Percy Jackson and the Olympians novelist Rick Riordan made the bizarre argument that he’s a racist in order to justify calling his own fans racist for being critical of the race swap casting of Leah Jeffries in the role of Annabeth Chase for the upcoming Disney+ series.
Two days after claiming he was “delighted to hear about the overwhelmingly positive response to the casting announcements,” Riordan is now calling his own fans racist while also telling fans to stop harassing Jeffries.
In a post on his website, titled “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase,” Riordan began by writing, “This post is specifically for those who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase. It’s a shame such posts need to be written, but they do.”
He then clarified, “First, let me be clear I am speaking here only for myself. These thoughts are mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect or represent the opinions of any part of Disney, the TV show, the production team, or the Jeffries family.”
From there, he reiterated the idea that the response to the casting has been “overwhelmingly positive,” which begs the question as to why he would he even write a post outing himself as a racist and calling his fans racist.
Regardless, he wrote, “The response to the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous, as it should be. Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.”
He continued by claiming that people are bullying and harassing Jeffries albeit without providing any proof, “If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong.”
“As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now,” Riordan stated.
He’s right, bullying and harassing a child is wrong, but Riordan does not provide any proof that this is actually happening. Instead, nearly all the criticisms I have seen, have been directed at Riordan and Disney.
His wife, Becky, mentions something about Tik Tok, but again doesn’t provide anything concrete, and it’s unclear if it has anything to even do with harassment or bullying.
She tweeted, “To keep you abreast of what has been happening. About TikTok. Leah’s family and Disney is working on a new handle for Leah. We will get this sorted. We have an whole social media team dedicated to the trio and their families. The families can also call on Rick and I anytime.”
Nevertheless, Riordan continues his post, explaining that the show needed to adhere to Disney’s policies.
He wrote, “I was quite clear a year ago, when we announced our first open casting, that we would be following Disney’s company policy on nondiscrimination: We are committed to diverse, inclusive casting. For every role, please submit qualified performers, without regard to disability, gender, race and ethnicity, age, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis prohibited by law.”
“We did that. The casting process was long, intense, massive and exhaustive,” he added.
Riordan continued, “I have been clear, as the author, that I was looking for the best actors to inhabit and bring to life the personalities of these characters, and that physical appearance was secondary for me. We did that.”
“We took a year to do this process thoroughly and find the best of the best. This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase,” he asserted.
Riordan then decides to call his fans racists for wanting an accurate depiction of a character. Ironically, the argument he makes means that all characters should be race swapped no matter what their source material is.
The Percy Jackson author writes, “Some of you have apparently felt offended or exasperated when your objections are called out online as racist. ‘But I am not racist,’ you say. ‘It is not racist to want an actor who is accurate to the book’s description of the character!’ Let’s examine that statement.”
He explains, “You are upset/disappointed/frustrated/angry because a Black actor has been cast to play a character who was described as white in the books. ‘She doesn’t look the way I always imagined.’”
“You either are not aware, or have dismissed, Leah’s years of hard work honing her craft, her talent, her tenacity, her focus, her screen presence. You refuse to believe her selection could have been based on merit,” he argues. “Without having seen her play the part, you have pre-judged her (pre + judge = prejudice) and decided she must have been hired simply to fill a quota or tick a diversity box. And by the way, these criticisms have come from across the political spectrum, right and left.”
Riordan elaborates, “You have decided that I couldn’t possibly mean what I have always said: That the true nature of the character lies in their personality. You feel I must have been coerced, brainwashed, bribed, threatened, whatever, or I as a white male author never would have chosen a Black actor for the part of this canonically white girl.”
“You refuse to believe me, the guy who wrote the books and created these characters, when I say that these actors are perfect for the roles because of the talent they bring and the way they used their auditions to expand, improve and electrify the lines they were given,” Riordan writes. “Once you see Leah as Annabeth, she will become exactly the way you imagine Annabeth, assuming you give her that chance, but you refuse to credit that this may be true.”
He then calls his fans racists for wanting characters to look the way they are described in his books, “You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white. Friends, that is racism.”
Riordan then dives into the racist Critical Race Theory well, and declares that if you say you aren’t racist you actually are racist. It proves the point of many critics, that the race swaps would be indicative of even more changes to the source material. Clearly, if you are going to defend the race swap with Critical Race Theory, it’s going to be in the show as well.
As much as he tried to justify her casting decision by pointing out all of her hard-work, he completely undermines it by using Critical Race Theory, and it further lends one to believe that she wasn’t cast for her hard-work and talent, but as a quota for Disney’s Reimagine Tomorrow campaign. And that speaks more to Disney and Riordan’s character.
Riordan writes, “And before you resort to the old kneejerk reaction — ‘I am not racist!’ — let’s examine that statement too. If I may quote from an excellent recent article in the Boston Globe about Dr. Khama Ennis, who created a program on implicit bias for the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Medicine in Boston: ‘To say a person doesn’t have bias is to say that person isn’t human. It’s how we navigate the world … based on what we’re taught and our own personal histories.’”
He continues, “Racism/colorism isn’t something we have or don’t have. I have it. You have it. We all do. And not just white people like me. All people. It’s either something we recognize and try to work on, or it’s something we deny. Saying ‘I am not racist!’ is simply declaring that you deny your own biases and refuse to work on them.”
Riordan then explains what he believes was the message of his novels, “The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength. There is power in plurality. The things that distinguish us from one another are often our marks of individual greatness. You should never judge someone by how well they fit your preconceived notions. That neurodivergent kid who has failed out of six schools, for instance, may well be the son of Poseidon. Anyone can be a hero.”
“If you don’t get that, if you’re still upset about the casting of this marvelous trio, then it doesn’t matter how many times you have read the books. You didn’t learn anything from them,” he said.
Finally, he concluded by telling fans to “Watch the show or don’t. That’s your call. But this will be an adaptation that I am proud of, and which fully honors the spirit of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, taking the bedtime story I told my son twenty years ago to make him feel better about being neurodivergent, and improving on it so that kids all over the world can continue to see themselves as heroes at Camp Half-Blood.”
Rick Riordan has effectively killed his own franchise before it even got started. He’s following the five steps laid out by The Critical Drinker on how to kill a television show.
As a refresher those steps are, “Step 1. Pick a really popular IP with a loyal fanbase. Step 2. Update it for ‘modern audiences.’ Step 3. Antagonize the fanbase prior to release. Step 4. Get cancelled due to low ratings. Step 5. Blame the fanbase for steps one to four.”
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a popular IP with a loyal fanbase. The casting and the use of Critical Race Theory to justify the casting clearly indicate the series will be updated for “modern audiences.”
Riordan is clearly antagonizing the fanbase prior to release by calling them racists. And it’s not just Riordan, his wife is doing it too. She not only is calling fans racists, but misogynists as well.
She wrote on Twitter, “Most of the don’t know they are misogynistic and or racist so you won’t be able to convince them that they are wrong. The one thing you can do? Many of you are already doing it! SING Leah’s praises. Shout your approval of Leah worldwide! Create art in her honor. Celebrate!”
We are now just waiting on the show to be cancelled, and Riordan and Disney to blame the fans for its failure.
Cowboy Bebop followed of all these steps and was cancelled three weeks after it premiered on Netflix. Will Percy Jackson and the Olympians be cancelled even quicker than Cowboy Bebop?
What do you make of Riordan admitting he’s a racist and then proceeding to call his own fans for racist?