Hey all! This post is going to be slightly disjoined and discombobulated and weird and a weird ramble, definitely not as put together as my normal posts, but the news for the Shadow and Bone casting just dropped and everybody was talking about it and… oh boy do I have a hot take.
Well since my blog seems the place to share my controversial opinions here it is: I dislike the casting of Ben Barnes as the Darkling.
So we all know that Hollywood loves to cast older people, in their twenties or something, as teenagers. In fact, it’s super rare that an actual teenager is cast as a teenager. In high school movies–well, it’s some weird alternate reality high school where a bunch of twenty somethings are hanging around high school.
I mean, yeah, we get it. Teenagers aren’t that good looking, most of them anyways. Yeah, we have acne and we look awkward like we haven’t quite grown into our bodies yet. Yeah, we don’t look like twenty something post puberty Hollywood models.
This, although I complain about, I’ve come to accept.
For starters, let’s talk about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Everyone is Way. Too. Old.
Anna Cathart, who plays Kitty, is the same age book Lara Jean, and Lana Condor is 7 years older. Anna Cathart is 16, Lana Condor is 22, and Lara Jean is 16.
Did I blow anybody’s mind? Since we all think that Kitty looks so young? Well news flash: teenagers are fairly young. We’re kids. Some of us look young, and all of us look young in the eyes of the adults who are watching teen movies and reading YA.
Lana Condor and Noah Centineo absolutely do NOT look 16. Not even close. I’m telling you this as someone who was 17 when TATBILB the movie came out–someone who was older than Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky–and thought those two actors looked way too old for their characters.
And Margot? Margot was 18, headed off to college, and she was played by a 30 year old actress. And as someone who is currently 18 and surrounded by other 18 year olds every day, living in a dorm full of other 18 year olds–well, most of us don’t look that old.
But I didn’t write this post because of To All The Boys. I’ve kind of accepted that. I’m writing it in response to the Shadow and Bone casting.
And the fact that they all look way too old.
Don’t get me wrong, I mostly really like the casting. Freddy Carter is PERFECT as Kaz and if you saw that picture posted where he’s basically doing the scheming face–perfect. Inej, Jesper, and Mal look great too, and I’m so happy to see an Asian Alina!
Well, they’re perfect except for one small thing: they’re too old.
I’d guess they’re all in their twenties. I can’t find all of their ages online, although I know that Freddy Carter (Kaz) is 26, and yeah, he definitely doesn’t look 17. None of them look like teenagers.
They can pull it off okay. They mostly look like typical Hollywood casted actors and actresses playing teenagers–a bit older than real life, but not terrible.
No, my controversial opinion is the casting that everybody seems to love the most is the one I consider terrible: Ben Barnes and the Darkling.
Ben Barnes is 38 years old. He does not look like a teenager.
Now, you’re saying, oh no, it’s because the Darkling is super old and he’s not supposed to be a teenager anyways, he was always supposed to be older!!!
Okay, I know he’s not actually a teenager, but I was under the impression that he looked outwardly like a teenager. After all, he’s having a romantic relationship with Alina, who is very much a teenager. Alina, who is 17. (I’m not sure how old the actress playing Alina is, I would guess around 20, but her character is 17).
Alina is supposed to be 17 and Ben Barnes is 38.
Ben Barnes is 21 years older than Alina. Ben Barnes is more than twice her age. Ben Barnes is old enough to be her dad.
That is a problem.
Everyone is swooning over Ben Barnes, but I’m not. Because I’m 18 years old and he’s twenty years older than me, he’s old enough to be my dad. And the idea of fangirling and crushing over someone 20 years older than me is just disgusting. The idea of Ben Barnes and Alina Starkov–it feels rapey.
We’ve put up with people playing teenagers who are in their twenties, maybe ten years older, maybe even a little older than that. But someone more than twice the age? Someone who is almost 40 playing a teenager?
Here’s the thing: The Grishaverse is YOUNG ADULT.
Adults reading YA–go for it. I mean I’m 18 now so I’m basically at the barrier where I’m becoming an adult and outgrowing being the intended audience for YA. (I would say 12-17 or 18 is the intended audience–middle and high school), and I have no intention of stopping reading YA.
I know that adults read the Grishaverse. I know that adults read YA. That’s fine, as long as it’s first and foremost FOR TEENS. And this casting says that it’s not.
So now let’s talk about aging characters up. I know that some people do it. I know that the characters in Six of Crows certainly don’t act like teenagers. You can age them up in your heads when you read if it’s just in your own head, whatever.
But don’t project it outward. Teens don’t have very much. We have Young Adult. Don’t take it away from us.
I saw on Twitter a popular YA author saying “BEN BARNES! As a thirty something I’m SO HAPPY to have an age appropriate crush in this cast!”
This was what made me angriest, angry enough to write this post.
Adults having an “age appropriate crush” in a book written about teenagers means that teenagers don’t get to have an age appropriate crush in a book written about teenagers.
The Grishaverse is for teenagers. We are the intended audience, or at least that’s what publishing is telling us by marketing the book as YA. The books are YA, so their characters are teenagers, and they should be depicted as such.
Imagine this: a teenager reads Shadow and Bone and enjoys it. She reads about characters her age, maybe a few years older, and can really imagine them, people like her and her classmates, going on these adventures. She heads over to Netflix to watch the adaptation.
And she sees Alina, the protagonist she was able to relate with, who she may view as a role model, becoming romantically involved with and making out with a man twice her age. And she’s told, from the way it’s expressed in the show, as well as all the people freaking out on Twitter over Ben Barnes, that this is romantic.
What kind of message is this sending teenage girls? That it’s romantic to love someone more than twice your age? That if, as a high schooler, a 38 year old man old enough to be your father starts showing romantic interest in you, instead of being worried, instead of seeing this as statuary rape, it’s romantic?
This is how I feel. I’m more mature now than I was a few years ago, enough to realize this was a problem but still… going on Twitter and seeing everyone fangirl and freak out over an actor more than twice my age who is supposed to be a romantic interest to a character younger than me… it makes me very uncomfortable.
I’m a lot more confident in my blogging than I was when I started last year and more comfortable sharing my opinion for sure. I used to hide my true opinion when I knew it would be controversial.
I think that if this news had dropped when I started blogging and was 16, I would have said how I loved the casting of Ben Barnes just like everybody else so I would be liked. I would have seen that he was old and I didn’t like that and seen everybody else fangirling over him, and thought that maybe there was something wrong with me and I should like him, that I should think his relationship with Alina is romantic. And seeing popular authors I admire express their delight at the casting would have only reinforced it.
A 38 year old dating a 17 year old? That is not normal.
In conclusion: age the YA characters you read. Whatever. If you’re an adult who wants to read YA, do it. But only in your head. Please, don’t project that outward and depict our teenage crush as 38 years old.
What do you think of the Shadow and Bone casting? Of Ben Barnes as the Darkling? How excited are you for this adaptation? (I’m extremely excited!!!!) I’d love to chat in the comments below ❤