ON AMELIE WEN ZHAO AND THE WITCHER CONTROVERSIES

It is disconcerting to see progressives eat themselves in their confusion. Those that we all look up and try to follow their example usually turn out as confused and misled as the rest of us. Two major occurrings showed that US SFF community, corporate executives, and creators themselves have been so stuck in one up-ing each other in who is more liberal that they forgot that the rest of the world has been happening long before and after the US. First example – the inflated outrage over the casting choice for Netflix adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s “The Witcher”. Second – with the recent example of Amélie Wen Zhao.

The Sword of Destiny has two blades.

Nothing warms my heart more than the crying fanboys who are angry at women and minorities in their favourite franchises. Their racist/sexist suffering gives me strength to read more of the slushpile. Diverse casts are a no-brainer, but have their own caveats.

But when a bunch of Netflix executives, probably afraid of ComicsGate or GamerGate backlash, announced that the cast of a polish cultural heritage would be diverse within the American standards – of course there was outrage. Polish culture and Eastern Europe has had its own trouble with diversity, oppression, and representation. Historic oppression of Jews (and typecasting jewish actresses in roles of witches), continuous oppression of Roma people, ethnic conflict with Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Germans, and more. The Witcher addresses some of the above, and the show had the chance more of those. Instead they chose the easy way out and pretended to diversify their cast.

This not only unnecessarily opened a lot of minority actors and actresses associated with the roles to the sort of treatment that made Kelly Marie Tran leave social media. It put the writers and directors of the series under unnecessary pressure. And what is worse, Netflix hired white people after all, but not polish or at least of polish descent – but b-list British and American actors. The coward’s way out.

This all seemed like either a cheap publicity stunt that backfired, or Americans applying their own standards and ways of life on the rest of the world. It baffles me that their INDIVIDUALISM that should’ve died out with the JFK-praising generation, is stronger in the Trump era and especially among the anti-Trump people.

None of the above was necessary.

The history of the world started on July 4th, 1776

Amelie Wen Zhao wrote a YA fantasy book – Blood Heir (don’t confuse with Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke which we review in TCM #2 ) that is basically Game of Thrones + Anastasia in Russian Imperial Siberia/China border.

NEWSFLASH, until 1861 there was slavery in Russian Empire and tight-arsed aristocracy lost and won serfs by hundreds playing preferans in smoke-filled salons. It was horrible and ugly. Just like any kind of slavery. Depicting it in fantasy, if done properly, can be realistic, grimdark, and enhances the landscape of SFF.

And yet we have the same output – inflated outrage that there was not enough black people in a book that touches on the issues of slavery, and those that were – were not depicted in the best way possible. Every work of art has a racial aspect to it and every community’s criticism of this art has the right to exist and should not be silenced – whether it is right or wrong is a part of the discourse. But when white authors and readers (who often haven’t even read the book) thought that a couple posts by black reviewers gave them the right to outrage and began brigading Wen Zhao and her publishers in the best traditions of r/drama, it looked like they simply hyped on the situation to earn points in American liberalism.

It looked pathetic and dangerous. Borderline ComicsGaters. US YA-fantasy twitter community is not the healthiest environment (https://www.vulture.com/2017/08/the-toxic-drama-of-ya-twitter.html), and now this.

Once again, it might turn out as a cheap publicity stunt to hype up the book (understandably so – they cashed out 50k on the deal, unheard of for me), or another exercise in American Individualism. What’s worse – it’s probably both.

Riddles in the Dark

Why not create more original stories with diverse cast and honest representation? What’s up with white people wanting to make their inherently white heroes, with white privileges and white problems – in different races/ethnicities? It is not up for me to put my 2c into the discussion. Even if I tried, I could never put it better than Nnendi Okorafor (she’s got a PhD after all) regarding black Batman:

 

Write more stories. Different. Diverse. Honest to their core and to how you feel. Hold to the things you love, but not to those you hate. It is so much easier to be positive.

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