character design was the change of Princess Allura’s skin tone — rather than carrying over the white and blonde design she was originally given, the creators chose to give her a darker skin tone. Whether it was intentional or not, this choice empowered children, gave cosplayers a new character to adore, and gave adults the pleasure of watching fans get excited about Allura’s character.
In 2018, Kimberly Brooks stated that part of what makes Allura her favorite character to portray is that “there’s not that many characters, at least for African-American women that are mainstream.” Brooks went on to say that, although Allura is Altean, there is “a pride behind it…representing African-Americans.”
But there’s more behind the pride she takes in being the voice of Voltron’s greatest hero. Brooks reiterated that “Even now you look at the news and black people can’t even go into a damn Starbucks without, you know, it being a problem. So, it’s just really neat to be a part of something that is positive.” Not only is Brooks taking pride in her work, but also the change her role made. No wonder Allura is her favorite character to date!
It’s two years after my interview with Kimberly, so why does this matter now? We are living through history right this moment. We are witnessing the murder of Black people, the protests against their mistreatment, and the riots calling for change. We’re watching police officers take a stand against police brutality and trying to learn, grow, and change. We are spectators in a situation that demands action. While the voice of a fictional character may not seem like much, this is the time to help our children engage with the heroes they deserve, to show them that their voices matter. And most importantly, that they can make any changes they set their mind to.
Princess Allura is more than a cartoon character. She is the strongest member of the Voltron team, but arguably the most vulnerable as well. Her tenacity is unrivaled and her sacrifice cannot and will not be forgotten by the Universe she saved. She may be Altean, but the color of her skin shows that black and brown children, specifically girls, can do anything.
I say these words as a Mexican-American woman. I cannot claim to understand the suffering the black community is undergoing. But I can say that parents everywhere, specifically white parents, need to start teaching their children early about racial injustice, and cartoons or comics are a wonderful medium for that. I have no doubt in mind that if Allura were present now, she would be on the Black Lives Matter front lines.
If you have opinions you’d like to voice or discuss, please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter. The Game of Nerds has always been a safe space for geeks, and we stand by that. We are learning, and we want to do better. We have the ability to change things in the nerd community. We stand by those protesting racial injustice, police brutality, and the murdering of black people in our nation. Princess Allura may not be here, but a new generation of girls emulating her energy and are ready to emerge.