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