S.E. Soldwedel's latest update for Disintegration

Jan 20, 2017

Hey, everybody. I was browsing the interwebs this morning, looking for things to distract me from what I’m sure all Americans and probably everyone else in the world knows is happening today ... 


No, no, just kidding. Kind of.

In my browsing, I came across a story about a child being born to three parents, and it made me think of James Holden, whom I know from The Expanse television show. The character, however, originated in the book Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (a pen name shared by two authors) and is referred to as "Jim."

But that’s not the only difference between the book and the series. I’m loath to admit I still haven’t gotten around to reading Leviathan Wakes (it’s next on my list), but I just discovered today that, in the book, Holden had a relationship with a fellow crew member of the Canterbury, just as he did in the show. Except, in the book, his lover is of Nigerian descent and, in the show, they whitewashed her into a blonde Scandinavian.

I’d say this boils my blood, but that would be melodramatic. I disappoints me, though, certainly. Significantly. For many reasons.

For one, a role that could and should have gone to a black actress was eliminated in favor of a white, blonde woman. For another, the depiction of an interracial relationship was eschewed, and I can’t help but think that it was a cynical choice, so not to alienate viewers who would have found it distasteful.

And, yes, I know that Holden and Naomi Nagata get involved and that the actress who portrays Naomi, Dominique Tipper, is of Dominican descent, so there’s an interracial relationship right there and you might be thinking "No harm, no foul" ... but Ms. Tipper is very many shades lighter than a Nigerian woman typically would be. Ms. Tipper is, to use a current term, "mixed race." I still can’t help but feel that the tone of Ms. Tipper’s complexion and the Anglo influence on her appearance was thought to be more palatable to these same audience members (whom I’m imagining, I realize; it’s all conjecture) who would have been less receptive to a dark-skinned woman with more "obviously" African features.

Now, maybe, if you’ve gotten this far, you’re wondering: "Why is this white guy all up in arms about this?"

There are a number of reasons, too many to list, but to relate it to my own book, I have a vast number of characters who do not have two white parents. While I’m over the moon to even be published (and I would be figuratively catapulted to Andromeda to have Disintegration made into a series), I would be livid if the roles of Carina, or any of her sisters, were given to a white woman. I’d also be upset if Anjali were given to anyone but an actress of Indian descent.

Essentially, I want all characters in all media to remain however they were written by whomever wrote them, because these characters’ ethnicities are an important part of them, as our own traits are important parts of any of us. Sure, these characters are imaginary, but they are real in our minds. They are probably even more real to their creators. And who among us would want to have our children remade by some stranger who’s decided our progeny isn’t white enough or pretty enough for consumption by the general public?

A person’s culture influences their lives, as does the way other people perceive them, and appearance is a big part of perception. And I don’t think anyone should have to change the way they look or the way they speak to try and please someone who takes issue with difference. Yet such people exist--those who wish only to see themselves reflected in their media--which is surely why a white woman was chosen over a Nigerian woman to play Ade, whose surname was "Tokunbo" in the book and "Nygaard" in the show.

Heaven forbid we show anyone what it looks like for a white man and a dark-skinned black woman to have a sexual relationship. In a Science Fiction show set in the far future, even! And what about the converse? Ha! Like the America that voted for the guy taking office today could handle that.

Thank goodness for Loving, at least.

And I am grateful, too, that the role of Naomi in The Expanse didn’t also get whitewashed. Ms. Tipper is absolutely marvelous in the role. I, for one, really enjoy for there to be a variety of humans from all over the world not only depicted in my fiction, but also participating in my daily life.