The creators and cast of Amazon Prime Video’s ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’, which debuted on September 1, have released a statement Wednesday in “solidarity and against the incessant racism, threats, harassment and abuse of which some of our comrades of color are victims on a daily basis”.
“JRR Tolkien created a world which, by definition, is multicultural. A world in which free people of different races and cultures unite, in brotherhood, to defeat the forces of evil,” he said. “Our world has never been all white, fantasy has never been all white. Middle-earth is not all white.
The statement also defended “fans of color who are themselves being attacked simply for existing in this fandom. We see you, your bravery and endless creativity,” he added. “You are valid, you are loved and you belong.”
The sentiment has been echoed by former stars and hobbits: actors Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, who played Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin, respectively, in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy , released in the early 2000s.
Wood shared an image on Twitter with castmates wearing T-shirts with elvish writing on them, tweeting, “You’re all welcome here.” The move was repeated by Astin, who wore a baseball cap with the same wording.
In a rare act of multiverse alliance, the Star Wars Twitter account added his support, writing, “From Middle-earth to a galaxy far, far away… #YouAreAllWelcomeHere.” Black actors John Boyega and Moses Ingram have previously spoken out against the racist online abuse they received for appearing in the sci-fi franchise.
Cast members of the new series have spoken out about the racist abuse they have faced since appearing on the eight-part show.
“We belong to Middle-earth”, tweeted Latin actor Ismael Cruz Córdova, who plays the elven warrior Arondir in the Prime Video series. In another tweet, he wrote: “Seeking zero favor but living with the same chance to dream and prosper as anyone else. If you have ever felt rejected, marginalized, silenced, you are my people. And this moment is also the your !
Black British actor Lenny Henry, like author Tolkien, hails from the diverse English city of Birmingham. He embodies a prototype hobbit, Sadoc Burrows, a Harfoot from the series. Often in the fantasy genre, “you don’t see yourself as a black person,” he told the UK edition of GQ magazine. But he said that with this show, “things are being reconfigured.”
Actress Whoopi Goldberg also went viral online earlier this week, noticing the backlash from the imaginary show.
“Are you telling me that black people can’t be fake people either? Is that what you’re telling me? … What’s wrong with you? she said on ABC’s “The View” talk show. “We would like to see as many people represented in fantasy as there are,” she added, chastising those who “are having trouble because there are black hobbits.”
Tolkien “based identity very heavily on language, and that’s how he viewed culture,” said Nick Groom, author of “Twenty-First-Century Tolkien: What Middle-Earth Means to Us Today.” at the Washington Post on Thursday.
“There’s a lot of racial diversity in Tolkien’s different species,” which include humans, elves, hobbits and dwarves, among others, he said.
“Tolkien embraces racial diversity,” said the English literature professor at the University of Macau. “There are three races of hobbits,” he noted, with some being described as “browner.”
Writing in the 1930s, Tolkien, who was born in South Africa, was “well aware that skin color can be a differentiating feature”, and he included it in his works, Groom said. However, popular portrayals in paintings, plays and on screen have “tended to be very white”, he added, influencing public perceptions.
The series debuted to an audience of more than 25 million people worldwide on day one, making it the biggest premiere in Prime Video history, the company said.
“It’s somehow fitting that Tolkien’s stories – some of the most popular of all time, and what many consider to be the true origin of the fantasy genre – have led us to this proud moment,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in a statement after the show launched last week. She added that “the tens of millions of fans watching… are our true measure of success.”
The eight-part series delves into the fabled history of the Second Age of Middle-earth and is set thousands of years before the events of Tolkien’s novels ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.
Executive Producer Lindsey Weber Told The Post in an interview this month that the show would cover the Forging of the Rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, and ultimately the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. She said the series was designed for those who had never read the books, but also had inbuilt details for “diehard fans, scholars of the legendary”.
It takes fantasy fans on a prequel journey and will likely last 50 hours over five seasons, according to showrunners and executive producers JD Payne and Patrick McKay, with a total budget expected to exceed $1 billion.
The series arrives 21 years after the first film in Jackson’s theatrical trilogy. Like that film, it was also shot primarily in New Zealand.