Where You Missed Rick Riordan's Representation
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Rick Riordan Has Always Been About Representation, You Just Weren't Paying Attention

Percy Jackson and the Olympians was gutsier than you remember.

Rick Riordan Has Always Been About Representation, You Just Weren't Paying Attention

Even if you haven't kept up with Rick Riordan's books recently, you've probably heard the news. Every book released in the last ten years has come with a new headline: "New Rick Riordan Book Will Feature A Trans Character/A Latina Character/A Bisexual Character, etc. Every book is more and more ambitious in its representation, and while some of it is far from perfect, the fact that he has made it his mission to not just include these characters in popular children's fiction, but make them his main characters is admirable.

This has all become such a large part of his brand in recent years that a common idea you hear shared between fans with each of these announcements is this: "Rick Riordan gamed his way to the top with his seemingly vanilla fantasy, made himself irreplaceable, and then became a hardcore advocate for representation when he was too powerful to be fired."

While it's a funny thing to think about, that idea erases a huge part, perhaps the most important part, of why Rick Riordan's mythology universe exist. Percy Jackson was literally invented to provide children who never saw themselves as the hero with representation in the fiction they were reading. Rick Riordan wrote The Lightning Thief to provide his son with a hero who also had ADHD and dyslexia. He literally only exists because Rick Riordan knew it was important for children to see themselves in the fiction they read.

From book one, Percy is crafted to be representation not just for Riordan's son, but for other children who need it. Percy grows up in a lower class home, he and his mother are victims of abuse, his mother was very young when she had him out of a short-lived romance -- he is outcast in every aspect of his life and angry because of it, and Rick Riordan makes him a hero not in spite of these things, but because of the strength he's gained and the things he's learned from them as defining aspects of his life. Percy Jackson has always been a mirror of the children Rick Riordan saw in his classes who needed to see themselves as heroes.

We only notice the representation Rick Riordan includes now because a) these aspects of the original series are apparently easy to ignore, and b) people, including, often enough, the author himself, have let the fact that these characters have disabilities fall to the wayside.

Where characters struggling to focus or having difficulty reading was a common occurrence in the original series, it has been some time since we've had more than a passing mention of any character's ADHD or dyslexia, despite nearly every demigod having either or both. Percy's circumstances at home have improved (thankfully), but the majority of the characters introduced after him don't have very unique living situations.

Only recently have we gotten characters like Meg in Trials of Apollo, who comes from an emotionally abusive home, and Magnus in Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, who has been homeless for the years preceding the series (a series which is the pinnacle of Rick Riordan's representation, from disabled character to Arab characters to a pansexual main character and genderfluid love interest, and is also just very good in general, but is sadly underappreciated). If all of these aspects that were present in the original Percy Jackson series had stayed a consistent bit of representation in these books, it would be clear to everyone that this has always been a staple of Rick Riordan's writing. It is simply more pronounced as Rick Riordan shifts his focus to other areas he hasn't covered yet.

Where we are now is not a sudden change, it is a natural progression from where we started. Percy Jackson was born out of a need for representation in children's fiction, and we should be applauding Rick Riordan not for what looks like a sudden uptick in representation if you haven't been paying attention, but for continuing and expanding on the mission he set out on in the first place.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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