Changing the Race of One of the Most Beloved Characters in Literature. Does It Matter?

For the past few weeks I’ve been on a Social Media hiatus, due to my midterms – they went completely awesome by the way – and also because right after exams I was involved in some personal matter that I’ll share in the upcoming post; let’s just say it involves me making a new best friend after 7 years. Big achievement for me! Yay!

Anyway, as soon as I got up to speed to the online world, this news made my jaw drop: Idris Elba is the Frontrunner in portraying the role of Roland Deschain in the Movie-TV Show adaptation of The Dark Tower series written by Stephen King.

The Dark Tower

Now let me discuss how this issue might affect the book readers and how the non-readers shouldn’t be too quick in judging them wrongly.

  • These 7 books were published in a span of 22 years, so they are probably the entire LIFE for some adults and for me they have been my entire teenage. I have finished all seven of these 5 times, EACH. This series was the reason I developed a passion for writing, although I sucked at it but I wrote a LOT of fan-fiction based on Roland and his Ka-Tet. Those were my first projects on serious and focused writing. I also developed a fan-site for TDT, but it bombed. Anyway, at the time when teenagers are going through issues related to puberty, hormones and self-esteem problems at school, for me The Dark Tower series were my life; so I know what being passionate about a particular series feels like. People obsessed about Star Wars, I obsessed about The Dark Tower.
  • I NEVER wanted it to be adapted to the big (or small) screen. I know, everything is “sell-able” in this world, but this was the ONE thing I never wanted Mr. King to give away his rights to. I usually love it when any of his work gets picked up by a great studio and they do justice to it, like The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Shining, Misery, Stand By Me, Carrie, The Dark Half, The Mist and a few more. BUT we also have the examples like the Dreamcatcher, Thinner, Sleepwalkers, Maximum Overdrive, Graveyard Shift. Yikes. So I hope these directors understand how emotional we fans can get when they screw with some work from our favorite authors. Especially when it comes to Mr. King’s magnum opus; The Dark frikkin Tower.
  • Another reason for The Dark Tower having problems with adaptation for SO many years (the project got picked up and dropped by numerous directors and studios) is just because… it’s a little too much. Here, we are talking about a world that is more complex, enriching (and horrifying) then the one’s portrayed in Lord of the Rings or The Song of Ice and Fire. This bizarre world was only meant to exist in us readers’ minds! Directors have quit (even J. J. Abrams backed off) because the The Dark Tower Universe was too big for them to handle. Therefore, I have severe doubts with this Nikolaj Arcel person who is only popularly known for his work as a screenwriter on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Now that I’ve made it clear why I hate the idea of these movies and/or show, let’s get to the issue of “race”.

I will watch the shit out of anything with Idris Elba in it. I mean come on, he’s an on-screen LEGEND. But you know I have spent YEARS imagining Roland Deschain to look something like this in my mind.

Roland Deschain by Atzinaghy
Roland Deschain Fanart by Atzinaghy

Or a slightly younger version like this fella here:

Roland Deschain by Savannah Ervin
Roland Deschain Fanart by Susannah Erwin

And Idris Elba will definitely suit the role, I have no doubt about it. But the issue rises (for us readers) when it comes to the story.

There’s this female lead in TDT Universe, named Odetta (or Susannah), an intelligent, kind-hearted, brave African-American civil rights activist who also seems to have split personality disorder due to an unfortunate accident, and her alternate personality Detta is this… racist, evil, fierce, angry-as-hell woman. In the first few books, we see a LOT of tension between Roland and Susannah/Odetta/Detta, because the Detta part of her hates taking orders from a white “honky mahfas” like Roland. This strain between them in the first books was a HUGE part of the story and now that Idris is in the talks of finalizing his role, that exciting chunk of the books will have to be cut off or drastically changed. Which is hurtful to most readers.

By the way have I told you she’s in a wheelchair in the entire series? Yeah, that woman fights bad guys/creatures and helps Roland save the world on a wheelchair. She’s been my ultimate role model in my teens.

Susannah-Odetta-Detta

Anyway, I am not hurt or angry about having Idris as Roland, I’m sure there was some wisdom behind that casting decision, and I believe that it will impact the story in a different way, maybe even in a better way (keeping my hopes up) but it won’t be the same as the one us Constant Readers of Mr. King have loved and cherished for so many years.

To the rest of you out there, if you see a LOT of whining and complaining from the readers in the next few years, please don’t judge them as being bitter or racist that they have an issue with a “black” Gunslinger, or a “white” Odetta (if that ever happens), but it’s only because this saga means the WORLD to them (it meant and still means the world to me too), and any decision that might change the way the STORY unfolds, it’s gonna stir up some emotions in us.

I still believe Mr. Elba will be a badass Roland Deschain the Gunslinger.

*Sigh*, please Nicolaj, do this series the justice it deserves.

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19 thoughts on “Changing the Race of One of the Most Beloved Characters in Literature. Does It Matter?

  1. Uday December 13, 2015 / 10:28 PM

    I never got beyond the third book (read them when I was 15 or 16). Pathetic of me, I know. I have no idea why I never pursued it though as I do vividly remember being spell-bound by all the alternate-timeline thingy going on. Maybe it was the size of the books that put me off. But yes, I do get what you’re talking about as I clearly remember Detta’s aversion towards Roland.
    Oh gosh, I’m gonna have to pick this one up soon! This is, after all, Stephan King’s magnum opus !

    Liked by 1 person

    • A.B Mood December 13, 2015 / 11:44 PM

      Udaaayy, please do complete the saga. I promise you buddy, you’ll love it so much now you’ll gulp it down within a few days 😀 And I also want everyone to give them a read at least once before the onscreen adaptation comes. I so want the world to know the magnificence of this mindboggling universe that SK created ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • A.B Mood December 14, 2015 / 3:31 PM

        Btw it’s coming out somewhere in 2017, so you can take it easy 😛

        Liked by 1 person

    • A.B Mood December 13, 2015 / 11:41 PM

      It really does not matter 🙂 But a lot of people aren’t agreeing online (regarding the casting of Roland) but it wasn’t meant to be a racism issue, it’s just an issue abt maintaining the integrity of the story as I explained in the post. I hope that this choice will open new doorways into the story. ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 10000hoursleft December 14, 2015 / 3:03 PM

    Is it ever explicitly said in the books that he is not black? or that he is white? also, was there a description of his features that would have given someone absolute certainty that he looked the way he did in the fan art you’ve posted? If not, then the race imagined by the fans who have taken issue with a black actor being cast in the role essentially stems from racism. Just as the assumption that when a person assumes that a “Dr” is a man without having any indisputable evidence is due to the sexism and stereotypes a lot of people buy into- most, if not all of us are guilty of biases or judgements like that, and it needs to be called for what it is. If the character was 100% no doubt portrayed as a non-black man in the books then I applaud the decision for a casting decision that inspires this conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A.B Mood December 14, 2015 / 3:30 PM

      Yes, it was explicitly described in the books.. Detta’s hatred for Roland is because he’s a white man. Even the cover art of the last part “The Dark Tower VII” shows the character of Roland (who Stephen King himself said was inspired by Clint Eastwood, you can Google the cover yourself, he looks awesome). And that’s why the anger that’s rising due to this casting decision isn’t related to racism, (thank God, King’s fans aren’t that shallow).. 😀
      it’s about not staying true to the Roland-Odetta rivalry/tension in the books (which was a HUGE part of their relationship) that the fans are pissed off abt..
      But yeah, you’re right, this brave casting choice has riled up some interesting debates 😀 I just don’t want the non-readers to think that the fans are being assholes 😛

      Like

      • 10000hoursleft December 14, 2015 / 3:40 PM

        Hmm makes me wonder if it was a brave call then or a cop out to avoid exploring racial tensions…

        Liked by 1 person

      • A.B Mood December 14, 2015 / 3:50 PM

        Ooo I didn’t think abt it that way! You raise a very clever point :O

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Mithai Mumblezz December 17, 2015 / 12:33 AM

    Wow!! I totally get it…..can relate to the amount of sentiments hopes and emotion attached to series!! Yeahh movies mess them up!!
    Btw the series looking great, totally gotta catch it sometime 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • A.B Mood December 25, 2015 / 6:46 PM

      Oh Mithai you mussttt. I really hope that the entire world reads TDT at least once just to get some taste of what brilliance actually means ❤ You'll forget about Lord of the Rings babe 😛 (that's a stretch, but still) :3

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mithai Mumblezz December 25, 2015 / 6:55 PM

        Will sure do 🙂
        Merry Christmas Moody!!
        Wishing you a wonderful holidays and an exciting 2016 🙂
        Have fun!!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicholas Conley December 17, 2015 / 3:35 AM

    The Dark Tower is probably my favorite book series of all time, so I’m still unsure about the idea of a film adaptation: for a series of this scale, it’s going to be REALLY hard to pull off. There’s really never been anything like this before on film.

    That said, I completely support the idea of Idris Elba as Roland. He’s an amazing actor, and most importantly, his performances to date have always possessed the exact sort of gravitas and depth that an epic character like the gunslinger needs.

    This might be one of the most challenging film projects of all time, but it could be brilliant if they get it right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A.B Mood December 25, 2015 / 6:48 PM

      I agree 100%. Idris has always nailed each and every role he’s ever played (he was even perfect as the Asgardian Gatekeeper) 😛 but I’m not sure about the director, and that’s where I begin to fear for my ALL TIME favorite franchise. *sigh* let’s keep our fingers crossed 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Phil Taylor December 21, 2015 / 5:03 PM

    I completely agree that Idris Elba has the gritty, rough edged personality to pull off the role. I probably won’t see the movie because I read the books, in real time over 22 years as they came out, (it was agonizing to wait that long for the next installment) and I don’t think a single 2 hour movie can do the series justice no matter who directs it. Anytime you want to talk Stephen King, count me in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A.B Mood December 25, 2015 / 6:52 PM

      Oh my God you’re one of the old fans! Yesss! *high-five* I understand why you wouldn’t wanna see the movie.. I’m thinking to do the same but I know I won’t be able to help myself and I’ll probably rant on and on here on my blog and nitpick all the things that pissed me off.. Erghh.. Anyway, I’ve heard that there will be a trilogy + a Mini-series for all the 7 books. :/

      Like

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