White Washing The Girl with all the Gifts: Why I’m Pissed Helen Justineau Is Being Played by a White Actress
I just finished, The Girl with all the Gifts by Mike Carey and I am floored by how wonderful the book was. The suspense, the character complexity, the pace, the fracking content were all AWESOME!
I thankfully saved my in-depth Googling for after, and was pleasantly surprised to find the powers that be were adapting the film into a movie, “She Who Brings Gifts.” It took hearing the news of a pending film for me to realize that, on a subconscious level, I had been dreaming of setting eyes on THEE Helen Justineau.
There are so few females of color in scifi, and though Carey’s characters are (thankfully) so much more than their gender or racial designations (especially since the zombie apocalypse leaves you with way more important things to think about), I am left deflated by the fact that (though lovely) Gemma Arterton is playing MY Helen Justineau!
Read for yourselves how the narrator describes her:
“Miss Justineau’s face stands out anyway because it’s such a wonderful, wonderful colour. It’s dark brown, like the wood of the trees in Melanie’s rainforest picture whose seeds only grow out of the ashes of a bushfire, or like the coffee that Miss Justineau pours out of her flask into her cup at break time. Except it’s darker and richer than either of those things, with lots of other colours mixed in, so there isn’t anything you can really compare it to. All you can say is that it’s as dark as Melanie’s skin is light.
I released a large squeak when I read this, a warmth spread throughout my brain! My imagination created a darker skinned Helen of Troy! I felt chills when the novel described her long coiled and curly hair. My sense of loss for hair diversity alone is so deep! WHY GOD!
I know that there is an ongoing complaint-fest on social media about white washing (look it up) in the entertainment industry and I know those leaked Sony emails have confirmed the rumor that industry executives believe non-white leads won’t sell. I simply don’t care. I don’t fracking care. This was a great opportunity for me, as a black female and lifelong scifier, to not have to resign myself to being underrepresented even in fracking fantasy worlds! This was a deliciously selfish dream of mine.
Now mourn with me, for all the lovely female actors of Sri Lankan, Indian, and African decent that could have had (near) top billing for a scifi film.
When I told my friend, who I convinced to read the book, that they were making a movie, her first question was: “Are they leaving all the diverse characters intact?” Her response to my no:
F*#K-it I’m not finishing it.
(Picks up book while groaning in defeat)
We brown girls are tired of groaning in defeat while we give you our fracking patronage! This is just part of the frustrating struggles of a black nerd.
(Whimpers, she could have been any ethnicity in the world, but they choose under-representation even when the character is written otherwise! DAMB IT! I thirst for diversity in scifi and the casting agents keep saying NO, you don’t matter!)