Lauren S. Hissrich, showrunner for Netflix's upcoming Witcher series, has taken to Twitter to speak out on racial diversity concerns, and to address the matter of creating a world and writing a script authentic to Andrzej Sapkowski's beloved fantasy franchise.
All of the hooplah started earlier this week, when Hissrich revealed the cast of writers working alongside her, and the fact that they were hard at work discussing and developing ideas for the show.
For those that don't know: The Witcher is a fantasy series from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski that is, and has been, massively popular and loved in Poland since its creation back in the 90's. However, it wasn't until the series' video game adaptation by CD Projekt Red – especially the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – that it went from Polish classic to globally cherished. It's now so popular – commanding such a hardcore fanbase – that Netflix is turning it into a TV series.
A hardcore fanbase is difficult to please though, something Hissrich was reminded this week when she tweeted this:
I can't imagine a better day.
The #Witcher writers' room opened today, and it was full of ideas and banter and cupcakes and creativity and darkness and champagne and this hilarious picture that's better than any of the posed group selfies I attempted.
It's happening. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/jUn9MPwf9L— Lauren S. Hissrich (@LHissrich) May 8, 2018
So, what's the "controversy" you ask? Good question. For most people there was none. In fact, most reactions were positive and congratulatory, as you would expect. However, a few less than positive responses were flown Hissrich's way.
The bulk of negative responses appear to stem around the concern and worry that the series will not "stay true" to the material in terms of racial and gender depiction. While the series is fantasy, it is notably based off Eastern European history and folklore, particularly of the Medieval period. Thus, people of color aren't – or at least haven't been – largely included. Like Medieval Europe, it's almost all, not entirely, white people. And while this was only an issue for a few, it started a larger discussion across the Internet about not only diversity within the series, but within games.
All of that said, it appears based of the diversity of the writer's room, the above discussions have reignited, with some users worried that the series will chalk up its "authenticity" in favor of something more inclusive.
Literally the first reply to the tweet reads "GOD NO." Said user goes on to explain their disdain stems from two specific writers on staff – two women. One user replied "inb4 Geralt comes out as trans," while another wanted to know whether or not Hissrich and her team plans to deviate from the books' races and cultures in order to include minorities. Keep in mind, Hissrich never said this was the plan, all of this is sourced from the above picture, which simply features a diverse set of writers.
As mentioned above, these concerns and negative reactions have largely been limited to only a handful of users. However, Hissrich – who is fairly active and open with fans on Twitter – took the time address the concerns being launched her way. The showrunner began by revealing that she does blind hiring, meaning she doesn't know whose work she's reading when she's evaluating. Further, Hissrich dispelled the idea that the team didn't include knowledge of European and Polish history, revealing that amongst her writers is someone born in Europe, someone who has spent half their life in Central Europe, and someone whose family is Polish.
"People saw the writers' room picture I tweeted and railed 'Why so diverse?! Why no Europeans?!' … the staff includes someone who was born in Europe, someone else who's spent half her life in Central Europe, and someone whose family is Polish. But no one actually asked that — they simply took note of skin color and assumed I was filling quotas," wrote Hissrich.
The showrunner also went to confirm that she won't "deviate from the books' races and cultures," but that doesn't mean minorities won't be included, in fact, it means the opposite. Hissrich also noted that the creator of the series – the aforementioned Sapkowski – specifically reached out and told her that recognizing the diversity of the series in the show would be an honor to his work.
During these last couple of days, Hissrich has been quite active on Twitter, talking to fans, addressing their concerns and questions, and revealing a ton of behind-the-scenes tidbits about the show and how it is being created. If any of this sounds up your alley, you can check all of it out here.
The Witcher series is currently without a release date, but we did recently get a release window, as well as a ton of other details.