Adding Asian actors to Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ would be too ‘politically correct’
Published: May 16, 2021 07:27 PM
Promotional material of The Lord of the Rings trilogy Photo: Sina Weibo

Promotional material of The Lord of the Rings trilogy Photo: Sina Weibo

 Chinese cultural observers said it would be too “politically correct” for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV series to force in a role played by an Asian actor and might trigger some racial problems if the newly added role was a negative one. 

The comment came after Chinese Canadian actor Ludi Lin posted on Twitter on Thursday, complaining that the mega-budget fantasy series did not have any Asian actors. 

“It’s going to be difficult to justify building a ‘huge world’ without any characters that look Asian. Turn that imagine on us. It’s not hard, we’re right here,” he wrote.

The Lord of the Rings TV series, which is likely to premiere in 2022, is regarded to be the largest television series ever made, with Amazon spending $465 million for just one season. Currently, a total of 35 actors have been announced and the cast seems to be mostly white, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The first three films in the epic fantasy Lord of the Rings trilogy were all re-released in the Chinese mainland in April and May, with the third film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King only earning more than 5 million yuan ($776,000) on Friday, its first day of re-release, with a screen share of only 6.2 percent and a 4.1 percent seat occupation rate. As of Sunday afternoon, it had brought in 20.70 million yuan, according to Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan.

“The movie is 201 minutes long, more than 3 hours. The long time is the film’s biggest weakness,” Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times.

“Middle-Earth is an imaginary world created by Tolkien, just like Chinese writer Wu Chengen’s literature work Journey to the West. It would be too ‘politically correct’ to force in a white actor if a white actor criticized Journey to the West for not having any white actors,” Shi Wenxue, a film critic, told the Global Times on Sunday.

He suspected that the Asian actor was trying to use the call for “diversity” to hype his own popularity. “If the role played by an Asian actor was an ugly one like a dwarf or a half-human half-animal, some Asian-American groups might try to boycott it, calling it ‘racist.’” 

Shi pointed out that discrimination against Asians and Asian stereotypes in the US have a long history. For example, the film Crazy Rich Asians, which had an all-Asian cast, is a typical work full of Asian stereotypes.

According to a recent report launched by Leading Asian Americans to Unite for Change, 42 percent of the Americans surveyed could not name a famous Asian American. About 80 percent of Asian Americans surveyed said they have experienced discrimination and more than one-third of white Americans said they didn’t know anti-Asian violence was on the rise.