When Lauren S. Hissrich, the showrunner of the upcoming Witcher Netflix show, posted a picture of her writer's room to Twitter, a vocal minority took umbrage at how diverse the writers were. By engaging with these people, Hissrich gave us all an interesting look into how The Witcher is being produced.
Image: CD Projeckt Red
The Witcher is a beloved Polish video game and book series about a monster hunter, or "witcher", named Geralt, taking place in a fantasy-flavoured medieval Poland. The series is so well loved in Poland that the Polish prime minister once gifted a copy of The Witcher 2 to Barack Obama, and they have been very well received in the US as well.
In 2015, culture critic Tauriq Moosa wrote an article for Polygon discussing race issues in games, and brought up the fact that in The Witcher 3, "all humans are white and every other being is non-human".
He went on to say "That's not exactly friendly or inclusive of people of color. A game can include a diverse variety of monsters, but not a diverse variety of skin colours or races for humans?"
Witcher fans took umbrage to this criticism, as the games and books have become a symbol of Polish heritage and pride. Hissrich's recent tweet ignited a similar discussion about diversity within The Witcher because of how noticeably diverse the writer's room was.
Hissrich, who has previously worked on shows such as The West Wing and Daredevil, posted a picture of the writers for the Witcher Netflix show on May 8, saying, "The #Witcher writers' room opened today, and it was full of ideas and banter and cupcakes and creativity and darkness and champagne."
It was a moment of celebration for Hissrich, and though the majority of the response was positive, the tweet also inspired intense reactions.
The very first reply is from someone saying, "GOD NO," and then going on to explain that their problem was with two of the female writers in the picture. Another person replied, "inb4 Geralt comes out as trans."
Over time you start to see a pattern to the line of inquiries from these people trying to get a rise out of Hissrich. One person who has been tweeting at her since February put it bluntly: "[The] question is whether you would deviate from the books' races and cultures to include minorities?"
The implication is that because the writers working on the show include several women and two people of colour, they're out to make The Witcher look like Black-ish.
Rather than ignore this barrage of questions, Hissirch has been replying to fans and addressing their concerns over the past few days.
To some, she explained her hiring process, saying, "I can't speak for other showrunners, but I do blind hiring, which means before I read a submission, I take off the cover page. … I read the scripts. I put the ones I love the most in a pile."
She also made jokes to lighten the mood with other people replying to her Twitter post. To most, she was doing her best to assure fans that she wasn't on a mission to ruin The Witcher, and also demonstrate how strange their line of questioning was.
"I will not deviate from the books' races and cultures, which means I WILL include minorities," she said to one fan.
"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."
She went on to say that the author of the Witcher books, Andrzej Sapkowski, told her himself that recognising the diversity in her show would be honouring his intentions as a writer.
Although she has now said that she isn't going to respond to every single person trying to get a rise out of her, Hissrich is still engaging fans on Twitter and trying to assuage their fears about the upcoming Witcher Netflix show.
What's most interesting to me is how transparent she is about the business of making television in the process, going as far as to break down what actually happens in a writers' room.
She explained that while everyone on staff has read the books, they're going to be working from a collective document that outlines the themes and stories they want to cover that season, and that while they all brainstorm as a group, each writer will get to author their own episodes.
Hissrich seems to be aware that no matter what she does, there will people who aren't satisfied, but she also doesn't appear to be too bothered about that.
"I'm OK with you living out your life, and me living out mine," she wrote about one fan who sent her a random insult. "Because mine involves writing my favourite TV show, and interacting with fans who - even if they have questions or concerns - don't need to degrade or disparage others to express them. These are the people I want to win, and keep."