Fans of Rick Riordan's Greek mythology-centered Percy Jackson book series have been hotly anticipating Disney+'s new series adaptation of the Young Adult novels.
But after it was announced that the character of Annabeth, the daughter of the goddess Athena described as a blond-haired girl in the books, would be played by Black actress Leah Sava Jeffries, many fans were not having it.
In a lengthy blog post, Riordan has spoken out about the controversy in no uncertain terms, saying Jeffries' casting was his decision and flatly telling his fans angry about the casting, "Friends, that is racism."
In the poorly received film adaptations of Jackson's books, the role of Annabeth was played by Alexandra Daddario, best known for her roles in San Andreas and HBO's The White Lotus.
But for the Disney+ series Riordan has had far more creative control, and handpicked himself Jeffries for the role of Annabeth out of a huge pool of potential actors--a detail he forcefully shared in his post. He wrote:
“If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame."
He went on to excoriate his fans for attacking Jeffries online.
"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 then called the uproar over Jeffries what it is, in no uncertain terms:
"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."
On Twitter, many applauded Riordan's response to the uproar.
And an outpouring of support for Jeffries quickly ensued--so much so that the hashtag #LeahIsOurAnnabeth began to trend.
Riordan also told his fans that their reaction to Jeffries means they fundamentally do not understand his books. He wrote:
"The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength. There is power in plurality..."
"If you don’t get that... then it doesn’t matter how many times you have read the books. You didn’t learn anything from them."
Here's hoping they learn something from Riordan's response.