As online trolls continue to lose their shit over the fictional existence of nonwhite elves in Rings of Power, the show’s cast has released a statement condemning the harassment its cast members of color have faced. Since the show, a prequel to the events of the Lord of the Rings movies, began streaming last week, the internet has been alight with pretty unabashedly racist critics claiming its inclusion of people of color is “historically inaccurate” in the supposedly all-white fantasy world of Middle Earth.
“We, the cast of Rings of Power, stand together in absolute solidarity and against the relentless racism, threats, harassment and abuse some of our castmates of color are being subjected to on a daily basis,” read a statement released via the show’s Twitter account on Wednesday evening. The statement argues that J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings saga on which Rings of Power is based, “created a world which, by definition, is multicultural.”
“A world in which free peoples from different races and cultures join together, in fellowship, to defeat the forces of evil. Rings of Power reflects that,” it continues. “Our world has never been all white, fantasy has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white. Bipoc [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay.”
The current Rings of Power cast isn’t alone—cast members from the series’ LotR predecessors appeared to stand in solidarity as well, thanks to a tweet by Elijah Wood featuring a deeply nerdy photo of himself, Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd wearing shirts with text that reads “You Are All Welcome Here” in the Elvish language Neo-Sindarin, along with an assortment of differently shaped ears in a range of skin tones. Lest you can’t read Neo-Sindarin (embarrassing for you!), Wood captioned the photo, “You Are All Welcome Here.” Wood played Frodo Baggins in the LotR trilogy; Monaghan played one of Frodo’s cousins, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck; and Boyd played Peregrin “Pippin” Took, another fellow hobbit.
The show of support from both Rings of Power and LotR cast comes after Amazon was forced to pause audience ratings of the show on its platform for 72 hours on Saturday to stop rampant review-bombing. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show earned a strong 84% from critics, but has an audience rating of 39%. It’s pretty clear based on social media posts that this massive rating disparity extends from racist “fan” reactions, which are also being legitimized by major media outlets like CNN, which ran an op ed titled “When ‘wokeness’ comes to Middle-earth: Why some say diverse casting ruins the new ‘Lord of the Rings’ series” over the weekend.
I can’t emphasize enough that there’s absolutely zero basis for any of this backlash. The world of LotR may be based on Medieval Europe, but this doesn’t exclude the (fictional) existence of Black elves, or any other people or hobbits of color. Nothing is particularly “unrealistic” in a fantasy series alive with sorcerers, dragons, and a giant eye housing the spirit of an evil wizard.
I’m glad to see the show’s statement of solidarity from its cast and shows of support from former LotR stars, but I can’t help but hope more is being done to support Rings of Power cast members shouldering the brunt of the online abuse, behind the scenes. As some (actual) fans of the show have pointed out, the statement doesn’t come with any indication that cast members of color are receiving additional resources and support, like counseling or social media training and tools to combat doxxing and stalking, all of which can take a severe toll.
Racist backlash—particularly in some vocal corners of fantasy and sci-fi genres—isn’t exactly new. But the experiences of Rings of Power cast members of color prove social media has exponentially worsened these conditions.