Wednesday, September 28, 2022

In Defense of Amazon’s 'The Rings of Power'

I am thrilled and delighted by each episode. There are many Christian and family values in the series as well as heroism, honor and chivalry. From The Spectator:

Toward the end of the episode, for instance, we learn that Tar-Palantir, the deposed king of Númenor, was a religious reactionary. His campaign to restore the true faith came to an end when riots backed by entrenched interests forced him from his throne. His daughter, Tar-Miríel, who took over as regent, treasured her father’s beliefs in her heart but refused to impose them politically. In our world, she’d keep a rosary in her pocket while issuing executive orders to expand abortion access. 'Faith may bind one heart, Galadriel, but it is too fine a thread by which to hang a kingdom,' she says. I can’t think of a better, more succinct critique of secular liberalism and the privatisation of religion it demands.

The show is also just nice to watch. There’s beauty and joy to it. After so many years immersed in Game of Thrones (and now House of the Dragon), it’s nice to be reminded that there’s more to life than killing, screwing and scheming. In one Rings of Power episode, the Harfoot maid leads some young 'uns out to a clearing full of berry bushes, and they all have a good frolic. I’d forgotten how much I love watching a good frolic. The closest Game of Thrones can get to a frolic is an orgy.

Now, on to race. I’m sure there’s a small subset of people for whom the mere sight of melanated skin on a screen is enough to trigger a paroxysm of rage. These are the people who were responsible for the whole dust-up surrounding the Disney+ miniseries Obi-Wan Kenobi, which cast a black woman as its principal antagonist. Ignoring the minuscule number of racist Twitter trolls who objected should have been easy. Unfortunately, we live in 2022. The entire Disney PR machine lurched into action, cracking out a slew of anti-racist messaging to assure viewers that hate has no home in the galaxy far, far away.

This no doubt played well with blue-haired faux-leftists who like to be pandered to by multinational corporations that profit off of genocide. For everyone else, it was just one more sign that Disney had gone woke.

We’ve seen similar cycles of discourse with House of the Dragon, the remake of The Little Mermaid and (of course) Rings of Power itself, in which elvish, dwarvish, human and hobbit characters, in all their varying tribes and nations, were cast on a largely race-blind basis. One Twitter personality even quipped that Amazon had created the entire billion-dollar series just so they could post that 'BIPOC belong in Middle-earth'.

It’s all so tiresome. On one hand, I understand conservatives’ frustration. Progressive rhetoric on this issue is blatantly dishonest. Each time a beloved franchise gets a little less white, they celebrate a great victory for 'representation'. If anyone on the right objects, they switch tactics: 'It’s not a big deal,' they say. 'Why do you care so much?' Gaslighting 101.

But the question remains: do we care that the mermaid/hobbit/inquisitor is black? Or do we just care that they care?

It’s easy to fall into absurdities when debating this topic. I’ve seen plenty of conservatives claim that because Hans Christian Andersen was Danish, Ariel in The Little Mermaid must be white. By that logic, why stop at 'white' (which is itself an imprecise category)? Why not insist that she be Scandinavian? Or even Danish? Do we need to start requiring actors to submit a full genetic sequence along with headshots? Some progressives came pretty close to demanding exactly that when Gal Godot was cast as Cleopatra.

Joel Berry of the Babylon Bee had an insight that I found particularly helpful: '"Blackness" isn’t just a skin colour to the left. To them, it’s also a collectivist, anti-West ideology,' he wrote. 'That’s why… when leftists race-swap a character, it looks like they’re making an ideological statement.'

This pairs nicely with a post from black conservative Leonydus Johnson, who responded to the mermaid fracas by advocating for a 'colourblind, post-racial society [in which] skin colour matters about as much as hair colour'. Bingo. The melanin content of someone’s skin is not a political statement, and shame on anyone – right or left – who treats it as such.

Taken together, those two statements do a good job of articulating where I (and probably most other conservatives) stand: casting can be limited by race for purposes of historical fidelity or to make specific statements about race. Otherwise, cast whoever you want. Just don’t shove all that woke stuff down our throats while you do it. (Read more.)

I love the harfoot's walking song. From Nerdist:

The sun is fast fallin’ beneath trees of stone
The light in the tower no longer my home
Past eyes of pale fire
Black sand for my bed
I’d trade all I’ve known for the unknown ahead

Poppy’s song, officially titled “This Wandering Day,” comes from the show’s composer Bear McCreary. The lyrics make clear why it would Middle-earth’s small folk would sing it during their Great Migration. It’s about leaving home for the call of “lands far away.” And while they know that journey will be difficult, it’s one they walk because they have faith the destination will make their suffering worth it. (Read more.)


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