Cultural Doggie Bag: Wheel of Time Casting

The Wheel of Time spins. Casting announcements come and go. What is, what was, and what will be may yet fall under intersectionality.
-Unknown blogger, the Sixth Age.

I was a huge fan of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time in my youth. While I see more of the series’ warts now that I’m older and wiser, I still enjoy it, and it retains a special place for me as the first fantasy series I was deeply into. I had read Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia before I ever cracked open The Eye of the World, but I didn’t read them at the right age to become part of a fandom in the same way. In contrast, I was given the first Wheel of Time book right at the beginning of adolescence and at the dawning of internet availability–both of which really transform one’s reading experience.

Even back in the day, I remember anticipating potential adaptations for television that never panned out, so it caught my attention when Amazon recently committed to creating a Wheel of Time series. Such adaptations, of course, can be a spectacular success, an atrocious failure, or anything in-between. But cautious optimism is my default setting on such things until I start seeing warning signs, so I waited for more information to come to light.

The first thing I read about the series strongly indicated that instead of Rand Al’Thor, the narrative would be centered on Moiraine–the Aes Sedai (sorceress) who comes to fetch the prophesied hero from his sleepy village so that he can go save the world. My initial reaction was that it could be genuinely interesting if well done. Especially early on, Wheel of Time uses all the standard fantasy tropes, so seeing the hero’s journey from the perspective of the mysterious wizard who calls the young lad to adventure could be a reasonable way of mixing it up a little. My second reaction was to worry that because it’s a change from a male character to a female character, it might instead simply be Social Justice Warriors at work.

Now that the casting of the main characters has been announced, the race-swapping of 50% of the cast makes a pretty compelling case for my second reaction.

I have to admit, my perspective of these kinds of changes has changed recently–and not because of Wheel of Time. In the past, I never really gave it much thought when characters’ races were swapped in the transition to film or television. Whichever way the races changed, I shrugged it off just as I did the people who whined about it. That is, after all what everybody was “supposed” to do (back in that brief era where colorblindness was taught as a virtue, but before it became racist.) But then… I couldn’t help but notice that while the uproars over “whitewashing” continued to grow, those very same complainers were busily accomplishing it’s inverse–let’s call it “blackfacing”–at an ever-faster clip. Hypocrisy, of course, is much more negative than mere whining, but the whole situation is actually worse than that.

Hypocrisy requires principles, and as I’ve written before, the SJW left has abandoned principle in favor of narrative–stories about good guys and bad guys in which “good” and “bad” are determined by the relative intersectionality ratings of the opposing sides rather than by any objective standard. When SJW’s encounter whitewashing, they see it as an outright attack on an entire race (or gender, sexual orientation, etc) and every individual that group encompasses. They see such casting as the bad guys projecting power against the good guys in order to diminish them as a people. So what, then, does that tell you about how they view their own attempts at blackfacing? Yeah… still as an attack against an entire group and everyone it encompasses. Except they judge that as a good deed when they do it because the targets–whites, in this case–are the bad guys. To put it extremely mildly, that seems like the kind of socio-political dynamic that any member of a “bad guy” group should stand up and take notice of, whether the particular action bothers him or not.

But beyond all that, there’s the simple fact that SJW’s are utterly corrosive to art. As I’ve written before, SJW’s cannot really create; they can only consume what others have created in order to be emotionally evocative for a brief time. It’ll be no different with the Wheel of Time than with anything else. And you can already see it even in the casting choices themselves.

One of the greatest strengths of the series was the world-building and the complexity of the interwoven fates of the various characters through the history that lead up to them. That was ultimately the series’ weakness as well, as Jordan began losing the plot and character-arcs among the minutia of the complicated world. But for those of us who enjoyed The Wheel of Time, the world-building was almost certainly a key part of that enjoyment.

And the world Jordan created was already racially diverse. As I recall, the Tairens, Altarans, and Domani were various shades of brown. The Sea Folk and Sharans were very dark-skinned, as were many who were included under the Seanchan empire. But the original set of central characters weren’t part of those races, so the SJW’s still had to “fix” it. And how did they do that? By taking an isolated, backwater village–a village with exactly one outlander from which barely any of its residents had ever ridden more than a couple days on horseback–and… they made it as racially diverse as New York City. The same collection of families from a homogeneous culture have been marrying each other for hundreds of years, and they’re somehow racially diverse. If they had made all the native Emond’s Fielders a single non-white race, it might have made a superficial kind of sense, but for some reason, Mat Cauthon is still white.

“It’s just a minor detail! Who cares?” Well, that’s precisely my point. They don’t care; the interconnectedness of minor details is irrelevant to them in the face of their political agenda. And so you end up with a scenario which makes no sense from a world-building perspective. Unlike Jordan, the SJW’s never gave a second thought to whether they were portraying a world that could actually exist given the specific combination of fantastical and realistic elements that undergird it. All they care about is whether any of it can be consumed in order to fuel their ideological war. To them, the Wheel of Time project isn’t an adaptation–it’s just another pile of coal to shovel into their furnace.

And so for now, I’ll just sit back and await the announcements that Min will be trans and Saidin a metaphor for toxic masculinity.

About Matt

Software engineer by trade; lay theologian by nature; Lutheran by grace.
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