Just once I’d like young adult fans to remember they don’t own the genre.
Every single time a Young Adult book is adapted into a film or TV series, these so called “fans” come out of the woodwork to attack an actor they don’t think is right for the role. And by coincidence, those attacks always seem to have something to do with race.
The latest victim is Leah Sava Jeffries, who was recently announced as Annabeth in the upcoming Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the adorable 12-year-old posted a video saying her Tik Tok had been banned thanks to people upset about her casting. “They literally took down my whole account,” she said.
I thought this went without saying, but apparently I was mistaken. If you have nothing better to do with your time than harass a 12-year-old over a Disney show about mythical gods and monsters, you are terrible. Stop what you’re doing, go outside and rediscover the real world.
The Percy Jackson stories follow the children of the Gods of Olympus as they come to terms with their powers, complicated legacies and difficult parental relationships, while also dealing with normal teenage problems. Per the official synopsis, Jeffries is Annabeth Chase, “daughter of the Greek goddess Athena, Annabeth is a brilliant strategist with an active and curious mind. After having spent the last five years at Camp Half-Blood, she longs to test her mettle in the human world, of which she barely remembers. She trains Percy to survive the mythological world, and in turn, he helps her connect with her humanity.” She is joined by co-stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson and Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood.
Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson books, who is also writing the pilot, released a statement about the backlash: “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.”
He added: “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.”
With a wisdom beyond her years, Jeffries responded to the attacks in an Instagram video, saying, “To whoever is hating, stop doing that. I know you think it’s going to hurt me. It’s not. You’re just wasting time. I’m still confident in myself.”
Well, we can certainly see why they cast this young Queen as a Goddess’ daughter. She already knows the haters can’t stop her.
In case you haven’t read them, the Percy Jackson books are all about believing in yourself, understanding and yes, acceptance. So if you’re using them as the basis to bully a child you’re missing the point. Or as Riordan put it, “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.”