‘Til the Next Episode: A Black Nerd Manifesto

New Zealand

I am a nerdy black chick. Been that way since my childhood in California when I bought the trilogy of Lord of Rings for 10¢ each at the San Leandro Public Library book sale in 1986. I absolutely love J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece. I have bought the books, ebooks, DVDs, director’s cut DVDs, and the iTunes movie versions of the trilogy.  I have read and reread the books. I have also watched the movies and listened to the DVD cast commentary countless times.

I visited New Zealand in 2013 and unironically took the Lord of the Rings tour in Queenstown. The landscape vistas were stunning. I felt connected to the book and vision of the film. I did, however, draw the line when the tour guide suggested recreating the death scene of Ned Stark Boromir. I am, nevertheless, a super fan. Been one for thirty years.

I am also woke. It never occurred to me until reading the Jon Boyega’s GQ interview that Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones lack diversity. And it is an apt critique. The Star Wars world has a much better track record: from Billie Dee Williams as Lando to Boyega as Finn, those movies contain a healthy degree of diversity. Game of Thrones does include vaguely identifiably people of color: from the Dothraki to folks in Dorne. Lord of the Rings does not.

This leads to several unsettling questions: Am I suffering from false consciousness? How did I miss this fact after all these years? Is my woke card revoked?

It is Boyega who states quite eloquently in the interview, “I ain’t paying money to always see one type of person on-screen…you see different people from different backgrounds, different cultures, every day. Even if you’re a racist, you have to live with that. We can ruffle up some feathers.”

Good on him. And I totally agree. I can only hope for a future reimagining of a dynamic and diverse cinematic world even beyond the one that exists in Tolkien’s books and Jackson’s films. I will pay to see that Lord of the Rings remake.

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