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TLOTR: The Rings of Power


maqroll
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So...Amazon is making a series based on lore from Lord of the Rings, which is controversial in it's own right, but the trailer has put people's knickers in a twist because of the racial diversity of the cast, which detractors claim is not loyal to Tolkien's Middle Earth world or Norse mythology in general.

Having just rewatched the trilogy, I noticed there were a few non European looking extras. I've also heard there were black elves in Norse mythology. 

Amazon is apparently including the diversity angle in their marketing strategy. The series will be their biggest production yet, so of course they want to guarantee a wide appeal.

Should racial diversity in a TV or film cast matter?

In a Middle Earth setting, would this racial inclusivity seem less authentic and perhaps come across as pandering to contemporary sociopolitical trends?

I personally think the more pressing question is how good will the story be. If the writing, photography, acting, editing and music are good, what else really matters?

If they are already taking liberties with the source material, who cares how they cast the show? 

In any event, there's a whole cottage industry building up around bashing the project, focusing mostly on the diversity thing. 

Very 2022. 

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27 minutes ago, maqroll said:

I've also heard there were black elves in Norse mythology. 

I make no claim of expertise, but I'd imagine this isn't a racial thing. 

I'd guess it's more a contrast of light and dark variations, or sun and shade, or above ground and underground, or good and evil.

And so on.

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31 minutes ago, ml1dch said:

I make no claim of expertise, but I'd imagine this isn't a racial thing. 

I'd guess it's more a contrast of light and dark variations, or sun and shade, or above ground and underground, or good and evil.

And so on.

Right, I agree with that. 

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Should racial diversity in a TV or film cast matter?

Only in that there should be more of it. People have imaginations. Unless a storyline is dealing with themes that explicitly based on race. Who cares, and when it comes to adaptations from fiction , clue is in the word fiction! It's made up. Otherwise, i.e. with Shakespeare there's only a couple of characters that are "allowed" to be played by a black person or a jewish person etc. 

If you didn't have diversity, and insisted on using 'authenticity' as a get out, you essentially relegate alot of minority ethnic characters out of many period dramas to a limited stock character. I enjoyed David Oleyumo in Les Miserables as the police officer, he was terrific, as was Adeel Akhtar. The colour-blind casting of David Copperfield was a blast to name a couple of recent examples.   

Moaning about it I think risks you ending up being parked in the same box as dickheads like whatsisname Fox, who complained when a Sikh featured in the film 1917 ( despite the fact that several thousands Sikhs amid many other groups fought during WW1 for the UK ). 

And considering we're talking about elves and orcs? Goodness me :D 

Edited by Rodders
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59 minutes ago, ml1dch said:

I make no claim of expertise, but I'd imagine this isn't a racial thing. 

I'd guess it's more a contrast of light and dark variations, or sun and shade, or above ground and underground, or good and evil.

And so on.

Dark Elves are generally seen as on the side of evil (but not necessarily). It can be viewed as a racial thing, especially when viewed against how people react to it. 

Community got into this whole problem when they did a Dungeon's and Dragon's episode (actually a really good episode that deals with bullying and thoughts of suicide) and one of the characters dressed as a dark elf. The episode has subsequently been pulled from places like Netflix as it was viewed as blackface and some of the black characters reacted negatively to it. 

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I think the biggest surprise for me is that the cast is so unknown, its more fresh faced than game of thrones for example and the LOTR films

other than lenny henry i dont think i will recognise a single one of them from anything

not even anybody from the wire, didnt think that was possible

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People are also upset about the female dwarf having no beard :)

Amazon has a very clear diversity protocol around the stuff they make on their platform which is a nice idea on paper at least. Seen it linked on another forum about the tWoT series.

Amazon made an absolute disaster out of the Wheel of Time series. The author of those books spent a lot of time describing the characters in minute detail and Amazon changed a lot of that for diversity sake and it didn't go down to well with the book fans who didn't recognize their characters from the books. The failing with that series wasn't the casting thou it was that the showrunner decided to pretty much disregard the books and create a fundamentally different story with characters who acted nothing like in the books where nothing was the same apart from the names.

The LoTR show should work better because they are telling their own story based on happenings not described in detail by Tolkien.

Looking forward to this one but I hope they don't go Galadriel warrior princess.

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I can forgive just about anything as long as Glorfindel is featured in some capacity, I was gutted that he didn't get included in the films. They will 100% turn Galadriel into Xena though, despite the fact she's already a perfectly badass character in her own right. 

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4 minutes ago, ender4 said:

I can't wait.   Hope it's amazing!

We saw what happened when the GoT story was written by someone other than the author...my hopes aren't very high for this.

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9 minutes ago, maqroll said:

We saw what happened when the GoT story was written by someone other than the author...my hopes aren't very high for this.

I thought the 6 seasons of GOT that were made by Dumb and Dumber were great. Such a shame they never finished the story though! 😜

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3 minutes ago, chrisp65 said:

It’s made up. It’s got **** elves and pixies and unicorns in it.

They can be candy striped with glitter.

It’s like complaining they don’t follow the national curriculum at Hogwarts.

 

They've bought the rights for it so I guess they can do whatever they want. I generally think you should respect the IP if you intend to use the name.

Same things when people think that because there is magic or superpowers you can do anything and everything. The things happening in their story still has to follow the rules they themselves set up. If not then it turns to crap IMO.

The Passage, World War Z, The Wheel of Time and many many more have all been absolutely slaughtered by writers who thought they could improve on the authors stories.  

Fwiw I couldn't care less if there is dark skinned elves or dwarves. Turning Galadriel into a warrior princess or having Legolas defying physics by running in the air on falling boulders is a no from me thou. Legolas not effected by the snow on Caradhras is I guess a bit odd too but that's how Tolkien wrote it.

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1 hour ago, sne said:

They've bought the rights for it so I guess they can do whatever they want. I generally think you should respect the IP if you intend to use the name.

Same things when people think that because there is magic or superpowers you can do anything and everything. The things happening in their story still has to follow the rules they themselves set up. If not then it turns to crap IMO.

The Passage, World War Z, The Wheel of Time and many many more have all been absolutely slaughtered by writers who thought they could improve on the authors stories.  

Fwiw I couldn't care less if there is dark skinned elves or dwarves. Turning Galadriel into a warrior princess or having Legolas defying physics by running in the air on falling boulders is a no from me thou. Legolas not effected by the snow on Caradhras is I guess a bit odd too but that's how Tolkien wrote it.

If the source material has set rules for certain things or given characters specific traits/personality then that should be respected. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that the adaptation is bad if they do.

What is daft though is getting upset if characters are different ethnicities or don't have beards as surely there's more important things in the world to worry about. 

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1 minute ago, Rds1983 said:

If the source material has set rules for certain things or given characters specific traits/personality then that should be respected. However, it doesn't necessarily mean that the adaptation is bad if they do.

What is daft though is getting upset if characters are different ethnicities or don't have beards as surely there's more important things in the world to worry about. 

Yeah as long as the changes makes sense within the world it's totally fine for the most part imo. If it becomes a box ticking exercise then perhaps the writing isn't all that good.

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As long as the acting is up to scratch, sadly if the recent fantasy epics on Amazon/Netflix with mostly young unknown casts are anything to go by (Wheel of Time/ Shadow and Bone etc.), I haven't got high hopes.

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1 hour ago, chrisp65 said:

It’s made up. It’s got **** elves and pixies and unicorns in it.

They can be candy striped with glitter.

It’s like complaining they don’t follow the national curriculum at Hogwarts.

 

As @sne rightly says, there are things in the lore/the internal logic of a piece that matter. Just because you're dealing with fantastical concepts doesn't mean you should just trash the basic elements of the property.

I'm a big fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. Last year the BBC did an adaptation of some of them, and they changed things in it. Some of those didn't matter, even as an enormous fan. They gender flipped a character, they altered some ethnicities, fine, doesn't matter. But some of the changes do matter, because they fundamentally change characters and make the the property into something different. They took a character that in the books is a middle aged spinster, and turned her into Batman for some reason. They took a character whose story is unambiguously a feminist one (she comes from a race that has problems accepting/acknowledging gender, and her arc is basically her rejecting her cultures acceptance of masculinity only and openly being female and the effects of that) and made it a trans narrative instead, which is a quite different thing. At that point it stops being an adaptation and starts being an 'in name only' kinda thing.

Now strictly following the letter of Tolkein's lore, it's true there would not have been black elves, but that's because in Tolkein's world all the black people live in the part of the world we don't care about and are evil. And because the exact ethnic look of the Elves is basically just an aesthetic thing in Tolkein's world, it doesn't matter what they actually look like in an adaptation and because a series or a film doesn't exist in a vacuum, casting an ethnically diverse cast doesn't fundamentally change the nature of the property (unlike turning a feminist story into a trans one, or somehow making a character into Batman for some reason). If, however, they had say... elves going on drunken orgy benders, hobbits being urban go-getters, Sauron rapping about how much he hates rings and Galadriel being Xena, that would matter.

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It was very much like those Terry Pratchett series issues that Amazon ruined Wheel of Time which is why I'm a bit cautious about this one. 

Different writing team and showrunner so hopefully this one is good.

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25 minutes ago, Chindie said:

As @sne rightly says, there are things in the lore/the internal logic of a piece that matter. Just because you're dealing with fantastical concepts doesn't mean you should just trash the basic elements of the property.

I'm a big fan of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. Last year the BBC did an adaptation of some of them, and they changed things in it. Some of those didn't matter, even as an enormous fan. They gender flipped a character, they altered some ethnicities, fine, doesn't matter. But some of the changes do matter, because they fundamentally change characters and make the the property into something different. They took a character that in the books is a middle aged spinster, and turned her into Batman for some reason. They took a character whose story is unambiguously a feminist one (she comes from a race that has problems accepting/acknowledging gender, and her arc is basically her rejecting her cultures acceptance of masculinity only and openly being female and the effects of that) and made it a trans narrative instead, which is a quite different thing. At that point it stops being an adaptation and starts being an 'in name only' kinda thing.

Now strictly following the letter of Tolkein's lore, it's true there would not have been black elves, but that's because in Tolkein's world all the black people live in the part of the world we don't care about and are evil. And because the exact ethnic look of the Elves is basically just an aesthetic thing in Tolkein's world, it doesn't matter what they actually look like in an adaptation and because a series or a film doesn't exist in a vacuum, casting an ethnically diverse cast doesn't fundamentally change the nature of the property (unlike turning a feminist story into a trans one, or somehow making a character into Batman for some reason). If, however, they had say... elves going on drunken orgy benders, hobbits being urban go-getters, Sauron rapping about how much he hates rings and Galadriel being Xena, that would matter.

I’d have to go and do some deeper research, but from memory doesn’t Gawain in some really old Welsh story meet or slay green elves?

Given Tolkien’s liking of ancient Welsh language would it be a stretch to suggest he knew Elves were green?

I can’t help feeling that if something is pure fantasy, it’s open to much greater adaption. I’m far more relaxed about the colour of fairies, or the sexuality of a robot in the next Star Wars, than maybe actual historical figures being incorrectly written.

 

*so, on a very quick wiki rabbit hole, the Greene Elf was a Knight in one of the Arthurian legends, the green may be a mis translation of the word ‘Glas’ which could mean grey or blue or sea green, but itself is a reference to the story of an ancient Welsh tribal leader, who had a black face.

So, I’d say Tolkien is maybe taking existing story and character and mythical beast and running with it, so, y’know what goes around comes around. 

Maybe.

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