Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life—but no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list, too. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we’re pleased to present our semi-regular racism surveillance machine. Stay woke, and keep your head on a swivel out there.
It's gotten as predictable as death, taxes, and endless reboots of fantasy franchises: cast a person of color in a major screen role and butt-hurt nerds are going to spew abuse online.
It's happened, repeatedly, in the increasingly toxic Star Wars fandom. And now, Game of Thrones has its own racist-fandom scandal, as triggered Westeros enthusiasts went after Black actor Steve Toussaint, who'll be playing Corlys Velaryon on the upcoming HBO House of the Dragon prequel series (premiering August 21).
Even though he'll sport the silver hair the House Velaryon family has in the book version, not everyone wants a Black actor in the role. Some pointed to illustrations for the book as differing from what'll be seen on screen.
Others expressed ugliness like:
("Joggers" has become a word racist-ass social media posters sub for the N-word to get around filters and abuse complaints.)
Some film sites explained why it would be perfectly reasonable—not just "woke sci-fi and fantasy"—to cast the character as Black. Meanwhile, show executives struck back, saying they're trying to bring more diversity to the screen than the original series, "but still do it in a way that feels organic to the world and doesn't feel like pandering or tokenism—and also have them not be pirates, slaves and mercenaries like you tend to see in high fantasies." That was from Ryan Condol, who, along with Miguel Sapochnik, is showrunning the new series. Condol told Entertainment Weekly that it was important the new show not just be "another bunch of White people." I mean, when you name a character Jon Snow…
Toussaint, who has every right to tell online racists to go fuck a white bedsheet, says he's taking the online abuse in stride. He told The Hollywood Reporter, "That shit happened… but I can't allow that to bother me." Allow us to be bothered for you, Mr. Toussaint.
Racist Game of Thrones fans may not understand the context of the long history of erasing Black, Brown, and Asian people in fantasy and science fiction, especially in futuristic worlds where the assumption has to be that they just aren't part of society anymore. Either way, folks are out here saying the casting of a Black actor playing a role set in a world that doesn't even exist is "a bloody turnoff,” as if it’s bad breath or chewing with your mouth open.
Nonetheless, we're willing to bet these social media incels will still tune in because what are they gonna do, watch Emily in Paris?