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spikebrennan

Opportunities to cast non-white actors

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I don't see why it would matter if some characters in the TV show have different backgrounds (as long as it doesn't mess up the logic). Getting the best actor is the main thing. That can cause an actor to be younger or older than the books. Or prettier or uglier. Or different shade of skin. *shrug*

The discussion about casting non-white actors did not arise out of some concern of avoiding "racism" (whatever that might mean in a fantasy setting), but about making it easier for the audience of the TV show to distinguish between characters in a show with a very large cast.

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I do agree on the -best actor for the job- thought.

Without jumping BOTH feet into the frying pan however, I want to float an additional thought on this subject.

As far as an ethnically diverse Westeros on HBO:

  • Westeros really exists in the minds of the readers by and large
  • readers generally imagine what they know, even in fantasy, and on earth, the closer you get to the poles, the paler the average skin
  • the author portrays the people (in the north especially) as having markedly caucasian features (fair hair, blue eyes, thin noses, etc)
  • finally, (the least popular generalization) most people are at least a little racist (hear me out) and "see" imaginary characters how they think people are, i.e. if the reader is white, the "good guy" is white, and the "bad guy" is a different race, unless the author specifically describes different. The reader fills in the blanks with what they know.

The net result of these factors, I think, will be that many fans, when they see the show will expect to see what they have imagined as they read the books, AND if they don't, even if they don't consciously realize it, think it would look ...wrong... somehow.

I won't claim to be exempt, I always imagined Eddard looking more like Sean Bean than Sean Combs. My two cents.

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The net result of these factors, I think, will be that many fans, when they see the show will expect to see what they have imagined as they read the books, AND if they don't, even if they don't consciously realize it, think it would look ...wrong... somehow.

But its pretty obvious that every fan is going to see people and scenes from the TV series that are different from how they imagined. They will be younger, older, taller, shorter, prettier, uglier, darker, whiter etc etc. Better get used to it now.

There is no point picking out one of those attributes and making a big deal about it. Its just one change of many.

If some of those changes don't make logical sense, complain away. But there shouldn't be any logic issue with changing the ethnic backgrounds of one or two characters.

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Melisandre could have east asian features, but care had to be taken not to make it look ridiculous with the red hair. (She is also secribed as very tall, curvaceaous and, I think, fair-skinned. She looks strange, but in a truly strange way, not because of her ancestry.)

I agree that there are enough opportunities for casting middle eastern or black actors for the characters on the eastern continent. Even the Dornish should be olive-skinned Caucasians. Casting a black guy as Patchface would probably backfire as far as anti-racism is concerned.

Because of the importance of dynastic relations, ancestry does matter a lot. This aspect is very foreigh to 21st century western sensibilities, but it does drive the plot in many decisive ways.

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Casting a black guy as Patchface would probably backfire as far as anti-racism is concerned.

:agree: Good point, that would really be a misstep. I think there will be ample opportunities to diversify the show, but many fewer in the first book. CoK and SoS much moreso.

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Melisandre could have east asian features, but care had to be taken not to make it look ridiculous with the red hair.

She doesn't have to have red hair though. Sure, red priestess with red hair is a nice image but not very important.

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finally, (the least popular generalization) most people are at least a little racist (hear me out) and "see" imaginary characters how they think people are, i.e. if the reader is white, the "good guy" is white, and the "bad guy" is a different race, unless the author specifically describes different. The reader fills in the blanks with what they know.

Er... not really. And if that were the case, maybe it would do people some good to see those expectations subverted.

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Er... not really. And if that were the case, maybe it would do people some good to see those expectations subverted.

I agree that would be best, however the truth remains, fearing the "outsider" has a long anthropological history. Humans are hard-wired (alas) toward discriminating toward those not like them, but like monogamy, have socially evolved to suppress/overcome this (certainly some more than others). I expect the vast majority of fans enlightened enough to be fans will not struggle with any casting decision.

It's the obstinate knuckle-draggers who both have HBO and found GRRM's work when they wandered into a library accidentally I refer to. :read:

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First post!

To me, casting non-white actors in minor Westorosi roles wouldn't be a huge problem but a main character like Brienne? We can talk all we want of how little racism appears in this world but the fact of the matter is a change like that wouldn't be merely aesthetic, it would change the way she relates to her world and especially how her world relates to her. It would also probably change the way the audience looked at her - why has the hulking freak been cast non-white?

I've studied ethnic relations for the Roman period and while they didn't have any great conception of race, they were still discriminatory of those who looked radically different to them. Soldiers even occasionally killed black people for luck. I can't imagine it was radically different in the mediaeval era.

Westeros is a fairly unforgiving place and I can't see them treating someone who looked different exactly the same. Look how understanding they are of disability! So Tyrion's a half man rejected by his father and Robert thinks his best friend's son should be killed because he can't walk.

I think we're making the same old mistake of mapping our own ideas of race into a fantasy setting, which is dangerous. It's not as if Westeros is the only setting so there's plenty of room for other races - hell, eventually some are going to invade Westeros, presumably.

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Actually, I think it does since it's one of her most defining features that makes her stand out.

Er. There are many ways to make somebody stand out. Red hair has no effect on the story. :)

It's the obstinate knuckle-draggers who both have HBO and found GRRM's work when they wandered into a library accidentally I refer to.

Except for themselves, nobody cares about them. So no point factoring them into any decision equation.

To me, casting non-white actors in minor Westorosi roles wouldn't be a huge problem but a main character like Brienne?

I don't think that was a serious suggestion.

And welcome to the board ioang. :)

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Except for themselves, nobody cares about them. So no point factoring them into any decision equation.

Yes and no. In the grand scheme of life, they are easily discounted and disregarded, however in this one instance, when we want HBO to run with the show as many seasons as it can, the more warm, subscribing bodies, mouth-breathing or no, the better.

I think we agree though that in all other circumstances, they are as useless as a dothraki sailor.

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The fact is that there is a well developed history, political, ehtnic and linguistic in the world of ASOIAF. Migrations have been described and as is logical people from the same place tend to have similar appearances. Granted there is a small amount of mobility in the world, there is obviously a global trade network and some frequent interaction between Westeros and the Free Cities. Still it would not make sense if it turned out that the Tarths or the Royces or anyone were of a different ethnic background when we know that most of the nobility we see is old nobility and that there have only been three major waves of migration into Westeros. There are foreign characters galore for the people that want diversity. At King's Landing there is Thoros and Jalabar Xho and there's not reason there can't be a couple other exiled princes or emissaries around. Obviously Dany will be exposed to a hodgepodge of peoples through her travels.

On a side note, Melisandre's red hair is sort of essential to her character. It's a running theme with her. Everything is red her clothes, her jewel, her lips, her hair even her eyes. She is called the red woman more than once. It'd be like giving the Blue Bard a yellow hat.

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Yes and no. In the grand scheme of life, they are easily discounted and disregarded, however in this one instance, when we want HBO to run with the show as many seasons as it can, the more warm, subscribing bodies, mouth-breathing or no, the better.

Well...you can't appeal to everyone. If you try, you'll end up with a mess.

On a side note, Melisandre's red hair is sort of essential to her character. It's a running theme with her.

In the books, yes. In the TV series? Who knows. Been called the "red woman" is not essential. Essential is something that would change the story significantly if changed. (Mel been a priestess of R'hllor for instance). But she can still wear red clothes if need be.

The curious thing about GoT is that some of the septons may be in red also.

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She doesn't have to have red hair though. Sure, red priestess with red hair is a nice image but not very important.

Well, speaking as a redhead myself, I am very pleased with the number of ginger people in the books, and fully expect just as many to be cast for television. Mel's red hair is important to her character because it makes her awesome!!! :)

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I think Mel is a very good candidate for a more "exotic" casting. If they keep the red in her wardrobe, jewels, very red lips and perhaps nails, red eyes (which could very well look ridiculous), I think they can drop the red hair.

Natural red hair is more orange anyway and typically redheads are advised to avoid wearing reds (though every ginger ever has looked fantastic in green!).

I do think that if they went with a non-white actress for the part, red hair would be ill-advised. While RED (not natural orange-red, but actual bright RED) hair would complete the whole red ensemble and be true to the book, it would look very fake. However, with a non-Caucasian casting, very very dark coal black hair could look just awesome. I've seen good dye jobs that look black as night until light hits it and you can see red undertones; that would also clearly look fake but might look better than candy apple red hair.

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I've seen people with hair that's a natural blood red, it's a kind of dark red that's not too orange but more of an intense cinnamon. This models haircolor isn't natural, but it's the same color of a 12 year old girl I know- who has this color naturally. As for contacts- she doesn't have to have red red eyes, maybe a light copper colored eye color (my natural eye color). You'll still get the red look that Mel has, without being in the realm of ridiculous.

Here's another version of this color. I know it could be considered auburn, so the hair and make up folks would have to amp up the color and make it more intense than what Catelyn Stark has.

Anyway, I could see this color on a fair skinned Eastern European or Asian actress. I've noticed Asian girls here in the city with dyed red hair- and it looks great.

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I think we're making the same old mistake of mapping our own ideas of race into a fantasy setting, which is dangerous. It's not as if Westeros is the only setting so there's plenty of room for other races - hell, eventually some are going to invade Westeros, presumably.

I think mapping our own racial preconceptions (and others) onto fiction is inevitable, thats just how we interpret the world. As such, popular media does have some responsibility for avoiding reinforcement of negative subtexts in sensitive areas. If all the people from the seven kingdoms are white and the only acrors of non-white ethnicities in the show are all depicting foreigners, then this unconsciously reinforces the idea that white = normal and everything else is Other (if you'll excuse the pun).

There are arguments against this, of course, but I think ignoring race entirely can be a mistake. It may seem insignificant, but it matters much more to someone who might enjoy this genre of fiction but does not often see their own ethnicity represented in a positive light.

I still don't think people should be shoehorned into the cast because of race, but it's not as outlandish an idea as it initially seems.

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If all the people from the seven kingdoms are white and the only acrors of non-white ethnicities in the show are all depicting foreigners, then this unconsciously reinforces the idea that white = normal and everything else is Other (if you'll excuse the pun).

We already have a good idea of how characters in GoT are being presented. Pretty similar to the book.

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