Neil Gaiman: LOTR Diversity Haters Either Racist or Don't Know Tolkien

If you didn't hear, Amazon, J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is starting off pretty damn well, to the tune of 25 million global viewers on its first day. And in case you wondering, those numbers make it the largest premiere in the 15-year-run of Amazon's Prime Video. And yet, the series has also been attacked by the same group of self-hating trolls that go after anything that doesn't fit their narrow-minded, "white-washed" view of how something should be. In this case (as you'll see below), the streaming series has been attacked by those who say going with a diverse cast goes against what author J.R.R. Tolkien intended. And then they made the mistake of putting themselves in a position of having to contend with Neil Gaiman, who knows more than a bit about Tolkien's intentions as well as about defending art from those who hate via the initial troll reactions to Netflix's The Sandman.

Image: Netflix/Amazon

Of course, the "conversation" began with someone who apparently isn't too thrilled with seeing people of color in fantasy series hiding behind the old "But the author didn't want it that way!" argument. Why? Because egos like these assume their narrow visions of art are always what the artists intended, and no one is going to tell them otherwise. Except for someone like Gaiman, who was tagged in the thread for his perspective since he was "Tolkien's best mate." And with Gaiman being Gaiman, he made sure that there wasn't any wiggle room as to the two schools folks fall in who believe Tolkien only wanted white characters. "Tolkien described the Harfoots as "browner of skin" than the other hobbits. So I think anyone grumbling is either racist or hasn't read their Tolkien. Your mileage may vary," Gaiman tweeted in response (as you'll see in the screencap below):

lord of the rings
Image: Screencap

Of course, this is social media, and these folks are trolls of the worst kind… the racist, gatekeeping variety. The kind that views others different from them as second-class citizens while strangling any attempts at artistic growth & evolution. The kind that thinks they know better than the artist and those who knew the artist well. This is why you get toxic nonsense like this: "Browner of skin means tanned white similar to people who work in the sun as they are in a temperate environment like England, you are both lying and trying to deceive people, Gaimen, shame on you" (apparently, someone was so up in their hurt feels so much that they couldn't spell Gaiman's name correctly). Thankfully, Gaiman was still around to put this "tinfoil scholar" properly in their place. "Tolkien didn't say, 'The Harfoots spent longer in the sun than any of the other hobbits and were a lot more tanned.' He said they were 'browner of skin,'" Gaiman responded (with names redacted to protect one innocent person and two people not worth giving promotion to):

lord of the rings
Image: Screencap

Heading into the Prime Video series' two-episode debut, the streaming series was riding an impressive 83% "Fresh" average score on Rotten Tomatoes (RT) with critics. But over on RT, there was a shocking contrast when it came to the audience review, hovering around an average 37% "Rotten" score (at 38% as of this writing), resulting in many viewing it as another example of "review bombing." And over on the streamer, Amazon suspended its ratings system for the show, with a source telling The Hollywood Reporter that "reviews are being held 72 hours to help weed out trolls and to ensure each review is legitimate," a policy reportedly instituted earlier this summer for all of Prime Video's shows.

While the majority of reviews on RT addressed specific issues with the series, a number of other comments appeared aimed more at attacking the show for societal or political issues they believe the show is attempting to make and not on the actual quality of the streaming series itself. For example, "They wanted to involve such an important work with current politics and they have succeeded" and  "Reflecting world diversity in Middle Earth is an odd goal, albeit good for marketing maybe, but it was clearly more important than making a functional TV series." If this sounds familiar, it should. Disney+ and Marvel Studios' She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was also reportedly review-bombed, heading into its premiere with an 88% "Fresh" average score among critics, only to get hit with a 36% "Rotten" average score among viewers. (now currently up to 50% after three episodes).

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Ray FlookAbout Ray Flook

Serving as Television Editor since 2018, Ray began five years earlier as a contributing writer/photographer before being brought onto the core BC team in 2017.
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