Reconsidering 'GYPSY' As an Ethnic Slur As the DC Character Comes to the CW

"Vibe" cover by Brett Booth
Credit: Brett Booth (DC Comics)
Credit: DC Comics

Sleepy Hollow's actress Jessica Camacho is scheduled to debut as the DC Comics character Gypsy in the January 31 episode of the CW's The Flash, but for some people her arrival will come with some unwanted connotations.

The term "Gypsy" itself is for many people a derogatory word with stereotypical associations and is considered a racial slur against Romani people.

Here is how the CW officially describes the episode:

DC COMICS’ GYPSY ARRIVES ON EARTH-1 – H.R.’s (Tom Cavanagh) past catches up with him when a bounty hunter with vibe powers named Gypsy (guest star Jessica Camacho) arrives in Central City to bring him back to Earth-19 to stand trial for his crime. It turns out inter-dimensional travel is illegal on their Earth. H.R. surrenders but when Barry (Grant Gustin) and Cisco (Carlos Valdes) find out that H.R.’s only hope would be to challenge Gypsy to a fight to the death, they intercede and Cisco offers to fight Gypsy instead.

The Flash actor Carlos Valdes also confirmed this, calling the character by name in a December CW "Fan Feast Q&A online.

Originally created by Gerry Conway and Chuck Patton for 1984's Justice League of America Annual #2, Cindy Reynolds (a.k.a. Gypsy) wore stereotypical 'gypsy' attire and had the ability to cast illusions. Throughout the years she was a member of the JLA during its Detroit era, as well as Justice League Task Force and the Birds of Prey. During Christopher Priest's mid-90s run on Justice League Task Force, she was identified as a descendant of Romani people. However, with the line-wide "New 52" reboot, the codename "Gypsy" was given to a new, seemingly unrelated character also in stereotypical attire; Cynthia Mordeth, the estranged daughter of the villain Mordeth, during the Vibe limited series.

The ties to The Flash's Cisco infer that the live-action version of Gypsy is pulling from the "New 52" Gypsy.

Ian Hancock, the former United Nations and UNICF ambassador for Romani people, calls the term "wrong and pejorative."

The term "Gypsy" originated from the false assumption in the Middle Ages that Romani people, when they migrated to Europe, came from Egypt. The term later expanded to describe a nomadic person or persons, conjuring stereotypical images of trading, thievery, and fortune telling. For Romani people however, it is a highly pejorative and racist term.

"I'm 100% supportive to have this character in CW's The Flash, but it should be done with respect and definitely not by using the word 'gypsy,'" Vicente Rodriguez, founder of the Romani advocacy group RomaPOP told Newsarama. "I don't know any Jewish person who would be happy with a character named 'Jewish' or any gay person happy with a character named 'Gay.'"

"Now on the way it is used, in almost every occasion the word 'gypsy' means 'thief,' 'wanderer,' 'free spirited hippy' or who knows what," Rodriguez explained. "In most European countries it is an insult, and millions of Romanies consider the word unacceptable."

Warner Bros., the CW, and DC Entertainment declined to comment on this story.

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