Can we, just once, have a person of color playing an established character and not have a bunch of assholes crawling out of the woodwork to tell us how much this ruins things for them?
For all my Tumblr reader fans (Tumblrians? Tumblites?), let me start by saying that I adore your beloved social medium, but I haven’t really had the time to sit down and learn how to use it, so for now this blog is just crossposted there. When I have time to learn the culture of Tumblr and use it effectively, then I’ll be more involved.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t read Tumblrs (is that even right?) by streaming them to my gReader. And it was in the course of doing so that I came across this:
Before I say a word, know that I’m not a racist. I simply think that changing the ethnicity of classic characters just to prove how not racist you are is a cheap thing for production companies to do. I mean, Lancelot was not an African. Not in one story or piece of art was he depicted as anything but an English born white man. Do you have any idea how rare Africans were in England in those days? Only just recently has the first skeletal remains of a black man been found and from the condition of them, he was most likely a slave and not treated very well. I know Lancelot isn’t real. Unlike Mulan, he really is from a fairy tale… but c’mon. I know I may sound like I’m taking this stuff too seriously, but why bother getting into a TV series if you’re not going to let yourself really get into it.
This makes me want to dunk my head in lye and jump off a cliff. You’re telling me that the race of a fictional character is so jarring that you are unable to immerse yourself in the show? Really?
As to there being very few Africans in Europe during whenever-the-fuck-you-think-Arthurian-times-were (generally sometime around 600 AD, though the romances which invented Lancelot portrayed that time as basically being just like the time they were written in), and those very poor, here’s a lovely article on black people in Europe through history with links to more documentation. Educate yourself, totes-not-a-racist-who-probably-isn’t-reading-this. And as a final note, he’s usually portrayed as a French, not English born man, and his race is rarely mentioned in any of the romances in which he features.
Jess’s commentary is pretty spot on:
Isn’t it hilarious when you think about the fact that Lancelot didn’t exist? You know who else didn’t exist? Basically every character in this series! Do you know what else didn’t exist? Magic…magic totally didn’t exist. And people couldn’t turn into dragons. And there are no such things as wraiths. There’s a lot about this show that could be complaining about, but you’ve chosen to complain about the fact that Lancelot isn’t white.
Exactly! You are aware that even if you think that magic is real, it is not a part of your daily life in nearly the same fashion as it’s been portrayed on that show, right? So, dragons=yes, but black Lancelot=”I can’t buy that shit”?
I had a related discussion once when I was reacting to an episode of Science Friday where they were talking about how, in the Spider-man movies, the filmmakers went to great lengths to make sure that, for example, there was a *thunk* sound when Spidey landed on something. It seems ridiculous when you consider that the person who landed is a superhero created by a radioactive/genetically engineered spider, but it seems that we are more willing to accept the big lies than we are to accept incorrect small details.
That being said, this is part of a recent history of freakouts over traditionally white characters (or ones assumed to be) being played by black actors. Remember the freak out when Heimdall was announced as Idris Elba in Thor? Or the people who said that they couldn’t feel bad for Rue in The Hunger Games because she was portrayed by a black actress (despite being black in the book)? Yes, people said they couldn’t feel bad about a child being stabbed if she was black.
It’s time people stop saying shit like this and premising it with “It’s not that I’m racist.” Yes, yes you are racist, or at least the thing you just said was. I recognize that you can not be a racist, but occasionally say racist things without realizing it. If you think racism is bad, that’s great, but you can’t go around questioning casting choices because you never imagined a character’s race to be that way.