Fans of Netflix’s adaptation of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s ‘The Witcher’ are no strangers to the show’s sometimes confusing storylines. The series is known for jumping back and forth through different timelines and points of view for each of the three main characters. And while the show features many species of monsters and humans alike, race does not become an issue.
Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich recently participated in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit and, among other things, was asked about the issue of race among the humans in ‘The Witcher.’ Specifically, she was asked why the show can be found “randomly throwing around [people of color] here and there with no origins or background.” Hissrich explained:
“The discussions about race in the writers room, with the producers, and with Andrzej himself were long and varied. We talked about the history of the Conjunction of the Spheres (are all humans out in the ether the same color? Did the Conjunction drop certain races in certain areas?), we talked about the Continent being a huge place (are we to believe that people don’t migrate?), and we talked the most about how racism was presented in the books. Like all readers, we always came down on the side that racism in the books is represented by species-ism — humans vs. elves vs. dwarves vs. gnomes vs. halflings vs. monsters and so forth. It’s not about skin color at all. You don’t notice skin color when instead you’re looking at the shape of ears, or the size of torsos, or the length of teeth.”
Hissrich made an excellent point by raising a hypothetical. If the world went crazy and we found ourselves fighting monsters with scary-big teeth or giant spiders, will we care about the race of the people standing next to us? The point is, we should be more concerned with making it out alive.
Hissrich also explained why Sapkowski didn’t really talk about race in the original source material, saying:
“Furthermore, in the books, there are a few mentions of skin color, usually “pale” or “wind-chapped.” Andrzej very specifically didn’t add in many details of skin color, he told me himself. Readers generally make assumptions (typically, unless otherwise noted, believe characters to be the same color as themselves). That said, the general assumption is that everyone in The Witcher is the same color, which is why all the focus is on species.”
Hissrich went on to explain that the series was developed with a slightly different goal in mind than the one Sapkowski had while writing his books. She said:
“Because it’s 2020, and because the real world is a very big and diverse place, we made a different assumption on the show. That people don’t pay attention to skin color — not because they’re all the same color, but because the bigger differences are about species, not skin. If you went to your local supermarket and there were people with horns and tails, do you really think you’d be paying attention to how much melanin is in their skin?”
Check out Season One of ‘The Witcher’ now on Netflix!