Flat White

‘Toxic fandom’ or backlash against Woke?

14 June 2022

6:00 AM

14 June 2022

6:00 AM

Hollywood and major streaming services have done nothing but complain about the so-called ‘toxic fandom’ killing new releases and tearing holes in their profit margins.

The story is always the same.

A production company gets its hands on a valuable piece of historic intellectual property that has a loyal, inbuilt fandom (also known as a money-printing machine). They take this successful product and immediately decide that it has to be ‘updated’ to reflect ‘modern values’ or worse – they spend months apologising for the offensive nature of the source material.

Maybe there are too many ‘white characters’. Perhaps it’s lacking in LGBTQ+ representation. Of course, there probably aren’t enough women fulfilling male-normative roles. Whatever its perceived failures, the beloved story has to be gutted and rebuilt in the progressive mindset.

Once the ‘demons’ have been exorcised and a suitably ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ cast has been paraded in front of the cameras, the studio attempts to preempt public backlash against their creative ‘alterations’ by accusing anyone who dares to complain about their changes as part of the ‘toxic fandom’.

It’s no different from the cries of ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, or ‘antivax’ against people who disagree with the demands of fringe activists. We have seen it play out so many times that the phrase, ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ has entered common usage.

Just as customers don’t like being lectured to by companies, the millions of fans waiting for their favourite story to come out on Amazon, Netflix, Disney, or a nearby movie theatre are naturally pretty upset about being told they ‘have to love it or they’re toxic’.

Weirdly, this attack on audiences has resulted in catastrophic financial losses and industry flops in much the same way as companies like Gillette saw customers shun them after their anti-male advertising campaign.

Recent examples of this trend include the destruction of BBC giant Dr Who with the failed gender-swapping of the lead ‘white bloke’, Marvel’s steady dismantling of male superheroes (see the new female Thor), the disaster that was Star Trek: Discovery that quickly descended into an exercise in Woke so painful that even the Millennials started ditching it, and the increasingly unwatchable Disney Star Wars featuring an all-powerful Mary Sue.

The next piece of intellectual property on the chopping block is the beloved Lord of the Rings extended material by Tolkien that has been turned into the billion-dollar project The Rings of Power by Amazon.

Streaming giant Amazon has become protective of its new project, which has already found itself at the centre of controversy from furious fans who are tired of Woke.

Promotional videos are being inundated with ‘dislikes’ in a fan backlash called ‘ratio-ing’ which generally means the public are very unhappy. The collective forces of the ‘Access Media’ are being mustered to produce headlines such as, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Is Going To Upset Tolkien Purists, And That’s A Good Thing. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of comments have been deleted from the online trailer videos suggesting that the PR teams are on high alert.

Why all the outrage?

The series is set to include controversial changes to the source material such as female black dwarfs (without the specified full beards), transforming Galadriel into a ‘powerful female warlord’ (whose husband is weirdly absent), and oppressed nomadic tribes of Harfoots.

Of the Harfoots, actor Lenny Henry told Empire magazine:

‘We’re a nomadic tribe, moving with the weather and the fertility of the crops. We have big caravans on wooden wheels and we’re very good at hiding things, because humans are much bigger than us and bring trouble.’

He added that playing this role, ‘also offered an opportunity to help shift the needle on a world that previously hasn’t tended to feature people of colour in prominent roles […] kids are going to see people of colour taking up space in the centre of a fantasy series. We’re very visible in this world and that’s very exciting.’

No. It doesn’t sound like there’s going to be any anti-Western Civilisation lectures or Critical Race Theory on the horizon there…

Mariana Rios Maldonado, a Tolkien scholar, spoke to Vanity Fair saying:

‘Obviously there was going to be push and backlash, but the question is, from whom? Who are these people that feel so threatened or disgusted by the idea that an elf is Black or Latino or Asian?’

Although the backlash may make more sense to Maldonado if we were talking about the adaptation of a famous piece of African literature that had been re-cast with pale, Nordic-looking actors to ‘represent’ the viewers in the intended market at the expense of authenticity. There would be no end to the outrage if that had been the case.

‘I am very also cautious about saying if a work will remain true to the spirit of an author or not because at the end of the day, Tolkien died in the 70s so it’s up to us to basically step our game up and see how his works can respond through the world that they created to the challenges of today.’

For those who say, ‘it’s just a TV series’ – fans are not upset about the odd dodgy film but rather the sustained attack on cultural works and a determination to see them ‘re-contextualised’ and dismantled to fit within a narrow activist view of the world that insults and degrades Western storytelling.

It is being done in parallel with a movement that demands absolute authenticity toward non-European and LGBTQ+ content and history. Inclusion, diversity, and respect is not a two-way street – it’s a Woke freeway with a clear intention to tell lovers of historical Western literature that they should apologise for the world’s greatest works of fiction.

Or, as prominent Culture Wars YouTuber Nerdrotic calls this type of writing, ‘modernity wrapped in a loose Tolkien skin’ and ‘hitching your agenda wagon to the work of your betters’.

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