“The Witcher” is a role-playing game, taking place in a medieval fantasy world, and is inspired by the novel series “The Witcher” by Polish author Andre Sapkowski. The setting is based on Eastern European folklore and mythology.
In spite of being hugely popular and having a large, loyal, fanbase I had never heard of it. Until recently, that is. Netflix is making it into a live action show and are preemptively alienating the core fan base by not adhering to the lore through race bending central characters. Eastern European fans of "The Witcher", and particularly those of Polish decent, are left feeling robbed of one of the few pieces of media where they are represented.
Being unfamiliar with the series, I tried to imagine my reaction to Netflix producing Camelot and having Lancelot played by a Filipino man. Personally, I’d want a lore-fitting explanation as to what a Filipino man is doing in Arthurian England and, furthermore, how he managed to become the most famous knight at the round table. I suspect, invariably, that whatever retrofit reasoning was provided it would cleave Lancelot from the story - thus taking a main and beloved character out of his setting.
Why is Netflix tampering with this established property?
Strangely, Netflix passed an opportunity with “Death Note” to cast Asians. And, alternately, for the popular series, “Haunting of Hill House”, they did not leverage the absence of preestablished lore. Netflix could have gone in any direction with casting this horror series but ended up leaning heavily on the trope that only white people would move into a haunted house. 1
With this sort of apparent randomness in treatment, one may wonder, what would Netflix do if it produced, say, “Black Panther”? In a tweet, show writer for “The Witcher”, Beau DeMayo, stated: “To make a white actor Black Panther would literally make no sense due to how race plays a part in the character.” Sort of like how race plays a part in the “The Witcher”, but clearly not enough like.
However, his response is no guarantee. Early on, Lauren S. Hissrich, showrunner for “The Witcher”, had assured fans that Netflix would stick closely to the source material. This turned out not to be entirely true. The answer, then, as to what the Netflix agenda would do with the “Black Panther”, is that it would be anyone’s guess. 2
After rejecting and even castigating fans, I have to wonder what could possibly be the demographic that Netflix is going for? Certainly not pre-existing fans. Strangely, they seem to be counting on those who had never heard of it. For example, me. Netflix can reshape the story as they wish and I won’t know any better. I feel honoured. 2 With me, they’re off the hook.
No disrespect, Mister and Miss Netflix, but fair warning, I will be interested to learn how a young Zimbabwean woman ended up in an Eastern Europe inspired setting during the mythological middle ages. Just sayin’.
1 For those too young to remember a time before political correctness or for those of who have forgotten – this is what an attempt at humour looks like.
The quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech.
The use of irony to mock or convey contempt.