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The 7 Deadly Sins of Converting Narnia to Film

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Silly Girl
(@fallen-embers)
NarniaWeb Regular

Some changes have to be made to make it more interesting on the screen. I don't mind these changes as long as they don't take away from the story/characters or make them less than. 

 

What I'm actually worried about, both, with regards to LoTR and Narnia series on Prime and Netflix, respectively, is that they would be driven by an underlying agenda, and we would end up not even recognising the characters on the screen. 

This post was modified 7 months ago by Silly Girl

For tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the Sun.

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Posted : April 27, 2021 1:44 am
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @the-mad-poet

I'm not against them having a diverse cast- so long as the actors are cast sensibly and in their realistic settings. So of course, the kids should be white British kids- outside of that, however, I think a varied cast would be fine. (I've suggested in the past that an Asian actress could be good for Jadis.)  

Yes, and then the complaints come flooding in about making the villain look Asian!! Eyeroll I'm afraid no matter who gets cast as what, there'll almost always be someone offended somewhere...

Apart from obvious cases like white British actors for the children, as you say, I'd also be fine with seeing a good range of diversity in the cast. Tumnus, for example, has "rather reddish" skin according to Lewis, but no screen or stage version, as far as I've seen, has got that right! (Except the animated film, which gave him red skin, but, bizarrely enough, green hair.) And my personal "head canon" for Centaurs is that the skin colour of their human half should pretty much match the colour of their horse half, so that would allow for actors from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. And Dryads, too, probably ought to have skin colours that match the bark or the wood of the trees they come from. There is actually HUGE scope for diversity in Narnia if you count in all the sentient characters, not just the humans from 1940s Britain! Grin  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : April 27, 2021 6:58 am
KingEdTheJust
(@kingedthejust)
NarniaWeb Nut

@sonofstone 

Ok, so maybe I used the term "teenager" too openly.  I know that now that word has a stereo-type that people associate with it.  What I was trying to say was that I think that the Pevensies should actually grow up as well as grow up mentally. I know what you meant when you said that they didn't have to grow up literally to grow up mentally. But I feel that they should grow up physically as well. I think it would help the reader to grow up with the characters while reading through the books. I also think that it would help people to look to new perspectives. If the Pevensies can grow up as teenagers and still keep their child-like qualities, it would help people to let go of the stereotypes that are on teenagers and would be a role-model to children to teach them that it is okay to grow up as long as you don't  'grow out' of the good qualities that made you a good child. 

 

@courtenay  

Thank you for sharing the timeline! I looked over it and it was mostly accurate. Though I do think that a new adaptation should stick to the timeline, as it is an excellent resource I also think that they should be free to choose how old the Pevensies would be. The timeline does keep the Pevensies at a very young age and does not keep them until they turn into teenagers. (except for Peter and Susan, sort of) I also think that the Pevensies should be a little older than they are on the timeline because it would further and better express the themes of growing up. They don't have to go by the stereo-type on teenagers but they can simply have the Pevensies to grow up just because years are passing by and they are getting older. Now don't get me wrong, 'growing older' doesn't mean they have to change their personality or their mood or who they are, it just means they are getting too old for Narnia.  The Pevensies also don't need to have romances, (like they did in the film version) they can just be themselves. 

 

"But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did." - (King Edmund the Just, Horse and his Boy)

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Posted : April 27, 2021 7:58 pm
SonofStone
(@sonofstone)
NarniaWeb Regular
Posted by: @courtenay

And my personal "head canon" for Centaurs is that the skin colour of their human half should pretty much match the colour of their horse half, so that would allow for actors from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. And Dryads, too, probably ought to have skin colours that match the bark or the wood of the trees they come from.

      Thought I never though about it this way, you bring up some great points, and I would be completely fine if they did that, yet I think it crucial they make all the kids and really everyone from England (except people like the butcher's boy in chapter 7 of the MN) white. Weather it was racist or not, that is besides the point, in 1940's London, the kinds of people these books are about are not going to be anything other ethnicity.

Posted by: @fallen-embers

Some changes have to made to make it more interesting on the screen. I don't mind these changes as long as they don't take away from them or make them less than. 

     This is called making a movie people (and yes, I am using a good bit of sarcasm here), but seriously, I totally agree, you must make certain changes to a story before it can be turned to a movie that is enjoyable and well thought out. But this can be taken way to far, such as the addition of Tauriel in the Hobbit films and the little girl that was added to the VoftheDT movie (I can't remember her name off the top of my head) these additions were completely over the top.

 

Child of the King: SonofStone

 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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Topic starter Posted : April 29, 2021 10:02 am
Courtenay liked
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @sonofstone

Thought I never though about it this way, you bring up some great points, and I would be completely fine if they did that, yet I think it crucial they make all the kids and really everyone from England (except people like the butcher's boy in chapter 7 of the MN) white. Weather it was racist or not, that is besides the point, in 1940's London, the kinds of people these books are about are not going to be anything other ethnicity.

Totally agree. I wouldn't have any expectation that the children from England are portrayed as anything other than white British, unless they decide to set the story in a completely different era. Which they might decide to do, but I hope they won't... 

I did comment here a while ago about a stage version of LWW that I saw in London, just before Christmas 2019, in which all four Pevensies, plus Aslan / the Professor (same actor for both), were played by black British actors. On the face of it, there's no problem with that if the story isn't set in WW2 Britain — it could quite easily be set in an indefinite time and place without any huge impact on the plot. (The 1979 animated version of LWW does this — there's no mention at all of the war, just that the children are "staying at the Professor's house". Lewis himself brings the war up briefly in the second sentence of the book and then there is never any reference to it again.) And there's no reason why only white children should be able to visit Narnia, after all! Tongue  

What I did find problematic in this stage production was the fact that it actually put a HUGE emphasis on the WW2 setting, far more than the book does (one sentence, as I said) and more than even the 2005 film does (air raid scene at the start). We as the audience were given reproduction tickets of the sort that evacuee children would have had, and the opening was framed as if we, too, were evacuees joining the Pevensies and others on their railway journey. The period costumes and the wartime atmosphere were very prominent. And in Narnia itself, we had repeated cameos from a number of added characters — a badger, a fox, a squirrel and one or two others — who were the "Narnian Resistance" against the White Witch and would pop up regularly from hidden trapdoors to report to each other about the progress of the children through Narnia and to co-ordinate the Beavers' expedition to find them. So they pretty much laid on the WW2 theme with a trowel.

On one hand, the British history enthusiast in me quite enjoyed all that, even if it wasn't part of the original book. On the other hand, the university-trained historian in me was absolutely screaming (silently): "Excuse me, but... while there certainly were black and other ethnic minority people in Britain in 1940, there were not very many of them in proportion to the white population — and a black family in 1940s London would NOT have been accepted as a "normal" part of mainstream society, let alone have the kind of upper middle class status that the Pevensies obviously have!!!" At wits end  

Anyway, with that off my chest... there could be worse attempts at playing around with Narnia adaptations. Far, far worse. I'm just remembering this news item that was published on NarniaWeb last year:

Enchanted Cheeseburgers: The Modern-Day Narnia Movie that Almost Happened

(And most of the ideas there, I think, go beyond "deadly sins" to downright unforgivable ones. Shocked )

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : April 29, 2021 12:58 pm
Silly Girl
(@fallen-embers)
NarniaWeb Regular

@SonofStone:

The little girl's name was Gail. I really don't understand why she was even there. At least Rince had a purpose. How can a little girl even help a crew in the search of her mother! She didn't have a character arc, nor a purpose, except for Lucy to spout cheesy lines I guess. ? 

Gosh! The atrocity that was Tauriel, and her stupid love story, is the worst thing they probably did to Tolkien. Not only did it take away from the Legolas-Gimli friendship, which was one of its kind, it was also a punch in the face of those two great love stories between the elven-kind and the mankind. I mean, if elves can fall in love with dwarves, what's the big deal about Beren-Luthien and Aragorn-Arwen anyway!

N that's what I'm worried about with LoTR on Prime and the alleged Narnia on Netflix. We might not even end up recognising the story/characters on screen, as it was with The Hobbit "trilogy" *cough cough*

This post was modified 7 months ago 3 times by Silly Girl

For tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the Sun.

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Posted : April 29, 2021 1:59 pm
icarus
(@icarus)
NarniaWeb Junkie

@courtenay

I think this is a problem that story tellers are going to increasingly be confronted with in the coming years.

People fundamentally enjoy hearing stories being told and then re-told. It's why societies have latched onto the same sort of hero narratives in literature ever since the days of Ancient Greece...

And yet people also like hearing stories about people who are like them. Particularly children. For me, books like Narnia and the Famous Five were always appealing as a child because they were about children who were just like me...

But as societies develop and become more diverse, it's going to become harder and harder for storytellers to meet both these criteria - how do you re-tell old stories whilst also reflecting the changing background of your audience?

Comic Books have generally found good ways around this by introducing parallel versions of different characters, but it becomes a lot harder with worlds and stories as singular as Narnia.

And as you mention, things become even more problematic when you have stories which retain their historical setting. For me this is when the positive virtues of increased ethnic diversity start to give way to the more problematic problems of re-writing history.

If children grow up thinking that deep systemic racism didn't exist in the past because they saw an adaptation of Shakespeare in which half the court of Henry V was non-white, then that could have a deeply negative impact on the goal of stamping out racism in the modern day. It means a move on the part of the storyteller which was entirely well meaning suddenly becomes highly dangerous.

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Posted : April 29, 2021 2:31 pm
Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb
Posted by: @icarus

If children grow up thinking that deep systemic racism didn't exist in the past because they saw an adaptation of Shakespeare in which half the court of Henry V was non-white, then that could have a deeply negative impact on the goal of stamping out racism in the modern day. It means a move on the part of the storyteller which was entirely well meaning suddenly becomes highly dangerous.

That's exactly how I feel about shows like Bridgerton, but don't get me started!!! Tongue  

That said, I reckon film-makers (and book-writers) can overestimate the need for the audience to always have stories about people who are "like them". When I was a 7-year-old girl reading The Hobbit for the first time, I barely noticed that there isn't one single female character in the entire book — I just loved the story! Now if most of the stories I'd read had few or no female characters, I would have noticed and probably felt annoyed and let down, but for that particular book, which was such a good story, I didn't mind. And still don't!

(Glad to meet another fan of the Famous Five, by the way. Wink But even they don't appeal solely to white British and Commonwealth readers. I'm a member of the Enid Blyton Society discussion forums and it turns out her books are hugely popular in India, of all places, even today!!)

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : April 29, 2021 2:53 pm
SonofStone and icarus liked
KingEdTheJust
(@kingedthejust)
NarniaWeb Nut

Yes, I understand that you need to make few changes to turn a book into a movie. But I think that more than ' just a few' changes are necessary. Otherwise that's not really an adaptation at all. You change the movie based on how you perceived the book and the emotions/feelings you got when you read the book. Making an adaptation means to change it based on what you think other people would want to feel when reading the book and seeing it on screen. Also many of the changes made to a book when it is turned into a movie is meant to show morals not very much expressed in the book. With a book, you can just write in the morals, with a movie you have to show it on screen, which is harder.  

@sonofstone, @fallen-embers When they added the little girl into VDT, it was to show how Lucy is growing to be more like Susan, as in taking on the motherly role by taking care of a child.  It could be showing how Lucy's desire to be like Susan by wanting to have someone to take care of and to be gentle and motherly like her. It could also be showing how she is growing up, taking care of younger children, like Peter and Susan. This was a major change, but what I'm trying to say here is that is was to teach a moral. 

"But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did." - (King Edmund the Just, Horse and his Boy)

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Posted : April 29, 2021 5:25 pm
Lost in Narnia
(@lost-in-narnia)
NarniaWeb Newbie

@kingedthejust

It makes sense what you are saying about Gail but I still didn't like it. The girl wasn't an interesting character per se and yeah, she might've been included just to elaborate and deepen another character but it didn't work anyway.

Lucy was perfect in the first movie. The second film was not focused on her so much but she was still a lovable character. The VDT Lucy was just bland. Yes, she had her arc but it felt forced. As if the screenwriters desperately tried to give her a struggle which was supposed to be interesting and dramatic. I didn't feel it. True, Lucy showed some vanity in the book, but it was just a brief moment and there was never anything about her wanting to be like Susan.

It's not really a problem that something wasn't in the books (I liked changes they made to Susan) but there was also no hints in the previous movies. They did it too abruptly and too forcefully with no subtlety. They didn't convince me that those were feelings coming from the character's inside. I felt those problems were plastered onto the character by the imperative.

Still, Gail at least had SOME purpose. Tauriel was just to appeal to female audience (failed) and make the film(s) longer.

So, not to be completely off topic here, this "Tauriel mistake" is a serious danger for Narnia adaptation. Narnia books seem a bot short for those announced multiple films and TV shows. And while I'm not entirely against adding new characters, they must feel like they are part of this world, the kind of characters the author himself might have come up with. Which is very hard if not impossible to achieve, of course, especially if the author lived in a different era.

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Posted : May 2, 2021 8:35 pm
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Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut
Posted by: @icarus

If children grow up thinking that deep systemic racism didn't exist in the past because they saw an adaptation of Shakespeare in which half the court of Henry V was non-white, then that could have a deeply negative impact on the goal of stamping out racism in the modern day

I don't think that's necessarily true. Most kids are forced to go to school and learn about history. The concept of something being historically inaccurate is not that hard to explain and colorblind casting often isn't really trying to communicate what characters actually look like. It's more of a theatrical convention.

Posted by: @courtenay

I reckon film-makers (and book-writers) can overestimate the need for the audience to always have stories about people who are "like them". When I was a 7-year-old girl reading The Hobbit for the first time, I barely noticed that there isn't one single female character in the entire book — I just loved the story! Now if most of the stories I'd read had few or no female characters, I would have noticed and probably felt annoyed and let down, but for that particular book, which was such a good story, I didn't mind.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels that way. 

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Posted : May 3, 2021 7:50 am
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Jasmine
(@jasminetarkheena)
NarniaWeb Nut

Now this just got interesting. There's a lot of hopes and fears in Netflix Narnia... and seven deadly sins

 

1. Romance in the plot- Yes, we can go on and rant about this. I wasn't a huge fan of the Caspian/Susan romance in the Walden adaptation of Prince Caspian, though I liked how the girls got more interaction with him than they do in the book. So chances are, romance with Eustace and Jill or Digory and Polly or Shasta and Aravis.

2. Villainous crush- If you've seen my post about Villanious Crush In Narnia Movie(s)?, you might as well rant about it. Yes, there's a villainous crush (sort of) with Prince Rabadash and Susan. I can rant about Rishda crushing on Jill, and feel free to do that yourselves.

3. Too many action scenes- Oh, don't get more wrong, I am a fan of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Narnia movies. But Narnia doesn't have to have that many action scenes. There can still be a lot of tension even without a whole lot of action.

4. Lord of the Rings knock-off- I have a lot of respect for both C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien, so I am a fan of both their works. There's debate that the Walden movies were a Lord of the Rings Knock-off. But can't Narnia be its own movie?

5. Are the Calormenes portrayed right? There's a lot of debate that the way the Calormenes are portrayed in the book was racist (though when I was a kid reading The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle, I didn't really think about it). Just hope they get the right actors for the roles.

6. The plot line is sugar coated. For a book like The Last Battle, some movie makers find a way to sugar coat it. It shouldn't have to be entirely. The Magician's Nephew is sugar-coated enough (unless if they want to sugar-coat the rampaging of London).

7. The White Witch in every Narnia. She was a great villain in The Lion The Witch, And The Wardrobe (and unarguably one of Narnia's best villains). Kind of saw what Walden was trying to do with her in Prince Caspian... pretty creative. In Voyage of the Dawn Treader, my reaction was like, what? So saying that in The Silver Chair, the White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle are the same person. I think the White Witch instead of Tash or even saying that the White Witch and Tash are the same person in The Last Battle would be a terrible idea! It would ruin that moment where Tirian and Rishda are in the stable and Tash shows up for me.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)

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Posted : October 11, 2021 3:52 pm
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coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

I will now try to come up with seven!

1. If the films or TV series are not about the same things as the books.
Each film must accurately reflect its book: the plot, the characters, the themes, the message, the setting, and the target audience. This excludes a lot of imitation of dark fantasy that pervades Netflix and other TV today. It must be about who Aslan is, and what he does, and the children's connection with him. The very clothes they wear, both in England and in Narnia, must be respectful. 12 or 13 year old Susan needs to wear clothing appropriate for her. The film or series must send the viewer back to the books, to enjoy them, find new depths, and re-read.

2. If the children are played as adolescents or by adolescents, with scripting that causes them to act like 21st century adolescents. 
The Pevensie children are aged P 13-14, S 12-13, E 10-12, L 8-10. In upper middle class families, they counted as children until they left school. They were dressed as children, and school uniforms were not pretty but practical. Skirt lengths were not above the knee! Due to separate boarding schools for girls and boys, they didn't interact much, except in their families, cousins and close family friends. Experiment House was unusual in being a co-educational school. 

3. If the films or TV series present 21st century messages or morals/ethics (I don't think the Estate would allow it anyway)
I struggled to watch the second series of Anne With An E, Netflix's adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. Not merely because it was all played by adult actors, but because it was increasingly about things that are either normal, accepted, or advocated in the 21st century but were not so in the time it was set. Some perfectly good adult characters were overprinted with, "social differences", in what was a very political statement of our time. 
The Pevensies, their cousin Eustace, his schoolmate Jill, and the adults surrounding them in their world are appropriate for any period novel of the 1930s-1940s. The Professor alone is mysteriously different.

4. If the style becomes cute and any sort of cartoony.
The children in these books, and the adults around them, were written to be accepted as real people like their readers. They are not the precocious and cute children trained to say clever lines, in some types of Family comedy shows we have all seen over the years. They are also not formal little child actors reciting lines in front of a camera. The family grouping and interacting we saw in the Walden films was well handled and realistic enough to satisfy me.

5. If there is undue fighting and physical heroism.
Walden allowed Adamson to stage a big battle in LWW and a big raid in PC. In the books Lewis has Peter recount the battle afterwards, and only briefly tells of the raids attempted by Caspian and the Old Narnians.  I think there is a place for battles to be more like this, or rather stylistically as done on stage (frozen in tableau with voiceover narration or comments from characters). The girls can be heroes but don't need to be Warrior Princess types.

6. If the film is satirical or gently mocking the message, in any way suggesting it could not be true.
In the books the voice of the writer comes through gently, occasionally smiling or winking at the reader over something one of the characters has done. But he never mocks his characters, (the nearest he gets is Eustace's journal, which he shares with us to help us understand the character) and there is never a sense of his stepping out and saying "Do you like this story I've made up?". He does give little background comments that suggest he knows the children, and has heard their tale after they returned to England.

7.  If casting is affected by modern theatre styles
The look of England must be valid and authentic to 1930s/40s England, including locations, sets, properties, and costumes, It must also be correct for the people who lived there. I have seen plenty of theatre where race/ethnicity were not distinguished on stage in the last 40 years, and it worked better in some productions than others. These films need to be accurate to their time; they are historical pieces for England. Narnia needs to be realistic, believable and consistent.  

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : October 11, 2021 8:40 pm
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Son of Eve
(@son-of-eve)
NarniaWeb Newbie
Posted by: @coracle

7.  If casting is affected by modern theatre styles
The look of England must be valid and authentic to 1930s/40s England, including locations, sets, properties, and costumes, It must also be correct for the people who lived there. I have seen plenty of theatre where race/ethnicity were not distinguished on stage in the last 40 years, and it worked better in some productions than others. These films need to be accurate to their time; they are historical pieces for England. Narnia needs to be realistic, believable and consistent.  

I'm sorry, but I must disagree with you. I mean, first of all, Narnia books are not exactly historical fiction. Yes, what regards the events that are happening on Earth, they are set in specific place and time period (1940s England for the Pevensies, late 1800s for young Digory), but still, the fact remains that Narnia is fantasy. Historical accuracy is hardly a priority. Of course, locations, costumes, etc. are all very well. I have little doubt that Netflix would suddenly decide to change the setting to 1990s Los Angeles or other, and they have produced period dramas in the past. We can rest assured. 

Still, that's not even what I have the biggest issue with. You seem to suggest that were the characters' presumed ethnicity (white British) changed, this would make Narnia movies somehow historically inaccurate. When, in fact, plenty of non-white people lived in pre-WW II Britain. Soldiers who settled after the First World War, doctors, sportsmen... So the Pevensies could be a mixed race family, Polly Plummer could very well be half- or quarter-Indian, and so on. They don't have to, but the point is they could, and it would not make the adaptations any less 'historical.'

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Posted : October 12, 2021 2:10 pm
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

@son-of-eve 

Yes, I was only talking about the parts of the story set historically in England (and the culture of the day, relevant to the characters that Lewis created - blonde hair and all!) Children's books in the early and mid 20th century were largely aimed at middle class white children, and generally depicted them.

I have lived several in UK several times over the last 40 years and seen the wide diversity of people. I have lived and worked with people from South Asia, Indians who left Uganda in the 1970s, Afro-Caribbeans, Chinese, and north African and Middle Eastern Muslims. They and their families mostly arrived after WW2. I noticed the increased numbers over the years I lived there.

Please understand that I do not want anyone to read my comments as negative or in any way wanting to exclude someone from acting roles.

My father grew up in a large northern English city before the war, and had one non-white face in his class at school who was not thought of as any different. 
The concept of mixed-race families would have been almost unknown before 1950, among upper middle classes.  I have found this article, which says in certain working class areas like London's dock suburbs, there were local women who married immigrant men and faced prejudice.
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/oct/04/mixed-race-britain-social-history

 

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : October 12, 2021 3:09 pm
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