There’s no denying it: most viewers cannot stand “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”
The new Amazon series has a 39% rating on Rotten Tomatoes despite the contradictory 85% critic rating. Showrunners and mainstream media insist that people hate the J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation because they can’t stand seeing black actors added to the cast.
But as usual, the true reason is something very different from the narrative being pushed.
Amazon spent a whopping $250 million buying the rights to “LOTR” and then another $715 million producing it, making the series the most expensive project ever made. Jeff Bezos had allegedly told his team he wanted the company to make the next “Game of Thrones,” and he was willing to spend whatever it took to make it happen. The cost, and the stakes, are what’s making the bad reviews so catastrophic. The media can’t fathom that anything other than racism can be the reason for so many one-star reviews.
Most recently, a few stars from the Tolkien movie adaptation, Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” (2001) made their position on the bad reviews clear. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd donned shirts that said “You Are All Welcome Here” in Elvish as a show of solidarity against the perceived racist reviews.
Whoopi Goldberg and “The View” panelists weighed in, mocking fans for accepting the existence of mythical creatures but taking issue with black actors joining the cast.
“Are you telling me black people can’t be fake people, too?” Goldberg said. “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?”
“What I think is fascinating is like, dragons are OK, fire-breathing dragons, and people with white hair that are born like that when they’re little, and violet eyes, but the black people in it is just a bridge too far for these folks,” panelist Sunny Hostin chimed in.
“It’s just racist. Call it what it is,” Joy Behar insisted.
So what’s going on? Are fans just super racist, or is something else at play?
A quick perusal of the one-star reviews on Rotten Tomatoes reveals that most detractors take issue with the script and character development in the series. They don’t like how showrunners have twisted Tolkien’s original story, but for most people, it’s not the race of the characters that they have issues with.
“The film has some breathtaking visuals but has no substance… it’s almost like looking at an amazing cake that you know was expensive and take a bite and it’s not good. No flavor…nothing to bring you back,” one person shared.
“The problem with this show is that it is boring and looks cheap most of the time,” another reviewer wrote. “The story is barely existent, the protagonist isn’t interesting or sympathetic, the script is poorly written. I’m listening to some of what they are saying and it’s just nonsensical verbal cotton candy.”
A third person wrote, “The show so far is visually gorgeous, but sadly the characters are bland & the story boring. I very much hope that it improves. The first two episodes start a story that is Tolkien adjacent at best.”
Meanwhile, media outlets accuse “racist trolls” of “review bombing” the series just because of black character additions. They never explicitly quote these racist reviews, likely because they’re few and far between — if they exist at all. One tweet from activist Angus Johnston went viral as he railed against reviewers decrying the show’s “wokenes,” which he says is a thinly veiled metaphor for diverse casting.
The only review that these highly offended critics can cite as being racist comes courtesy of RedState. Brandon Morse does mention the diverse casting if only to point out that it became the focus of the series at the expense of other more important elements, such as the script itself. Mainstream critics screaming racism keep quoting this one review but leaving out the most important part.
“It began when actors within the show began putting emphasis on the skin color of their characters and the word ‘diversity’ began being thrown around as if it was a focus of the show,” Brandon Morse wrote.
“Diversity isn’t a bad thing by itself, but when it becomes a major focus it usually means the story is being shoved further back in terms of importance.”
Even if Morse had come out and said that he hated the fact that black actors got cast in lead roles (which he absolutely didn’t), he’d be alone in that assessment. The vast majority of negative reviews have nothing to do with race.
In the end there’s proof that hordes of racist, fantasy-loving trolls don’t roam the earth. It all comes from the best direct comparison to “The Rings of Power,” which is of course, “House of the Dragon.”
“House of the Dragon” is a spinoff prequel which returns “Game of Thrones” fans to Westeros. The HBO Max series premiered just a few days before “Rings of Power” and as another epic fantasy based on a book with a rabid fan base, making it the perfect comparison.
One element that’s not being discussed enough is that like “LOTR,” the casting directors for “House of the Dragon” intentionally added a bevy of black actors as main characters in the series.
“It was very important for Miguel [Sapochnik] and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen,” co-showrunner Ryan Condal told Entertainment Weekly ahead of the premiere. “We wanted to find a way to put diversity in the show, but we didn’t want to do it in a way that felt like it was an afterthought or, worse, tokenism.”
To achieve this, the creators added the Velaryons as wealthy black conquerors who arrived in Westeros from the west. Author George R.R. Martin was very supportive of the concept even though he didn’t specifically write those characters as black in his books.
But the real test is with the fans. What do reviews look like for “House of the Dragon?” Has the series experienced the same review-bombing that “The Rings of Power” was subjected to because of these overt diversity measures?
In short, no. “House of the Dragon” currently has an 85% critic rating and 84% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Though the series had a lot to live up to following the massive success of “Game of Thrones,” so far fans are on board with the prequel set 200 years before the events of the original. No one seems to mind that many of the main characters are black.
“Finally a great fantasy show with excellent acting, competent writing, and great costumes and cinematography. I love how this show is written, for adults,” one reviewer gushes. “They let the viewers figure things out rather than spelling things out for them. In addition to this, they respect the lore of the world, thank you writers and producers! Hollywood take note, this is the content we like and are willing to pay for.”
“Fantastic storytelling. Great acting,” another says. “A character literally stole the episode without saying a word. It makes me excited for Sunday night again! Great prequel!”
As expected, some fans of one series overlapped the other.
“Enjoying the story so far, its VASTLY more interesting than Rings of Power,” a reviewer shared. “I actually have some reason to care about the characters, they aren’t either totally incompetent or god-like in their power level, they feel like PEOPLE with flaws and relatable issues. Its not perfect, but its the best thing on right now, without a doubt.”
These two shows are likely to keep being pitted against each other as new episodes are released. Maybe the mainstream media will eventually figure out that great shows will get great ratings, and not everything negative is rooted in racism.
On the other hand, the wimpy male characters and turning Galadriel into a warrior princess tougher and braver than the male elf warriors is the chief criticism of Tolkien fans. That’s not racial. That’s objecting to a woke feminist rewrite of Middle Earth.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.