The Discworld City Watch TV series may be a crushing disappointment.

11 Sep

I’m still technically on hiatus, but I want to talk about this and frankly don’t know anyone personally who would care, so you lot get to listen instead.

Tor recently posted about the latest casting news for the City Watch series that’s been promised for several years now. The character descriptions are… very telling, and not in a good way.

It’s already been stated that the show will be based on the books rather than adapting them directly so I’m not bothered about specific plotlines being altered, except when they affect characters. Though I’d rather see a direct adaptation because they’re amazing books and why wouldn’t you use material of that quality? There are only going to be eight episodes, and I’m beginning to think that might be a good thing and that we’re unlikely to see further series.

“BBC America cast Adam Hugill as Carrot Ironfoundersson, a naïve do-gooder who was raised by dwarves, who joins the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.”

This is fine. I’m not familiar with him, but looking him up he seems like he’d make a good Carrot, and this is how Carrot’s arc begins.

“[Richard] Dormer will play Sam Vimes, the City Watch’s long-suffering commander who made the Watch what it is.”

Well, more or less. At the time Carrot joins, Vimes isn’t really long-suffering so much as extremely depressed at the futility of trying to enforce the law in a professionally lawless city, and also an alcoholic. (He’s also a captain not a commander at this point, but that’s just nitpicking.) Dormer doesn’t quite fit my mental Vimes but I can see it.

“[Marama] Corlette will play Corporal Angua, tasked with training Carrot.”

This one upsets me. I admit I’m biased because I ship these two and have done since I was a wee teen (heck, my first ever fanfic was about them), but still. Angua joins years after Carrot does, he trains her, and she never at any point outranks him. Reversing that alters the whole dynamic of their relationship.

I assume they want to be more feminist about it, but why not have her join at the same time and be a fellow newbie on equal footing if it bothered them? She and Carrot do have very different perspectives, it’s why they naturally make a good team when she joins.

I’ve always seen the hierarchy of the relationship as important because (unless they’ve mucked around with that too) Angua’s a werewolf; in my headcanon it’s sometimes only the notion that he’s theoretically higher ranking that stops her from slapping Carrot upside the head. And he certainly wouldn’t be daft enough to attempt to order her to do anything. She only ever uses his rank or calls him ‘sir’ when she’s pissed off or putting on a show for other people.

More practically, Corlette does not look blonde and Germanic to me; Angua’s able to keep her species a secret because everyone knows you don’t get blonde wolves, so when she’s transformed she passes for a large dog.

“[Jo] Eaton-Kent will play Constable Cheery, a non-binary forensics expert, ostracized by their kin and finding a new home and identity.”

…No. Cheery isn’t non binary. The entire basis of her character is that dwarven society is hyper-masculine and everyone, including women and children, must present as and act as male. She’s biologically female and identifies as female, and starts a movement demonstrating that female dwarfs can be feminine without being weak, are just as capable as males, and shouldn’t be shamed for it.

If they want to add a NB character on top of that, fantastic – how about Dorfl? The golems led to gender discussions in later books because they aren’t demonstrably either male or female, being made of clay, and people aren’t sure which pigeonhole to stuff them into. There is at least one explicitly genderfluid golem and as a group they’re agender, and Dorfl is in the Watch.

Hell, you could make a persuasive argument for Nobby being non-binary. Nobody’s completely sure what species he is, let alone gender, and he has no problem presenting as female occasionally. But there’s no need to change Cheery’s character.

I’ve seen people speculate that this means they’re cutting dwarfs (and trolls) as a thing, and recasting Cheery as human. Why even bother basing something on a fantasy series if you’re going to abandon the fantasy elements? Just churn out yet another CSI spinoff and be done with it.

“[Lara] Rossi will play Lady Sybil Ramkin, a vigilante who is trying to clean up the streets (and in the novels, is married to Commander Vimes.)”

I can’t even wrap my head around this. Are they trying to make her Batman? She’s certainly badass enough, and has a badass ninja butler, but a large part of her arc in the first Watch book, her experiences and her interactions with the various characters, is that she respects the law. She’s one of the only people in the city who does. It’s completely out of character for her to go vigilante and this is a major red flag suggesting that the people behind this show don’t understand the books.

Given that Narrativia are involved in this project – and thus Rob Wilkins and Rhianna Pratchett – this is worrying.

It also seems to be implying that she and Vimes won’t get into a relationship in the show, which would be a real shame because they’re great together. Though book!Sybil is around the same age as Vimes, and Rossi is clearly much younger, because why would you have a cool older lady doing cool things, everyone knows older women can’t do that. Sigh. Particularly since book!Sybil is also a larger lady, and everyone knows fat women can’t do anything except sometimes be comic relief. Double sigh.

And the final bad sign…

“[Sam] Adewunmi will play Carcer Dun, a villain who is trying to take control of the city to take revenge on reality.”

It’s 2019, people. I think we’ve moved on from having one of only two POC in the cast be the villain (and Carcer is a violent, insane psychopath to boot). Come on now.

And I don’t even know what ‘taking revenge on reality‘ means. Are they going to try and tie the Auditors into this mess?

I know the fantastic Good Omens adaptation has spoiled me, and clearly I had my hopes way too high based on the perfectly acceptable though not amazing Discworld adaptations thus far, but this sounds like it’s going to be a messy disaster.

I hope I’m wrong because it will hurt my soul; these characters are my favourites in my favourite series by my favourite author. Please don’t make me hate them.


Posted by on September 11, 2019 in loten


Tags: , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “The Discworld City Watch TV series may be a crushing disappointment.

  1. Lewis

    September 14, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    I plan to assume that the Watch tv is one of those bizarre parallel universes caused by some serious bifurcation of the trousers of time. So if it sucks I can just ignore it and reread the books which I’m kind of expecting it to given the descriptions. I mean it’s going to lose that slightly bizarre and charming attempt by Carrot to court Angua by wrapping up the weird and wonderful city of Ankh-Morpork to her 😦

    • Loten

      September 16, 2019 at 3:45 pm

      Probably for the best, yes. They’ve killed off half the characterisation before the series even starts and I’m sad that someone allowed it to happen. Ah well, we still have the actual books and the corresponding mental images and headcanons. (Hell, at this rate I’m not sure it’s even going to be set in Ankh-Morpork, it doesn’t seem like they’re interested in using the Discworld setting so much as slapping the name on a generic story to get more views.)

  2. Rose

    September 14, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    Of course they have to make Cheery non-binary. She is a woman who chooses to not shave off her beard because she is still a dwarf, and dwarf women naturally grow beards. Modern genderism is all about enforcing very strict gender roles so that people can “present as” something they aren’t by modifying their appearance.
    Hence, women have to shave off their natural body hair or identify out of womanhood. Because you have to have a gender identity, and if you “identify” as female, femininity will be expected,

    A dwarf woman who keeps her natural body hair has to have slapped the label of “non-binary” on her, so that if a male dwarf comes along who shaves off his natural body hair and wears frilly clothes he can be recognized as transwoman, and not be mistaken for a male who simply likes to shave and wear frilly clothes.

    (Oh my god. They will make Casanunda a transwoman. I see it coming. He has no beard (check) might even shave other parts of his body, though we never find out, dresses very fashionably and with almost no metal (check) and is never shown drinking beer or wearing weapons. Heck, he even has no problem with seducing women who are taller than him. The genderist world has no place for “effeminate” male dwarves. Even his Casanova-ish ways will not save him, they will simply declare him a “lesbian”.)

    Golems aren’t “agender”, they simply do not have a gender identity (much like radical feminists, they simply acknowledge their physical reality. Most of the time.)

    The “genderfluid” golem simply experiments with different social roles after it was forced to wear a dress and realized that gender roles exist. It is no more genderfluid than a five year old who likes to pretend to be a dinosaur at some times and an unicorn at other times is species-fluid. Since Pratchett will sadly not get to write more novels, we will not see this golem mature and think about gender roles in the way a human adult could.

    And Nobby Nobbs is very obviously a male who likes crossdressing and has enough of a sense of humour to not mind being mistaken for female. Such men exist, and their lack of obsession with masculinity is very attractive … there’s a reason he got a very pretty girlfriend once, and it very definitely isn’t because of his looks. He is also human. In fact, he is the only person in Ankh-Morpork who has a piece of paper that explicitly says he is human. As the local midwife testified, he is a man of woman born, in both senses of the word. He is just unfortunate looking.

    • Loten

      September 16, 2019 at 3:50 pm

      That isn’t how it works. You’ve cited similar TERF arguments before and I gave you the benefit of the doubt despite several people calling you on it, but consider this a warning. If you genuinely don’t understand these concepts, there’s a lot of information out there for you to learn. If you’re deliberately choosing not to understand, then please go somewhere else.

    • mcbender

      September 16, 2019 at 4:15 pm

      I wish I didn’t have to write this. I wish you hadn’t come and spouted this hateful bullshit in my space, and therefore forced me to respond to it. You’ve toed the line before with the TERFy dogwhistles and I tried to give you what benefit of the doubt I could, but I just can’t any more. This is one of those situations where I feel it is imperative to speak, not because I have any hope my words will change you, but because if I do not speak, I will have allowed you to change me for the worse.

      Yes, resisting socially enforced gender roles is a good thing. Imposing any kind of self-expression on a person in this way is oppressive. When a trans woman does something like shave her legs, my understanding is that’s generally (1) because there’s already a societal association between that and femininity, for better or worse, so it makes her feel closer to her gender and/or (2) to improve her chances of “passing”, especially in the eyes of cis people who are scrutinising her more heavily (and in particular medical professionals who might gatekeep her access to treatment), not because she loves narrow gender roles and wants to reinforce them. Trans people can’t win. If they don’t pass, people will use that as an excuse to say they’re not really their gender. If they do, people like you will come along and say that they’re reinforcing stereotypes and making life worse for cis people.

      The entire point with the dwarves is that they have a socially enforced gender presentation, if one that seems odd to us: male or female, they must perform masculinity in indistinguishable fashion (at least to non-dwarves). This works for some of them, but not all. The entire point here is that femininity is not necessarily bad (for everyone), and that forced abstention from femininity is just as bad as forced femininity. We think it’s bad that the character is being made nonbinary because the point is made better when they are explicitly a woman, not because nonbinary people don’t exist.

      With regard to your comment on the agender golem. As a person who has, over the past few years, come to the realisation that I am almost certainly agender, I have to say this is now quite personal. The way I define agender is precisely “lacking a felt sense of gender identity”; what are you even trying to correct us on? I don’t care what gender people think I am or what pronouns they use for me, but I have no interest in the social role of “man” except where that’s been conflated with “generic human”, and I don’t feel myself to be a man or a woman or anything else. To the extent that I’m gendered at all, it’s something other people and society do to me, but I recognise not everyone feels the same, and I have no problem taking other people at their word that that internal sense of gender is very important to them (even if I don’t understand what it feels like). “Acknowledging physical reality” is all well and good but it doesn’t mean we need to force people into roles on the basis of their biology either; your “radical feminists” (sic) need to take a look in a mirror. Replacing gender essentialism with sex/genital essentialism is no improvement.

      It does not make a person childish to acknowledge the fact that gender is a complex social construct that people can have different kinds of relationships with, whether or not they have an internal sense of gender identity and however that lines up with their bodily characteristics and outward presentation. Insisting that everyone must occupy one of two boxes or be considered a mentally disordered freak, now that sounds childish to me.

      For the sake of argument, I’m going to bend over backward for a moment, and grant TERFs everything they claim to believe. Let’s imagine for a moment there’s no such thing as gender, and that biological sex really is binary only, everything else is just an aberration. In this imagined world, someone comes along and says “my body feels wrong to me, my sex is wrong and living as if I’m the other sex helps me feel well enough to go about my day”. What harm does it do to oblige them? Who, exactly, is harmed by this person? Extreme as it is, the outcomes are a lot better for gender-reassignment surgery than they are for conversion therapy or brain surgery. Even if it really is “all in their heads”, it’s a lot easier to fix the body (and maybe some social cues) than the head, so as long as it works… In other words, TERF arguments fail even when granting them the simplistic world they imagine.

      It’s all a question of what comes first: people’s well-being, or society appearing well-ordered and simple so as not to challenge anyone’s preconceptions. It shouldn’t surprise me that I see many TERFs making common cause with right-wingers and fascists, because worded this way it’s obvious why the manner of thinking is similar.

      As I said before, I don’t have any real hope that this will convince you. I wrote this for myself, and for everyone else who might read what you said here, to make it clear that this thinking is unacceptable and wrong, and not welcome here on our blog. I could just delete what you said, but this isn’t the first time and I felt a more explicit response was called for. Transphobia. is. not. welcome. here.


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