I want to rant about something today. But, before I do, let me introduce the collection of unrelated images I’m presenting to help the medicine go down. If you’re not looking for my ravings, feel free to ignore all the text after the next paragraph and enjoy the pictures.
If you’ve watched the Muppet Show you will be familiar with the house band, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Today’s set of images are some playbills that feature the band members and I thought they were pretty cool. I thought I’d one day have them printed in a larger form so I could frame them and hang them all on the wall. But, my walls don’t have any space, so this is the best I can do. As before, I have no idea who the artist is, or even where I got them. If you know, please clue me in so I can give the credit the artist deserves.
Okay, with that out of the way…
The Internet is a crappy place to go to if you’re interested in people’s opinions. It’s a quagmire of hot takes. The opinions are designed less to inform than to get that oh-so-important dopamine trigger that comes with likes, upvotes and retweets. As a result, the actual content is as useless and toxic as a politician’s promise.
And yes, I’m well aware that what I’m writing will go out on social media and I’ll feel that same jolt if anyone actually reads this and gives it a like. What? Did you think I was above such venal pleasures? Sorry, chum, I’m like everybody else.
That said, I want to talk about some of the criticism, from both sides, of the new Lord of the Rings show. To an extent, the same discussion applies to every other new movie or show that’s come out in the SFF space over the last year or so. I’m thinking about Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, and The Wheel of Time, but I bet you can add plenty of titles of your own to that list and the arguments will still hold.
The argument goes something like this: The show is a travesty because it goes against . In the case of Rings of Power, the headcannon runs the gamut from the way the writer thinks women approach violence, whether there were black people in Middle-earth, to whether the series adheres to the writer’s understanding of the Silmarillion.
The counter argument is usually a bit simpler: You don’t like the show because you’re a bigot.
I’m serious. That’s it. The only variation is the particular brand of bigot.
Well, allow me to retort. To both arguments.
To the first, let me state that this is fantasy. Science fiction is the art of imagining the effects of science upon the human condition. Fantasy is the same but with batshit crazy stuff replacing science. As a fantasy author, if I want to see what a society would look like if people could fly, well, that’s what I’m gonna write. It works because I say it does, and my job is to make you believe it. If I do it right, I manage to do it in an entertaining way.
While the Peter Jackson movies were whiter than a 1950’s sitcom, I don’t remember anything in the books that says that’s the way it has to be. So, Middle-earth has black elves, hobbits and dwarves because this is a work of fantasy and that’s the way the show-runners want it. ‘Nuff said.
The same thing goes for Galadriel. Yeah, it was a little ridiculous how she took down an ice troll single-handed. Never mind that a moment before he carved his way through a bunch of warriors who were presumably as well-trained and capable as she was. I aslo had to question how she planned to swim across the whole Sundering Sea weighed down by a gauzy dress and a dagger. Elves aren’t stronger or more resilient than the other races of Middle-earth. Their superpower is that they live a long freaking time. They have time to perfect skills to a degree that other races can’t even imagine. An elf warrior might study swordsmanship for decades before putting their skills to the test. Maybe troll-fighting and long-distance swimming were the foci of Galadriel’s life at that point. It doesn’t matter. It’s the way the writer’s wanted it.
I’m not qualified to refute the Silmarillion stuff, as I’ve never read it. I’ll leave that to someone who’s done the homework.
About the second argument, I’d like to say that it’s possible to not like something without being a bigot. It’s as simple as that. I’m the kind of guy that finds something to like about almost everything, but some folks have a more critical eye. That’s alright. Not everything hits with everyone. I had to read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea as research for The Drone War and hated every minute of it. By the end of it, I felt if I had to slog through one more detailed list of fish swimming by a window I’d lose my mind. That’s cool. M. Verne didn’t have me in mind when he wrote it. But, it doesn’t mean I harbor hatred in my heart for fish, submarines or French naturalists. I just didn’t vibe with the story.
The Atlantis part was cool, though. See? I can always find something to like.