'Percy Jackson' Author Writes Powerful Letter in Defense of Casting New Annabeth Chase - Jahanagahi
'Percy Jackson' Author Writes Powerful Letter in Defense of Casting New Annabeth Chase

‘Percy Jackson’ Author Writes Powerful Letter in Defense of Casting New Annabeth Chase

When my son got into the “Percy Jackson” books in 6th grade, I hadn’t really heard of the series, but learned that it’s a lot like “Harry Potter” for Gen Zers. Enormously thick books were devoured in less than a week and alarm bells went off for the next release in the series. Searches were made for the super secret hidden book that wraps up some loose ends and a fandom was born. But when the books were made into a live-action movie, true fans of the series were left confused and disappointed, so when “Percy Jackson” was found to be getting a reboot, fans rejoiced. The cast was then announced, which should have been a moment of celebration for the fantastic cast cast and the effort to bring the portrayal into Greek mythology, but some fans weren’t too thrilled.

Leah Jeffries, a black girl, and Aryan Simhadri, an American Indian boy, were cast as Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood, Percy’s best friends. The trio go on adventures and help each other out of sketchy situations that only demigods and satyrs can experience. But…it didn’t take long for naysayers to start talking about fictional characters being played by people of color, particularly Annabeth being played by a black girl, when the character on the show has blonde hair. Eventually, the growing discontent caught the attention of none other than Rick Riordan himself and not only used Twitter to defend the young star, but also wrote a beautiful and strong condemnation of these comments in a letter on his website.


Riordan didn’t shy away from calling out racism in the comments, writing, “Either you’re unaware, or you’ve dismissed, Leah’s years of hard work honing her craft, her talent, her tenacity, her focus, her screen presence. You refuse to believe that her selection could have been based on merit,” she wrote. “Without seeing her play the role, she has prejudged her (pre + judge = bias) and she decided that she must have been hired simply to fill a quota or check a diversity box.” Riordan was very clear when he mentioned the problematic behavior of fans of the series.


The author did not end there. He continued, “You are judging his suitability for this role solely and exclusively by his appearance. She is a black girl who plays someone who is described in the books as white, “before clearly saying, ‘Guys, that’s racism.'”

There is a subtle irony about the backlash surrounding Annabeth portrayed as a black girl, as the book version of Annabeth is related to the Greek goddess Athena, who many believe was borrowed from African culture. In fact, Neith, the Egyptian goddess, is said to be the prototype of Athena. Neith was the goddess of creation, wisdom, weaving, and war. She is also believed to be Ra’s mother. Athena is the Greek goddess of war, crafts (weaving) and reason (wisdom), she was worshiped from 449-420 BC. C., while Neith was worshiped from 3000 a. Neith worship was most prominent between 664 and 525 BC. C., but there are reports that Athena was worshiped more prominently between 900 and 700 BC.

While the worship of the two goddesses didn’t overlap, they definitely bounced a bit between the two, but it all comes down to the first mention, and Neith beat Athena by a few thousand years. If you’re looking to the gods and goddesses of times past to check out Annabeth Chase’s role, it’s clear that she’s now being more accurately portrayed. It’s funny how that old argument about which she came first, the chicken or the egg, can also be applied to Greek and Egyptian mythology and the 21st century portrayal of one of Athena’s false relatives.

While Riordan didn’t mince words in defense of Annabeth being played by Leah Jeffries, he also praised her skill at the craft: “Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, a lot of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of heroine they want to be.”

The author helped cast the actors who played his larger-than-life characters and we as the audience must not only trust his judgment, but also look at the faces of the children these actors will portray. Diversity is becoming such a buzzword that people forget that you can have diversity. Y the best for the job. One is not exclusive of the other. It seems that Rick Riordan and his casting team have achieved that balance.

Riordan didn’t stop there. The author has a diversity program on his website called Rick Riordan Presents, with the goal of publishing four books a year from various writers writing in the same genre of mythology. He uses this platform and his relationship with Disney to defend underrepresented voices. Riordan makes it clear that he seeks diversity in the spaces he occupies and that is a beautiful thing.

Whether the role of Annabeth Chase was played by a black actor or not should not cause such a stir. Having a cast that is more like the world we inhabit is a good thing and the way Riordan has leaned towards representation and diversity may inspire others to do the same.

Of the articles on your site

Related Articles on the Web

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.