Whither Witch Bewitches the Witcher?

Recognizing I’m late to the party and how dangerous it can be for a writer to review the writing in another writer’s work, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on the new Netflix Witcher series.

Is it a little sexist? The world it creates certainly is. It remains to be seen if the sexism is an inherent part of the world or a Thing that the protagonist must strive against. We seem to be nearing a tipping point, if we haven’t already taken the plunge, when writers must realize that “it’s historically accurate” isn’t really a good enough reason to have racist/sexist themes in their work. If a character is racist, that racism must be confronted in-story. It’s the demand of the audience, of the culture at large. Or else it ought to be, eh?

Was I confused by the timeline? Not until I realized there were three distinct timelines, and we weren’t being given information chronologically. It is no major spoiler that the writers for season 1 of The Witcher chose to split the season’s episodes among different time periods, often switching back and forth in mid-episode. I’ve no problem with this. It’s a neat little gimmick, and there are plenty of clues in the dialogue to clue the reader in as to what is going on.

But therein lies the problem. These clues are ONLY in the dialogue. You’d think they could’ve given Jodhi May a different wig to wear for when her character is supposed to be (much) older versus when her character is younger. I get that Mousesack doesn’t age, but surely sorcerers are at least allowed to cut their hair or grow a different type of beard in this setting?

This lack of attention to detail must have been done on purpose, to show off the studio’s creativity. The only other explanation is laziness. I understand laziness. I’m a bit of a lazy writer myself. But intentionally holding information back from the viewer isn’t “building a mystery,” it’s just plain old deceit. You haven’t proven your clever; you’ve just been puffing yourself up.

On the upside, the fight scenes are amazing, and Henry Cavill does an excellent job portraying a brooding, tormented MC without being too similar to the other 100,000 brooding, tormented MCs plaguing fantasy fiction these days. Heck, even the protagonist in my WIP can be a little broody. It’s another thing the audience demands: Grittiness. Which means brooding, broody characters who brood broodily.


Anyway, yes. Geralt of Rivia loves to brood. But at least he’s self-aware, somewhat. What with all his clever quips and “Hnh”-ing like Batman in a Morrison comic. And if he weren’t like that, Haskier is still there to provide plenty of quality jibes at the genre as a whole. Haskier saves the show in certain spots, calling attention to the bad decisions the characters make and providing needed moments of light in what would otherwise be a grim exploration of grim, gritty darkness. Despite myself, I like Geralt’s story’s monster-of-the-week formula. Lots of fun without getting boring.

Yennefer’s story is likewise captivating. She goes through hell learning how to gain power and wield it effectively as a powerful sorceress. Her desire for power is understandable, and her sacrifices make the viewer ache for her. Now, here’s the thing. Apparently in this setting, magicians and magical beings can’t have kids. (Or at least female wizards and witchers can’t. No word on male wizards.) No sooner does Yennefer become a full-fledged wizard than she starts yearning for a little brat of her own. Understandable. Cliche and a little anti-feminist, but understandable. Some women really want kids. Believe it or not.

But her desire is undercut by the fact that her womb gets removed on-camera. Like, her actual womb. We see the Fallopian tubes and everything. It’s gross.

Now, maybe Yennefer doesn’t realize this. But she still seeks a cure that doesn’t involve “growing a new womb” or otherwise “getting myself some ovaries.” It’s a little ridiculous for the modern audience. It makes Yennefer look stupid. And if not her, the people in the setting look like they have zero understanding of female anatomy. (Which would be about par for a lot of us, but I digress.) My point isn’t THAT Yennefer wants to be fertile again, it’s that she doesn’t seem to understand what the problem actually is (missing uterus).

Also, if removing the female reproductive organs is intrinsic to becoming a sorceress, does that make all the female wizards post-menopausal?

Anyway, it’s a good show. The sub-plot of colonization suffered by elves at the hands of humanity is a nice touch. Just the right amount of real-world poignancy without getting anvilicious or just plain disrespectful of the plight of indigenous peoples.

Plus, there are dragons. Like, several. Iron Fist couldn’t even manage one, which is more than a little embarrassing when you think about it.

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