The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
We need to put an end to colorblind casting immediately.
Before the pitchforks, podcasts, and video essays attack, black readers of period romances and fantasy have every right to feel ecstatic about today’s diversity. When Bridgerton and the house of the dragon’s casting decided to diversify their very white worlds for screen, it opened the door for black actors everywhere.
While there were smaller fantasies many did not have the level of success that Bridgerton and House of the dragon have.
Prior to House of the dragon and Bridgeton, many black characters either fell into the “magical negro trope” or were the token black friend; oftentimes facing slavery, racism, or other forms of oppression. Both media genres are based on fiction and having no real historical backing it begs the question.
Why do writers keep putting racism into our fantasy?
It’s women’s history month and with so much anticipation for the Queen Charlotte spin-off, and season two of the house of the dragon, it would be remiss to ignore such popular female-led shows.
To their counterparts, both series have made great improvements in their depictions of women and people of color characters. Both are praised for catering to the “female gaze” and applauding their colorblind casting. However, it does not mean that they have not made their own blunders.
In the main series Bridgerton, we are set in a racial utopian 19th century London. Now had Bridgerton simply ignored racism like they did historical costuming then it would be fine, however in season one we got the line “We were two separate societies divided by color until a king fell in love with one of us. Look at everything it is doing for us, allowing us to become,” from lady Danbury. A Nobel dark-skinned black woman in the series.
That line was problematic enough on its own, but now the new Queen Charlotte prequel series will be set in their pre-racial utopian world as the background to two black women’s romances.
Will they address the horrific nature of slavery? Will they show scenes that give evidence of the oppressive system or will they forget continuity and skip right over it?
There is very little confidence to be had as even in the original series their treatment of black women was abominable. The queen’s husband has a mental illness and she has to run the kingdom alone. The mother of the male lead in season one had fertility problems and died after giving birth to Simone, never even getting the chance to hold him. We also know Lady Danbury is a widow. Implying that a black woman’s life must have some sort of tragedy.
The most concerning story to be found in the show was the life of Marina Thompson. Initially, Marina was white and a cousin to the affluent Bridgerton’s, but she was made to be black and the cousin of the financially struggling Featherington’s.
Marina is impregnated outside of wedlock, deceived into believing her lover abandoned her and her child, outed by her own cousin, and almost dies after a failed abortion. To make matters worse she finds out her lover was actually dead and then enters into a loveless marriage with the man’s brother.
This is also not the end of her tragedy as according to the book series marina will later attempt suicide and die, making her husband free to marry the privileged and white Eloise Bridgerton. As Bridgerton intends to keep all of the original love interests for the Bridgerton siblings, we can be sure Marina’s tragic life will eventually come to a devastating end.
It seems the writers of Bridgerton forgot to leave their own misogyny before writing the supposed racial utopia romance.
On the flip side, House of the Dragon never addresses racism, and most of their blunders come from the deeper implications of events in the show.
The Velaryons, a Seafaring house of old Valeryia, was made black in the tv show adaptation. The Velaryons are a wealthy and well-respected house that has the rare privilege of marrying into the Dragon riding Targaryen Family.
On the surface, it looks great until you remember the Valyrian empire was one of the only slave empires in George R. R Martins’s works. Just because fans were upset that Missandei the freed slave in Game of Thrones died in chains, did not mean putting a Noble black house as descendants of slave masters.
Also casting black actors to play Velaryons does not mean that having a white woman kill a black man after she usurps his ancestral throne for her illegitimate white children, does not have any racist real-world implications.
Vaemon Velaryons death after the lord of the tides trial is not the only instance of sidelining the Velaryons. Having Rhaenyra and Daemon become intimate at his late-wife Lady Laena’s funeral , and treating it like a triumph, is not only distasteful but greatly diminishes the love that Daemon had for her.
Also having the Velaryons side with Rhaenyra in the incoming war , despite the Velarons thinking Rhaenyra and Daemon had Laenor, Laena, and Vaemon killed for their own ambition ,just adds salt to the wound.
For both shows it feels that the writers were ill equipped for the nuances and in depth conversations that are necessary when you change the race of a character. Even if they are trying to add more diversity someone should have said “ hey that’s offensive” or maybe we shouldn’t put that in.
If this is the quality of representation that we can expect from popular high budget shows, then maybe it was better to have just kept the character white and adapt actually black center romance and fiction instead.
Maybe I’m just looking too deep into it. What do you think? Was the race switch in these shows actually well done? Should we continue with the trend of colorblind casting in the future ?