Sometimes I read a piece of classic literature and I’m amazed how white modern adaptations of these stories are.

I’m re-reading Les Miserables, the classic novel by Victor Hugo. The antagonist is Inspector Javert, a police officer who hunts down the main character, Jean Valjean, because he escaped parole. While it is only implied in the musical, “I was born with scum like you/…/I am from the gutter too”, in the novel it is made clear that Javert’s mother is Romani. (Something of a recurring theme with him, given their prominence in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)

It’s not even worth asking how many of the actors who’ve played Javert had a drop of Roma blood in them; the answer is almost certainly 0. And we don’t know what race his father was, only that he was a “galley slave”. But there was still a bit of whining about Norm Lewis, a black actor, playing Javert for the 25th Anniversary recording of the musical.

And you know the racial controversy around BBC’s Merlin? Guinevere is played by a black actress, the utterly gorgeous and flawless Angel Coulby. The controversy mainly stems from the crowds bawww’ing that there can’t be a black person in the Arthurian legends. Except, you know what? One of Arthur’s knights, Aglovale (brother of Sir Percival), sired a Moorish son, named Morien (subtle), who himself was knighted. The actual Arthurian legends have a Moor as a character, guys.

Like, how do you even justify it?

I guess my point is, no matter how awful and problematic most old Western literature is when it comes to portraying people of other races… they still acknowledged that they existed and wrote them into their stories. Sometimes they even got positive portrayals, sometimes they even got a chapter dedicated to their stories, and sometimes they even were part of the main cast of characters. Yet we can’t accomplish this incredibly basic shit in half the movies and novels and video games that come out today.

Looking at you, Brave and Tangled. Looking. At. You.

edit: Some minor changes made to the wording to make them more readable and appropriate.

July  19   ( 747 )   +
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    I love this post! I have been thinking that Jean Valjean being played by a Black actor would really add a level to the...
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    I feel like white people often act as if POC are strictly modern? Like “Oh I see you’ve got an old book/legend/play...
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