SHADOW and Bone viewers have accused the Netflix show of featuring “gratuitous” scenes of racism.
Lead character Alina Starkov is subjected to racial abuse within the first few minutes of the fantasy series‘ opening episode.
In a flashback scene to when she was a young girl, a boy cruelly tells the orphan she is a “half breed” and a “rice eater”.
Alina – played by half English and half Chinese actress Jessie Mei Li – can also be heard recalling her childhood.
In a voiceover, she says: “I live in East Ravka but I’ve never been welcome here because I look like my mother, and she looked like the enemy.”
Alina is half Shu, the rival country of Ravka, adds: “I learned about my true enemy when I was a child.”
But viewers have spoken out in their droves, blasting the writers of the Netflix series for adding a ‘racism subplot’.
The fantasy series is based around the Grisha trilogy of books, which do not mention racism.
Taking to Twitter, one viewer wrote: “I was hoping to watch Shadow and Bone to escape from reality for a bit and … in the first minutes of the show, there’s racism… wonderful.”
Another vented: “The racism against Alina in #ShadowAndBone is actually so gratuitous. The plot in the book was already so full without it what exactly is it bringing to the show?”
A third, meanwhile added: “Why does Alina have to suffer racism in the first five minutes of shadow and bone.. cant even have peace in fantasyland.”
One even said: “The show is good so far but the fantasy racism is very disappointing? Was excited they had a more diverse cast but I feel like that’s pointless if those characters are suddenly on the receiving end of a whole lot of racism that isn’t in the books.”
Like in the first book of the trilogy, Shadow and Bone, which was written by author Leigh Bardugo, the Netflix show follows the story of young solider Alina.
Alina is hoping to survive her first trek across Shadow Fold, which is an area of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters, when her regiment comes under attack.
But the main character then manages to unleash a dormant magic that she was completely unaware of.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, lead star Jessie has hit back at critics and defended the show for making her character half Shu.
“This is a story that centres around identity and belonging,” she said.
“It’s about someone who doesn’t feel like they fit in, so the decision to make Alina half Shu just felt natural.
“It wasn’t just shoved in there for the sake of diversity, it made the story richer.”
Other Netflix fans also agree with Jessie, saying they feel the racist subplot is actually a credit to the series.
One tweeted: “I just keep thinking about how honestly and thoughtfully shadow & bone depicts racism, especially from a mixed race perspective. so glad they brought in an own voices writer to ensure it was done right!”
Another added: “The racism shown towards Alina really resonates with me and i think it was a great addition to the show because of how it ties into the real world.”
Season 1 of Shadow and Bone, which is made up of eight episodes, is available to stream on Netflix now.