Content Warning: racism
Producers of The Rings of Power created a big challenge for Tolkien’s fans: they dared to cast actors of colour. After all, even though the appearance of many characters is not described in the novels, a black dwarfs’ queen was too far for some basement dwellers. Moreover, Tolkien’s conservatism and ardent Catholicism is a perfect excuse for the viewers to criticise Amazon’s decision. However, despite some controversy regarding race in Tolkien’s books, the writer was born in South Africa and declared his hatred of apartheid. Still, according to comments, the adaptation of his work should be free of “political beliefs”, instead of “promoting your woke social justice warrior garbage of a film”.
The YouTube comment section under the trailer has become a stage for disappointed and outraged fans. There are hundreds of users quoting the same passage from Tolkien in multiple languages: “Evil cannot create anything new, it can only spoil and destroy what good forces have invented and created.” The irony is that now Jackson’s widely beloved and defended trilogy initially met criticism from some Tolkien’s fans for expanding the role of Arwen in comparison to books. Yes, women in Middle Earth also don’t exist - okay, maybe only when they kill Nazgûls.
Of course, it’s not the first instance of toxic fandom and their problematic sense of entitlement. For a particular reason, fans often simply can’t imagine characters of colour in fantasy and sci-fi worlds. The most recent example includes The Witcher. Fans of the books argued that since the story is mainly rooted in Slavic culture and mythology, there’s no place for non-white characters. After all, have you ever seen a black elf in a Polish forest?
That’s why I’m sadly not surprised about the reaction to the new Lord of the Rings trailer, however, the scale of outrage is particularly huge. The cynical part of me wonders what fans would do if major characters known from the previous films, such as Galadriel or Elrond were non-white in the TV series. The truth is that Amazon still chose a safer option for themselves by casting black actors as mostly new and likely minor characters.
Poor, mistreated fans can’t accept that Tolkien wrote his books in the 1950s and the modern adaptation can and even should reflect how the world has changed since then. It’s really difficult and exhausting to argue with extremists that Tolkien is, in fact, for everyone. Let’s hope that toxic fans will change their mind after seeing the whole show – but realistically the chance for that is very small.