The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power has just premiered on the 1st of September 2022, which has already drawn a record of 25 million viewers just in the last few days. In an article with The Times, titled The Rings of Power: Purists accept elves but not black actors, says Lenny Henry, Sir Lenworth George Henry (who acts as one of the Harfoots in the new series) was asked to discuss his role in the series.
When speaking about it, he condemned literature purists who have argued against the increasing diversity in otherworldly (and mainly fantasy) franchises and posed the following question:
“In worlds of dragons and elves, why is the casting of a black man the limit at which fantasy fans are prepared to suspend their disbelief?”
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Quoting the article on Twitter, @darrengrimes_ tweeted “Lenny Henry misses the point. Most fantasy fans have no issue with casting black actors. It’s when black actors are cast in roles that the author of the series has described as not being black. What’s so wrong about wanting to stick to the author’s vision?”
The following string of replies came after:
@Chartheegreat tweeted “Well let’s ask Tolkien’s Best Mate @neilhimself thoughts?”
Neil Gaiman, an avid Tolkien fan and the creator of Netflix’s latest big hit The Sandman which was also subject to racist and sexist complaints about its casting, was quick to shut down the racist complaints with facts (just as he did with his series) in the following tweet:
@neilhimself: “Tolkien described the Harfoots as “browner of skin” than the other hobbits. So I think anyone grumbling is either racist or hasn’t read their Tolkien. Your mileage may vary.”
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Another Fair Point
Another reply to @darrengrimes_’s tweet raised a very important point against the purist argument that has immerged around Lenny Henry’s character. @kmx1974 tweeted: “Oddly, Markella Kavanagh, one of the main Harfoots, is very fair, much fairer [than] Tolkien’s description would imply, but that hasn’t upset the authorial vision puritans. One wonders at the reason or the disparity?”
Just as the tweet suggests, surely if the literature purists were truly concerned about ‘preserving the original and intended vision of the author’ then the casting of a fair woman into a role meant for a character that has been described as “browner of skin” by the author himself should raise the same, if not a greater, disagreement with the purist fans.
@joshgad (the Frozen actor) said it perfectly regarding this matter when he tweeted:
“If you watch a show with Dragons, Elves, or Lightsabers but can’t wrap your head around people of colour in the same series, the choice of casting isn’t the problem. You are.”
It’s a ridiculous but unfortunate truth that we live in a world where fans can believe in a fantasy universe but not that people of colour can exist within us. It’s fantastic to see the creators of such fantasy universes like Neil Gaiman standing up for the decisions to cast diversely, because if the visionaries themselves don’t discriminate, how could their fans possibly have a racist leg to stand on?
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What do you think of Lenny Henry in his role in The Rings of Power?