Maybe the Rings of Power is just not that good?

Source: Hot Air

The View is back for another season and today the hosts devoted a segment to the critics of The Rings of Power.

The hosts of “The View” have absolutely no time for the racist criticisms of new fantasy shows like HBO’s “House of the Dragon” and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” So, on Tuesday’s season premiere of “The View,” the ladies went off on those critics, mocking their outrage.

For those disgruntled fans, the primary argument against the diverse casting of “The Rings of Power” is that J.R.R. Tolkien never intended to populate Middle-earth with people/creatures of color, despite Tolkien explicitly describing the Harfoots as having “browner” skin in contrast to their descendants the hobbits. In fact, in tandem with the premiere of “The Rings of Power” on Amazon, the streamer suspended user reviews for the first 72 hours to prevent those angry about the racially diverse cast from “review bombing” the series.

“Are you telling me Black people can’t be fake people too? Is that what you’re telling me?” Whoopi Goldberg said incredulously on Tuesday. “I don’t know if there’s like a hobbit club, I don’t know if there are gonna be protests, but people! What is wrong with y’all?”

I don’t know if you’ve seen The first two episodes of The Rings of Power yet but I have. The show is supposed to run for five seasons of about 8 episodes per season and so far it’s just not very good. All of the secondary things we expect from a big budget high fantasy production are there. Some of the make-up and costumes are nice. Many of the practical sets are nice and some of the digital matte paintings introducing the different parts of middle-earth look epic. If you were to freeze frame the show every 10 minutes, chances are the frame you stop on would look good, maybe even impressive.

But I almost fell asleep watching the second episode. And that’s because, at least so far, the story just isn’t very compelling. The main character, Galadriel, seems to be the only character with an actual goal, which is to find the remaining orcs and kill Sauron once and for all. But no one else seems to believe there’s a threat and she spends most of her time failing to convince people her mission isn’t a waste of time.

Again, we’re only 2 episodes in and maybe things will pick up but compare this to Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring. Two hours into that movie all of the characters have committed themselves to destroy the ring at any cost and they are fighting storms, orcs and various monsters to achieve their goal. Two hours into Rings of Power and Galadriel is being shipped off to Valinor and decides to jump off the boat taking her there. She spends the rest of the episode swimming and clinging to a raft. She has a goal but it still feels like we’re barely at the beginning of her story.

Meanwhile we’ve been introduced to a bunch of proto-Hobbits and someone who might be Gandalf and nothing they are doing is remotely interesting so far. The show really drags and (again I haven’t seen the rest) it feels as if maybe by the end of season 1 we’ll finally be getting to some sort of fellowship forming to take down Sauron. I hope I’m wrong about the timeline but that’s how slow it feels so far, like the first hour of Jackson’s first film is being stretched out over 8-hours.

My point is that I don’t think all of the fans of Tolkien are suddenly racists. I think the fans are unhappy because so far the show isn’t very good and seems to be following a lot of Hollywood tropes that many fantasy science fiction fans are sick of. For instance, the Mary Sue female heroine who just happens to be an unstoppable warrior. We did this all with Rey Skywalker and people hated it then too. Here are some of the common complaints from the negative reviews which led Amazon to stop accepting reviews temporarily:

  • Some fans are upset Galadriel is now a warrior instead of the sword-free sorceress she was in the LOTR trilogy. In general, the show has let its female characters slay out, including both Bronwyn and Galadriel.
  • There have been long, long running controversies about how the show has included black elves, dwarves and humans in this adaptation, as opposed to the overwhelmingly white original trilogy. Complaints are that this clashes with Tolkien’s original work and has led to debates about “whether dwarves can be black because they live underground.”
  • I read that the Harfoots having Irish/English country accents have offended some people in that region because they’re depicted as dirty, gypsy types.
  • Then just…take your pick of any number of things that die-hard Tolkien devotees see as the show departing from the source material, or skipping over parts that should have been adapted instead. The general idea is that Jackson’s trilogy was faithful to the work while this is not.

Most of these complaints aren’t about race but complaints about the black elf character do obviously involve race. Some people feel it’s messing with Tolkien’s world and they don’t like it. Personally, I didn’t mind the black elf character but it did bother me that his major story arc so far has been about forbidden love with a human woman and hatred from the townsfolk which, because he’s black, feels like an obvious story about miscegenation laws and racism circa 1965. Couldn’t we just have a black elf character without making his whole subplot be about him being black? I guess not.

That said, I sort of agree with Whoopi for once. There are a lot of wonderful black nerds out there in the world who love this stuff every bit as much as I do. I’m all for black people being part of that fandom and feeling welcome to be there because the whole idea of fandom is to gather around something you love, to enjoy having that in common with other people who are just as excited about it. And that means black people can definitely be elves and wizards and dragons and anything else because, and this is the key, it really shouldn’t matter all that much. But that idea is undercut when the show keeps telling you every five minutes that ‘actually, the most important thing about this character’s life is his race and the obstacles that creates for him.’ That seems like a very 2022 concern and a bit alien to Tolkien.

Bottom line, if you want people to like these characters as something more than avatars for progressive messaging, it really helps if the show is great and the story is compelling. So far The Rings of Power hasn’t been either and I think that’s what fans are mostly upset about. Personally, I had zero anticipation for this show so if it turns out to be awful, well, it wasn’t my money they blew on this turkey. More generally, after living through the Star Wars prequels and the sequels, it’s hard to get worked up about this sort of thing. Awful writers have already crushed the characters I cared about as a child. There’s just not a lot of disappointment left in me after Attack of the Clones and The Last Jedi.

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