I feel like this has to be said repeatedly as I write:
Fictional characters people. Fictional characters. One more time: You will never, ever run into an elf, a dragon (or its rider), or a mermaid. Can we acknowledge these things are true?
Oh my. This is the correct response.
Here is the truth. Fictional characters are fiction. When we think about this, we realize that any character can be played by almost anyone. Shakespeare understood this, as almost all of his plays had men in the role of women as women were not allowed to be actors in the time period!
In Shakespeare's day, female parts were played by male actors, while more recently, actresses have taken on some of his most famous male roles such as Hamlet and Julius Caesar. Clare McManus explores gender in the history of Shakespeare performance.
Would these angry folks be upset if we said, “Hey, look, the original artist's intent of every Shakespearean play was that men would play all roles regardless of the characters’ gender? So Juliet must be played by a man.” Of course, that is absolutely ridiculous, and the viewing audience has decided the narrative and the way they want to see the content today. This is how things work, in general. We rely on our imagination.
Some of these people are so upset about having a mermaid—yes, a creature that has never, ever existed in the real world—portrayed by a Black woman that they view it as a hate crime. I am not kidding.
That’s right. Replacing a character with half of a fish body with a Black woman with half of a fish body is the absolute equivalent of the murder of a Black man to these racist trolls.
What is interesting is that for all the hatred and loud talk, as well as review bombing on major sites, the truth is the shows themselves are succeeding. Rings of Power? Yes, review bombed at major sites — but Amazon reports it is already receiving nearly 25 million views a week, the highest viewership they’ve had, period. The same with HBO’s House of Dragons.
“Race Swapping” among dwarves and hobbits, again, creatures that have never existed. It is the second bit of review bombing that had me in stitches. “The focus is to teach people they are bad” teach who? What people? Is the reviewer saying he sympathizes with the bad guys, the ogres, who, again, are fictional creatures, and that they should not be taught their bad ways or something similar?
I wouldn’t give Amazon’s new series a 5/5, probably a 4/5 as it is one of the most beautiful shows I’ve seen but we are still in the setup phase. I’m loving the Game of Thrones prequel, however, there are some scenes that even I avert my eyes! Still, I have never thought to myself: how dare they cast this character in any way? Why? Because I’m there for the storytelling. It is the story that drives a film, a book, or a play.
Wake up, racist trolls, and non-existent imaginary creatures aren’t the property of white actors.
Now, I’ll just wait for you to start yelling about Percy Jackson’s Disney series with a Black Annabeth, and when you say, “It is a travesty to the original work,” I will point out the author cast the series and chose her for the part. So, go on. Come up with something else.
Now can we all move on and enjoy a film.
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