Representation matters, even when it is white

Geralt and Ciri from the fantasy game 'The Witcher'

The show runners of the Witcher TV show, back in the month of September, faced a severe backlash on the social media from the fanbase when they announced that they were looking for a woman of color to play the role of Ciri. Ciri, in both the story and the game, was represented ethnically as white. Even though it was a fantasy story set in a completely different universe of its own, populated by mythical creatures, wizards, and witches, the fan base was still not comfortable with the show runners changing the ethnicity of one of the lead characters. Lauren Hissrich, one of the showrunners, even left twitter temporarily as the result of the fan backlash.

Now, Netflix has officially announced the whole cast for the TV show, and they have kept the ethnicity of most of the lead characters the same as it was represented in the book and the game. Still, the slightest changes the show runners made to the universe, is still faced with backlash from the gaming community.

Witcher TV show cast announcement from Netflix | Source: Twitter

Actress Mimi Ndiweni (The Legend of Tarzan, Cinderella) has been cast in the role of Fringilla Vigo, a Nifgaardian sorceress in the series. The fanbase is still not happy with slightest change in the representation of characters, even when the character is a least important one in the story.

Ethnicity and Hollywood

Diversity in the representation of characters portrayed in the live action adaptations, even in the animation sphere too, has changed a lot for good in the last decade. More number of diverse artists are being recognized and lauded every year for their work by both studios in Hollywood and the academy. Hollywood even takes pride nowadays in casting men and women of color in their upcoming projects.

Even though this tendency of studios to cast men and women of color should be welcomed by everyone, there is an unexpected effect to this progression. These results, even though not wrong, sometimes spark a negative reaction from the fanbase or the community from which the story gets adapted for small or large screen. Ardent fans of properties that are not originally created for the silver screen usually are reluctant when the casting is not done the way it should be. It is not always about casting right. Casting the characters the way they were originally portrayed is also equally important.

A similar controversy arose when the streaming service DC Universe announced that African-American actress Anna Diop would be playing the role of Starfire, for its upcoming TV show ‘Titans’. The fanbase just couldn’t accept the fact that changing the ethnicity of a character for the sake of representation would do any good.

Anna Diop as Starfire for DC Universe’s ‘Titans’ TV series | Courtesy : DC Universe

Hollywood was accused in the past so many times for whitewashing the ethnicity of so many characters in the live action adaptations. If whitewashing is something that shouldn’t prevail in Hollywood, then changing the ethnicity of the existing characters just for the sake of having a cast that is ethnically diverse would create equal controversies in the future. Instead Hollywood and the TV studios should focus more on creating original characters that represent the diverse communities.