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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Political Correctness on TH:DOS?
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Tigero
Rivendell


Mar 26 2013, 5:44pm

Post #26 of 35 (405 views)
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Still, there's no racist or politically incorrect [In reply to] Can't Post

in visualizing the works of Tolkien as they were written, the tones of characters' skins in the movies are purely a product of geological and perhaps even social constraints.

I wouldn't say that Easterlings were particularily toned in the movie, there were definently as much 'whiteys' as 'lightly tanned' people among them, maybe it's their ancient Asia-inspired armor that makes you think so?

About so called background-racism... I don't see the world ever growing completely out of 'fear of aliens', it's hardcoded into our brains and perhaps good that it is in some amounts, as globalization will only make cultures more and more the same (towards western cultures mostly) and people less diffrent.

But i'm not a _racist_, meaning i would criminalize people by their skin tone. Racism should be removed from the society but it will not be easy. Studies in Finland show that people have a reason to avoid immigrants, they do on average over double the amount of crimes per population BUT the whole thing is indeed a product of racism, employers avoid immigrants and they have social problems->they fall for crime->more doubt. It's a feedback loop but hopefully we get out of it some day.

Nontheless the works of Tolkien and PJ don't show that kind of _racism_ and should not be worried about.

Pessimists have no disappointments.


Arwen's daughter
Half-elven


Mar 26 2013, 6:12pm

Post #27 of 35 (380 views)
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I agree with a lot of your points here [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right that there are plenty of white people playing the bad guys, but they are mostly kept covered by armor and costume. The key players we actually see among the haradrim/easterlings/corsairs all trend toward darker skin color.

I agree that PJ didn't make any racist moves in casting/portraying the world as Tolkien wrote it, but I disagree with the idea that you can absolve Middle Earth of the racist overtones that already exist. No one involved is acting out of racism but the racism will probably continue to exist in any portrayal of ME. I don't know if that distinction makes sense?

I agree with you that it's not the kind of racism to _worry_ about, but personally I think that any racism should be acknowledged. I think that sweeping it under the rug or excusing it away as a product of its time or something hardwired into the brain does more harm than good. I think that it normalizes it for the real racists out there so that they can continue to excuse their own bigotry. (And please, I want to be very clear that I'm neither calling you nor anyone else on these boards a racist! I think you know the kind of harmful racism I'm talking about.) And I think that calling people who see the racist undertones in the movies a "lunatic" or describing it as "BS" continues that cycle.

I'm less comfortable getting into the real world racism discussion here on the boards, but I will agree with you that I hope we get out of the feedback loop.



Warning: the preceding message may contain satire, sarcasm, irony, puns, and other attempts at humor.
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craban
Registered User

Mar 26 2013, 7:07pm

Post #28 of 35 (352 views)
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thank you [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm always hesitant to get into those kind of discussions but grateful when somebody else does it, so,thanks for that post :)

(Although honestly I think casting The Lord of the Rings characters colour-blind could've been good. But it's not hard to get why they didn't do that.)


dormouse
Half-elven


Mar 26 2013, 7:20pm

Post #29 of 35 (367 views)
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One slight caveat on the question of racism in Tolkien.... [In reply to] Can't Post

It's true that he made the Southrons dark-skinned and on Sauron's side. (About the Easterlings I'm not so sure; I'd always thought of them as white.) It is also true that there was a degree of underlying racism in the general attitudes around at his time, as there still is...

But.... isn't there perhaps a case for balancing this in his case by pointing out that in his fiction he created a world of multiple races and advocated friendship and co-operation between them even when their natural inclination was to mistrust - Elves, Dwarves, Men.... And that one of his hobbit groups was darker skinned.... And that in the real world he was an opponent of Nazism.

I'm not excusing anything here, or denying it, but it worries me when I see arguments along the lines of 'X was a child of his time and people at that time were all racist' partly because it denies the importance of individual choices, partly because it presupposes that we're better. But change on this, as on so many other moral questions is a gradual progression - and we haven't got there yet. And he did look towards the idea of individuals of different races choosing the good side and working together; that has to count for something, I think.


Arwen's daughter
Half-elven


Mar 26 2013, 7:54pm

Post #30 of 35 (344 views)
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I'm not discrediting any of that [In reply to] Can't Post

Or, at least, I hope I'm not. And I do agree that we're not there yet in this time and place. I believe I mentioned that earlier.

I think this discussion falls into a trap where people have been taught that racism is a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing and have a tendency to fight back against the accusation. It's certainly not a good thing, but there are degrees to it, microaggressions and grey areas and mistakes made all the time. What one POC is offended by another may not care about. And I should add that I'm white and I don't want to be speaking for or over POCs in this discussion.

Racism is such a grey area. Yes, there are individual choices being made there. But people who honestly don't believe that white people = good and black people = bad unconsciously fall into the trap of writing or expressing things that way sometimes. I'm not saying that Tolkien was a racist. I'm just saying there's racism happening in his works. I know that's a weird distinction for a lot of people, but I think it's an important one.

Tolkien absolutely created a message of tolerance and love between his races. The Lord of the Rings is about a lot of people from different places coming together and trusting each other to find common ground and fight a common enemy. Whether it's the story of elves and dwarves or hobbits and wizards or ents and men learning about the others and coming to the aid of people they sometimes had no good reason to help, Tolkien is promoting love and combating racism in a lot of ways. You're absolutely right about that.

But that doesn't erase the racism in other places. It absolutely counts for something. It balances it, it changes it, it lessens it, yes. It just doesn't erase it. And I'm sure whole books could be (and probably have been) written on this subject.

Like I said earlier in the thread, it doesn't negate my enjoyment of both books and films. I just don't think that labeling people who call out the racism "lunatics" or calling it "BS" is helpful. I think that the best way to make progress in this area is to acknowledge racism when we see it so that we can learn an grow from it.

I honestly don't know if I'm making sense or just talking in circles at this point.



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DanielLB
Immortal


Mar 26 2013, 10:24pm

Post #31 of 35 (287 views)
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If TORn had a like button ... [In reply to] Can't Post

You put what I think in words far better than I ever could. I'd like this if there was a button.

Smile


demnation
Rohan


Mar 26 2013, 10:37pm

Post #32 of 35 (273 views)
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Thank You [In reply to] Can't Post

You bring a calmness and eloquence to this conversation that I wish I had. I agree with what you said 100% Thank You.Thank You. Thank You.

I was going to make this long and rambling, but I'll just say you are making perfect sense, at least to me.Smile

Use Well the Days


Gandy
Bree

Mar 26 2013, 10:45pm

Post #33 of 35 (279 views)
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Race is a business run by politicians [In reply to] Can't Post

The ones crying "racist!" all the time are the ones obsessed with race. Racists are obsessed with race. Everyone else is living in 2013.

Two people see a sharp toothed, horned, devil eyed, growling, snarling, bloodthirsty vile beast-that-isn't-milk-white killing everyone in its path.

One person says "Cool! An Orc!"
2nd person says "Hey a black guy!"

The 2nd person claiming compassion is the one who needs to get a life and let society live in peace. Unfortunately there is a dominant group of politicians in the 2nd category.

Enough. Back to innocent escapism!


AinurOlorin
Half-elven


Mar 26 2013, 11:47pm

Post #34 of 35 (260 views)
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This, rather exactly. [In reply to] Can't Post

I would go so far as to say Tolkien attempted to be inclusive with things like Bor and Sam's thoughts on the falling Harad man. But everything you say below applies. He was concious and righteous enough to make at least some effort. but the times and background bigotry thereof were still such that we never, for instance, saw any of the Haradrim turn (it is implied that Alatar and Pallando likely did accomplish this in some places, but never elaborated upon), saw or recieved greater elucidation a darker, but well recieved Istari (Say if Alatar had taken Harad tones and had some good dealings with Elves and others ere going East/South?), or had the Elves place the same weight on the devotion of Bor that they did on the treachery of Ulfang.

I am glad about the people of Colour in Dale. I wish there had been more in Gondor (which surely would have been a place far more likely to have had them as well as various people of mixed ethnicity, considering the proximity and long years of interaction. The Mediterannean and Red Sea regions have been a region of mixed ethnicity since time out of mind. You cannot tell some of the Greeks from some of the, Spainish from some of the North Africans, and good luck distinguishing some of The Isralies from some of the Egyptians etc.). I certainly hope none of the people of colour in dale with be needlessly made into villains, and I rather doubt it will happen that way.

I do think, considering all Tolkien said about brown hobbits (either the Harfoots or the Stoors), he could have made it so that not all of the Hobbits in the Shire in the first film looked to be from Northern Europe. I know brown doesn't mean ethnically so, but if you can take liberties to have Elrond's only daughter ride out against The Nine in lieu of the Mightiest Noldor in Rivendell, and if Tauriel can rise from the obscurity of unnamed guards. . . a brown hobbit can be played by a brown person. lol

In Reply To
Call me a lunatic all you want, but I'm going to respond to this post.

Yes, there is an element of racism in portraying only white people as heroes and people of color as the enemy. And remember, orcs aren't the only enemy. You also have the Southrons and Easterlings (ie. people of color).

No, that does not mean that PJ or Tolkien are secretly racists who hate (to use your quote). And that sort of phrasing does a disservice to your argument, imo.

Yes, Tolkien was writing his works as a mythology for England. Yes, he was writing them in a time and place where people of color were rarely written as heroes. And yes, PJ was just following the professor's lead.

But all of those things come out of a sort-of background racism that existed during Tolkien's time (and I would argue still exists to a lesser extent now). Tolkien chose to make people of color the enemy. That was a choice that he could have avoided entirely in a work of fantasy and he didn't because he didn't see a problem with it. There was no problem with it at the time because outsiders (ie. non-Westerners) were often seen as an enemy at the time. Tolkien wasn't attempting to be racist and neither was PJ, but because there was so much racism at the time some of it bleeds into Tolkien's works (because, of course, no work of fiction comes out of a vacuum).

The racism is still there, even when it's not intentional or just a sign of the times. I don't expect PJ (or the professor for that matter) to do anything differently. Other problems would be raised by casting (for instance) Bilbo or Thorin as black men. But I also don't think it's helpful to ignore the racist tones that exist here. Acknowledging it does nothing to harm my enjoyment of the books and movies. Instead it allows me to grow and keep from making the same mistakes.

I'll leave the high heels discussion for another time, but I promise you my argument has nothing to do with how fast you can run in them.


"Hear me, hounds of Sauron, Gandalf is here! Fly if you value your foul skins, I will shrivel you from tail to snout if you step within this circle!"

"Do not be to eager to deal out death in judgement. Even the very wise cannot see all ends."


glor
Rohan

Mar 28 2013, 12:26am

Post #35 of 35 (182 views)
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I love your posts and would like to add a few points [In reply to] Can't Post

1) Black and white as colours denotaing good versus bad/evil have an historical symbolism that has nothing to do with skin colour, in England and many parts of Northern Europe. In early christianity(much as it is now)Black was the symbol of death and white the symbol of purity. This distinction derived not from skin colour but from significant aspects of nature, white is the colour of mothers' milk, it is a life giver to the innocence of children, black is a colour not truly present in nature, except in the ashes of a burnt out (dead) fire, fire being a protector, source of warm and in many ancient and historical cultures represent the home, family and kin. Black is also the (assumed) colour of night, white the (assumed) colour of daylight, historically night is the time of danger, winters with the longer nights the period of least resources, whereas day is the safe time, summer the season of most daylight, the time of plenty.

The symbolism of black and white is not exclusive to our very modern notions of skin colour, this idea of black and white representing race, western imperialism, and divided societies is only 300 years old.

2) I find it quite comical and ironic that Tolkien whose works have deeps roots in North Western European mythology, and written as you clearly state in a different era where Tolkien may not have considered the necessity of correction for modern times (PC if you will), is picked on for being racist yet, a very modern fantasy series, with a highly successful film franchise of the last decade is rarely commented upon; Harry Potter/J K Rowling.

Hogwarts is whiter than modern day EtonCrazy Why is Harry Potter and his chums portrayed as almost exclusively white and WASP white at that especially in the films. yes I am aware that there were in the films at least a few token BME characters but why are all the main characters so distinctly Anglo-saxon? I believe that J K Rowling has said that she doesn't usually mention skin colour or ethnic origin in her books as she thinks it is irrelevant ( a good point). However, harry Potter is a very recent fantasy series made in and for modern times, so I find it's escape from the critical eye of racism allegations somewhat puzzling.

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