TV discussion

The Flash: New Costume Sparks Body-Shaming Backlash

News has been leaking online over the last few days of a brand new costume that will feature in season five of The CW’s The Flash series. Whilst a new costume for the popular hero has been a source of excitement for many fans, a small yet vocal minority have lashed out not only at the design, but at actor Grant Gustin himself.

The new suit looks to be much closer in design to the one worn by the character in the comics. The leather has been replaced with fabric, and most startlingly different, the chin is no longer a part of the cowl. The open face look of the new design jumps out instantly as it’s such a big departure from all of the versions of the Flash suit we’ve had yet, but it also looks just like the character in the books. As a fan of the source material, it’s a bold decision to change to look like this, but I think that it looks great.

Unfortunately, the internet being the internet, there were people who immediately took to the web to complain about the new costume. People have complained that the mask looks ‘too goofy’, that the ‘leather look was better’ (despite so many people complaining about the leather for four years), and that it ‘looks like a carnival kids’ costume’.

Whilst these kinds of complaints are to be expected from any superhero costume (has there ever been one that everyone has liked?) it’s worth remembering that this is a leaked image of an unfinished costume. There are changes being made to it, it’s in unflattering light, and there could even be extra effects added to it. It’s the same as the complaints about the Titans costume leaks from a few months ago.

What was surprising about some of the comments, however, is how many have attacked Gustin personally. People have complained that Gustin is ‘too thin’, that he needs to be more muscular to play the character, and some have even said that he looks ‘sick’.

These comments immediately generated a response from Gustin himself, who took to Instagram to say the following:

So here’s the thing about this bullshit photo leak. It’s a cool suit. That’s a terrible photo that I was unaware was being taken, much less being posted. Some things need work and they will be worked on. We’ll get there.

As far as the body shaming. That’s what pisses me off. Not even for my sake. I’ve had 20+ years of kids and adults telling me or my parents I was too thin. I’ve had my own journey of accepting it. But there’s a double standard where it’s okay to talk about a dude’s body. I do my best to stay in shape and add as much size as I can through out these seasons. I’m naturally thin, and my appetite is greatly affected by stress. Stress is something that ebbs and flows for me throughout a season. Thus gaining weight is a challenge for me. I didn’t cast as a slim actor as The Flash. I went to an audition for a role I never dreamed I’d actually book.

But, here I am 5 seasons later. I’m happy with my body and who I am and other kids who are built like me and thinner should be able to feel like THEY could be a superhero on tv or film or whatever it may be someday.

I love the suit that has been designed for me, and I think when everyone sees it in its entirety, you will love it too. Things have been adjusted since that leaked shot was taken, and more things will continue to be adjusted until it feels right.”

Grant Gustin also posted a short video to the social media site in which, visibly upset by the comments that he has been subjected to, he says ‘fuck whoever leaked that’.

Sadly, I have to agree with Gustin on this topic. Not only do leaks spoil the experience of the show, but also give false expectations of what things will look like. Behind the scenes photos aren’t how things are supposed to be viewed. You see things in a way they’re not designed to be seen, without finished effects, or even in a way that they’ll never look on screen. Sometimes people understand this about behind the scenes images – nobody thought that Spider-Man’s new suit would be black and grey spandex covered in numbers in the final product – but people seem to forget this about practical costumes. Camera angles, set lighting, how an actor moves all affect how a suit will look.

As for Gustin being ‘too thin’ for the role, I don’t understand these complaints. The Flash is a runner. He’s not a muscular fighter. It makes a lot of sense for him to be thinner. When you factor in how fast his meta-human metabolism is and how quickly his body burns calories it would be incredibly hard for the character to put on lots of weight. Gustin is slim yes, but I’ve never looked at him and thought that he looks unhealthy, or that he doesn’t look right in the role. He’s played the part perfectly for four years, and embodied the Flash in ways that other actors haven’t.

Not liking a design is one thing, but not liking an unfinished costume and then attacking the shape and size of a person’s body because of it is not only a foolish decision, but also incredibly ignorant and cruel. With toxic fans affecting so many franchises lately, it’s time to put a stop to this kind of abuse and to call out those doing it.  Instead, let’s keep coming together to enjoy something that we all love.

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