Fans were ecstatic when they found out that Rick Riordan’s young adult book series would be given a television series on Disney+, especially since many fans were not pleased with the film franchise. As fans excitedly awaited the casting of the book’s trio, Percy, Annabeth, and Grover, many discussed how the trio would be portrayed. Many were unhappy with the films as they cast older teens when the characters are actually supposed to be 11 or 12. The author was also open about the fact that he was not too primarily focused on physical looks but wanted to choose the right person for the characters. So, when Riordan announced Leah Jeffries, a young Black girl to play Annabeth, who is described as white and blonde, some fans were thrilled about the inclusion. Others, however, were not pleased, sparking outrage online.
— Rick Riordan (@rickriordan) May 5, 2022
The author wrote on his blog to shut down the racist comments, entitling it “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.” In the blog, he says that “This post is specifically for those who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase. It’s a shame such posts need to be written, but they do.” He goes on to praise the actress by writing “Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.” He also explained that if fans were upset with the casting, they should direct their anger toward him, as ” Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.”
“Anyone can be a hero.
If you don’t get that, if you’re still upset about the casting of this marvelous trio, then it doesn’t matter how many times you have read the books. You didn’t learn anything from them.” #LeahIsOurAnnabeth https://t.co/DGeOzrjZuw
— Rick Riordan (@rickriordan) May 10, 2022
This caused the hashtag #LeahisourAnnabeth to trend online, as people were grateful for Riordan to shut down this type of harassment as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this is something that we have seen before online, like when Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel in the live-action of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. When it was found out that Bailey was playing the character, #notmyAriel trended online. Although online support for the diversity in films exists, unfortunately not everyone sees it this way.
Leah Sava Jeffries is 16 years-old. SHE'S A CHILD. And trolls are targeting her, harassing her, saying hateful things and getting her social media accounts shut down…
Disney wants to make money off of her (and Black fans) and if they don't say a word in defence of her…
— Carolyn Hinds ???????? #WGAStrike #SAGAFTRAStrike✊???? (@CarrieCnh12) May 10, 2022
According to Jeffries, she was spammed with hate comments, and her TikTok was even taken down after online bullies mass reported her account. Although Jeffries posted a message saying that these comments do not affect or hurt her, many still found it appalling that they would go so far as to bully a child. Fortunately, it seems many are becoming aware of the problem and doing their best to defend the actress from the onset of hatred.