Image Credit: Everett Collection
It’s become all too common for actors with color cast to receive backlash in film adaptations of fantasy books, and the black-and-tan cast members of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings prequel, The Rings of Power, are the latest victims. Although fantasy lovers have no problem accepting the existence of JRR Tolkien’s many fantasy creatures such as hobbits, harfoots, elves and dwarves, many cannot contain their disbelief enough to accept that these fantasy creatures could be people of color , as depicted in “The Rings of Power.” Now, the original cast of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is taking a stand against the racist backlash and declaring that elves of all stripes are welcome in Middle-earth.
When black performers like Lenny Henry and Sophia Nomvete were announced in early 2020, racists went to work trolling on social media about how black characters were allegedly flouting Tolkien’s vision. The September 2 premiere of the Prime Video series reignited the racist chatter. Now Prime Video doesn’t mince words about the racist attacks and standing behind its more diverse take on Tolkien’s fantasy world.
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTronPrime) September 7, 2022
The explanation posted on Twitter On September 7, it said, “We, the cast of Rings of Power, stand together in absolute solidarity and against the unrelenting racism, threats, harassment and abuse some of our castmates of color face on a daily basis.”
“We refuse to ignore or tolerate it,” the statement continued. “JRR Tolkien created a world that is by definition multicultural. A world where free peoples of different races and cultures band together to defeat the forces of evil. Rings of Power reflects that. Our world has never been all white, imagination has never been all white. Middle-earth is not all white. BIPOC belong to Middle-earth and are here to stay.
They concluded, “Finally, all our love and community goes out to the fans who support us, especially people of color who are themselves attacked simply for existing in this fandom. We see you, your bravery and your endless creativity Cosplays, fancams, fan art and insights make this community an enriching place and remind us of our purpose. You are valid, you are loved and you belong. You are an integral part of the LOTR family – thanks for having our back. ”
Actors Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd – who played Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin in the original Lord of the Rings film trilogy – showed their support for Wood post a photo the actors wearing t-shirts that say “You’re All Welcome Here” in Elvish. Astin wore a baseball cap with the same writing in his photo.
— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) September 7, 2022
— Sean Astin (@SeanAstin) September 7, 2022
Even the Star Wars franchise’s Twitter account showed its support, tweet“From Middle-earth to a galaxy far, far away… #YouAreAllWelcomeHere.” (The Star Wars franchise faced a similar backlash for casting John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran in lead roles.)
Weeks later, on September 18, Orlando Bloom, who played the elven archer Legolas in the original film series, posted a photo to Instagram with Rings of Power star Ismael Cruz Córdova. Córdova, who is Puerto Rican, plays the elf Arondir in the Prime Video series, and Bloom’s Instagram post makes it clear that he thinks he’s an elf friend. He captioned the post “mellon” which means “friend” in Sindarin and Noldorin (Elvish languages in Tolkien’s novels). “Big love Mellon,” Córdova replied in the comments, with Prime Video’s Instagram account adding, “Legends.”
Despite the backlash, “The Rings of Power” is a hit in the ratings. 25 million people tuned in to see the show’s two-episode premiere in the first 24 hours, Prime Video’s highest number of premieres to date.