The Witcher’s diverse cast is criticized in China
China has had trouble embracing a diverse cast in the past, after viewers slammed the new live-action remake of The Little Mermaid
The Witcher franchise has a large following in China, largely because of CD Projekt Red’s famous video games, adapted from the stories of Polish novelist Andrzej Sapkowski. The new Netflix show based on the series has had a decent reception in the country. But others are struggling to see past the skin color of some characters.
“US show Witcher has inevitably gone overboard with political correctness,” a popular Chinese online commentary read.
The Witcher series is inspired by Slavic folklore, and many of the characters in the game are white. The Netflix series, released just ahead of Christmas, features actors of different ethnicities.
Three major characters, for instance, are all portrayed as white in the games: Yennefer of Vengerberg, Triss Merigold and Fringilla Vigo. In the Netflix series, all three are played by non-white actors.
One popular comment on Fringilla’s appearance showcases the racism from some viewers in China.
“So there will come a season in which we see the bodies of Geralt and the black Fringilla intertwined for nearly the entire season. Every time I think of this, I have to admire the professionalism of Henry Cavill,” says the most upvoted comment under a story about the Netflix series on GamerSky, a major Chinese gaming site.
It’s not just the characters that don’t match their gaming counterparts that are drawing complaints. Dara, an elf invented for the series, is played by black actor Wilson Radjou-Pujalte.
“Not that it is unacceptable to plug in a bunch of black actors. But at least it has to make sense… In the universe of The Witcher, there are no black elves,” a Chinese commentator wrote.
It’s not the first time Chinese viewers have complained about diversity. There were complaints over Disney’s upcoming live-action movie The Little Mermaid, after black actress Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel.
Despite the complaints, The Witcher has had a decent reception in China. At the time of publication, the show rates a decent 7.6 on Douban, China’s movie hub.
And it’s worth noting that the diverse cast did meet resistance in the West as well when the actors were first announced last year. The show’s writer, Beau DeMayo, came out and defended their decisions by pointing out that The Witcher is not set in the real world.
“The Continent is a fantasy world that’s racial dynamics are played allegorically between fantasy species — not skin color or Earthly race,” DeMayo said.