The Internet troll invasion of Middle-earth, explained

Cynthia Addai-Robinson inside The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Photo: Ben Rothstein / ©Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Another high-profile Hollywood franchise, another case of internet trolls complaining about the film or TV show’s inclusive cast.

Amazon mega-budget The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is the latest scene to draw the ire of racist ‘fans’, following similar riots in recent years in various Star Wars projects, the recent ones Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragonof Netflix The sandupcoming Percy Jackson and Little Mermaid reboots, and on and on.

Here’s everything you need to know about our latest battle with toxic fandom.

Why the fuss?

Beyond the obvious answer (good ol’ racism), the justifications for all the vitriol range from precedent to the idea of ​​”loyalty.” While the casts of Peter Jackson’s previous movie trilogies, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, were almost all white, the prequel series The Rings of Power — based on the appendices of JRR Tolkien’s legendary novels — are much more diverse (even if the majority of the extended cast is still white). Black British actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays Míriel, the queen regent of Númenor. Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova plays the elf Arondir. British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi plays his love interest, human healer Bronwyn. Black British actor-comedian Lenny Henry and Sri Lankan actress Suchitha Jayasundera play the arfs (ancestors of the hobbits) Sadoc and Malva, respectively.

Fans upset with the show’s casting typically claim “historical accuracy,” citing that Tolkien modeled Middle-earth after medieval Britain and other European countries. As The GamerBen Sledge points out, however, “the assumption that all the people in this area were white comes from 19th century white nationalism in Germany and later Nazi propaganda.” And, notes The Hollywood Reporter‘small Richard Newby, “This ignores the people of color who inhabited England throughout its history and that the first modern Britons were dark-skinned, based on DNA evidence obtained from Cheddar Man, a 10,000-year-old skeleton discovered in 1903.”

Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings between 1937 and 1949, a time when people of color were greatly underrepresented in literature and pop culture. Still, however, as the most respected LOTTERY resource, TheOneRing.net, has pointed out, Tolkien purposely never describes the race in the books. “I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones. and above all I detest the separation or separation of Language and Literature. I don’t care which one of them you believe White,” the author said. Tolkien was a noted anti-racist, says Newby.

But perhaps the best answer to people who upset that a imagination The 2022 series doesn’t have an all-white cast, came this weekend from former Florida House of Representatives member Omari Hardy: “This is a show about magic rings and elves and dwarfs and evil wizards, but what it’s not realistic is BLACK PEOPLE in the cast,” Hardy he tweeted.

Isn’t that just a vocal minority? Why do we feed the trolls?

It is absolutely true that as with most cases of racial uproar, the regression to regression it is much stronger. A CNN article in particular last weekend, titled “When ‘Awakening’ Comes to Middle-Earth: Why Some Say Diverse Casting Is Ruining the New Lord of the Rings series,” was heavily criticized on social media. “In this article ‘wokeness’ literally just means ‘black people,'” responded activist Angus Johnston. a viral tweet. “The biggest con the mainstream media has played on us is legitimizing Jim Crow-level racism by calling it ‘wokeness,'” he wrote. Dare Obasanjo. Others complain about giving trolls a platform.

But this isn’t just 12 angry fanboys tweeting from their parents’ basements. According to Forbes, The Rings of PowerThe July trailer had 56,000 likes to 159,000 dislikes (YouTube now hides dislikes, but can be seen with an extension), a surprising ratio for a generally beloved franchise. There are other reasons fans are upset: The fact that, in contrast LOTTERY and The Hobbit, Rings of Power it’s not based on specific Tolkien books, for example, but is written with far more liberties (albeit with the blessing of Tolkien’s estate) by creators JD Payne and Patrick McKay. However, with a quick scan of the comments and almost any online forum, you’ll see references to “diversity police” and “woke Nazis” and “social justice warriors” wreaking havoc. Lord of the Rings. Even Elon Musk is upset, claiming that “Tolkien is turning in his grave,” though his dog-whistle tweets are more critical of the film’s gender dynamics than its racial perspective (“Almost every male character so far he is a coward, a jerk, or both, » he cried.). Take all of this with a grain of salt, though, considering Musk’s longstanding feud with Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.

There’s also been “review bombing” (when hordes of angry fans give a movie or show the lowest rating, sight unseen), another move straight out of the troll playbook. On Rotten Tomatoes, the series has a glowing 84 percent critical consensus, but only a 39 percent audience approval rating, with THR pointing out that the latter has come with complaints about the show’s diversity. Amazon was apparently so concerned with the bombardment of reviews that it permanently suspended user reviews for 72 hours on its own platform in an effort to combat online trolling.

What does the cast say?

In interviews with Yahoo Entertainment at San Diego Comic-Con, Mr Rings of Power The cast beamed with pride for the series’ most diverse and gender-balanced ensemble.

“We are talking about a global show and a global audience. This is now the reality. It’s not about narrow viewing,” Addai-Robinson told us. “And for me it’s about inviting people in and being expansive. And if you’re going to tell that story in 2022, that to me is the only way to tell it, the only way to represent it. And I think people were really hungry to see full representation in that world. Because at the end of the day this story is about people from different backgrounds coming together for a common cause.”

“It’s just lovely, it’s just such an inclusive atmosphere,” added Megan Richards, who plays the snotty Poppy Proudfellow. “And I look forward to the time when it’s not even a question anymore. It’s really cool that the modern world we live in today is really reflected in the world that JD and Patrick have created.”

Has the racist backlash affected the rating?

There’s a saying among conservative circles when it comes to Hollywood “forcing” diversity on its audiences: “Wake up, break out.”

And while Amazon invested more than $1 billion to acquire the rights to Tolkien’s works and commit to five seasons, early returns are so far promising for the streaming giant.

The Rings of PowerIts premiere drew 25 million viewers on Prime Video on its first day, Amazon said [via Variety].

“It’s somewhat fitting that Tolkien’s stories – among the most popular of all time, and what many consider to be the true origins of the fantasy genre – have led us to this proud moment,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. a statement. “I am so grateful to the Tolkien Estate – and our showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, executive producer Lindsey Weber, cast and crew – for their tireless collaborative efforts and boundless creative energy. And it’s the tens of millions of fans who watch – clearly as passionate about Middle-earth as we are – that are the true measure of our success.”

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