The Most Expensive (and Anticipated!) TV Show of All Time
The Rings of Power, the most expensive TV show ever created, premiered on September 1, 2022, on Amazon Prime Video. The show is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s world-renowned book series, The Lord of the Rings, and focuses on the major historical events that took place during Middle-earth’s Second Age. The highly anticipated series with a $1 billion budget for five seasons became an instant hit, but not without controversy.
Shortly after the show’s release, the internet became flooded with racist and misogynistic complaints from so-called “Tolkien fans.” Critics argue that the show’s increased diversity, including the casting of Black and Asian actors, undermines Tolkien’s world’s faithfulness, as he only depicted his characters as white. Furthermore, some fans are upset about gender roles, with many male characters being cowards or jerks and only Galadriel being portrayed as brave, smart, and nice. Many of these criticisms that followed are ungrounded, racist, and sexist, undermining the true literary merit of the show and its efforts toward inclusivity.
The Little Mermaid: Live-Action vs. Animated
The Little Mermaid has been a beloved Disney classic since its release in 1989. On the back of a series of successful live-action remakes, Disney has announced a live-action version of the movie expected to debut in 2023. The movie has undergone a significant change, with the titular character, Ariel, being played by Halle Bailey, a Black actress, instead of a white actress.
Within hours of the first trailer being released, angry fans attacked the movie for casting a Black actress as Ariel. The #NotMyAriel hashtag quickly gained traction on social media, with detractors claiming that the character was always white, and having a Black actress in the role was an act of tokenistic “forced diversity” pandering to modern audiences. Like with The Rings of Power, fans were upset about the deviation from the original story, undermining the true merit of the movie and its efforts towards representation and diversity.
Why Diverse Representation is Important in Pop Culture
The Historical Inaccuracy Argument
The argument for casting all-white characters in The Rings of Power and The Little Mermaid revolves around the notion of historical accuracy. Detractors claim that Tolkien’s characters were all white, and the characters in The Little Mermaid were based on depictions from ancient Greek and Mediterranean mythology. However, these objections to increased diversity overlook a more profound historical reality. Across Europe, diverse communities and people of color lived throughout the medieval period, representing a historically accurate reflection of the world.
The Importance of Representation
Additionally, representation and inclusivity are essential for people of all races, genders, and sexual orientations to see themselves represented in media. Pop culture is full of retellings of old stories, and each version should be open to changes and varying points of view. When movies and TV shows cast actors of color, it opens the doors of opportunities and possibilities for people to see themselves in popular stories. This kind of representation helps empower communities who may not have had the chance to see themselves represented before.
Addressing the Backlash Against Increased Diversity In Pop Culture
“Forced Diversity” or Inclusive Representation?
The detractors who claim that diversity in pop culture is a product of tokenistic “forced diversity” pandering to modern audiences misunderstand the true value of representation. In reality, casting actors of color is not about tokenism or ticking a box but about the appropriation of literary works to modern audiences and bridging the gap between different communities by creating meaningful connections.
Why Progressive Adaptations are Crucial
Furthermore, changing an adaptation’s traditional narrative is an opportunity to create fresh perspectives and invite a broader audience. These adaptations are not destroying original stories but rather providing platforms of inclusivity and representation that reflect modern society and respect the different members of the audience.
The controversies surrounding The Rings of Power and The Little Mermaid highlight the importance of representation and inclusivity in pop culture. In a world where media and entertainment are pervasive, it is vital that adaptations and retellings include all types of people and give them a voice and a character to identify with. Progressive adaptations strive to cater to modern audiences, and inclusivity is more important than maintaining the status quo of traditional narratives that have been dominated by white, male authors and directors for generations.
1. Why is representation important in pop culture?
Representation is important because it ensures that communities and people of all races, genders, and sexual orientations see themselves represented in the media. Pop culture is full of retellings of old stories, and each version should reflect the diverse reality of the world, empowering marginalized communities and bringing them into the mainstream.
2. What is the argument against diverse representation in pop culture?
The argument against representation centers on the notion of historical accuracy that characters or stories were intended to be white and that changing the race of the characters is undermining the true merit of the adaptation.
3. Is diversity in pop culture just about ticking boxes?
No, representation is not just about ticking boxes. It is about the appropriation of literary works to modern audiences, bridging the gap between different communities and creating meaningful connections.
4. Why do we need progressive adaptations in pop culture?
Progressive adaptations are crucial because they create a fresh perspective on old stories, provide new opportunities for representation, and invite people from different communities into the conversation by reflecting modern society and its diverse reality.
5. What can we learn from the controversy surrounding The Rings of Power and The Little Mermaid?
The controversies surrounding these two adaptations highlight the resistance to change and the need for representation and inclusivity in pop culture. Popular media needs to provide more opportunities for diverse casting and storytelling to respect audiences’ racial and cultural diversity and foster meaningful connections between people.