Jeff Bezos’ new Lord of the Rings show is angering fans because it has Black dwarves. Seriously.

19 February 2022 | Fortune } Christian Hetzner

… But casting multicultural actors isn’t at all contrary to the author’s underlying theme of disparate peoples joining forces to overcome hardship, Luke Shelton, a medievalist scholar and editor in chief of Mallorn, the Tolkien Society journal, tells Fortune, adding that he personally supported it. Academic researchers have debated the undertones of institutional racism in Tolkien’s works, he added, and his society held its first seminar discussing topics related to diversity in Middle-earth last year.

I think a lot of fans are pushing back against where the show may be going, because it conflicts in some cases with their mental image of Middle-earth,” he said.…

I never really understood the importance of representation until a woman with Asian heritage told me she broke down crying when she saw another Asian actor in Laketown,” Shelton told Fortune, referring to a town in Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. For a story she loved so much, it felt as if she finally had a place in Middle-earth.”

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Amazon’s new big budget Lord of the Rings series may be months away from its streaming debut in September, yet a battle is already erupting over Middle-earth. 

Coveting the phenomenal success of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Jeff Bezos is investing a fortune to grow Prime Video’s 200 million subscriber base by bringing J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s unparalleled fantasy world-building to life on the small, streaming screen.

However, when the first trailer for Prime’s tentpole LOTR epic, dubbed The Rings of Power, dropped on Super Bowl Sunday, Amazon Studios sparked uproar after the all-white, heavily male casts from previous film depictions made way for a more inclusive Tolkien retelling.

Rather than the image of a slender Galadriel dressed in her ethereal gossamer gown that Peter Jackson chose for his Tolkien trilogies, the Lady of Lothlórien was instead portrayed charging a field atop her steed, clad in full armor. All new characters that never appeared in the author’s works were introduced, including Arondir the elf, and the dwarven princess Disa, both portrayed by a Latinx and Black actor respectively.

Elrond, the herald of Gil-Galad who fought in the Last Alliance, is now a canny” architect. Galadriel, who never fought in the War of Wrath or Last Alliance, is now a commander” of armies.

It’s the woke rewriting of Tolkien into beta males & alpha females. pic​.twit​ter​.com/​s​g​c​u​L​fcxLR

— TheOneR​ing​.com (@torc) February 11, 2022

Some felt the deliberate attempt to broaden the series’ appeal clashed with the world and its figures as they were described in the books, while others championed the diverse cast and suspected the outcry disguised latent racism and misogyny.

The latest uproar follows a Vanity Fair story published earlier this month in which Amazon executives directly addressed some fans’ opposition to a multicultural cast.

Tolkien is for everyone,” said executive producer Lindsey Weber. It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like.”

After the trailer dropped, fans angrily pointed to Amazon Studio guidelines about trying to make their audition and casting process more diverse. They also began plastering the official YouTube page with a quote loosely attributed to the author. 

Whole comment section is like we’re not being racist, we just decided the whole show was gonna suck because we saw a poster with a black person on it”.

— HYPER | No Way Home was really good yo! (@Hyperbolismism) February 4, 2022

Evil,” they wrote in reference to the mega-cap corporation, cannot create anything new, they can only corrupt and ruin what good forces have invented or made.” 

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date recorded 📅2022-02-19
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