After so much initial fan enthusiasm for Netflix’s The Witcher TV show, and regular updates from showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich, things have turned a little sour over the last week. First of all, there was a little bit of backlash over the casting of Henry Cavill in the lead role of Geralt. I myself expressed some concerns that he didn’t seem right for the role, but it was nothing to get your knickers in a twist over. After all, Cavill may be very good in the role and many fans were happy.
However, the next piece of casting news coming out of The Witcher was met with a hell of a lot more backlash.
News broke that The Witcher was looking for a black actress to play the role of Ciri, Geralt’s adopted daughter and the heir of the Nilfgardian Empire, as well as a descendant of powerful Elvan ancestry. Above is a picture of Ciri as she appears as an adult in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game from CD Projekt Red. Ciri is the lady with white hair in the back holding a sword. In the books Ciri was described very much like you see here, with pale skin and white hair. From a story point of view in the books this makes a lot of sense as it helps disguise Ciri as the daughter of Geralt, who also has white hair as a part of his Witcher Mutations he went through as a child, which is called the Trial of the Grasses.
Ciri is being hunted by both her Father Emyr, the Emperor and from various other nefarious characters who want to get their hands on a child of the Elder Blood. Geralt and his lover Yennefer take Ciri in as their own daughter to keep her safe as she grows up. So perhaps you can start to see why fans are getting a little annoyed by this. Let’s explore a few other details also.
If the showrunners decide to maker Ciri black, then they will also have to make either her Father and the Nilfgardians black as well, or the Elves that are slowly dying away and make up the other side of her parentage. That makes sense, right? However, the Nilfgardians were depicted very much like the French during Napoleon’s era or the Germans during The Great War and in this world are referred to as “The Black Ones” as they continually try to acquire dominion over the territories in the North. Now that doesn’t seem like a great name to use for a race of black people, does it? If we go with Elves, well Elves are supposed to be from a time when there was no sun, no Sun makes it seems pretty illogical to have black skin and the translation of the original Elf word from German is literally ‘white’.
The Witcher books by Andrej Sapkowski were very much imagined as if taking place in Nordic Europe, i.e. Denmark, The Netherlands, Finland, Poland etc. Sapkowski’s own country Poland has been invaded by southern aggressors more times than I have had hot dinners and its invasion in 1938 is what really started WWII. In his books, Sapkowski details a land that seems like an ancient version of this part of Europe, and in this world, there are of course other races. There are Middle-Eastern, African and other races, however, these people live in a land that is not really connected to the core of the story, much like Tolkien’s stories set in Middle-Earth. So some fans are a little unhappy that, after claiming they’d stick very close to the source Novels, it seems like they are making quite a dramatic change.
The backlash from this has caused the previously very active Lauren S. Hissrich to announce she is taking a break from Twitter. Here is her last post below.
It's time for a Twitter hiatus. The love here is amazing, and the hate is enlightening, like a real-life Trial of the Grasses, except I HAVE to read less and write more — or we won't have a damn finale. Be back soon with more insight and more Roach. Be nice to each other, okay?
— Lauren S. Hissrich (@LHissrich) September 10, 2018
Realistically, I personally don’t have much of a concern here as long as they match the racial choice they make with one side of Ciri’s bloodline. But there is an argument to made given the bedlam that erupts when a part originally created for a black or Asian role gets ‘whitewashed’ i.e. the character is changed to be a white character. We only have to look at the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange to see the uproar this can cause. Many fans are arguing that this is the opposite of whitewashing, as a role very much associated with the image above is being changed into a black actor. It would be fair to say that the fallout would be just as strong if it happened the other way around.
So is this a reasonable argument? In my opinion yes, I can see the logic behind the debate here. There seems to be a lot of reasons to have Ciri cast as a white actor, and very little logical reasons to have the character cast as a black actor. Therefore is this being done, not for artistic reasons but for social equality reasons? If that is the case, then should movies and TV shows be the place to address this? That’s a whole other argument which I’ll leave you to have.
What do you think of the decision to have a black actor play Ciri? Sound off below about this or any of the controversy it’s caused. This one is bound to get sensitive, so please be nice to one another down there in the land of chat.
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SOURCE: Lauren S. Hissrich (via Twitter)