In November, I did a lot of content consumption. It was all incredibly interesting stuff! Any errors on my commentary under the pieces are because I did this via a dictation software across the month! 😀
Peter Jackson’s trilogy, while spectacular and ground-breaking in many ways, is glaringly white. Worse, the human villains are all coded as non-white; “bad men” from the East and the South, complete with either veils and kohl, or bearing tribal tattooing and scarification and riding mythical elephants. Worst of all, the inhuman Uruk Hai – muscled and merciless – have black skin and dreadlocks. While some of this British colonial racism and eugenicist thought are a reflection of the source material itself, Jackson made a – possibly thoughtless – choice to remain “faithful” to those parts of the text and even to exacerbate them. As a result, racist fans were not alienated by the films but accommodated, allowed to believe that their extremely racist interpretation of Tolkein’s work was the correct one. The film trilogy benefited from their racist support and everyone involved in it is therefore complicit in the abuse now raining down on series’ cast of colour (particularly the black cast, and more particularly the black women cast). The comments directed at Nomvete and Cruz Cordóva are not generic racism: they are rooted in the racist lore and imagery that Jackson’s films perpetuated. One of most frequent comments on Nomvete’s picture is “better be an Uruk Hai”.
I grew up on Lord of the rings and so growing up in the fandom, I realized very quickly that the negative aspect of Lord of the rings where people of color were absent from the narrative was a bonus for a large majority of the fandom. Unlike the Harry Potter fandom which would go on to racebend characters like Harry and Hermione, the Lord Of The Rings fandom never really took to racebending as a thing they could or even wanted to do. Instead, they seemed really happy to be faced with a version of Middle Earth where all the elves were white, and all of the men were too. The films, that I grew up with, were integral to building a fandom identity as an extremely online tween for many people in English language fandom who are my age at this point.
The problem is that when faced with updates to the franchise where characters might be of color who aren’t background characters or silent extras, the fandom doesn’t have a good reaction. Even before we see who all have been cast within the upcoming series that Amazon is doing, there is a history of Lord Of The Rings fans being upset at the concept of racebending even within their own communities. People who are fan artists or fanfic writers that choose to portray these characters using ethnic groups in our world, can expect to get really rude messages from diehard fans of the franchise. They’re subject to racism, even if they are not of color themselves, because they have chosen to “deviate” from Tolkien’s vision. And we’re told that these are all white men. We’re told that the Lord Of The Rings fans, like the Star Wars fans who raged at The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy having people of color in relatively prominent roles, are all white men.
But that is not true and honestly, that’s why transformative fandom has a white supremacy problem that I don’t see any way to fix. Because people assume it’s all white men, so white women have nothing to do with any of it. Which leaves them to wallow in the mire of white supremacy in fandom and get worse. Anyway, I don’t know what Amazon will do with their Lord of the rings show or the fandom that builds from it, but I am frustrated that 20 years after the original massive trilogy came out from Peter Jackson, fandom still maintains that they don’t have a race problem even while being publicly and actively racist.
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