Why is Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show taking so much flak? The way I see it, there are two (mostly separate) factors at play: Tolkien fandom and race.
First, Tolkien fandom. Despite the best efforts of the Tolkien Society to ‘queer’ Tolkien studies, the Inkling’s biggest admirers tend to be Christians on the cultural and political right. Most of this crowd (aside from those who think hating universally beloved things is a good substitute for a personality) loved Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. His adaptation of The Hobbit, which took plenty of liberties in order to stretch about 300 pages into three feature films, was less well received. So when Amazon announced that it would be stretching even less material over even more screen time, fans were understandably concerned.
Add to that some early (though thankfully debunked) rumours about R-rated sexual content and a few virtue-signalling press releases about racially diverse casting, and soon jokes about disabled transgender elves were ubiquitous on conservative Christian Twitter. A Babylon Bee parody trailer managed to rack up more likes than the real one.
This, in my mind, is a travesty, because it’s causing people to miss out on what’s actually a pretty good show so far. Plenty of Tolkien fans have avoided the series altogether, while others have chosen to hatewatch it. And when you watch something with the sole intention of finding things to hate, you’re usually successful.
Take, for example, this piece in Crisis by Ben Reinhard. He tells us that the show’s portrayal of Galadriel falls sort of Tolkien’s ‘idealised vision of feminine beauty and grace’. Really? Because she seems pretty tempestuous in The Fellowship of the Ring, and anyway I doubt watching her glide ethereally through wheat fields in a tradwife dress for eight seasons would be particularly engrossing.
Reinhard also calls Galadriel ‘one of the least likeable protagonists ever committed to screen’ because of her ‘smothering self-righteousness’.