Amazon Studios and Prime Video are following the marketing strategy laid out by The Walt Disney Company’s Obi-Wan Kenobi to a tee when it comes to their The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series.
If you recall, actress Moses Ingram relayed to The Independent that Lucasfilm trained her to deal with “racist backlash.”
She explained, “It was something that Lucasfilm actually got in front of, and said, ‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens.”
Ingram would also antagonize Star Wars fans with the absurd claim that black people did not exist in the Star Wars universe despite characters like Lando Calrissian and Mace Windu being some of the most beloved characters of the film franchise.
Nevertheless, Ingram said, “Obi-Wan is going to bring the most diversity I think we’ve ever seen in the galaxy before.”
She added, “To me, it’s long overdue. If you’ve got talking droids and aliens, but no people of color, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s 2022, you know. So we’re just at the beginning of that change. But I think to start that change is better than never having started it.”
On cue after the series premiered, Ingram shared a number of screenshots that she described as hate. However, most of them referenced Disney’s own diversity quotas that they have publicly bragged about through their Reimagine Tomorrow initiative as well as calling her out for claiming to be the first black person to play a Star Wars character.
Nevertheless, the official Star Wars account accused those criticizing Ingram of being racists. They wrote on Twitter, “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”
In a subsequent tweet the account added, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”
The company then trotted out Ewan McGregor who proceeded to attack the Star Wars fanbase as well, “It seems that some of the fanbase from this influential fanbase have decided to attack Moses Ingram online and send her the most horrendous, racist DMs, and I heard some of them this morning and it broke my heart.”
“Moses is a brilliant actor, she’s a brilliant woman, and she’s absolutely amazing in this series,” responded McGregor to the DMs. “She brings so much to this series, she brings so much to this franchise, and it just sickened me to my stomach to hear this had been happening.”
The actor then declared, “I just want to say, as the leading actor in the series, as the EP on the series, that we stand with Moses. We love Moses. And if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind.”
“There’s no place for racism in this world,” he concluded. “And I totally stand with Moses.”
A personal message from Ewan McGregor. pic.twitter.com/rJSDmj663K
— Star Wars | Andor Premieres Sept 21 on Disney+ (@starwars) June 1, 2022
Prime Video is following the exact same playbook. First, they cast Lenny Henry, Sophia Nomvete, and Ismael Cruz Córdova as a hobbit, dwarf, and elf respectively despite the clear depictions of these characters found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.
Nevertheless, the actors were then antagonistic towards the fanbase. Nomvete led the charge at San Diego Comic-Con and in multiple media appearances repeating a clearly canned message.
She told it first to PA Media, “We are redressing the balance within the film and television, television industry and of course, this franchise and I hope, lots of franchises moving forward.”
She would also indicate the show is an alteration of Tolkien’s work saying, “To be part of creating accessibility for generations to come. For new generations this is their version of Tolkien, this is what my daughter will see of Tolkien’s works.”
From there Nomvete then indicated the whole show is an erasure of Tolkien’s work and is really a “reflection of the world we live in” rather than, you know, Tolkien’s actual works.
She said, “It’s their time and it’s so important and I hope many people will see this fantasy and be able to relate to it. This is a reflection of the world we live in, there are many and we are different and we will embrace and discover, and peel back, and learn, and educate, and be educated.”
“And we can only do that when we embrace and love our differences,” she added.
Ismael Cruz Córdova told the Associated Press, “There will no longer be a time where you can say there are no Elves of color. So we erased that one, you know?”
He added, “This conversation will never be there. No, I’m an Elf. The next person that comes after me won’t have to talk about this. That’s what it means to me.”
“I always say that if you can see it, you can imagine it, then if you can imagine it, you can create it,” he concluded.
TOLKIEN FOR 2022: “The Rings of Power” co-stars Benjamin Walker (@FindtheWalker) and Ismael Cruz Córdova (@IsmaelC_C) discuss how artistic licence in “The Lord of the Rings” prequel is reinvigorating Tolkien. pic.twitter.com/Gh7sca16vX
— AP Entertainment (@APEntertainment) August 16, 2022
Lenny Henry was also antagonistic towards the fans responding to a statement from GQ, “In the original Lord of the Rings trilogy 20 years ago, there were no Black characters. But this show is different. It feels like the big new fantasy franchises are finally diversifying.”
Henry replied, “There’s a real sense of trying to be more inclusive than we were in this world. [House of the Dragon star] Steve Toussaint keeps saying… The purists were saying things about [his casting in the show] god bless them. They have no trouble believing in a dragon, but they do have trouble believing that a Black person could be a member of the court. Or that a Black person could be a hobbit or an elf.”
He added, “And actually, storytellers can do what they want, because they’re storytellers. In the reimagining of these stories from 1000 years ago, they are not part of the canon that everybody knows, this is a reimagining and re-weaving of the story. And [Rings of Power showrunners] JD Payne and Patrick McKay have just gone, ‘What if?’ The greatest two words in storytelling: What if.”
While Henry is clearly being antagonistic at least he is honest that there were no black people as Hobbits, Elves, or Dwarves in Tolkien’s original works and that Prime Video is reimagining his work. It’s something no one else from the production has the integrity to say.
Just like Obi-Wan Kenobi, right after the series premiered Amazon Studios and Prime Video condemned The Lord of the Rings fans critical of the show for not sticking to Tolkien’s works. Fans made it clear they did not approve of the show as it currently has an abysmal Average Audience Score of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes.
On Metacritic the series has a User Score of 1.8.
Prime Video accused The Lord of the Rings fans of racism writing on Twitter, “We stand in solidarity with our cast. #YouAreAllWelcomeHere.
They then shared three images. The first reads, “We, the cast of Rings of Power, stand together in absolute solidarity and against the relentless racism, threats, harassment, and abuse some of our castmates of color are being subjected to on a daily basis. We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it.”
Next, they wrote, “JRR Tolkien created a world which, by definition, is multi-cultural. A world in which free peoples from different races and cultures join together, in fellowship, to defeat the forces of evil. Rings of Power reflects that. Our world has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white. BIPOC belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay.”
Finally, they concluded, “Finally, all our love and fellowship go out to the fans supporting us, especially fans of colour who are themselves being attacked simply for existing in this fandom. We see you, your bravery, and endless creativity. Your cosplays, fancams, fan art, and insights make this community a richer place and remind us of our purpose.”
“You are valid, you are loved, and you belong. You are an integral part of the LOTR family — thanks for having our backs. Namárië.”
Prime Video does not provide any evidence of this supposed racism they are condemning. However, there is plenty of evidence that their show is terrible, that they intentionally decided to alter Tolkien’s source material to reflect the modern world rather than his actual works, and that Prime Video had all intention to attack fans as racist from the get go.
And that last point was made clear when they launched their main marketing effort this year back in February when they used Vanity Fair as a proxy to target fans.
Vanity Fair dug up a political apparatchik posing as a Tolkien scholar named Mariana Rios Maldonado who told them, “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?”
This implication of racism was accompanied next to a quote from the show’s executive producer Lindsey Weber, “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like. 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.”
But maybe the biggest kicker that this whole thing is a giant corporate marketing operation that follows in the footsteps of Star Wars’ own operation is the fact that the official Star Wars account actually responded to the tweets from the Rings of Power account writing, “From Middle-earth to a galaxy far, far away… #YouAreAllWelcomeHere”
Ironically, the hashtag doesn’t even make sense given they are accusing people of racism making it clear they aren’t welcome, but that’s really the point isn’t it? Appear to be righteous when in fact you aren’t at all. Prime Video is Sauron manipulating the Elves and deceiving the Númenoreans.
What do you make of Amazon Studios and Prime Video’s obvious marketing strategy to accuse The Lord of the Rings fans of racism?