The Rings of Power and Lack of… Cultural Diversity, Dialogism, Imagination…?
I’m going to use The Rings of Power (currently through ep. 3) to try to unpack my responses to some larger cultural issues. The Mary Sue’s Rachel Ulatowski has a brief, pretty well-rounded overview of the reception of The Rings of Power that notes (a) most critics strongly like it, (b) vast swaths of fans hate it, (c) many seem to do so for racist/sexist reasons, (d) and Tolkien purist reasons, and (e), nonetheless, the scale of vitriol is puzzling. I want to try to unpack the puzzlement by exploring my own responses.
As a Tolkien fan, I am, indeed, experiencing a lot of anger at this show. Despite liking many parts of it, the parts I don’t like feel disrespectful to Tolkien’s worldbuilding and, frankly, dumb. This anger is exacerbated by a feeling of isolation. Yeah, almost all the pro critics seem to love the show (and not to know or care anything about Tolkien’s works). And most of the fan vitriol does seem to be about race, which is not my problem. I think it’s handling race really well; I’m pleased and impressed. I think it’s handling gender really well, except for Galadriel, who, unfortunately, is the protagonist (I’ll come back to that). I do certainly fall into “Tolkien purist” camp to a degree, in that I know his universe fairly well and care about it a great deal. So part of my sour grapes is annoyance at canon divergence. But I think there are deeper issues at work than “critics are racist/can’t handle changes to canon.” I want to explore some thoughts…( spoilers follow )