For some wild reason I can’t understand, Amazon has decided to start with a quarter of a billion dollar budget for their upcoming Lord of the Rings series. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, that initial $250 million dollar deal is only the tip of the iceberg since, “When production expenses like casting, producers and visual effects are factored in, the series is expected to cost north of $1 billion”.
Shows with bigger budgets than most Hollywood blockbusters are a current “big” thing with HBO’s Westworld and Game of Thrones pulling in huge audiences and costing millions of dollars per episode. (Westworld$100 million price tag reportedly had a for its first season and Game of Thrones surely has surpassed that in all of their seasons.) Same goes for the BBC and Netflix series Troy: Fall of a City.
The thing about this newly locked in Lord of the Rings deal is that we’re at $250 million for a series we know next to nothing about and that’s kind of amazing. This is an expensive series that has the potential to go anywhere and do anything – within the confines of Tolkien’s worldbuilding.
So here are five things that I desperately want to see from this Lord of the Rings series that no one on this green-ish earth asked for.
1. Racebend significant characters.
Back in 2010, news broke that a casting director for the Hobbit trilogy turned down a Pakistani woman who wanted to audition to be a hobbit. The casting director was caught on video saying that, “We are looking for light-skinned people. I’m not trying to be … whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a Hobbit”.
But what exactly does a Hobbit look like and should Tolkien’s biases as a wealthy-ish man living in England in the early 20th century impact our casting decisions now?
The fantasy genre has long since had a problem understanding the simple detail that hobbits, elves, and wizards aren’t real but people of color are. In both of Peter Jackson’s trilogies, all of the significant heroic characters were played by white people. Conveniently, the Orcs, under their makeup and prosthetics, were frequently played by men of color – primarily Maori actors. Only in the Hobbit trilogy did I even see extras of color as a relatively frequent occurance and even then it was only in the Laketown scenes.
I don’t want a repeat of that this time around.
I don’t care if it makes racist nerds wibble and whine about how Tolkien’s dreams are being disrupted by people of color being main characters – elves, humans, dwarves, and hobbits. I want to see fantasy beings of color doing bad ass things and being cool!
Give us diverse casting or don’t bother making a show in the first damn place.
2. Diversity behind the camera as well.
Renowned White Feminist ™ show Jessica Jones just had their showrunner dodge the question of whether or not their writers’ room was diverse (therefore answering that question pretty clearly…).
I don’t know about the writers’ rooms for other Amazon series, but I don’t doubt that they’re just as white as the average.
Amazon needs to do the work and put writers of color on this show.
Same goes for directors and other crew members.
It’s 2018, folks. If practically all the people involved in detail with forming your Lord of the Rings reboot are white, straight and cis, and abled, what diverse experiences are they going to bring to this adaptation? Let diverse people bring their diverse experiences to Middle Earth!
3. Make it an anthology series.
Instead of simply rehashing the material we’ve already gotten six films from, why not do an anthology series that pulls from the different stories that Tolkien dropped into his world building.
The Silmarillion is a treasure trove of work that could be used to flesh out an anthology series alongside work from that aforementioned diverse writers room. Flesh out some of the stories in The Silmarillion, give backstories to some characters and explore the worldbuilding.
Watch… the episodes will just fly by.
Turning the Lord of the Rings alone into a TV series might be nice nostalgia bait, but it’ll probably be us watching the same eleven white characters do the same things we saw them do back in 2001 and that’s not going to get the same accolades in 2018 as it did back then.
There’s so much rich mythology in Tolkien’s works that I want to see them work with.
An anthology series based solely on Tolkien’s works like what Electric Dreams did with Philip K. Dick’s work would be just wonderful.
4. Queer characters
Legolas took Gimli with him when he sailed.
That’s a ship that literally sailed.
I know that queerness is seen as even less likely to happen than racebending significant characters, but a Stitch can dream. More than that, I can hope.
Nothing precludes the existence of queer characters in a 2018/19 adaptation of Tolkien’s works aside from other people’s bigotry and that’s not necessary in the slightest.
I want canon Gimli/Legolas. I want queer ladies everywhere. Give me queer elves, hobbits, humans, and dwarves frolicking around.
I want this particular form of representation that the fantasy genre in film and television constantly denies me.
So make it happen, Amazon.
5. No sexual assault
I know you folks with your big and edgy series think that rape is the only way to bring realism into fantasy settings but like… let’s not do this.
Make a note that sexual assault is off limits in this adaptation of Tolkien’s work.
As far as I can tell, there’s no rape in Lord of the Rings or any of the related works. So please, don’t fucking throw that in to be all grimdark and edgy where it’s absolutely unnecessary.
This should be a series that the whole family should be able to watch together.
Sadly, I doubt that even one of my wishes for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series will come true.
But it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?