Welcome back to the blog, everyone! I hope everyone had a great time over the holiday break, whether with family, friends, or just chilling by yourself. Before we went on vacation, the trailers for Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events came out, but it wasn’t until the break that I actually got some time to sit down and watch them. Now that I have, I’m pretty excited about the series—to an extent.
One of my favorite things about the original book series was how the prose was whimsical enough to at least partially cover up the horrors that the Baudelaire protagonists were going through, and that seems like something that the Netflix series is going to do as well. The atmosphere looks dreary, but the acting and the dialogue seem like they’ll be funny enough to offset the plot. I’m most looking forward to Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf—he’s a great casting choice to show the many disguises of Count Olaf throughout the series, and since the events of the first four books of the series will be spread over the show’s eight-episode run, there should be a lot of time to indulge in Olaf’s antics.
There are a few things I’m concerned about in regards to how the series will fit into the social mores of 2017. In the book series, Olaf has a minion who’s described as “neither a man nor a woman”; this was just another aspect of their villainous nature rather than proper nonbinary representation. There’s a book in which Olaf is dressed in drag nearly the whole way through, again for villainous purposes. And, of course, there’s the issue of race.
Netflix had an open casting call for this project back in January of last year, and I was pretty excited about it because that meant that despite the Baudelaires always being depicted as white on the book covers, these precocious, talented children could now be of any race. However, of course, Netflix chose to go with three white actors for the roles of the Baudelaires instead. Some of the adult Baudelaire guardians, like Aunt Josephine and Uncle Monty, are people of color, as is Mr. Poe, the Baudelaires’ hapless caretaker, but this doesn’t really help. Having an extended multiracial Baudelaire family only makes me wonder why all the Baudelaire children needed to be white to appear related, and additionally—spoiler alert—Aunt Josephine and Uncle Monty are two of the first to die, so. Unfortunately, Netflix has given us a story in which the main leads and the main villain are all white. Since it’s a new year, let me reiterate that it’s important to consider the agency we give our characters of color to understand if we are truly telling their stories.
Netflix hasn’t announced plans for the rest of the Unfortunate Events series, but I’m already thinking about it—maybe they could fix their race problem by giving us the Baudelaires’ friends and fellow precocious children the Quagmires as characters of color. But despite these concerns, Netflix looks like it has again brought a good bingewatching series to our screens, and I’m looking forward to doing said bingewatching when the series comes out on this Friday the 13th.