The Culture War Over ‘Rings Of Power’ Was More Interesting Than The Series Itself
Even before its release, power rings was engulfed in controversy; Tolkien fans were alarmed to learn that Jeff Bezos now owns the rights to the beloved IP in his Smaug-like talons, especially after it was revealed that Bezos intended to replicate the hit. from HBO. game of thrones.
The fact that Amazon only owned the rights to one of the the Lord of the Rings the appendices, a summary of the Second Age, and none of Tolkien’s stories, was another concern; When Tolkien expert Tom Shippey mysteriously left the show after serving as a consultant, fans worried that the adaptation wouldn’t be faithful, more focused on building the Amazon brand than respecting the job. by Tolkien.
Without forgetting, the almost perfect of Peter Jackson the Lord of the Rings the trilogy raised the bar incredibly high, and fans saw what happened with the disastrous Hobbit trilogy, which cynically stretched a short children’s novel of just over 300 pages into three bloated blockbusters, showing that corporate greed could easily taint Tolkien’s legacy, even with Jackson’s involvement.
When the first trailer for rings of power abandoned, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative; Poor CGI and an emphasis on floating, weightless action sequences hinted that the fanbase’s worst fears were coming true. YouTube commenters spammed the trailer with a pointed quote falsely attributed to Tolkien: “Evil is incapable of creating anything new, it can only distort and destroy that which has been invented or created by forces good.”
The new series’ diverse cast also sparked a strong racist backlash; Tolkien’s world, like many fantasy worlds, is a place of racial essentialism, and the fanbase has always been infected, to some extent, with racists.
While Tolkien described his own political beliefs as leaning towards anarchism (a left-wing ideology that aims to abolish hierarchy), and openly despised horrors of Nazism and apartheid, the far right has always found its framing of orcs as hopelessly rotten savages, and elves as noble spreaders of civilization, rather appealing, for obvious reasons.
But Amazon pushed back against the racist backlash, and subsequent trailers were much more polished, promising an adventurous return to Middle-earth, with a tantalizing budget that aimed to replicate blockbuster production quality. Including the cost of obtaining the rights, the series cost no less than $715 million, according to the Wall Street Journal, leading to power rings being labeled “the most expensive series ever made”.
After the first two episodes dropped, critics were impressed and audience reaction was mixed, somewhat muted by the series’ slow pace. But the backlash remained strong and the show was bombarded by trolls, leading Amazon to take the unusual step of locking down user reviews for 72 hours, prompting criticism that a powerful company was blocking users. public comments.
The show had inevitably become a prominent battleground for the ongoing culture war, becoming a hot topic for reactionary YouTubers.
As the series progressed, it became clear that a significant portion of the audience was just watching “hate”, mocking the storytelling and pointing out deviations from Tolkien’s canon, which were sometimes without consequence, and sometimes misguided. .
There was also a disproportionate amount of anger and mockery directed at Galadriel (played by Morfydd Clark), a sharp and obnoxious character whose obsession with Sauron drives the show’s main plot. At the end of the first season, Galadriel’s paranoia was proven correct, but her actions triggered dire consequences.
Galadriel was immediately labeled ‘Mary Sue’ and ‘Karen’ and became a focal point for angry fans.
At one point, Elon Musk joined in, tweeting that Tolkien is “turning in his grave”, complaining that all the male characters are unsympathetic and that only Galadriel is “brave, smart and kind” (which, besides being a childish observation, it simply wasn’t true).
As the weeks passed, the critical segment of the fanbase continued to complain, while those who enjoyed it remained fairly quiet. The show never quite caught up with the times, failing to inspire popular memes or social media discourse beyond hate. Soon it became apparent that the series was being overshadowed by HBO Dragon Housewhich has succeeded in maintaining the quality of game of thrones best seasons.
rings of power wasn’t the flamboyant disaster that the naysayers had predicted…but it wasn’t particularly good. Indeed, few were still talking about it – haters of the show seemed to be getting the vast majority of the talk, while serious fans of the show were accused of being “fellow Amazons”.
In general, the series proved to be uneven and had an odd approach to Tolkien lore, referencing very obscure elements of Tokien’s work, while deviating significantly from canon. Consequently, much of the series felt inaccessible to those unfamiliar with Tolkien’s legend, while dedicated Tolkien fans were often exasperated by the breaking of lore, leading to the series being called ” expensive fan fiction”.
During the finale, the slow pace of the series suddenly picked up and the story went through some major twists, like a college student rushing to complete an essay after midnight. Sauron was revealed to be a guy who looks like the default option on every fantasy RPG character creation screen, and Gandalf was given a goofy origin story that “explained” why he loves hobbits so much.
The titular rings of power were forged with lightning speed, after Sauron informed the master smith, Celebrimbor, that he might be able to enhance the properties of a metal by using an alloy – the spirit of Celebrimbor is blown away by the suggestion.
power rings wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t Tolkien. And it wasn’t really his own thing either; the show’s blatant attempts to echo the Jackson trilogy, such as hiring the same composer, repeating the Balrog’s design, and copy-pasting lines from the trilogy, invited unflattering comparisons.
At times, the series felt more like Skyrim than Middle-earth, a Tolkienesque fantasy world inhabited by NPCs with bad haircuts, throwing awkward lines of exposure before randomly walking out of the room.
All the money poured into the show, and all the increasingly ridiculous debates seem, in hindsight, like a monumental waste of time. It was good. And in today’s hyper-competitive, oversaturated streaming landscape, mere mediocrity isn’t enough to stand out.
But The Lord of the Rings is powerful intellectual property and will likely always find an audience, enthusiastic or critical; the fanbase will always pay attention to adaptations.
Even though they spend every week complaining, they are still watching.