The Girl with All the Gifts – Black Characters Matter

 

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Now that I’m on summer break, I’ve been going like gangbusters with writing and editing three YA novels. One of my projects is a YA fantasy about a girl who can vanish into shadows and longs to see the world but can’t because her family keeps to themselves. Then she learns the shocking reason why.

I recently made a big change in the second draft of that story. It was originally set in the distant past, but I switched it to a couple of hundred years in the future, and now it’s working much better and has an interesting new vibe. I likely got the idea for the time switch from two books I’ve read recently/am reading: Ready Player One and The Girl With All the Gifts, the latter being an adult zombie story with a POV that blew my mind.  (Beware, it gets scary as sh*t.)

The movie version of The Girl With All the Gifts hit UK theaters this week (maybe the US too, but I can’t seem to find it). As a reader who fell head over heals for the character Ms. Justineau, imagine my dismay when I discovered how the producers decided to cast her role.

In the book, Ms. Justineau is depicted as a 40s-ish dark-skinned black woman, in my imagination, kind of like Teyonah Parris:

In the movie, this is how the producers cast her:

Gemma-Arterton02.jpg

?!!? I mean, come on. Nothing against Gemma Arterton, who’s probably a fine actress and certainly is lovely but, well, she’s 30 and so white. Honestly, I felt betrayed and sad, as if the fictional 40-year-old black Ms. Justineau  I adored has been erased.

Other notes about casting for this movie: Glen Close was a good choice, I think, to play the sort of mad scientist Dr. Caldwell, and it seems the movie producers decided to try and balance the color scales by casting the little girl Melanie, who in the book is white, with a black actress.

Okay, but . . .

Ms. . .

Justineau. . .

— Eve Messenger

 

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15 comments

  1. Glad to see you’re hard at work and determined to keep it up!
    I adored Ready Player One but have never even heard about The Girl With All The Gifts. It sounds great, though!
    Whitewashing characters is far too common in film and television, even today when people frequently raise their voices in outrage when this happens. That’s why I relish moments like Hermione being cast as a black woman in the Cursed Child play. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ugh why..
    I can’t believe this actually still happens.
    I remember just last week Matt Damon was cast as the main character for a action movie set in Ancient China who’s a dragon slayer-_- and funnily enough, the excuse was that Chinese viewers like to see white actors (which is actually true unfortunately) which I think speaks volumes about our ingrained and subconscious racism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. A loooong time ago, when I was in elementary/middle school, the first stories I wrote consistently featured a male MC. Why? Likely because that’s what I was used to as a reader, books by men about men. I consciously forced myself to write from a female perspective and then I never looked back .

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So true! It’s interesting to see how young we integrate these subleties. I think by default esp in American movies, everybody is just a white guy even if they could literally be any gender or race.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. In the film adaption of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, Idris Elba, who is black, has been cast to play the lead character, Roland, who was portrayed in the books as white, The dynamic between Roland and another character, a black woman named Detta, will have to be changed in the film to accommodate the race change of Roland. In some cases, it seems as if producers change the races of characters just to be changing them. No rhyme or reason.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One: THREE YA BOOKS AT ONE TIME?? TEACH ME YOUR WAYS 🙂
    Two: regarding the casting choice, that’s total BS. I haven’t read the book, but I wouldn’t be interested in seeing the movie bc of that change.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Rayne! Yeah, this is the first time I’ve worked on three manuscripts at the same time, and I think it’s working because I have to bring something different to each one: editing one, finishing writing one, plotting one. How are things going with your writing these days?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Eve – wow! That’s one busy summer and I’m impressed with your ability to work on so many different projects at once. Love the hints you give about your YA fantasy – WHY does the family keep to itself?? I must know! I’ve still got to read Carey’s book; thanks for the heads up about being scary. The casting seems insane – I wonder what the film will be like in that case. Have you read any reviews of it? I didn’t even know a film version was out. Wishing you a rest of a successful and busy summer with some breaks thrown in for good measure.😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Annika! I hope you’re enjoying your summer. This summer vacation I’ve definitely been giving myself breaks while also plugging away at my writing. Working on three different manuscripts is manageable, I think, when each requires a different focus. For instance, right now I’m editing one story, finishing another, and plotting a third. I’ve always enjoyed variety, so we’ll see how this goes.

      Liked by 1 person

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