In light of the almost total rejection of Amazon’s billion dollar disaster, audiences who may not be as ‘in the know’ regarding J.R.R. Tolkien’s works compared to his more dedicated fans have begun to ask, “What are some of the most valid and invalid criticisms of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power?
Lore breaking issues and the cast and crew’s total disrespect for the source material aside, the most valid criticism of The Rings of Power is that it reflects our age’s deep concern with failed leadership.
Everywhere in The Rings of Power, in all of the peoples – humans, elves, dwarves, and “harfoots” – anyone portrayed as a ‘leader’ is an incompetent failure.
This is why the show is a failure: because no one wants to watch a hopeless story about failed leadership.
Most hilariously, however, is that, despite all the accusations of bigotry leveled against critics of the series who wanted nothing more than a lore-accurate adaptation, feminists should be furious at Amazon for their portrayal of Tolkien’s female leaders.
The most egregious case is Galadriel.
In The Rings of Power, Galadriel’s character is driven by revenge, has hardly one moment or word of caring or concern for anyone else, and is insultingly blunt and disrespectful to everyone.
Take, for example, the pyroclastic volcano scene in episode six, ‘Udûn’. Galadriel survives the eruption of ‘Mount Doom’ with no injury, but emerges from the ash surrounded by people who are injured. Here was an obvious opportunity to show her having compassion, by helping the injured, yet she instead just leaves to continue pursuing her mission.
Moreover, what about her obligation to the Numenorean army she spends the season leading first across the ocean and then the continent – doesn’t she owe them to continue on-scene as their commander, to regroup, to succor the injured, to bury the dead, and then get them back home to Numenor? What sort of a leader ignores them? Yet this Amazon Galadriel does.
She also threatens to murder Adar’s children in front of him (before promptly condemning him to that very fate), commits ‘entrapment’ to manipulate Halbrand into aiding her, and fails to report to Celebrimbor and Elrond the discovery of Sauron because it would be too embarrassing for her to admit that she was not aware of her companion’s true identity.
And who could forget how she completely and totally ignores her husband Celeborn? More, all the males are made weak, and most made stupid. Not only is this an unattractive and off-putting female fantasy, it also severely undercuts the ferocity and strength of the original Galadriel’s character.
Youtuber George the Giant Slayer summed it up best when he mocked her character with a 1920s silent film parody entitled The Lord of the Karens in Rings of Power.
Depicting Galadriel as a certified graduate from ‘The Karen Academy’, George humorously points out how rather than navigating her challenges with cunning and intellect, she instead meets every setback she encounters across Middle-Earth by essentially demanding to speak to her antagonist’s manager.
I discussed this matter with my daughter Jacqueline, a young woman for whom society’s need to respect women as thinkers and leaders is paramount.
According to her, surrounding a female leader with weak m
en who serve only to automatically defer to her every demand is neither forward thinking, nor progressive, nor will it do anything to reshape the world.
Simply put, Amazon’s Galadriel is a terrible example of women in leadership. She is ‘toxic feminism’ at its worst.
Widespread audience rejection of this Amazon Galadriel cannot be blamed on sexism or racism: she is cast exactly to Tolkien’s specifications – a beautiful, long-haired, blonde white woman. Amazon’s Galadriel very regrettably stereotypes an “inner Sauron” in every blonde.
On reading this widespread audience reaction, I wondered: who was the highest-ranking person in Amazon who must have read every script before authorizing production? It would not have been Jeff Bezos, but someone in the films division. And at the top of that division’s roster, I found Jennifer Salke.
A popular theory among critics is that Amazon’s Galadriel was actually written as a self insert for Salke.
One such critic was YouTuber Ryan Kinel, host of the channel RK Outpost, who in a November 8th, 2022 video remarked, “Isn’t it funny how Jennifer Salke looks exactly like a twenty-year-, thirty-year-older Galadriel? A complete, total self-insert for warrior Galadriel. There can be no doubt about that.”
[Time stamp: ~3:35]
While there has been no outright confirmation that this was the case, given how Salke has ignored the concept of evidence in order to attribute the rejection of The Rings of Power to racism, it’s fair to presume that our eyes do not decieve us. The physical resemblance between Galadriel and Salke is undeniable.
Interestingly, Salke is not the only Amazon executive to bear more than a passing similarity to the Lady of Light. Her likeness can also be seen in both series executive producer Lindsey Weber and Amazon Films’ Head of Series Laura Lancaster.
One has to ask: When these three women were reading the scripts for The Rings of Power prior to greenlighting its production, did they all see the Galadriel character as being a competent leader? A moral leader?
If they did, then the judgment of all three women regarding what constitutes each respective quality is seriously deficient.
What they ought to have seen – and reacted to with repulsion and demands for rewrites – was the show’s disturbing glorification of abusive, incompetent leadership that would destroy every organization that such leadership was applied to.
Ms. Salke, Ms. Weber, and Ms. Lancaster are all experienced managers. They have made careers as business bureaucrats. They ought to recognize good instances leadership and management as well as bad ones.
That they didn’t, or that they saw it all as a positive characterization rather than a negative one, legitimate concerns exist regarding their own managerial judgment and even their own characters. Where are their own offsetting acts of good character? Of honesty instead of blame-shifting?
Ms. Salke in particular signaled that she indeed aligned herself with such a toxic leadership mindset by presenting the aforementioned lie that ‘Tolkien fans are bigoted’ as the reason for removing fans’ abilities to leave poor reviews for The Rings of Power from the Amazon-owned IMDb and the Amazon website proper.
Yes, this stereotype that ‘Amazon’s female executives care more about glorifying their own self-inserts than good storytelling’ is just that, but turnabout is fair play given how The Rings of Powers‘ cast and crew attempted to blanket characterize anyone who insisted on respecting Tolkien’s lore as being a fascist/fascist adjacent, racist, and sexist – a hilarious assertion given that Tolkien’s stories achieved their great popularity in America by being beloved by the late 60s-early 70s “hippie” movement, which was as anti-fascist and anti-racist as something could possibly get (I would know, I was there. I lived through it).
Should Amazon want to prevent the spread of this stereotype that women will always put self-interest over good leadership, the only responsible course of action for them to take is to pull every episode of The Rings of Power from its service, entirely, and never show them again.
Considering how Amazon makes its money via subscribers, not by views directly, the company would probably make more money by pulling it completely – thus protecting the honor and integrity of its brand and in turn attracting more subscribers – than by allowing it to continue discrediting the company
Lord of the Rings achieved and maintained its popularity because it shows successful, compassionate, and competent leadership from its heroes, which itself was bolstered by the fact that the peoples they were caring for were worthy, morally good people who deserved to be taken care of – a stark contrast to the cruel nature of the various threats (orcs, trolls, mountain barbarians) who seek to pillage their lands.
Ultimately, the most valid criticism of The Rings of Power is that its production could only have been undertaken by people who never recognized that Middle-Earth holds a cultural meaning in our society that is much more important than just a bit of fictional geography on which to scatter flawed, even depraved people.
Amazon’s take on Tolkien is not only unappealing as entertainment, but it serves little more purpose than to destroy the principles of leadership and morality that people ought to learn and apply to their own lives.