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What Do Middle Earth and the Internet Have in Common? Trolls

Racism controversy surrounding Prime Video’s ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ storms the internet.

Middle Earth isn’t the only place with trolls; the internet is full of them.  What’s the outrage du jour? – people of color cast as Elves, Dwarves, and Harfoots in Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, reports CNN. Some trolls, I mean fans, took to posting their discontent in comments on the first Rings of Power trailer.  Others, “review-bombed” Prime Video after the first two episodes were released September 2, actually prompting the streamer to delay publishing the reviews for 72 hours, Variety reports.  More sinister still are those who go on the personal attack.  Afro-Latino actor Ismael Cruz Cordova, who plays the elf Arondir, told Esquire that for two years he’s received messages filled with “pure and vicious hate speech” because of his casting in the series. 

Middle Earth isn’t the first big budget - small screen fantasy world to generate such digital outrage over non-white casting choices.  Just this past year, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Moses Ingram was the target of racist vitriol for her role as Reva Sevander, and Steve Toussaint has endured hateful, racist messages from “fans” for portraying Corlys Velaryon in House of the Dragon.  The similarly vicious outcry aimed at the Sandman’s inclusive casting is not even worth giving air.

Skin color isn’t the only current LOTR fan grievance of course.  Others include the lack of female dwarf beards and compressed timeline of Middle Earth’s second age. And of course, we have Even Elon Musk weighing in on Twitter, posting, “Tolkien is turning in his grave. Almost every male character so far is a coward, a jerk or both. Only Galadriel is brave, smart and nice.”

Diehard fantasy fans are very attached to their worlds and like to see them depicted as close to the source material as possible.  However, does the inclusion of a Black dwarf or Latino elf detract from the visual magnificence and enjoyable new storytelling in Rings of Power

Criticism is fair. We get it. But maybe the real fantasy here is the idea that viewers could approach a show like Rings of Power without such a seemingly all-to-common nasty, racist perspective. 

Whitney Whitener's picture

Whitney is a freelance writer focusing on VFX-driven fantasy film & TV as well as preschool animation.