The Witcher

Diversity, Inclusion, Netflix and The Witcher – And why it’s not about Racism

TL;DR:

It's about logic. And I assume that still exists in a fictional universe – and especially one that's so historically accurate, despity zombies and monsters.


So, right off the bat, knowing myself a bit, this is probably going to be a long post, but I try my best to make it readable, perhaps a bit enjoyable.


Disclaimer:

I am well aware that the Netflix series is, at least character wise, an independent adaption of the book series, just like the game series has been – and therefore doesn't really need to be true to the visuals established by the games. That being said, I'd wager that the core target audience of the series comprises mostly gamers, rather than book purists. With that in mind, it would seem like a pretty sound business decision to me if Netflix had assembled a cast that was very close to the games.
But even if they didn't do that exactly, they probably had a lot of goodwill from people who just want to see Geralt in Live-Action.

Also, I did read most of the books, but I kinda binged them immediately after the release of The Witcher 1 back in 2007, so to me that's very similar to Harry Potter, ASOIAF (GoT) and Lord of the Rings, where I did have an independent inner visualization of the characters, until the now iconic mainstream cast completely took over – mostly for the better. But that also means that, while I'm certainly open to interpretations, I'm a bit spoiled by well done interpretations. Witcher 3 Geralt (and more importatnly the voice) is my headcanon, just like Viggo Mortensen is Aragorn.
Also, my recent memory is filled with the games' content, so I might not always reason with the actual source material in mind. But really, I gotta bust out the books again…

Now let's get to the meat, shall we?

Genetics

The "Continent" is not especially Polish in nature, but rather Central European, with a lot of real-life analogies. France, Italy and Spain became Toussaint (French in name and wine), Skellige is a mixture of Skandinavia and Britain (maybe some North German aspects too, just going by the name) and Nilfgaard has some Hussar elements from Hungaria, Croatia, Romania and Serbia. The continent is actually pretty similar to Middle Earth and Westeros:
Regarding skin color, all three continents are rather homogenous – just like Europe. You have some outer "extremes" like tall and blonde for Skandinavia (and Rohan) as well as maybe shorter, olive-skinned and dark haired people in the south, like Italy and Dorne. With a wild mixture in the middle, like Germany for example. All three continents have something in common: Easterners, similar to Arabs, live in a continent far away in the East (…duh) and are pretty much a rarity on the continent, like the Haradrim, Easterlings, Dothraki, Kofireri and Zerrikanians for example.
That's also pretty close to medieval European reality: We had trade relationships with "Orientals" via the silk road for example, but traders were pretty much relay racers, transporting goods from one trade post to the next. And because only very few traders traveled the road the entire way, "Orientals" were a very rare sight in medieval Europe – except for Muslim expansion forces who raided all the way to France.
Europe only started becoming really racially diverse well after colonization started in the 16th century.


"But the Witcher Universe has Elves, Dwarves and mythic monsters, so why no PoC?"

Because, like most fantasy settings, The Witcher universe doesn't throw reality completely out of the window. It only modifies very few aspects of reality and history. It`s mostly still very true to our reality: People still have to eat and Newtonian rules are present. Men are still stronger than women, so you don't have a ton of female soldiers.
There are some fantasy settings that justify warrior women, either by making them super ripped, which I'd personally like to see more (Justice League was a good example, if only for that specific aspect. They had crossfit athletes as Amazons) or by introducing races with less gender disparities, like Elves are sometimes portrayed.
Witches are another example, fighting with magic talent and intelligence, rather than relying on muscular strength.

Read:  So i finished the Blood and Wine DLC and its the best thing ive played in last few years!

So assuming genetics work like in real life, there has to be a pretty damn well thought out reason why there's a racially different person around. Just like there is a good reason why there are non-humans and monsters: The conjunction of spheres had them travel there from actual different planets, similar to the Orcs of Warcraft.

Society

Racism is actually a very central aspect to the Witcher universe. Humans are constantly quarreling, not only amongst themselves, but especially against non-humans. Hell, the protagonist is an actual mutant, a freak of nature, who despite doing society a favor, encounters a lot of hostility, just because of his looks and his abilities.

I don't remember if homosexuality was a theme in the books, but I do remember encountering a banished hunter in TW3, who considered himself as a freak just like Geralt, just because he likes dudes (and his boyfriend was murdered IIRC).
The same goes for sexism: Women have very limited options, just like they historically had. You can either be a working-class wife, a nun, a whore or study your way up the witch career ladder – if you are able to read, that is. There are very limited examples of Valkyrie or Amazon type warrior women – again, because gender disparity is a thing.

The medieval ages were tough on common people. There weren't too many options for men either. You probably picked up your dad's profession, married young and tried to seed a child before you were conscripted into a war you probably didn't survive.
But what's even worse about sexism for women: Sucessfull and/or intelligent women (and gingers of course) were extremely suspicious – because that can only mean she's in bed with the devil to give her that power! So even "supernatural" ablities like medicine seemed improbably for women. That's why we have druids! And in turn, they burn. At the stake.

So imagine living in such a society. You're probably not a witcher or sorcerer or royalty with education. You're gonna be the 99%: A "dumb" farmer. Does it seem sensible to welcome somebody whose skin color is basically the opposite of yours? When even the people across the border are strange because they talk a different tongue, although they look exactly like you?

We still have that in Europe and it's the source of many a racist (but funny) joke. Hell, we still have that for different regions in Germany alone! It's mostly tongue in cheek, but the prejudice remains – often with a quantum of truth behind it. Just look at Jews, historically oppressed and often forbidden from manual labor. So they became bankers and lawyers. Does that make them greedy leprechauns? No! But, regarding their choices in careers, they'd be much more likely to eye financial aspects, because they're much more likely to have a profession in the financial field.

So wouldn't it be more likely for uneducated commoners to instantly lynch a PoC because they look "not right" or "not natural" – or even "like the devil"?

And that's precicely what ruins Anya Chalotra as Yennefer for me! Sure, she was born a hunchback and learned the skills to transform herself into anything she wants. And maybe she likes Indian woman as much as I do, but why would she do that if the only thing she gains from it is… MORE hostility!

Read:  Does Dandelion ever become less of a boor? For that matter, is there any more character development for Geralt?

Epilogue

You're just a white supremasexist! (<- I just invented that term. Shorter than most insults. Get on with it, tumblr!)

No, I'm not. I loved the TV series "Avatar" for example. No white people to be found (but made by white people, ok). I also loved Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, movie) and I watched it in O-Tone with subtitles more than with synchronization (because that always sucks, no matter which languages), like I watch any foreign movies (but my English is good enough for most American titles – I sometimes need English subs for Texan and Scottish or Irish movies though).
I'm also not complaining about "Blackwashing". Just keep your damn facts straight: No blacks in a society that's inherently xenophobic.

This is also not a "white" issue. First off, there's no such thing as a "white culture", especially from a Central European view point – Certainly, Oktoberfest is a different cultural phenomenon from Swiss Cheese Fondue….
Second: I was just as pissed as I'm now when M.Night Shyamalan announced his cast for Katara and Socca as (especially pale) white guys, when they were obvious Eskimos in the cartoon (which is not an offensive term. It means "snow people". "Inuit" should be more offensive to actual Eskimos, especially if they are not of the Inuit tribe. It's like Azteks and Mayas), then he announced to tan them which he didn't do anyway.
And all the bad guys were Indians for some strange reason. And the script was super bad. And Penis hair. Which I actually styled the missus with, but she has black hair and it was a black dick, so I instantly left her because I'm a racist, according to producers of franchises I used to like….

(We're still happy and expect a child. Probably a straight white whale tho, so instant racist….)

Not tired? Read on!

Another example is "Gods of Egypt" with Nicolaj Coster-Waldau as… a money-grabbin Lannister and Gerard Butler as… himself (I seriously like the guy, but he can only play himself in any given movie!). So You're gonna go back to an OG "Spartacus" age? Might as well revive John Wayne and cast him as Osiris then. But it was an even whiter dude, Bryan Brown (maybe they were mislead by the name…).
And almost all the gods are white, except for Chadwick Boseman, who, in turn, is too black to portray an Egyptian. For fuck's sake, just throw Ben Kingsley in there. He can perform anything. Seriously, read his Wiki page. He's basically the most diverse individual person to ever exist….

The reason I can accept Idris Elba as Heimdall (originally the whitest dude evar) is because they make a point to describe Ásgard as a kingdom "of nine realms", which probably includes planets with diverse races (which explains Hogun as well) – and maybe, humans descended from that, at least in the MCU. And Idris is a really good and likable (and hot) actor. I still wouldn't like him to play James Bond, but something like "005: Felix Leiter" would be awesome – but that's for Jeffrey Wright to shine (beard win!), so just try to imagine any agent number between 0 and 999! Is that so hard?

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