‘Rings of Power’ Says Its Castmates of Color Are Facing ‘Threats’ and ‘Abuse’

‘Rings of Power’ features black people playing elves, dwarves, and hobbits. Racists are big mad!
Ismael Cruz Cordova as Arondir in Rings of Power
Image Source: Rings of Power

Breaking news: Racists are mad about a black people being in a show where elves are real.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before—there’s a new, nerdy piece of media out, and there’s a lot of buzz for it. It has a handful of people of color in it. Even before it airs, racists with YouTube channels and names like TheRationalDisagree-er have made seven hour long videos about how this is an outrage. By the time the nerd media premiers—or, failing that, within a week or two—the crew behind the show have made a statement about how they stand behind their actors in the face of online harassment and abuse. It doesn’t really do anything, but also, what else can they do?

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Rings of Power is the latest television show to fall victim to this press cycle. The show is based on Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and functions as a prequel to the Lord of the Rings movies for non-book readers. It features black people playing elves, dwarves, and hobbits. Racists are big mad! They are harassing the actors online, and review-bombing the show. Yesterday, the official Rings of Power Twitter account posted a long message saying that the show stands behind its casting and actors.

It’s a kind of statement nerds are now quite used to seeing. After Kelly Marie Tran was harassed off social media for daring to be Asian and also in a Star Wars movie, the production companies that cast non-white actors in major roles in fantasy and science fiction media have had statements like these on the ready for the inevitability that their actors will be harassed online. There is an entire cottage industry of weirdos online that do nothing but get mad when the nerd media that they feel nostalgic for is changed in any way—you can basically set your watch by the way they get upset about black people being in a television show.

The frequency with which you see statements like these has the unintended effect of making them feel disingenuous. Just this year, we’ve seen Neil Gaiman arguing with racists online about the casting of Sandman, in which a black woman plays the human personification of Death, and also watched Game of Thrones nerds get upset that there is a black character in a show that prominently features dragons. But last year, Disney also figured out a way to use this move as an aspect of its marketing for The Eternals, a bad Marvel movie everyone has pretty much forgotten about by now. Prior to its release Kumail Nanjiani tweeted out an article decrying that homophobes were review bombing the movie on IMDB saying, “looks like we’re upsetting the right people.” Is it really all that notable when these same people are always upset, though?

That said, there is something heartening about watching Gaiman, actors from the Lord of the Rings movies, and whoever runs the social media account for Star Wars band together in support of the people of color in Rings of Power. They are on the receiving end of racist harassment and the last thing anyone wants to see is another situation like Kelly Marie Tran’s. It’s just also uncomfortably too predictable, as if actors of color are being thrown to the wolves for the sake of some good PR. As much as these actors need to know that their community supports them, they also don’t need to have the attacks against them brought to the forefront. The RationalDisagree-er has to get upset about something every day. He’ll always be there.