Why Is the Casting for 'The Rings of Power' Causing Controversy?

Why is there controversy around the Prime Video series 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power'? There's been backlash.

Katherine Stinson - Author

Sep. 9 2022, Published 3:18 p.m. ET

A scene from 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power'
Source: Amazon Studios

Wait, why is a fantasy show about elves, dwarves, and evil orcs causing major controversy on the internet? Is it because The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is the most expensive television show ever made? Are fans upset over plot changes made from J.R.R. Tolkien's novels? The fact that Princess Disa's (Sophia Nomvete) beard isn't as prominent as her male dwarf counterparts'?

Sadly, no. The reality is that some Rings of Power cast members have been subject to an onslaught of racist comments.

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Because apparently people of color aren't allowed to exist in a fantasy universe? Detractors have argued that said casting is simply not faithful to Tolkien's original vision.

Tolkien himself obviously could not be reached for comment, because, well, he died in 1973, as he was literally born in 1892. The man wrote his fantasy epics in a different era. Are adaptations not allowed to evolve from the original source material?

Let's take a look at what's going on with the controversy surrounding Amazon Prime Video's show.

(Center) Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete)
Source: Amazon Studios

(Center) Sophia Nomvete as Princess Disa

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The 'Rings of Power' controversy, explained.

Ismael Cruz Córdova — the first person of color to ever portray an elf onscreen in an adaptation of Tolkien's work — told Esquire that he'd dealt with "pure and vicious hate speech" ever since news broke that he had been cast as Arondir in The Rings of Power.

The actor wasn't surprised. He mentioned in the same interview that he "made sure that my elf was the most Elven, the most incredible, because I knew this was coming."

Sophia Nomvete's Rings of Power casting was another first — she's the first woman, and woman of color to play a dwarf in an onscreen Tolkien adaptation.

During an interview with The Daily Beast, Sophia had this to say in response to the overall casting backlash: "People of color exist in the world. And so I find it utter madness that we don't or couldn't exist within the world of fantasy, of all places.”

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Queen Regent Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson)
Source: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Queen Regent Miriel

Like Ismael, Sophia noted that The Rings of Power was providing a sense of representation in the world of fantasy that was lacking for her when she was younger.

She said in the same Daily Beast interview, "Now, generations will have what I didn't have, which is to be able to enjoy [the story and] also see themselves staring back at them. And they will be able to exist not just in our world, but in the world of fantasy.”

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The 'Rings of Power' cast released an official statement on the controversy.

Our favorite hobbits (well, the actors who played them) from Peter Jackson's original Lord of the Rings film trilogy posted pictures in solidarity with the Rings of Power cast, with a simple but powerful statement: "You are all welcome here."

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The entire cast of The Rings of Power also released an official statement condemning the racist backlash against the series. "BIPOC belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay," the statement notes.

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Prime Video has also suspended reviews for The Rings of Power after the series got review-bombed following the release of the first two episodes.

It's perfectly acceptable to critique a series on its storytelling merit, the production values, pacing, acting ability, etc. But an outcry over just the casting itself? Let's leave racism to burn in the fires of Mount Doom, shall we?

New episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power drop every Friday on Prime Video.

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