Amazon’s Prime Video appears to be using Vanity Fair to attack The Lord of the Rings fans who have criticized the show for not staying faithful to Tolkien’s original work.
As is expected in this modern era of woke Hollywood, Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power executive producer Lindsey Weber explained in a puff piece for Vanity Fair the show altered and race swapped multiple characters in order to “reflect what the world actually looks like.”
In the article by Vanity Fair, the outlet reveals the show will include Lenny Henry playing a Harfoot, Sophia Nomvete playing a dwarf princess named Disa, and Ismael Cruz Córdova playing an elf.
Weber explained these casting changes stating, ““It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like.”
She argued, “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together.”
One would think that when adapting a piece of fiction that has a storied history, one might think it would have been natural to reflect what Tolkien actually wrote rather than “what the world actually looks like.”
It begs the question as why Amazon would even want to adapt Tolkien if they didn’t want to actually reflect what he wrote.
Interestingly, the puff piece by Vanity Fair then paints people who wanted Prime Video to stay true to Tolkien’s work as “trolls.”
Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican and Joanna Robinson write, “When Amazon released photos of its multicultural cast, even without character names or plot details, the studio endured a reflexive attack from trolls—the anonymous online kind.”
They go on to try and deride the fans by citing a so-called Tolkien scholar named Mariana Rios Maldonado. Maldonado is not a Tolkien scholar, but is rather a PhD student at the University of Glasgow who “is interested in ethics, feminist theory, and encountering the Other in Tolkien’s works.” That sounds like a social justice warrior if there ever was one.
If that didn’t convince you, Maldonado also happens to be “the Equality and Diversity Officer for the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic.”
Nevertheless, Vanity Fair, and one suspects Amazon by association, prop up this feminist as a Tolkien scholar to attack their fans.
Maldonado tells Vanity Fair, “Obviously there was going to be push and backlash, but the question is from whom? Who are these people that feel so threatened or disgusted by the idea that an elf is Black or Latino or Asian?”
Well, that’s actual fans of Tolkien’s work who want an adaptation of it to stay true it. What a tough question. And wanting to stay true to the work does not mean you are threatened or disgusted. To imply as such shows you what kind of Tolkien scholar this person is, their first thought is to attack people. Sounds like a Tolkien villain named Grima Wormtongue.
Not only does Vanity Fair and by association Amazon Studios attack The Lord of the Rings fans, but they also reveal that the casting changes were cause for fans to be concerned that if you can’t get that right, you won’t get the rest right either.
And that appears to be the case as Vanity Fair reports that showrunners “[JD] Payne and [Patrick] McKay have compressed events into a single point in time.” That’s right they’ve completely done away with Tolkien’s timeline.
The showrunners explain their decision, ““If you are true to the exact letter of the law, you are going to be telling a story in which your human characters are dying off every season because you’re jumping 200 years in time, and then you’re not meeting really big, important canon characters until season four. Look, there might be some fans who want us to do a documentary of Middle-earth, but we’re going to tell one story that unites all these things.”
Ironically, Vanity Fair noted how important the timeline and details were to Tolkien earlier in the article when they stated, “These timelines, genealogies, and notes on language and culture became so important to Tolkien that he even stalled the publication of the final book, The Return of the King, to complete them.”
They even quote Tolkien’s letter to Allen & Unwin, the Swedish publishers of The Lord of The Rings, on the importance of the appendices. Vanity Fair noted Tolkien stated, “they play a major part in producing the total effect.”
In the same letter, they also quoted Tolkien writing that the appendices produce “the compelling sense of historical reality.”
In fact, Tolkien wrote, “My chief interest in being translated is pecuniary, as long as the basic text is treated with respect; so that even if the touchiness of parenthood is outraged, I should wish to refrain from doing or saying anything that may damage the good business of being published in other countries. And I have also Messrs. Allen and Unwin to consider. But the matter of the Appendices has a pecuniary aspect.”
He would add, “I do not believe that they give the work a ‘scholarly’ (? read pedantisk) look, and they play a major part in producing the total effect: as Messrs. Gebers’ translator has himself pointed out (selecting the detail and the documentation as two chief ingredients in producing the compelling sense of historical reality).”
Tolkien even noted, “Actually, an analysis of many hundreds of letters shows that the Appendices have played a very large part in reader’s pleasure, in turning library readers into purchasers (since the Appendices are needed for reference), and in creating the demand for another book. A sharp distinction must be drawn between the tastes of reviewers (‘donnish folly’ and all that) and of readers! I think I understand the tastes of simpleminded folk (like myself) pretty well.”
Aside from the attack on The Lord of the Rings fans, maybe the most concerning point of the entire article is Payne and McKay’s pride that they can do Tolkien better than Tolkien.
McKay told Vanity Fair that the driving question behind the show was, “Can we come up with the novel Tolkien never wrote and do it as the mega-event series that could only happen now?”
“We think the work will eventually speak for itself,” Payne would also tell them. “Before an orchestra starts, audiences will talk to each other, but then as soon as the music begins, you’re in and you’re listening to that music.”
The work is speaking for itself already and it is clearly deviating heavily from J.R.R. Tolkien’s appendices and The Silmarillion as many fans suspected when they first made casting announcements.
What do you make of Prime Video and Vanity Fair’s attack on The Lord of the Rings fans who want the show to stay faithful to Tolkien’s work?