Monday, 16 December 2013

Why I won't be watching Bitten, as a devoted fan of the books it's based on

A thing you should probably know about me is that I am a huge, huge fan of Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series. I read the first book, Bitten, when I was fourteen and finished the series with Thirteen last year at the age of twenty-one. I grew up with these characters- in some cases, quite literally. I know some of them probably better than I know members of my extended family, and the books have helped me through some really tough times. So when Bell Media announced that they were making a TV show based on the first book in the series, saying I was thrilled is a bit of an understatement.

Then they announced the casting. One of the main characters, Jeremy Danvers, is being played by this guy:

Now I've never seen this actor in anything before; I have no feelings on him as a person. But in this case, I am gravely disappointed by his casting, and the racism shown by the showrunners in their choice of him to play a character textually described as Asian-American.

You could argue (I mean you shouldn't, but you could) that since Jeremy's backstory and heritage aren't explicitly referred to in Bitten, then the production team simply didn't know that he was not white. I might be inclined to agree- I don't want to believe that the production team intentionally whitewashed a character, after all- but the excuse doesn't hold water. SPACE, the channel producing and running the show, also posted this image to their Facebook page. It's a family tree of the character who appear in Bitten- including Jeremy. This information could only be discovered by reading the novels and novellas in which his parentage, race, and appearance is described in-depth. If they cared enough to do that extra reading and find out what everyone looked like and who their ancestors were, there's no excuse for not offering the role to a talented actor of Asian descent rather than erasing this important part of Jeremy's character.

It's not like issues of representation in the media haven't been at the forefront for the past few years; there's a whole website,, dedicated to raising awareness of these issues. And the long and the short of it is, the industry is incredibly rough on actors of colour. You don't need to take my word for it- check out the local movie listings. How many movies playing at your local multiplex star non-white actors in leading roles? And why, when so few roles are offered to nonwhite actors, would Bell Media make the decision to take another potential role and give it to a white actor?

So I'm not watching Bitten. I'm pretty sad about it, to be honest; I was so excited when the series was first announced. But I can't in good conscience support racist casting practices like this. I love the books as much as I always did, but for me, the cons of watching the show simply outweigh the pros. Casting practices like these may proliferate in the entertainment industry, but I don't need to support them. Sorry, SPACE and Bell Media; you've lost yourself a viewer.

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