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It's Not About "Lore"
Why the critics of woke storytelling get it wrong
Last year, the West suffered a cultural blow.
Amazon’s The Rings of Power released on September 1st.
This isn’t a review. We all know it was garbage television. Audiences panned it, and it was an undeniable flop for Amazon (no matter how hard they try to cover this fact up). I never wrote anything about it at the time because honestly, I didn’t really care, and I still don’t. It won’t have any lasting effect of Tolkien’s legacy and I would be happy to just let it be forgotten.
But, it is worth talking about why exactly this show was so viscerally hated by the fans of Middle-Earth.
More broadly, why has the reaction to almost every other recent adaption of fantasy, mythology, or classic characters been so atrocious?
Because it isn’t just The Rings of Power. Netflix’s The Witcher series was awful (minus a great performance from Henry Cavil). Amazon’s The Wheel of Time was panned by fans of the novels. The new Indiana Jones looks absolutely terrible. Not to mention Disney’s awful remakes of fairy tale classics that they’ve been churning out in recent years.
Why is this happening? Why can’t billion dollar studios get it right?
A common explanation that I see is that these productions have failed to respect the original material’s “lore”. That they somehow just misunderstand the stories they’re trying to tell in their efforts to be “woke”.
At first glance, this doesn't seem like a bad theory.
This YouTuber is a great example. I have nothing against him personally, in fact he criticizes woke media pretty effectively. But he doesn’t quite get it. He, and countless other pop media commentators claim that shows like the Rings of Power or The Witcher are falling because they fail to respect source material’s “lore”, or because of “diversity casting”.
Here’s an example:
This guy is right in the majority of his analysis. But this view misses the larger point.
The reason western audiences have viscerally hated shows like The Rings of Power, or The Witcher, or The Wheel of Time, or the new Little Mermaid remake, or so many others is not actually because those shows disrespected the “lore” of the originals. That’s missing the forest for the trees.
This isn’t an issue of misunderstanding. The show runners aren’t just ignorant. These shows aren’t just poorly written and poorly casted.
You have to understand that billion dollar companies that can hire the best screenwriters and directors in the world haven’t consistently failed these stories for years by some accident.
You have to realize that no, it’s not plausible that every major studio somehow exclusively hires idiots to write their movies and shows.
These are direct attacks on Western culture, archetypes, and stories. Nothing less.
“Lore” isn’t the point. The original The Lord of the Rings movies are beloved despite many diversions from Tolkien’s “lore” and fictional history. They’re loved because they respect the spirit of the original material, and small diversions don’t change that.
What you need to look for in adaptions is whether the “spirit” is being respected, not “lore”. It is the spirit of a thing that we really love and connect to, the things surrounding it can be changed.
What I mean is, despite book purist objections to changes in Aragorn’s character in the Peter Jackson films, the spirit of Tolkien was entirely respected. This is the defining mark of an adaption with pure intentions.
This may seem like a minor distinction, but it’s important to call a spade a spade. There’s a huge difference between productions that fail due to poor storytelling, and those that fail due to carrying out an attack on the main audience’s spirit and heritage.
Look at the new Indiana Jones movie coming out this summer. Everyone on earth knows that no one wants to see a bumbling Indiana Jones replaced by an annoying feminist woman character. You think Lucasfilm doens’t know this? Of course they do.
They aren’t even attempting to tell a story that audiences want. They’re trying to push a message. But it’s not that they’re disrespecting the original Indiana Jones “lore”, that’s not looking deep enough.
They want to dismantle the archetype his character used to embody. The gruff, Anglo, swashbuckling explorer. They hate everything this character stood for, so they have to dismantle him. So they’ll make a fool of him before putting his character to rest.
Same with diversity casting. It’s not just that they want to add diverse characters, though this is the innocent way they’ll try to sell it. The point of making the Little Mermaid black isn’t to be diverse and inclusive, its explicitly to destroy yet another European story and character.
Modern studios couldn’t care less about minorities. What they care about is destroying Western identity.
And so back to The Rings of Power. The Rings of Power was never about telling a new Tolkien story. It didn’t fail because the show runners are idiots (they are). It didn't fail because they disrespected Tolkien’s lore. It failed because from the very outset it was created to be a subversion of everything Tolkien’s works mean to the people of the West. They can hide behind “it’s just a fantasy story, we can cast whoever we want”, but the truth remains that it was nothing but a demoralization campaign.
So to wrap up, call a spade a spade. Don’t hide behind the criticisms that modern media is disrespecting “lore”, or focusing on “diversity casting”. Don’t waste your time trying to make arguments for why Elves in certain climates would or wouldn’t be a certain skin color.
Stop playing their game.
Call this trend in modern media what it is.
An attack on your identity and everything that makes the West what it is.
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