Rick Riordan: God of Representation
An Exploration of Rick Riordan’s Characters, and the Positive Impact They Have on Kids Today
Since the age of 12 I have been obsessed with the Percy Jackson series, and every other mythology series Riordan has released since. Not only does this author’s books have gripping storylines that are entertaining for children (and adults alike), the characters involved in these stories also educate the readers about different cultures, sexualities, genders and races. Riordan’s work has become so important to some readers that in social media sites such as Instagram there are pages dedicated to readers cosplaying his characters as they identify with them so much.
In the year 2005, when Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was first published, 90 percent of children’s books were based upon a white protagonist, while in recent years this percentage has dropped to 72 percent, meaning authors are changing the game and introducing minorities as their protagonists. A small chunk of this decrease may be down to Riordan’s wide range of races within his books. Although his most famous series’ protagonist is Caucasian, The Kane Chronicles features an African-American male that stars as the protagonist. This slow integration into having minorities portrayed in children’s books gives this demographic a good understanding of different cultures and also teaches them about equality and acceptance of others.
As well as this, there are many races featured within the Heroes of Olympus series; Leo is Hispanic, Piper is half Cherokee, Hazel is African-American and Frank is Chinese. All four of these characters are featured as protagonists to the story, even having their own chapters; as well as this, the inclusion of non-white groups is at a higher ratio than those of a white background—the last three out of the seven heroes are Caucasian. These positive representations of the minority races being portrayed as strong and independent teaches children of this generation that no race is superior, and that creating relationships between races is not a negative thing. It is teaching kids that you don’t have to be white to be a hero; they’re reading versions of themselves and identifying with characters which allows them to believe anyone can be a hero. Unlike stereotypical superheroes such as Captain America and Superman, the heroes in Riordan’s world portray the smaller communities and cultures in life, educating children with the knowledge everyone needs to know.
Furthermore, Riordan has a good habit of including LGBT+ characters into his work. In his most recent series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, a transgender and gender fluid character is introduced called Alex Fierro. Within the book Alex switches pronouns and Riordan explains what it means to be transgender in a way that children will understand. Adding to the LGBT+ representation are characters Nico Di Angelo and Will Solace from the Percy Jackson series. These characters are gay, and not once is this choice disrespected or frowned upon by other characters. Riordan creates a proper representation for all people and allows children to understand what the LGBT+ community is—it may even help them to identify themselves.
Additionally, although religion is often pushed aside in children’s books Riordan raises issues of Islamophobia and often explains parts of the Islamic culture through the Arab-American character of Samirah al-Abbas. Her character in Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is treated no differently as white female protagonists such as Annabeth Chase and Sadie Kane, and due to this people can identify with her character. This is important as this is as religion is often has minor representations within children’s books and therefore Riordan is helping children understand different cultures once again.
In conclusion, since 2005 Riordan has been providing nearly two generations of children/young teens with powerful and positive representations of all cultures, genders and races. His work continues to connect with people and the readers continue to identify with his characters. He may be writing about gods, but it’s safe to say he’s the god of representation.