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The Racist Tapestry of Lord of the Rings!

I don't imagine that it was the intention of the director or the producers of the Lord of the Rings films to paint a racist stereotypical tapestry over what could be described as a basic set of principles of humanity's behavior in the natural environment and with each other.
The Racist Tapestry of Lord of the Rings!

By Lloyd Hart

I don't imagine that it was the intention of the director or the producers of the Lord of the Rings films to paint a racist stereotypical tapestry over what could be described as a basic set of principles of humanity's behavior in the natural environment and with each other. However, the fact is that the only people of skin color in the entire three part series of films are all associated with the Dark Lord Sauron, the destruction of the earth and all of its occupants. Not to mention the elephant riding mercenaries that resemble the cultures of the Arab world as well as Africa, Persia and East Asia and the fact that the Monarch of the land of Rohan, King Théoden a white guy yelled out "You great warriors of the West" in the final part of his speech to rouse the troops into battle in the third film.

In these times when a homicidal maniac from Texas (the Texas capital punishment policy under Bush) has stolen the American throne and called for a "crusade" against the "evil doers" in nations that white people have been invading, terrorizing, raping and pillaging in for 5000 years with zero provocation, I think we could manage some cultural sensitivity in our popular culture which one must acknowledge has a powerful propaganda affect on the general population that participates in it.

Can you imagine how people of skin color, of Persian, Arab and East Asian ethnic background feel when they come out of these films where all the heroes are white and all the "evil doers" are of dark skin. Being married to an Asian American I watch people disregard my wife everyday while regarding me, simply because of her skin color. Being part of a European family that has lived on the North American continent for 400 years I've been lucky enough to gain perspective that when you create an evil character (Uruk-hai) that resembles native Americans as they have done in the Lord of the Rings films a great deal of cultural and racial alienation will occur.

I am sure that once the filmmakers read this article there will be claims that they had to stay true to the story that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, but the fact is, African and Asian cultures have always been a part of the European fabric whose ancient legends and fairy tales gave birth to J. R. R. Tolkien's epic portrayal of the battle between good and evil. And what about the Ancient Picts, a tattooed darker skinned cultured that once dominant in the UK. As someone who has grown up in one of the nation's of the Commonwealth of the British Empire, I know for a fact that J. R. R. Tolkien's generation were deeply influenced and thus deeply moved by all those people of skin color that fought alongside white members of the British forces in World War One and World War Two forming lifelong friendships and deep emotional ties.

In fact all Europe's mathematics, reading and writing and technological advancements in transportation and warfare are all based on African and Asian concepts. The reason that Western medicine has not advanced to the enlightened technological level as Chinese herbal medicine and why most Western technology is diametrically opposed to all life on this planet, poisoning our air and water and causing widespread disease and death is for the simple fact that the Freemasons and the Church have not yet let go of the death grip they have on each other's throats. In other words, the enlightened knowledge that the church has attempted to destroy that the Freemasons attempted to save and capitalize on with Western patents has turned into a death struggle that has created destructive technological paradigms here in the West that are now being forced on the populations of the entire earth destabilizing life and bringing with them the pollution of the air and water that once existed only in Christendom.

Of course there are redeeming images and ideas portrayed in the films such as the Ents protecting the forests by destroying the industrial military complex as well as the fact that white people can be turned to evil to join forces with all the evil dark skinned man flesh eating Orcs and Uruk-hai.

It is important to understand that young people are impressionable and influenced by the symbols foisted on them by the popular culture. It would not have been that difficult to make a contemporary version of the Lord of the Rings that included the heroic symbols of people of skin color. I think J.R.R. Tolkien wouldn't have minded including people of skin color as heros in these films if he were alive today. Especially after witnessing the rise of the civil rights movements in both the U.S. and the U.K.. I'm so glad that the Dwarfs, Elves and Hobits finally got their due but unfortunately this was washed away by the lack of heroic images of people of skin color. After watching the Lord of the Rings films I thank the universe and Mother Earth for the Rap/hip-hop culture and the counterbalancing influence the Rap/hip-hop culture has on the youth here in America and around the world.

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Racism is nothing new 24.Dec.2003 13:30

Susan

There's a clear literary relation between "Lord of the Rings" and "Ring of the Nibelung". In the latter, the anti-semitic Wagner equated the mythical underworld, underground Nibelungen with the Jew. Both of these stories are rooted in old folk tales. Mr. Hitler used to host performances of Siegfried to his troops behind the lines, just to cheer them up to spur them on to encourage them and give them someone to hate.

If you never go to opera, oh you gotta go see it! Siegfried forging the sword named Nothung (which means Needful -- what could a sword possibly need?) at the anvil while the Nibelung Mime watches. Mime offers our hero some poisoned soup and our hero bursts out, "Keep away you little creep or I'll forge you too!". Not only was he building the war machine but giving fair warning...

mixed messages 24.Dec.2003 13:30

xb

firstly, i agree with your comments. the book, to some extent, is less racist in the ways you describe, as they don't get quite so into the descriptions of the "swarthy" eastern people, such that there is an obvious eastern parallel. in this regard, i have to fault the filmmaker. in other regards, however, tolkien can definitely be fingered as the source for the northern european-centric flavor to the heroes.

i felt myself torn between feeling disturbed by this "hidden" subtext (racial parallels to today) and cheering on the environmental/political subtext (forests fighting back against those who abused the trees, peaceful farming community overcoming warring industrial power). in the end, however, i do have to say i had a little bit of bad taste in my mouth by the fact that the tall, blond white dudes save the day again. most of this is just he way tolkien wrote the story, but i wish jackson had toned down the whole "mongrel"-looking bad guy theme.


maybe the next LotR adaptation will be better 24.Dec.2003 14:52

somebody or other

"The Lord of the Rings" was a product of its time, the early twentieth century, a time of racist violence everywhere in the world. Tolkien was no anti-racist. Jackson should have taken some liberties here, as he did in other ways. In particular, he could have made the elves dark-skinned -- they were dark-haired in the books -- and made the sunlight-fearing orcs into pale cave-creatures. It would have been easy and made more sense. Shit, make all the humans dark-skinned too. Why not? This was all supposed to be a LONG time ago. This was, like, the first wave of humanity in Europe.

In general, the societies in the movies weren't very convincing. What did all these people EAT, anyway? Rohan and Mordor didn't look very fertile. And the elves, dwarves, and hobbits all should have been smaller. The elves in the books were manic, five-foot hippies, not grumpy seven-foot goth kids. A hobbit should be able to run under a table without bumping his head. Watch a 13-year-old and a two-year-old run around a house and you'll see the concepts of "elf" and "hobbit" in action. Jackson didn't get it.

On the other hand ...

>The reason that Western medicine has not advanced to the enlightened
>technological level as Chinese herbal medicine and why most Western
>technology is diametrically opposed to all life on this planet, poisoning our
>air and water and causing widespread disease and death is for the simple
>fact that the Freemasons and the Church have not yet let go of the death
>grip they have on each other's throats

... put the bong down, dude.

>After watching the Lord of the Rings films I thank the universe and Mother
>Earth for the Rap/hip-hop culture and the counterbalancing influence the
>Rap/hip-hop culture has on the youth here in America and around the world.

There are people in the rap world trying to do good things, but anybody who's spent time working on a project in that world knows there's way too much feuding and dissing each other that goes on, and it's a basic part of the hip-hop concept, and nobody seems to be able to get rid of it, and most people in the scene don't even want to. A scene where kids constantly fuck with each other and give each other shit as a joke, or as part of their art, is a scene where nobody knows when anybody's really joking or not, and it's a scene where inevitably kids take real offense, intended or not, and strike back at each other for real.

So, having been involved in hip hop in the past, I'm afraid I can no longer say with any confidence that, on the whole, it's a positive force for anybody. I wish it were. Maybe someday it will be.

OK, this is just ridiculous 24.Dec.2003 15:48

heimdallr

>"all the heroes are white"

THE FUCKING STORY IS SET IN EUROPE!!!! Unless you're objecting to this fact, you ought to be able to see through your own prejudices enough to concede that the actors' not being white would detract from the believability of the film.

>'all the "evil doers" are of dark skin.'

First of all, if you saw the first film or read the book you'd probably remember that the 'evildoers' you're referring to aren't human but are summoned out of dirt from a deep hole in the ground. Unless you're alleging some kind of covert white-supremacist scheme to spread fears of 'mud people' you're really stretching to make this point.

Also, recall that not only are the primary human villains with an identifiable skin color in the films played by actors of European descent, but one of them is actually named "Saruman the WHITE." Though I suppose, Whitey being a devious fucker and all, that the last one might really be some kind of clever reverse-psychology trick or, alternately, a cunning sideswipe at supposed PC obsession with European imperialism by a secret cabal of cultural conservatives. (The orcs' dreadlocks are a curious touch, I'll admit, but if you emerged out of a puddle of mud into a world which evidently lacks modern bathroom facilities, what would your hair look like?)

>"northern european-centric flavor to the heroes."

Again, did you not notice that, despite being its being filmed in New Zealand, the costumes and names of the characters suggest that the films in fact take place in northern Europe? ('Middle-Earth'--Midgard--is the name for the realm inhabited by humans in the cosmology of the Aesir religion, prevalent in northern Europe before the conquest of the region by Christians)

Perhaps the 'swarthy' appearance of the invading armies reflects the circumstances of Europe in the medieval period, (from which Tolkien drew his inspiration in describing the technological capacities and social organization of his fantasy world's inhabitants) when Europe was a weak, disunited peripheral area at the mercy of the Middle Eastern empires who were at that time the world's most significant superpowers?

If you do some research into the writing of the books, you'll discover that Tolkien's primary motivation in writing them was to create a modern work of literature based on the oral traditions of ancient Anglo-Saxon culture, in part because very little of this tradition was ever preserved in any written works that have survived into the modern era ('Beowulf' is a notable exception).
Note that the names and, in the films, the styles of dress differ between the two primary groups of human characters, the one (Aragorn, Boromir) suggesting Celtic culture while the other (Rohan, Theoden) suggests north-Germanic/Scandinavian culture.

I find all these objections a bit curious coming from a "left" perspective, because I was surprised at how many of the books' countercultural undertones (from the obvious critique of industrialism to the heroic characters' frequently indulged affinity for "Pipe-Weed") were allowed to survive in the films.
While conservatives are now seizing on the story's dubious parallels to WWII, certain of Tolkien's other writings suggest that his personal politics were more of a vaguely anarchistic orientation, and the LOTR story reads more like a metaphor for the conflict between human arrogance and respect for nature. If we read the books/films as social commentary, the comment seems to be a suggestion that counterculturalists in European societies can look in their own pre-industrial history for cultural inspirations to value spiritualized ecological harmony in much the same way as they interpret the customs of 'primitive' cultures conquered and destroyed by the imperialism of industrialized Europe.

What is ultimately the most important task of the "blond-haired white guys"? To destroy the swarthy hordes? Or, in the form of Frodo's quest, to overcome their own vulnerability to the allure of unlimited power represented by the One Ring?
The elephant-riding invaders (Asian imperialists), like the forest-destroying wizard (industrialism) and his army of mindless, bloodthirsty killers (actually, this seems like an allusion to fascism) are all under the sway of the same evil, destructive force, drawn by their desire for power. If this force is to be defeated, the white heroes (European culture?) have to resist this desire in themselves while they fight off the invasion, or they will end up like Gollum (who is supposed to be a metaphor for Jesus somehow, though I've never bought into this theory), reduced to a pitiful existence by their obsession with it, and become inadvertent servants of the force they are attempting to resist.

This seems, to me, more like an indictment of modern European chauvinism than anything else. I suppose the filmmakers could have populated Middle Earth with token examples of black lesbian elves in wheelchairs, but I certainly don't think it's fair to call them racists because they made the heroes of a story about Europe look European.

My $00.02

People of Color 24.Dec.2003 16:12

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

There have always been people of color in Europe and in every country just as there are now and not in small numbers but large numbers that denoted the level of trade and alliances just as it is today. To include heroic images of people of color in these films would have been accurate for even 10,000 years ago, not a stretch. Just because the church destroyed all of white peoples knowledge does not mean that all white history is true. 90 percent of it is lies created to keep white people under control so that white people can rule the world.


STORY TAKES PLACE IN MIDDLE EARTH!!!!!! 24.Dec.2003 17:39

FLEETA

I gree with the poster of this article, and it should be said, and HEARD. Also though, this shit is fine entertasinment. plus HOBBITS have their DIVERSITY AS WELL

Aren't elves supposed to be dark skinned? 24.Dec.2003 17:47

Aunt Sam

I thought that historically elves are supposed to be dark skinned.

White Power neo-Nazis LOVE racial overtones in Lord of the Rings movies 24.Dec.2003 18:18

GRINGO STARS

A simple Google search found that racists and white power types ("nationalists" as they say) absolutely loved the racial overtones of Lord of the Rings;

 http://www.vanguardnewsnetwork.com/movie75.htm

The fact is that the movie did uphold very simplistic racist ideas. But since modern-day USA is one of the most racist cultures ever (Ancient Rome had a black emperor once - can you imagine a black US president today?), no big problem for most people apparently. Typical.

All fantasy is an extension and comment on reality. LOTR's racism can't be poo-pooed simply because it is a work of fiction. Tolkien AND Jackson are to blame.

Merry Orc-mas 24.Dec.2003 18:20

Frodo

Why wasn't Frodo a gay, afican-american, Uniterian Universalist, deaf, wheelchair-bound woman???

BECAUSE..THEN THE MOVIE WOULD HAVE SUCKED!

And quite frankly, Im appaled at all this Orc-bashing.

Hmmmm 24.Dec.2003 20:51

Bert

Gosh Lloyd, why the intense disply of self-loathing????

You've got nothing better to do 24.Dec.2003 21:28

Dan

than analyze the Lord of the Rings for racism? Give me a break. Nobody's going to walk away from these films with any racial message whatsoever. They'll simply walk away saying damn that was an interesting and exceptionally well-done FANTASY story. Peter Jackson does an awesome job of bringing the novels to the screen, and you're unhappy he didn't insert token minorities into the film - and in so doing fundamentally change the story to which he was trying to stay true? Please. Political correctness run amok. This is a Euro-centric story and thus a Euro-centric film. It is not a modern (or otherwise) American story.

Thanks Liberals... 24.Dec.2003 21:33

J. Evans

Thank you so much, Liberals. I was hoping someone would find the racist/homophobic/gender-specific/anti-politically correct messages of the Lord of the Rings story. I'm glad you did it. I'm glad you filled your hearts and minds, and the space of this website, with your findings. Thanks to your pointings out, I won't be able to watch the fantasy of a film without searching for evil. Now I know how to look at it. Before, I thought it was simply a good yarn about not losing hope and not losing yourself to greed, but apparently it has a larger, BAD agenda. I'm sure Jackson and Tolkien both are rubbing their hands with glee, smiling at the prospects of swaying the movie-watching-public toward racist facism.

Plus, it sure was racist of Aragorn to defer the kneelings of respect to the Hobbits in the end. What a racist, insensitive, conservative, white guy. Jeez.

to some nobody or other 24.Dec.2003 21:41

a3m

your very vapid dismissal of the profound observatino of oriental medical science, masonry and the church only underscores that the pipe is wasted in some lungs.

In the 50's it was, I believe, that a great but unknow series was published on the accomplishments of science in China. It is precisely this refusal to step outside and presumably step ABOVE nature which distinguishes the Chineese from the Western approach. Thye got philosophy and general theory. We got engineers and viable business propositions.

Moving on to Black versus White., or more exactly , White versus Other.

The Anglos crushed the Celts in Scotland, Ireland And Cambria. The defeated Scotts prefigured the Israeli. They gave us Methodism.
The Irish of course became Palestinians. Except those who moved to Nuevo York and Boston became Cops and prefigured Zionism,ala Sharon.
The Welsh, famed for "second sight" and for peaked hat of Holloween fame, were bought over with the "House of Windsor."

And the rest is history. The history of those mutant blondes and their "identy" fetish- which has yet to come to head. So of course the "nationalists" are into this shit dude. Synchronicity takes no sides in advance. IT plays all for fools equally. "Push me and die."

The Celts were Aryan (swarthy , often explained by spanish sailors blood from a few shipwrecks off the fishing banks of the Atlantic.) from Turkey and the musical similarities are just now being appreciated. They moved after the tin trade was disrupted. The Tinkers Damn migrated. Metalsmithing and horses. Centuries later the denied first cousin, the "Gypsie", would try to re-unite the family. It was only a heartbeat away from our Rainbow Tribe.

A mutant relative would gain dominance. Nearly albino, these "freaks" may have resuled from, according to Bryon Gyson, of an unremembered atomic war which is evidenced by huge expanses of a certain vitrification (Sandf to glass via thermal event) found in the Arabian Peninsula and Mongolia. Also see: Rg Vda , WASP , ...

Of course we must understand that the movie we got is the perfect "symptom" (representation in the concrete) of the moment it was produced. Did these forces demand it . or is it mereley "memorex?" is it just a representation of the meme de jour? was there a deeper message (of whatever detail) or was it driven by the need to pimp itself to the unstated , the only guessed at Desires of the now? Visionary, Bland, Exploitation?

IS there really a damn bit of difference.

Except in the human ego?

what about Sauron? 24.Dec.2003 22:33

parley souv

sauron was a cracker.

To J Evans 24.Dec.2003 22:57

Aunt Sam

Why is it so hard for ypu to comprehend that in can in fact be both a good yarn and also be aware of the filmmakers interpretaions. Yes I saw them doing their publicity stunt on TV ,as I was looking for some old propoganda ragtag film with Carey Grant, and yes they were doing their best USO impressions. The LOTR cast members were listing all the shit off that they wanted to happen for the American destructive forces as they plundered Iraq (have a happy holiday shit). Yes, this article has a bases in reality and if you can't see that to aknowledge it how are you going to help make changes, what blind sighted illterate activities will you pass on? Yes, enjoy the movie and discuss it critically. What a fucking concept! Too hard for you, shit for brains? Yes, go back to drinking out of the toilet, I am sorry to have disturbed you and your conservative activities.

a great eye is ever watchful 24.Dec.2003 23:45

dodo raggins

I would share these concerns about the subliminal impression the movie could leave people with... but I'm much worried that it could, or has, sent blood rushing to the current war boner for Iraq and subliminally compounds the vague sense of righteousness that goes with that collective persecution complex that couldn't care less if Saddam isn't Osama. What a glorious thing, a noble crusade, and Saddam down a dirty spider hole with our introduction to Shelob only days away. But that's not Tolkien's fault, or Peter Jackson's.

Middle Earth is a world where aboriginal elements don't surprise me, a simple "technology "like gunpower is outright sorcery anywhere in that world. But I don't see where LOTR is particularly flattering to caucasians. The Elves are bravely turning tail, Men are the weakest of all in the face of influence and easily corrupted, Dwarves tend toward being greedy, reclusive, and apathetic to the affairs of their world, and the best things that can be said of any of them can be said about the bi-racial halflings, the Hobbits.

Even then the whole lot of them put together can't pull off a mission without it being accomplished in the end largely by accident, if you miss the messages about how small acts of pity or kindness can have profound consequences.

Really, I tend to look for things like this myself, but I never for a second found any similarities between Uruk-hai and American Indians. No particular reason cannibalism should make me think of Native Americans, and things like Orcs with English or Australian accents only make the connections harder to make from where I'm sitting. I don't see the "swathy" imported mercenaries as racist portrayals, simply because they are mercenaries and as such they wouldn't be expected to be a good representation of nation or race.

If "Aryans" are getting a charge out of LOTR because of an overabundance of white men, they could no doubt get a charge out of their underwear simply because it is white.

For the rest of us, the subliminal concerns probably fade away pretty quickly in the light of any attention you want to give it conciously.

Speaking of Freemasons, there's some possibility that the West in LOTR, anywhere it wasn't plain geography, was originally meant more in that sense, than the Great Almighty Boring White Messed-Up Western West that we mean by "Western Civilization" (and we really ARE generally snooty toward traditional Eastern medicine, probably at our own peril, I will easily agree with that much).

Keep an eye peeled for such messages, though. The minute you're not looking, they'll likely be there. Media hasn't outlived its service to the state, whatever state the state may happen to be in, obviously.

And another thing 24.Dec.2003 23:49

heimdallr

First of all, I've always wondered what exactly a "person of color" is. Are they anything like "colored" people? Or are we just avoiding definitions for the sake of convenience?

Are we really so passive and media-centric that we think fighting racism consists of bitching about the coloration of actors in a movie about elves and wizards? GO THE FUCK OUTSIDE! There's so many examples of actual, dangerous racism in the world (in Portland) and this is how you're spending your time? For fuck's sake!

Lloyd, all I'm going to say is that you should review my point about the characters' names. They are most likely meant as cultural archetypes, not representations of the actual populations of medieval Europe. Would you be complaining this much if a film based on African or Asian legends failed to include enough Europeans to accurately represent their distribution in the society in question?

>"Just because the church destroyed all of white peoples knowledge does not mean that all >white history is true."

OK, I'm not sure what this means, but I don't think I suggested it was.

>"90 percent of it is lies created to keep white people under control so that white people can rule >"the world."

You know, I'd LOVE to see you substantiate this. Care to indulge me?

Look at the numbers 25.Dec.2003 00:03

Bez Nachalie

There are more dark-skinned people in the world than fair-skinned. In biological terms this means that dark-skinned peoples are better at occupying niches, eliminating competition, reproductive dynamics (ie excess males for war) and displacement. Racism is not a biological action, it is a human construct designed to silence opposition. In that sense it is has a linguistic basis. If fair-skinned people fail to defend themselves they will soon be history (like dodos). Look at the numbers.

It's modern Jim Crow. 25.Dec.2003 07:26

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

The over whelming majority of dark skinned people live in polluted ghettos in america. This story is being told in contemporary times at great expense and hype. Children are impressionable especially those white kid who have little or no relations with people of skin color and that would constitute the majority. The symbolism in the films must dealt with just as the ethnic cleansing of the voter list in florida. When Bill clinton found out about the ethnic cleansing of the voter list he did nothing. There is a direct connection between white symbolism and contemporary racism such as the ethnic cleansing of the voter list in florida. It's modern Jim Crow.


white christmas 25.Dec.2003 10:37

mercy corp

Ah yes Lloyd Hart, well said: "Children are impressionable especially those white kid who have little or no relations with people of skin color and that would constitute the majority."
Looks like a few buttons were pushed here, these comments below really show the true colors of these "indies":
"If fair-skinned people fail to defend themselves they will soon be history (like dodos)." This could be taken right out of an kkk manual.
"First of all, I've always wondered what exactly a "person of color" is. Are they anything like "colored" people?" I italicized 'they' because it shows this person considers "colored people" separate from them, in the exclusive white way
"Peter Jackson does an awesome job of bringing the novels to the screen, and you're unhappy he didn't insert token minorities into the film - and in so doing fundamentally change the story to which he was trying to stay true? Please. Political correctness run amok. This is a Euro-centric and thus a Euro-centric film." As pointed out earlier people of color have a long history in Europe, of fighting side by side with whites in the cause of "good". To not know this to have taught in the Euro centric way.
Worth another look is the link Gringo Stars provided : http://www.vanguardnewsnetwork.com/movie75.htm You might not want to believe what is discussed here, but these sub-humans most assuredly do.

So awesome... 25.Dec.2003 10:53

J. Evans

Its so awesome that when one chooses NOT to interpret EVERYTHING through the lens of "ooh..there's GOTTA be something insensitive and politically incorrect going on because the masses watch it, so it MUST be bad," that one has to be attacked with profanity and being called conservative. Liberals, liberals, liberals....when will you ever learn that you don't HAVE to be conservative if you don't consider yourself a Liberal (with a capital L). You don't HAVE to be racist if you don't see racism in a fairy-tale (I don't know...those flying dragons probably represent SOMETHING bad....like, evil flying dragons?) But, alas, Liberals, you are all too angry and caught up in seeking out the evils instead of propping up the goods that you become ineffective, and consequently, you cause the rest of America, who doesn't have the will, thought, or time to jump on your Hate hating bandwagon, to tune themselves out. I, too, would rather watch Lord of the Rings for fun (or even American Idol) than be yelled at by people who mostly agree with me.

Overtly racist, but not the way you might think. 25.Dec.2003 14:26

Bison Boy

The poster begins "I don't imagine that it was the intention of the director or the producers of the Lord of the Rings films to paint a racist stereotypical tapestry..."

It makes one wonder why he bothered to write the rest of the article. If racism was not the filmmaker's intent, nor the author's, then why are we having this discussion? Surely racism is a crime of intent if there ever is one.

Later, the poster states: "I think J.R.R. Tolkien wouldn't have minded including people of skin color as heros in these films if he were alive today."

Indeed the author would have objected... because he would not have supported the making of his work into a film in the first place! Tolkien sold the film rights in large part because he was confident that it was impossible to make it into a film. His son Christopher, the executor of his estate and a man who was close to his father's literary world, still objects to these movies, and reportedly has not seen them. (Others who *have* read the books would view such casting as a travesty, of course, much like casting Kevin Costner in the role of Sitting Bull.)

I'm no Tolkien scholar, but I have read up on the man and his work. Primarily he viewed the Lord of the Rings, and all of Middle Earth, as a linguistic excercise. He also wanted to offer a mythos of England. As such, his works were centered around the peoples in and around England, who happened to be of pale skin. Should we object to this?

I don't think so. It's not Tolkien's fault (nor Peter Jackson's) that Europe is politically and culturally ascendant at this point in history, has a population with distinctive skin tone, and thus is subject to such scrutiny. Certainly they both profited by this ascendancy, but it is hardly their doing. This ascendancy may or may not last; indeed there is every reason to think that it will be a part of history in 300 years.

If in that time China is ascendant, will others look back at the one European character in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (a bandit) and think it a racist movie? Should the main characters have included an African actor, or a Native American? Certainly not! It is a product of a local mythos, featuring local characters. There is nothing wrong with this... it's called "culture." The fact that a Chinese movie portrays a European character in a bad light does not say anything at all about... anything. Nor does Tolkien's story, nor Jackson's movie, say anything about race as we think of it.

But Tolkien's Middle Earth *is* racist... just not in the way that has been asserted. The racism exists entirely within the world of Men, and is very nearly an explicit apology for Monarchy. (Particularly for the British crown.)

Aragorn is the descendant of the fallen King, while Boromir, Faramir, and Denethor their father are of the line of Stewards. How is it that for nearly three thousand years, no one has risien to sieze the crown of Gondor? Denethor and Boromir certainly had the requisite pride and power.

But they lacked the legitimacy provided by the Valar in the form of the White Tree, which blossoms again at Aragorn's coronation. (The Valar are basically gods, but that oversimplifies things dramatically.) The line of Kings are all decended from Elrond's parents, Elves who were half Men.

Elves and Men were both created by the same deity, whereas the other species were created by lesser beings; one can only assume that is why they can interbreed. In the history of Middle Earth, there have been but four marriages between Man and Elf, with Aragorn and Arwen's union being the fourth. Both Aragorn and Arwen's ancestors include all three of these unions. (Aragorn is her second cousin, actually... but 50 or so times removed. :)

These Men are blessed of the gods with long life and great wisdom. According to the mythos, it is right that they are Kings, and none other can take that place. They are in fact, as well as in station, higher and more noble than other Men. The lowest of these high Men are arguably more noble than the highest of ordinary Men, such as Theoden. The Stewards are of the race of High Men, but are farther fallen to commonality than the line of Aragorn, and thus unsuitable as Kings.

Tolkien saw no distinction between the Men of Harad (bad guys), the Easterlings (bad guys), the Rohirrim (good guys), and the common folk of Gondor. They all are LESSER Men... it's just that some have been corrupted to evil, or have fallen under evil leaders, and some have not. Many evil men fight for Saruman against Rohan, and they are not "of color". (See it in the Two Towers extended version.) In the books, he portrays the Haradrim (dark Southerners) as being under evil leadership, but brave and honorable in war. The Rohirrim narrowly escape this same fate of bad leadership, by the redemption of Theoden in the nick of time. The Easterlings are viewed as more completely corrupted, but fought to the death rather than surrender or flee... so at least they have the virtue of bravery. If Tolkien would have written about these other Men in the context of their own cultures, I expect he would have had good things to say about them... but such was outside the scope of his central mythology, and thus left unwritten.

I understand that people will read into this movie and the books behind them what they will. Undoubtedly, some will be discontent with what they see or don't see. It may remind some of past or present injustice. And that, my friends, is the mark of great art: it evokes thoughts of one's own situation.

This is a story about good and evil, about courage and corruption, about green fields and dark industry, and above all about hope in the face of despair. Don't get caught up in the surfaces of things and people in this movie (or indeed in life) but instead look deeper to the human tale beneath it all. It is a story for all Men.

this 25.Dec.2003 15:24

that

The point for me is that the movie trilogy should have been more racially equal............In Tolkien's world when the trilogy was written; white Euro-centric, it was ok to ignore people of color and women. It was the norm.

But it's not ok for Jackson in the modern era where kids watch an evil "dark" empire against the pale heros. Movies take liberties with books all the time, but just to change a character's skin color, while at the same time staying true to the story seems to me to be meaningless and moot.

Was the casting calculated on Jackson's part? Would these 3 movies be as popular with a mix of skin tones in the heros roles? Don't know if I want to know the answers.

Forgot to mention... 25.Dec.2003 16:07

Bison Boy

I forgot to mention the alleged sexist content. It's true that there are very few female roles in this story, and I have to admit that troubles me somewhat. However, the female roles that exist in the story are of utmost significance.

The only corrupt female in the work is Shelob the spider. She's a very old creature with a long, dark history.

But her history is not nearly so long as that of Galadriel. Galadriel is the wisest and most influential of the elves. She is the eldest being we meet in the movies, aside from Sauron, the Balrog, and possibly Treebeard. She has, in fact, personally met the Valar. (Gods.) It may seem that her husband Celeborn is in charge of Lothlorien in the movie, but in the book he's the most minor of characters.

Arwen has been both increased and diminished on film; she's more of an action heroine, but also more afflicted by doubts. In the books her love was hard-won, but never doubted. Eowyn is much the same here as in the books: a woman of unshakable resolve, but yet sad and embittered at her oppression because of her sex.

Rosie Cotton, Aragorn's departed mother, and Ioreth the healer (who did not make it on film, but may be in the extended version) round out Tolkien's women.

Hag, Elder, Maiden, Warrior, Wife, Mother, Healer... it's not a bad lineup, in all. Tolkien clearly valued women for what he would have thought of as women's virtues. It may be sexist, but it is not disrespectful.

Pay no attention to the color or shape of the skin... this is a story about the content of character.

Thank you! 25.Dec.2003 18:24

J. Evans

Finally...finally. Thank you for that.

Bison Boy 25.Dec.2003 18:42

Aunt Sam

The aboriginal tribes of England were indeed dark skinned people. At the time we are speaking of the lower people would not have been of fair skin at all. This is the story of Africa and our first ancestors migration and settlement. In the beginning it was mostly dark skinned people. It is actually somewhat historically inacurate as to what he is trying to portray.

Does the movie have merit and portray a great epic saga, one we will not soon forget? Yes, indeed. This will be a most unpopular opinion but these movies are much like gone with the wind. Extremely flawed, historically biased, a fantasy of what was but surely wasn't. Both films have enduring mythos of spirit. The underlying message of Gone withe the Wind had nothing to do with slavery but of the roles of women and the price of survival. Grit, pride, delusion, cruelty, comprimise, winning and losing all at teh same time. So it endures. It is awful. The woman is raped, the roles of black people, the roles of the poor and the enslaved. I offer this comparison which IS DIFFERENT in many ways.

The LOTR series was seriously flawed. The obvious ploy of racism was used. The author of said article says he wrote this as a response to the abuse he has seen done to his wife and that this was not simply a knee jerk reaction. I believe him. I sympathize. I do not deny it. But the movie is great in many ways as Bison Boy said. It has all of those emotional connetations. So we can as intellectuals see this right. The racism isn't so full blown that we need to picket the movie, or not see it, but we can talk about the movie after seeing it with friends and say, You know if they had done this it would have been a lot better visually.

This is what I invision...

correction on people involved in lotr movie 25.Dec.2003 19:48

clamydia

The guy who played Aragorn (don't remember his name) showed up at a small time talk show with a homemade "No blood for oil" T shirt, and proceeded to draw a comparison between Bush and Saruman (the bad white wizard), and then dis the Iraq war, the US government, etc. So, at least he out of the rest is on "our" side (whatever "our" side is)...

Racism is rarely a crime of intent 25.Dec.2003 19:52

GRINGO STARS

Actually, racism is much more often a crime of ignorance and inattention than of intent. There is no evidence of either Tolkien or Jackson intending the racism evident in LOTR, yet it is there nonetheless. mostly, it is white people who simply never pay attention to race because... they don't have to. Race never comes up. Racial issues never touch them because it never hinders them. that is why it is important to pay attention, to watch mass media consciously. Bison Boy, all your "pay no attention to the color or shape of the skin" is a very typical response to any discussion of racism, but is that attitude helpful? I think it is impoirtant to note that almost every hero in the story is a white male, and that LOTR is hugely successful. There is much discussion to be mined from these films. Sure, it can be accepted as mere eye-candy. Life itself could concievably be accepted lightly too, without thought of patterns of oppression or sobriety, a life of happy moments. That attitude comes easy to a white male. It helps to be aware of ones privilege.

... 25.Dec.2003 22:14

clamydia

I think that one can take a lot of inspiration from the LOTR story, even if one has problems with the apparent racism in it. As GRINGO STARS says or implies, racism is rarely something that is intentional. Sure, you have your neonazis here and there, but they are but a small minority in the grand scheme of things. True racism is something that lies in all of us (yeah, me too). The moral behind LOTR is overcoming the weakness within yourself (one could say that racism is a weakness within that can be overcome), and upholding certain qualities that are widely recognized as virtuous, such as courage, honesty, loyalty (within reason), etc... If you can walk away from this book/movie with that in mind, then that's all that matters. J R R Tolkein is dead, and though he may have been raised in a racist society and had certain racist perceptions in his life, his story is valid, regardless of that. If you can't walk away from his story with some sort of renewed fighting spirit in this world struggle for social justice, then you are the weaker for it.

Just a thought 25.Dec.2003 23:19

fleeta

I love you bison boy. The books seem to be very female friendly for being penned by a white male. People I feel (and I think you do to b.b.)should do more research. It is brain building and a fuck of a lot of fun. Having a little fun on here should be o.k too. Shelob's story is intense she is powerfull female charector good or bad. Eowyn is an awesome female charector too she kills what cannot be killed by any MAN.

the real irony of "dark skinned" Uruk Hais, Orcs, or whatever 25.Dec.2003 23:41

Gerald Diddlerdink

the real irony of the "dark skinned" Uruk Hais and Orcs, the Nazgul, Saruman, and Sauron is that they represent the horror of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia

let's be reasonable here 26.Dec.2003 00:43

clamydia

Eowyn's ability to kill the Lord of the Nazgul by virtue of being a woman was pretty damned arbitrary. She was a mortal, with mortal fighting skills that were probably the same as any other well-trained person in middle earth. In the book, I think she be"head"ed him (he didn't really have a visible "head", per se), in the movie, she plunged her sword into his "face", after the white male halfling Meriadoc stabbed him in the back. That's not a favor to womyn. That's an arbitrary "tipping-of-the-hat" to womyn. LOTR is inherently sexist, and some womyn fullfilling a prophecy cannot undo that. Regardless of that, we can still take good inspiration from this story.

oops 26.Dec.2003 01:24

clamydia

by virtue of being a <i>womyn</i>. sorry. When you see a word spelled a certain way over and over it's hard to consistently spell it the other way when you write.

Oh, spare me. 26.Dec.2003 01:30

H. Fletcher Pratt

Spare me the endless search for a reason to become offended because someone 50+ years ago does not share your current cultural biases.

This is FICTION. It is FANTASY. It is a story written in Metaphors telling a tale of good versus evil. Nothing More.

Sauron and his minions are dark because they are the forces of darkness. It is nothing more complex than that. Just as you have White and Black Pieces in a Chess Set Tolkien had White and Black characters in his work of Fiction. It had nothing to do with race and everything to do with a battle between dark shadows and the bringers of light. That's it. Nothing more complex.

Spare me the sophistic moralizing by people looking for a meaning which is not there. Spare me the attempt to find something offensive where no offense was thought or intended.

Grow the F**k up!

to Fletcher Platt 26.Dec.2003 01:34

clamydia

One does not have to intend to be offensive to be offensive.

women power 26.Dec.2003 02:50

fleeta

To S.T.D. a.k.a claymydia. She did way more than fufill a prophecy. She overcame afuck of alot of middle earth patriarchy, and made many choices to put herself and meriadoc at that place and time. SHE IS POWERFULL THROUGH HER LOVE.She killed that fuck cause she fought against SEXISM and patriarchy. They never saw it coming, and all that gave frodo and co, time to get it together.

Respectful Debate 26.Dec.2003 06:58

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

I want to take this moment to thank Portland Indymedia for allowing this debate to be featured as well as all of the people that commented. All of your contributions to this discussion are valid and heartening. I believe that ignorance comes from a lack of engagement in discussion and debate. Having grown up in Canada where we are encouraged to participate in rousing debate having the Canadian House of Commons as our mentor, I know for a fact that this process brings greater respect for each other than remaining silent regardless of ones beliefs.

I do not wish to steer the discussion in another direction but NYC IMC decided to go the other direction with this discussion and hid the above article effectively shutting down the debate. This I believe was a mistake considering the thoughtful contributions to the discussion and debate here at the Portland site.

Race has been pushed to the back burnner and in many respects right off the stove in america. When a Governor and a secretary of state get get away with the deliberate scrubing of people of color from a voter list without wide spread crys of injustice from the white citizens and officals something is terribly wrong.

Thank you again for this thoughtful debate, it most certainly has not been a waste of anyone's time.


white versus black 26.Dec.2003 09:14

GRINGO STARS

Malcolm X often wondered why negativity was associated with "darkness" and "blackness" and why positivity was associated with "light" and "white". It's telling that we are living in arguably the most racist culture ever in humanity's history, and we have linguistics which uphold the racial divide. Tolkien's simplistic white/black color scheme didn't have to bethat way. After all, it is a fantasy.

But what is a fantasy? Fiction is based on components of reality. The best fantasy is most pertinent to the real world and real people. Pratt, you choose to accept the connections to reality when LOTR deals with duty, self-sacrifice and the struggle against personal power (all themes well done in the series) yet you want to poo-poo the series' connection to race? Why the arbitrary, comfortable decision to comtemplate certain themes while ignoring others? It's not a requirement to view films thoughtfully (or even be thoughtful period) but many people like to discuss films after watching them, or at least contemplate them afterwards.

LOTR was written decades ago but the films were made very recently, and chose to portray elves as fair, blonde and tall instead of shorter and dark-skinned with black hair (like they are in the books). Jackson knows what sells, and he probably knows (perhaps not even consciously) what will racially be accepted more readily by corporate mass media, and made his casting choices accordingly. In the world of film as well as porn, there is a direct relationship between color of skin and box office draw/popularity. This reflects our extremely racist culture.

Brutha Tolkein 26.Dec.2003 11:17

not again

Well, where is the "African-American" Tolkein? When there is one then that pigmented author can have a fantasy world set in Mythological Africa with dark-skinned heroes and fair skinned enemies.

One thing that Americans need to consider is that their PC view of the world is not the only one. Much of the other Western cultures have gotten passed this fantasy view of the world and are casting films more realistically.

It used to be popular to insert a racial alternative into a film or play just to be PC (Denzel Washington in Much Ado About Nothing). And then there are the racial experiments like "White Man's Burden" and when Patrick Stewart played Othello in a mainly "black" cast. To do so is actually counter-productive and stresses "racial" differences instead of cultural ones. Let people from different cultural backgrounds tell their story with their people, how are we to "honor diversity" by trying to be all the same? And all this stress on skin color is appaling; I am assuming that if there were dark-skinned elves in PJ's LOTR then they would have to be played by people that came from an African cultural backgound.

Stop crying "White!"

*not again* sounds familiar 26.Dec.2003 12:14

GRINGO STARS

"not again" sounds like one of the neo-nazis at stormfornt.org who is also pissed that those durned libruls are so comtemplative about race in LOTR;
 link to www.stormfront.org

For a collection of links to articles about whether LOTR is racist;
 http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/movies/chi-030127eptolkienlinks,0,5169375.story

A Guardian article that accurately points out that LOTR is "soaked in the logic that race determines behaviour."...
 http://film.guardian.co.uk/lordoftherings/news/0,11016,852217,00.html

Blindfolds don't help the pinata 26.Dec.2003 12:41

Aunt Sam

"One thing that Americans need to consider is that their PC view of the world is not the only one. Much of the other Western cultures have gotten passed this fantasy view of the world and are casting films more realistically. "

Yes, I would like to show you a picture of just how far the westerner world has gotten passed this fantasy view of teh world. Should we start with what most of the western world is wearing?

How about a picture of a woman crying as she works in a factory. a gun is pointed at her and she is being told to work faster. She is crying becuase she will probably get laid off because she is pregnant and she will lose her job. They will "suspect" her of being pregnant, so they will test her. When the results come back in they will fire her. She doesn't want to lose this job because it pays well. Because the IMF and world bank bankrupted her country in the name of citigroup. So this is a good job. Because she is not white this is acceptable. So as her overseer screams and yells at her to work faster, she does, even though the job will be gone tommorrow. They only employ women. They also do not allow them to have kids.

Nice picture, huh? All most all your clothes, your food, all this shit comes from these factory situations oversees. But that's just PC sympathy isn't it....

Why should you fucking liberals talk about this shit?

I don't consider myself a liberal. I am conservative. The reason I know this shit is becuase I think those comapnies should pay bigger import taxes to bring those goods back into the United States, even if they are from the states. They shouldn't be taking their jobs away from us. I also believe in smaller government, the number one reason being that I don't want to work to pay all those people's salaries.
But their is an element in me that says, Ya know, what they do to those workers is just plain wrrong and they do it based on gender and race and religion.

Cointelpro was the most active in the movie industry and TV. That's why I watch that shit. Because it's movies like Bird on a Wire that shape commen american myths of the Drug War. All of these movies are propoganda for our empire.

Movies are about relaxing after work, enjoying the bounty of our lives and feeling good about ourselves. So as Bing Crosby struts across the TV wearing black face and singing songs about Abraham in the bible being contated to Abraham Lincoln, we can laugh and feel like, wow, We've made some real strides in our country and we don't need to worry about those Negroes, see how happy they look in the movies?


Why should he have put in dark skinned elves as it was portrayed in all books on elves?

Elves are dark skinned but today when we look at the twin towers everyone was white, nobody was Islamic, no one killed was from Iraq or Afghanistan. In their name we kill their relatives? Come on: this is Hollywood propoganda. Sorry folks, this is what Hollywood does best. I love movies. Watch them all the time. Should I turn my eyes away from reality and suddenly act as if this was some indy film on a slapstick budget without a citigroup mastercard? Without sponsors?

In times of war the press has always been the actors and actresses. Ask the old USO.


Appease yourself because thet obviously appeased their corporate gods.


On the other hand I will probably watch this trilogy over and over until I have to take a shower. I plan on sitting around for a whole weekend when this comes out on DVD and do nothing but watch this movie and fantasize about having a love relationship with every single hero and heroine of the silver screen. I'll eat the yummy brewers yeast popcorn, chocolates, and drink too many organic sodas. I'll carrode my inside with organic soy delicious brownie ice cream. I'll think about the lofty great acts of valor and pride and humility. I'll become entangled in their power struggles and relieved when it all works out. Then I'll think about doing something, but I'll just scratch my but and go to bed sad because I wasted a whole weekend watching this shit. Oh well, we all need a little fantasy once in a while. Even if he seriously flawed the stories of our ancestors.


Stand next to a redwood and look up. Oh, yes, I guess there are tiny people. If you want good fantasy read the Irish history book/mythology "The memory of trees." That's where you will learn about Tara.

The REAL "racial" message of LOTR is Unity or else in face of oppression! 26.Dec.2003 15:39

Luke from DC

In LOTR, there are four humanoid races defending Middle Earth. These are Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits. Unless they unite and put aside their differences, the dark lord Sauron will conquer and enslave all of them! The message of the Council of Elrond is quite clear, and remember that the physical differences among Tolkien's races go far beyound skin color, while the differences among the real races of humanity are mostly skin deep.

As for who resembles whom, the Orcs do have dark skin, and that is a mistake. Pale cave dwellers would have been far more realistic, as heavy sun shielding(the evolutionary reason for dark skin in the tropics) would be useless to them. Tolkien claimned the Orcs were somewhat inspired by Turkish soldiers in WWI(opposing his nation). In addition, if you look at old European woodcuts of Medieval Europe's enemies(again, especaily Turkish, Hunnish, etc), sometimes they look a LOT like Uruks,due to intentional caricature by the artist! Speaking of which, riot cops look a HELL of a lot like Uruk-Hai as well...

The Uruk-hai do not resemble Native Americans to my eye-at all! It's the Elves who do, with lifestyles similar to the Eastern Woodlands tribes, and even a similar physical appearance especially for dark haired Elves like Elrond. Tolkien was known to admire Native Americans, and although Elves are a strictly European idea his interpretation of them may have been influenced my Native ideas. In addition, real Native tribes that still stand today(especaily in Central and South America), like the Elves of Lorien, find themselves on the front lines of the corporate war agaisnt all that is natural and free.

The Rohirrim may look Nordic but they fight like Mongol, Hunish, or other horse archers. Some of the Aisan nomadic peoples, especially the Mongols, rode their horses so much they became unused to walking, and tehy developed horse-archery to a high art. Some Native tribes also learned to shoot from horseback-and even developed similar short, higly efficient composite recurve bows! Those "Turkish" bows are nearly a match for a modern compound bow in terms of efficiency and force-dreaw courve(without letoff, of course).

In todays world, I'd say Bush could be either Sauron or Saruman, and his corporate backers either Morgoth(if Bu$h is Sauron) or Sauron(if Bu$H is Saruman like Viggio says). Gondor is old Europe;Rohan probably Central America, South America, and Asia;The Elves the remaining free Native American and other indigenous nations, and so on.

In the "Ring of Free Trade" video, Aragorn is presented as the anarchist(interesting comparison here!), Boromir as the Liberal, Galadriel as a radical historian, Gimli as Labor, and Frodo as small farmers. Actually, Dwarves as small craftsman and laoborers, and Hobbits as small farmers is as obvious as in The Wizard of Oz. Itr also is a quite literal reference to the "little guy" in a world full of "big shots."

On another, when TTT(LOTR II) came out last winter, John Poindexter's nastly little TIA spy project hurredly dropped their flaming eye in a pyramid logo as looking too much like the Eye of Sauron!

rall, racists trying to claim LOTR for their own is an unpleasant problem made worse by how the Orcs are protrayed, as is Republicans trying to say Sauron is Bin Laden or Saddam(with Bu$h as Aragorn much to Viggio Mortenson's disgust), but this story would ot have even been known widely enough to make into a movie if the 1960's era progressives hadn't repopularized the story after it sank like a stone in the '50's. emember that in 1974 the Greenpeace activist that sailed out in a small sailboat to block a French nuke test saiod tehy felt like the were taking the Ring to the fire!

Also, if you want some Bush is Sauron fliers for ROTK showing, a master is available at www.dc.indymedia.org, in the Media Gallery. It is a Word file showing Bush wearing the ring and the Eye eover theWashington Monument with the reflecting pool, teh Capitol, and in thebackground Mount Doom.

Responses 26.Dec.2003 18:18

Bison Boy beartruth@softhome.net

clamydia wrote:
"Eowyn's ability to kill the Lord of the Nazgul by virtue of being a woman was pretty damned arbitrary. She was a mortal, with mortal fighting skills that were probably the same as any other well-trained person in middle earth. In the book, I think she be"head"ed him ... after the white male halfling Meriadoc stabbed him in the back. That's not a favor to womyn. That's an arbitrary "tipping-of-the-hat" to womyn."

It is not arbitrary at all. The reason for this is very clear in the books, but did not carry over to film very well. Wherever the Witch King appeared, he carried such an aura of fear that no one could withstand him; horses threw their riders and Men fled in abject terror. The *only* humans to have stood up to him (in over a thousand years) were Aragorn (in the first book) and Eowyn. Even Merry the brave Hobbit could not bear to look at him; he acted only because Eowyn's courage both shamed and inspired him. This is no sop thrown to women by the author, but a great honor. Eowyn's courage is unmatched by *any* of the lesser Men, ever. She is the bravest being in the story, next to perhaps Frodo and Sam.

GRINGO STARS writes:
"Tolkien's simplistic white/black color scheme didn't have to bethat way. After all, it is a fantasy."

You misunderstand. The division in Tolkien's world is not between black and white, but between light and dark. That is, between illumination and shadow. Color has little to do with it, and skin pigmentation has *nothing* to do with it.

It is unavoidable that this is hard to perceive on film, but it is crystal clear from the Silmarillion. The forces of "good" are forces of illumination and hope; the forces of "evil" are forces of shadow and despair. There is no way I can fully explain this important distinction in the time I have available; read the original and you will see that I am correct.

But let me give you some examples: The Orc commander at the main battle was a very pale Orc, yet clearly he was a bad guy. There were many other pale Orcs; they came in a variety of colors, but were all bad because Orcs are corrupt by their nature.

Likewise Grima Wormtongue, the slimy councillor of Theoden and minion of corrupt Saruman the White, was a pale Man. He spoke words of despair in the ear of Theoden, and made him feel weak and old before his time. (In the books, Theoden was not so much enspelled as he was *depressed*. Gandalf did not transform him back to youth, but reminded him that he was not so old, and gave him hope where he had only seen despair.)

Galadriel's gift to Frodo, containing the light of the evening star Earendil is also significant. She said "Let this be a light for you in dark places when all other lights fail." This light drove Shelob the spider back because it was painful to her; and yet it also gave Frodo hope in the face of despair. (Again, clear in the books but not on film.)

Light represents and sometimes even embodies hope; shadow represents the absence of light, and therefore of hope. The shadow of despair is the ultimate enemy that the heroes struggle against, and falling into shadow is a fate worse than mere death.

not again writes:

"Well, where is the "African-American" Tolkein? When there is one then that pigmented author can have a fantasy world set in Mythological Africa with dark-skinned heroes and fair skinned enemies."

If anyone sees such a work, post about it here; I very much look forward to reading it.

Gerald Diddlerdink writes:

"the real irony of the "dark skinned" Uruk Hais and Orcs, the Nazgul, Saruman, and Sauron is that they represent the horror of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia "

The whirring sound you hear is Tolkien spinning in his grave. I'm sure he would have dealt with the accusations of racism and sexism with good grace, but the accusation of allegory never failed to set him off. This is wrong, wrong, wrong; it's not the author's intent at all. He did allow, insasmuch as he intended to write a universal story of Man's struggle against evil, that people might see reflections of the real world in his story, and vice versa. But it was not intended to be in any way representative or allegorical of actual events. See Tolkien's opnion of The Chronicles of Narnia, by his colleague C.S. Lewis, for more information and insight.

fleeta writes:

"I love you bison boy."

Cool, fan mail!! I'm single... :-)

Darn, missed a bit 26.Dec.2003 18:44

Bison Boy

Sorry for *another* follow-up, but I missed this bit:

GRINGO STARS wrote:
"LOTR was written decades ago but the films were made very recently, and chose to portray elves as fair, blonde and tall instead of shorter and dark-skinned with black hair (like they are in the books)."

Did you not notice that there are (at least) three distinct populations of Elves in the film? Those of Rivendell are indeed dark of hair, whilst those of Lothlorien are blond. Both are distinct from the folk of Legolas, of whom we see but one blond example: Legolas himself.

I do not believe Tolkien's text supports the assertion that the Elves were written as being dark of skin, but I'm willing to be proven wrong. Cite an example from Tolkien's works, by book and chapter; be sure to tell us which population of Elves he was referring to. Surely this is an important point against the films if true... but I think that it is not.

The point is... 26.Dec.2003 19:21

GRINGO STARS

A point Tolkien keeps hammering home is that race itself determines behaviour. This is a racist concept. That is why the modern-day "white nationalists" (neo-nazis) worship the LOTR films.

Gringo 26.Dec.2003 19:52

anonymous

"It's telling that we are living in arguably the most racist culture ever in humanity's history, and we have linguistics which uphold the racial divide."

It is so sad to see you spew such ignorant comments. Sad because you are obviously capable of so much better.

Go live in another country for at least three years, and study another language. Learn the language in it's colloquial use. Then you will have a chance, if you are able to break through your own prejudices, to see that we really are all the same.

Racism is a recent capitalist invention 26.Dec.2003 21:47

GRINGO STARS

The idea that some races are intrinsically better than others has its birth in the New World slave trade. An important reason that the US is so very rich is that we have this ideological institution which justifies our imperialist exploitation of other people. I speak Spanish pretty well and lived in Mexico as a youth. Don't act like like "everyone is doing it" because they aren't. Prior to the advent of capitalism, racism as a systematic form of oppression did not exist. Perhaps you should re-examine your own prejudices, "anonymous."

The Roots of Racism by Alex Taylor;
 http://socialistworker.org/2002-2/431/431_08_Racism.shtml

Is this a cause and effect relationship? 26.Dec.2003 23:38

James

"Prior to the advent of capitalism, racism as a systematic form of oppression did not exist. Perhaps you should re-examine your own prejudices, 'anonymous.' "

If you would, please expand on this. I'm interested in what you are considering capitalism. Certainly markets and currency have existed since the beginning of recorded history, as has slavery of particular races. In Assyria, Sumer and elsewhere raiding parties captured African slaves. And the ancient Egyptians captured dark-skinned Africans and held them as slaves.

I wonder if your statement is really any different than saying "Prior to the advent of weaponry, racism as a systematic form of oppression did not exist." That is to say, your statement itself is true enough, but your overarching argument falls prey to post hoc logic.

Do you ever think it might be a little silly to blame all of humanities woes on free markets and storage devices for labor? Just wondering.

Umm...yeah. 27.Dec.2003 00:07

yElp

People who dont understand why this movie is racist need to look at the bottom picture of this webpage ( http://www.blackpeopleloveus.com/hangingout.html) because i think it would mirror how you folks are feeling right now.

You There! 27.Dec.2003 00:18

Idealist Fool

I'm also very offended at the completely homophobic message that LOTR conveys. Sam and Frodo clearly have a little something going on off screen, but do we see any love scenes? NO! And don't get me started about the elves...haha...sorry that was funny.

Most of you are amazingly ageist. You assume that children seeing the movie will be unable to seperate the light and dark world of Tolkien from reality. If anything I believe that kids stand a must better chance of understanding the deeper meaning of the movie than jaded adults. But then again, as I'm going to be told...I'm silly and naive(sp). I should crawl back into my hole and feast off my naivete (yet again sp?...haha...I can't spell to save my own life...I hate scrabble).

Light and Dark. These are concepts that extend deep into the human psyche. I think it is fairly safe to advance the notion that all people are at least a little hesitant in the dark (and this doesn't give free reign to someone to pen a rant on the evils of electricity...). Humans just aren't built to function as effectively in the dark...thus it becomes the unknown...scary. The "dark" isn't skin color, its the actual idea of dark, night, death, lonelyness, fear. While it may be a fun exercise to wax philosophically about race and racism, many people here have managed to corrupt the meaning of the movie into some grand epic about race relations in European/US history. The whole point is to emphasize values bigger than that of skin color or creed or religion. The Light (hope) must triumph over the dark (despair) or we are all going to end up selling out like sauraman(sp)...believe that all is lost...and that the world really is divided in lines denoted by color. The Light fights against the dark because it can see hope in all situations. Even one so twisted and convoluted as this thread. (Or say...race relations in the US).

My own prejudices? 27.Dec.2003 00:29

anonymous

What would those be?

At this point I'm not surprised that you lived in another country but couldn't make that leap. Too busy listening to yourself and your own ideas to really listen to the people around you, perhaps.

I have to tell you and others here who may never get the chance to hear it. People in other countries laugh at you. Your apologetic tone for everything is as ridiculous as the overbearing attitude of a racist or classist Åmerican. As ridiculous, but not as bad of course. Easier to deal with, and easier to make use of.

Don't jump to the usual conclusion. I'm not defending the race. I have no loyalty to yours. Nor am I condemning any others. I'm pointing out that ALL PEOPLE ARE THE SAME.

Their behavior is often influenced by the amount of power they have. White Americans have more power in this time in history. You are reacting to that. But there's a bigger picture.

China may ascend in the future. That would be fun to see. You know what it was like when China ruled Asia? Pretty racist. Have you ever been to Japan? Pretty racist. You can't get an apartment in any building you want, because you're the wrong color. If you were Chinese, you wouldn't be able to get an apartment in any building you want either (race isn't just color). Don't jump to the usual conclusion when someone points out an unfortunate truth - I'm not anti-Japanese. I like Japan, and I like Japanese culture. But I'm not foolish enough to think, as some of them do, that they are better than other races... because they're not. Their power makes some of them behave as if they are though... just like your white American racist brothers.

History started before the New World was "discovered" and conquered. So did slavery. This should be obvious to anyone who is able to think straight. It is just amazing that one would feel the need to point it out to an educated person.

free market does NOT equal capitalism 27.Dec.2003 00:30

GRINGO STARS

Ok we're getting WAY off subject here, but most people don't really understand exactly what capitalism or racism is. My definition of capitalism is the commonly accepted definition used by economists. Capitalism has only existed since the 16th century - it fully bloomed when economies came out from under the control of God-mandated monarchs and nobles, when the merchant class came into true power. It is private or corporate control of capital (any means with which to make money).

Any market system is composed of a buyer and seller, or consumer and producer. Yet, the mere existence of a market defined in this manner is no reason at all to suspect that capitalism also exists. There is not a single place on this earth where money is not exchanged for a good or service that some individual or organization demands, whether the exchange occurs in New York, Iraq, or China. But that isn't to say that capitalism is sovereign in all or any of these regions, in fact.

James, I recommend the article I linked to above. It addresses the issues you raise. Here is the short article in its entirety;


For many people coming to radical politics--Blacks and whites alike--hatred of racism and a desire to get rid of it is a huge motivating factor. This is in contrast to some of the common assumptions about where racism comes from.

The first is that racism is part of human nature--that it's always existed and always will. The second is the liberal idea of racism--that it comes from people's bad ideas, and that if we could change these ideas, we could get rid of it.

Both assumptions are wrong. Racism isn't just an ideology but is an institution. And its origins don't lie in bad ideas or in human nature. Rather, racism originated with capitalism and the slave trade. As the Marxist writer CLR James put it, "The conception of dividing people by race begins with the slave trade. This thing was so shocking, so opposed to all the conceptions of society which religion and philosophers had... that the only justification by which humanity could face it was to divide people into races and decide that the Africans were an inferior race."

History proves this point. Prior to the advent of capitalism, racism as a systematic form of oppression did not exist. For example, ancient Greek and Roman societies had no concept of race or racial oppression.

These weren't liberated societies. They were built on the backs of slaves. And these societies created an ideology to justify slavery. As the Greek philosopher Aristotle put it in his book Politics, "Some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter, slavery is both expedient and right."

However, because slavery in ancient Greece and Rome was not racially based, these societies had no corresponding ideology of racial inferiority or oppression. In fact, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Early Christian societies had a favorable image of Blacks and of African societies.

Septemus Severenus, an emperor of Rome, was African and almost certainly Black. "The ancients did accept the institution of slavery as a fact of life; they made ethnocentric judgments of other societies; they had narcissistic canons of physical beauty," writes Howard University professor Frank Snowden in his book Before Color Prejudice. "Yet nothing comparable to the virulent color prejudice of modern time existed in the ancient world. This is the view of most scholars who have examined the evidence."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Racism originated with the modern slave trade. Just as the slaveholders of ancient Greece and Rome created an ideology that their barbaric slave system was "natural," so did the modern slave-owning class.

There was one important difference. According to them, slavery was "natural" because of race. Africans were not human beings, and therefore, they were born to be slaves. As historian Eric Williams writes in his book Capitalism and Slavery, "Slavery was not born of racism; rather, racism was the consequence of slavery."

Again, history bears this out. If racism had existed prior to the slave trade, then Africans would have been the first group of people to be enslaved. But, in the early years of colonial America, slavery was not racially based. Initially, the colonists attempted to enslave Native Americans. They also imported thousands of white indentured servants. White servants were treated like slaves. They were bought, sold, put up as stakes in card games and raped, beaten and killed with impunity.

Not only was servitude a multiracial institution in the early years of colonial America, there was also a surprising degree of equality between Blacks and whites. For example, in 17th century Virginia, Blacks were able to file lawsuits, testify in court against whites, bear arms and own property, including servants and slaves. In other words, 17th century Blacks in Virginia had more rights than Blacks in the Jim Crow South during the 20th century.

Colonial records from 17th century Virginia reveal that one African slave named Frances Payne bought his freedom by earning enough money to buy three white servants to replace him. Such events prove the point that institutional racism did not exist in the early years of slavery--but was created later.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Over time, the slaveholding class gradually came to the conclusion that racism was in its interest and that it must be deeply embedded in all of society's institutions.

There were several reasons for this conclusion. First, indentured servitude was no longer sufficient to meet the demand for labor as industry developed in Britain and put new demands on the colonial economy. Also, by the middle of the 17th century, African slaves began to live longer than five to seven years--the standard period for indentured servitude. Put in the cold terms of economic reality, slavery became more profitable than indentured servitude. Finally, Africans, whose children could also be enslaved, were more easily segregated and oppressed than servants or Native Americans.

As Williams summarized this process: "Here then, is the origin of Negro slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had to do not with the color of the laborer, but the cheapness of the labor... This was not a theory, it was a practical conclusion deduced from the personal experience of the planter. He would have gone to the moon, if necessary, for labor. Africa was nearer than the moon."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

But the most important reason that the planter class created a racially based slave system was not economic, but political--the age-old strategy of divide and rule.

The "slaveocracy" was a tiny, extremely wealthy minority surrounded by thousands of people whom it had enslaved, exploited or conquered. Its greatest fear was that slaves and servants would unite against it--and this fear was legitimate.

For example, Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 began as a protest against Virginia's policy against native Americans, but turned into an armed multiracial rebellion against the ruling elite. An army of several hundred farmers, servants and slaves demanding freedom and the lifting of taxes sacked Jamestown and forced the governor of Virginia to flee. One thousand soldiers were sent from England to put it down. The rebel army held out for eight months before it was defeated.

Bacon's Rebellion was a turning point. It made clear to the planters that for their class to survive, they would have to divide the people that they ruled--on the basis of race. Abolitionist and ex-slave Frederick Douglass put it this way: "The slaveholders... by encouraging the enmity of the poor, laboring white man against the Blacks, succeeded in making the said white man almost as much a slave as the Black himself... Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers." Or, as Douglass also said, "They divided both to conquer each."

Over time, the institution of racism became firmly established--both as a means of legitimizing slavery, but also as a means of dividing poor people against one other. While the Civil War smashed the planters' slave system, it did not end the institution of racism. The reason for this is that racism had further uses for capitalism.

Similar to the slave societies of antiquity and of the early U.S., under capitalism today, a small, wealthy minority exploits and oppresses the immense majority of people. Racism is the main division among workers today, and it provides a convenient scapegoat for problems created by the system. But ordinary people--regardless of their race--don't benefit from racism.

It's no coincidence that the historical periods in which workers as a whole have made the greatest gains--such as the 1930s and the 1960s--have coincided with great battles against racism.

Capitalism created racism and can't function without it. The way to end racism once and for all is to win a socialist society--in which the first priority is abolishing all traces of exploitation and racism.

Your prejudice is your ignorance, anonymous 27.Dec.2003 00:55

GRINGO STARS

And I honestly don't mean to sound insulting when I say that you are mistaken as to the definition of the word "racism." What you are referring to is ethnocentrism and is different than racism. Ethnocentrism is what made life difficult for the non-Chinese within the Chinese empire. The prejudice included anyone not of Han lineage, which included people that looked precisely like them (the same RACE) but were of a different culture/lineage. Japan is the same way these days. Their ethnocentrism is that (many of them) think all non-Japanese are inferior, even though the Koreans and Chinese can look identical of them and are the same RACE. Ethnocentrism has been with most cultures since history began being recorded 10,000 years ago with the rise of patriarchal alcoholic cultures. But racism began with the New World slave trade. I hope that the article I quote in my above comment clarifies some things.

Racism... 27.Dec.2003 03:26

anonymous

The article you quoted was interesting, but it doesn't change a thing. Ethnocentrism leads to racism.

Racism: 1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

The dictionary definition of racism should be good enough for anyone. The behavior I described, and you described in your last post is racist behavior. It's not simply ethnocentrism, it's racism. Racism always has it's reasons. In your article the reason for racism was to justify slavery. Sometimes racism is caused by a defensive reflex, by fear. Sometimes it is to justify war and theft of territory. There are all kinds of reasons. But at the core of all those reasons is that one group of people sees themselves as separate from another. And that seperateness justifies behaving badly toward the other. This has occurred throughout our history and will continue to occur. By "our" history I mean world history, not just US history. It is one of our unfortunate tendencies. The best way to fight it is to understand it.

In Japan there is a class of people known as Eta, or Burakamin. Traditionally they were known as "untouchables." They took care of the dirty tasks of society and therefore were tainted. A respectable person couldn't engage in such dirty occupations, so these people weren't worthy of respect. They were seen as less than human, and treated that way. They were of the same race, but they were very, very different. Why? Because it was convenient for them to be. You would say that no, they are the same people, but an upper class, classist Japanese would tell you that no they are very different. He has his reasons.

This is very similar to the situation described in your article, except that race isn't a part of the equation. You've got one group that has to justify it's situation in relation to another group, in it's own favor. Sometimes race is the defining factor, sometimes it is class, economic success, attractiveness, sex. It's all the same ugly human behavior in various forms, with various twisted justifications. They all try to deny the fact that people are the same. They all try to assert the special status of one group over another.

This kind of leads right into your assertion that racism is a product of capitalism, etc.. but only if you ignore a lot of other history. Was racism abolished in China by communism? I don't think so. Communist ideology certainly encouraged people not to be racist or classist. Our democratic ideals do the same. But we are people. Let's forget about the definition of race, since we both know that Western people consider all Chinese to be of one race, but Han Chinese don't share that belief. Let's talk about class. I'm sure you know a lot about the Cultural Revolution. During that time, the wrong kind of people were purged, harrassed, jailed, killed, raped, tortured. What made them the wrong kind of people? Let's keep it simple and stick to those who had a higher education, therefore might have been tainted by some Western influence, therefore might harbor some secret capitalist tendencies. These people were now legitimate targets for any kind of abuse. Lust for power, survival instincts and purist ideological zeal turned children against their own parents. One group, the Red Guard was now THE group that was right, and other people who had in their lives some characteristics that now lumped them into another group were now wrong. Now that they were wrong, any kind of crime against them was justified.

More simply one group asserted it's superiority over another and justified all kinds of bad behavior (which went against their supposed ideals). In this case the distinguishing characteristic between the groups was not race, but what's the difference? It is all the same bad, human behavior. And it didn't happen in a capitalist system. It exists wherever there are humans, and it occurs mostly when there is some kind of struggle, whether it be economic, ideological, or to justify some inconsistency in society. I'm sure there are more reasons. You won't find racism or any other kind of classism in a place where there is little conflict or competition. There may be some oases in time or place, but they don't last.

I suspect you will see the Cultural Revolution differently than I, or assert that racism and classism are not the same. Why? Because you have allegiances to groups that I don't. Allegiances to groups can make you justify things, or turn a blind eye...

Anyway, saying that all cultures have racist tendencies does not justify or condone that kind of behavior, it just recognizes the fact.

Sorry to get so off the LOTR topic... I'll leave now 'cause I didn't read the books or watch the movies. Bison Boy's posts are great though.

Modern Industrial Feudalism is Racism 27.Dec.2003 09:21

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

IBM under CEO Thomas Watson aided the Nazis by counting and locating the European Jews prior to the opening of WWII allowing for effecient round up and extermination. (IBM and The Holocaust) Henry Ford provide millions to the rise of Nazism in Germany and published the International Jew accussing the Jews of the very same conspiracy the U.S. elites were hatching to exterminate the entire European Jewish population. (Henry Ford and The Jews) E. Roland Harriman, younger brother of American icon W. Averell Harriman, and George Herbert Walker, President Bush's maternal great-grandfather, Prescott Bush, the grandfather of President George W. Bush were all involved with funding and illegally suppling the armement metals that were banned from german import. (The NH Gazette) President Franklin Roosevelt turned away two ship loads of working class, middle class and wealthy German Jews from entering the U.S. and worked aggressively to prevent any other country from giving refuge to these refuge. America hid the worst Nazis in south America and employed them in putting down legimate peasant up risings there. The only reason Claus Barbie was brought to justice in France for his Nazi was because two Mosad agents Israel supplied to the U.S. to train Contras in the eighties identified Barbie as he supplied weapons to the Contras broke ranks with their superiors and reported Barbie's presence in central America.

Hundreds of years of brutal slavery, thirty million murdered Native Americans, Participation in the rise of Nazism and a direct role in the Holocaust, the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Japenese, Countles Koreans etc. etc... The Fourth Reich in the White House Today.

I don't think that Jews and People of Color are asking to much when seeking heroic roles in popular culture.

I find it interesting that the Orcs in these films resembles some of the imagery used by the Europeans over the centuries and now by Amercan racist groups to charaterize a negative view of the European Jew. Hook nosed and pointed ears.

P
P
p1
p1

Pics at bottom don't look like Orcs to me! 27.Dec.2003 10:36

Luke from DC

Sorry, but those pics at the bottom don't look much like Orcs. BTW, one author inspired by Tolkien (last name Salvatore) has a Dark Elf protagonist in many of her books named Drizzt. He has to deal with racism on the part of humans and dwarves who expect only evil from dark elves while he is a force for good.

anonymous 27.Dec.2003 11:46

GRINGO STARS

The very examples you use prove my point. RACE as a determining factor, was never a reason to oppress others until the New World slave trade. It was ethnocentrism, which also chose to oppress untouchables and those of the same RACE that belonged to different cultures/classes.

The definitions of "ethnocentrism" and "racism" are not malleable but have been codified by sociologists and political scientists and psychologists. Almost every culture is ethnocentric, definitely including the Chinese and Japanese examples you cite. But an organized hierarchy of races, whose behaviour is determined by their RACE, is an American phenomenon of the last few centuries.

That is why this is brought up in this thread. Because Tolkien's work goes by the very definition of racism; that each of the races act according to their race. He always imputes certain behaviour to this or that race. That is racist. Orcs are mean. Elves are wise. Dwarves are gruff and earthly. Hobbits are afraid and homey. Humans are brave. Ents are slow and detached. etc etc etc.

Similarly, the lying racist propaganda here in the US goes by RACE, not culture; Asians are sneaky. African-Americans are wild/immature. Arabs are lying terrorists. Latinos are hard-working. etc etc etc It's all lies and bullshit, but it doesn't go by culture - it goes by color of skin - RACE.

Follow-up 27.Dec.2003 15:06

Bison Boy

GRINGO STARS had earlier asserted:
"...but the films were made very recently, and chose to portray elves as fair, blonde and tall instead of shorter and dark-skinned with black hair (like they are in the books)."

This assertion about skin color is definitively incorrect. In Fellowship of the Rings, chapter "Many Meetings" (on page 247 of my copy) three elves are described. Glorfindel, who didn't make in into the film, is blond. Elrond is described as having dark hair, and his skin color is left undescribed. However, Arwen is described as being so like to Elrond that they are obviously close kin, and she is described as having "white arms". I saw nothing to conflict with the idea of pale-skinned elves in the first meetings of Haldir or Galadriel, or of Elrond back in The Hobbit. I lack other reference material.

Sorry, Gringo. You should check your facts more closely. I seem to recall having chastised you on your fact-checking before. Either I am mistaken or you're not listening. :-) I urge you to be more careful, as your mistakes are rough on your credibility in other matters. Let's not take our editorial inspiration from Michael Moore, eh?

Also, I do have a bit more to say about two of your more recent posts, where you say:

"A point Tolkien keeps hammering home is that race itself determines behaviour. This is a racist concept." [...] "Because Tolkien's work goes by the very definition of racism; that each of the races act according to their race. He always imputes certain behaviour to this or that race. That is racist. Orcs are mean. Elves are wise. Dwarves are gruff and earthly. Hobbits are afraid and homey. Humans are brave. Ents are slow and detached. etc etc etc. "

I have previously agreed that Tolkien's treatment of Men is racist, but not the way we think of it. His racism, between the greater and lesser races of Men, has nothing to do with skin color, and everything to do with the Divine Right of Kings. This argument is solid, I think, and at any rate no one has yet bothered to refute it, so I'll say no more of it.

However, the rest of what you're talking about here is not *racism*, it's *speciesism*. There is a vast difference between the two. Tolkien asserted that not "all men are created equal," and this conflicts with the values I bring to the world. However, the problem of dealing with other sentient species with whom we can communicate is not the same problem *at all*. To pretend that it is is disingenous.

Criticizing his assignment of natures to various (fictional!) species as racist is about as meaningful as saying I'm racist because I openly assert that Humans are better climbers than Dolphins, or that Mbekar are noble while Chalidar are grasping and greedy. One is obvious, the other I made up this moment from thin air. Neither says anything about my level of racism. (Or about my ethnocentrism, for that matter.) "Race" is a concept virtually devoid of objective biological meaning, and such small meaning it carries has nothing to do with the difference between Man and Orc.

(Now, David Eddings, *he* is guilty as charged. If you want to get pissed about racism of the sort you describe in fictional settings, he'll keep you going all month with his Belgariad. I suppose his supporters might argue that he's merely guilty of ethocentrism... but given that it's all fictional anyway, I'm not going to waste my time further.)

To yElp: Good use of humor, I love it. Certainly this movie could be seen as racist; I don't disagree with that. What I argue is that it is not so much inherently racist, except as noted, but instead is a mirror in which we can see what we bring to it. Myself, I see that all men are capable of nobility or corruption, and that it is up to each of us to choose what we shall be regardess of the world that surrounds us. I may live in a racist society, but it does not compel me to racism.

To Idealist Fool, and anyone else who is not easily offended: See  http://www.ealasaid.com/misc/vsd/ . Hooray for warrior bonds among men. :)

Thanks Gringo 27.Dec.2003 15:11

James

Yes, suffice to say I'm aware that markets do not equal capitalism.

I was asking for your definition because it's so plainly obvious that racism has existed before the advent of modern capitalism. (So I figured your definition must be private property, free markets and currency, which would move the date back to our earliest recorded history).

As I noted in my original post, the ancient Egyptians enslaved dark-skinned Africans for no other reason than the color of their skin. There existed lighter-skinned Africans closer to them who would have been just as easy to capture. But they chose the darker-skinned Africans, specifically because the darker-skinned Africans looked different than they themselves.

Differences in appearance enable slavery. Differences help the ego to seperate the plight of slaves from its own. This is racism in its simplest form, thousands of years before the advent of capitalism.

Simple as that.

The ancient Egyptians also enslaved their own people 27.Dec.2003 16:40

GRINGO STARS

Skin color was NOT the basis for enslavement in ancient Egypt. They enslaved their own people as well. Their enslavement was rationalized by the "some people are meant to be slaves" rationale. They enslaved those who were of their same race but of a different religion as well. Slavery on the basis of skin color is a New World invention.

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah 27.Dec.2003 16:51

MattBattt

What a great example of constipated over analysis and conceptualization. But hey, if you really want my opinion I would say yes the rhetoric in some parts of the Lord of the Rings is racist to my politically correct ears. I actually think Peter Jackson did a good job toning some of those elements down without excluding them, which wouldn't be true to the character of the book.
I think that in discussing the books and movies and movies we are forgetting that they are stories, fairy-tales, works of fantasy. Tolkien explicitly made that point, especially after they were appropriated by the hippies during the 1960's. He was not telling anyone to do anything. The book is not a an allagory. He's telling a story for the pure enjoyment of it. And if that story is based on the Anglo-Saxon/Nordic tradition of story-telling, written by an Anglo-Saxon man of the early 20th century, who taught Anglo-Saxon at an Anglo-Saxon University (Oxford) then it is going to have elements of the Anglo Saxon tradition, warts and all. It is not going to be multi-cultural. It is not going to be racially sensitive. It is not going to say things that are wholly apporpriate to the world we live in today. If anyone can't deal with that, which is completely understandible, then don't. But please to cave into the kind of determinism that tells you just because someone reads something that partially offends your sensiblities that they are going to go out and join the Aryan Nations or something. That's just treating movie-going public like children. And dispite the elitist cliams that about that everyone right of radical is being brainwashed now a days, people in general, and children especially, are good at knowing what is good about something and what should be taken with a grain of salt, provided that they are raised properly. They don't need dichotomies and critisisms which are as simplistic as morality in the books themselves.

Sorry to be continually so offtopic 27.Dec.2003 19:11

James

But you're trying to prove your point with a biased sample. The Egyptians did enslave their own people -- for breaking the law, to pay debts -- but they also enslaved based on race (Nubian raids, Asian raids). The two are not mutually exclusive.

So too did Americans (and Europeans) enslave their own people, for debts. There is also strong evidence of whites being snatched within America and sold into slavery. In right-wing circles, there're many books suggesting that white slavery existed in America in huge numbers. Jim Goad discussed that fact as well. (Though I don't know nearly enough about the subject to know whether that is or is not true. I suspect the numbers are much, much lower than the likes of Michael Hoffman suggest).

One of the true origins of the Ameican Civil War very likely can be traced to The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the increasing rate of "white-looking" mulattos being captured in the North and sent to slavery in the South. (Thus causing Northerners to fear any white could be sold into slavery).

My point is hardly that slavery in America was not based in racism; of course it was, usually. My point was that it was not always about race. Sometimes it was about greed or other human corruptions. And the same holds true in Egypt. Sometimes it was about race, other times it was not. In either case, it was not about capitalism.

Egypt is a poor example anyway, because slaves (of all types!) in Egypt were treated far and away superior to slaves in America. Slaves in ancient Egypt could most often buy their freedom. And perhaps more importantly, the necessity of treating one's slave respectfully was seen as a moral absolute in Egypt.

But I didn't mean to suggest Egypt as the only example. There was an organized slave trade bringing sub-Sahara Africans to North Africa and the Middle East for hundreds of years before Islam took hold in the Middle East. There were even examples of whites being captured in Morocco and other African states and held as slaves, before the influence of capitalism. You need look no further than the pages of Don Quixote for those references.

Slavery has *always* been about differences from the majority. Debtors, criminals, race, or whatever else. It's silly to believe capitalism suddenly corrupted the minds of men to the idea of racism. Whole populations would never have gone along with slavery unless they could be taught that slaves were different than they were. Unless they could be assured that -they- would never be slaves. Race is the most obvious (and visible) way to accomplish that, and because of that fact, I surmise, racism was probably at the heart of the very first slave traders, whoever they were.

ancient slavery was based on conquest, not skin color 27.Dec.2003 21:14

GRINGO STARS

Frank Snowden wrote an excellent book debunking the idea that racial prejudice was always a part of human history. It's called Before Color Prejudice and I highly recommend it.

 http://www.homestead.com/wysinger/beforecolorprejudice.html

"Regarding issues of interethnic, and specifically interracial relations, a commonly expressed opinion is that 'people of different races have always hated each other.' This view stems from projecting our current mindset into the past. Americans, with our disdain for history, are especially prone to assume that the current state of affairs has always existed. Instead of taking interracial hostility as a given, scholar Frank Snowden examines artistic, folkloric, and textual evidence to ascertain the range of attitudes that ancient peoples held about each other in Before Color Prejudice. Specifically, Snowden's book is an exploration of ancient Greek, Assyrian, Roman, Egyptian, and Jewish attitudes toward sub-Saharan African people. Like other scholars who have examined ancient evidence (such as St. Clair Drake), he notes that, "nothing comparable to the virulent color prejudice of modern times existed in the ancient world." "

"Snowden provides a sophisticated assessment of the ancients' lack of racism...The chief contribution of Snowden's work lies in the case he makes for the view that racism is not universal...Whatever the time at which the racism that continues to plague modern societies arose, it most certainly does not trace back to antiquity."
-- Donald L. Noel, American Journal of Sociology

"a cogent, well-written study."
-- Lionel Casson, Archeology

"The basic message of this short book is that racial prejudice between blacks and whites was a post-classical innovation. The case is argued with full scholarly apparatus."
-- Keith Hopkins, Times Literary Supplement

"Further developing the themes he so eloquently outlines in Blacks in Antiquity, Frank M. Snowden Jr. continues his investigations into attitudes towards Africans in the classical civilizations of Rome and Greece. Snowden identifies the African blacks from Egypt, Nubia (the modern Sudan), Ethiopia, and Carthage (Tunisia), discussing their interactions--including intermarriage--with the Greco-Romans. (He also notes that many of the artistic representations of these people resemble present-day African Americans.) From the trade missions of the Egyptian dynasties to their conquest of the Mediterranean and ultimate downfall at the hands of the Romans, Snowden unravels a complex history of cultural exchanges that went on for several millennia in which racial prejudice was not a factor. "There was a clear-cut respect among the Mediterranean peoples for Ethiopians and their way of life," he writes, "and above all, the ancients did not stereotype blacks as primitives defective in religion and culture." "
-- Eugene Holley Jr.


Another good book is Racism: A Short History by George M. Fredrickson:

"Why didn't racism appear in Europe before the fourteenth century, and why did it flourish as never before in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Why did the twentieth century see institutionalized racism in its most extreme forms? Why are egalitarian societies particularly susceptible to virulent racism? What do apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, and the American South under Jim Crow have in common?"
-- Book Description


There are many more books detailing the birth of racism, but they agree that it is NOT a universal prejudice that is part of human nature. The above are only two examples out of many.

More to the point: How do you propose -capitalism- created racism? 27.Dec.2003 22:59

James

"nothing comparable to the virulent color prejudice of modern times existed in the ancient world."

I can't disagree with that. I know of no other historical examples of the capture and enslavement of primarily only a specific race of people, except for America and Europe around the time of the early colonization of America. It would seem to stand on a level all its own.

In America, certainly some special force was (is?) at work guiding racism towards blacks in particular.

Note that I was not making the argument that people of differing races have "always hated each other." I was careful not to. My argument was limited to whether or not racism existed before the advent of capitalism. I tried to prove that argument with the point that race has often determined who would be enslaved by an empire.

Saying ancient slavery was based on "conquest, not skin color" is silly. The point of conquest itself was ultimately slavery. Ancient slavery cannot be based on slavery. You could make the argument that it was based on geography, but that wouldn't seem to be true in many cases.

In the case of the Egyptians (and most others), which we have discussed, there cannot be identified a single race or skin color targetted for slavery. That is true. Many groups of people were enslaved. But that does not mean racism was not present in slavery.

There can be only two conclusions drawn from that fact (many seperate groups being enslaved): That slavery was based on equal-opportunity racism, or that it was based on nationalism. (This is true, because large-scale raiding/capturing enslavements did not occur within Egypt. Intra-national slavery was based on some law being broken, or debt being owed. Raiding occurred outside Egypt proper).

In almost all cases, nations were (and still are in most places) largely based on a single dominant race or ethnicity. In so far as the very notion of a nation is racist, inter-nation slavery must be racist.

I have not read Before Color Prejudice, and it looks interesting. From reading the short descriptions and reviews you posted though, it would seem to be limited to an examination of historical cultural views of blacks, specifically sub-Saharan blacks. That is, the book would seem to be debunking the idea that -specific- racial prejudice was always a part of human history. I don't disagree with that.

But specific racial prejudice is not the same thing as racism.

Even if you were to narrow your argument to capitalism having created specific racial prejudice in whites against blacks, I'd be interested in what argument you could make in support of that, aside from the obvious post hoc "it didn't exist until capitalism." Couldn't there be other forces at work? Specifically, organized religion, socio-political-technical realities (guns, empires, geography), or other cultural realities?

I simply cannot fathom how capitalism could have had anything at all to do with it.

Well,that's it then. 27.Dec.2003 23:11

Bison Boy

It seems the ground of this discussion has changed rather a long way from its original topic. I hope no one will mind if I circle back around to it.

GRINGO STARS says:
"Slavery on the basis of skin color is a New World invention. "
and
"ancient slavery was based on conquest, not skin color"

These assertions hae been brought forth to support the racist interpretation of LOTR, by some circuitous route. (Or they are completely offtopic...) While their validity seems dicey to me, let's take these assertions as true for the sake of this argument. So, what does that say about The Lord of the Rings?

If we take the story as authentic history, then this retelling of the ancient history is not racist, since racism due to skin color did not, according to GRINGO STARS, exist in the ancient world, but is a modern capitalist invention. So if true, the story is clean or racism in this sense, because it did not exist at that point in history.

But the story is not true; it's mythic and fictional. It has never been presented as a true history of actual events, but a myth made up from anglo-saxon threads woven into whole cloth by one man. We can only evaluate the story properly in its mythic form.

Those who assert that ancient peoples of Britain were of dark skin are in some sense correct; the evidence suggests that ultimately we are all dark Africans by origin. But this was not known to Tolkien back in 1939, so it seems unreasonable to hold him accountable for any inaccuracy in this respect. He wrote myth to match the history he knew, correct or not.

Within the story, Tolkien ascribes no correlation between skin color and corruption. Some pale Men are evil, and other pale Men are good. He did not write of dark-skinned Men who were good or bad, that I know of, but there is no reason to suppose that this was anything more than an omission inherent in the scope of the story. The evidence within the story puts the dark Haradrim on the same moral level as the pale Rohirrim, albeit on opposite sides of the war. Some Orcs are dark, some Goblins are pale, all are evil because their creator made them to be evil.

The central conflict in the myth is between illumination and shadow, between hope and despair. Pigmentation of skin, be it red, brown, black, yellow, white, or green, is not relevant.

Does anyone care to refute this with a post that is actually ON topic? If not, then thanks all for a lively discussion, and I'll be moving on with my life.

The story was written in Imperialist Great Britain... 27.Dec.2003 23:40

GRINGO STARS

...and hence was written by an author who lived and breathed racism as we all do now in imperialist US. Hence we find a book where the different races act precisely in accordance with their RACE. Which is the very definition of racialism; that race determines behaviour.

The circuituous journey was of importance and also on topic - I pointed out that present-day USA is one of the most racist cultures ever in the known history of our planet. So it is not out of the ordinary for a movie to be made of a story, both of which support the idea that race determines behaviour, and that the public in general should lap it up like milk. The fact that neo-nazis have made the LOTR films their absolute favorites is of importance.

The reason for this whole post was someone was watching a movie and then exercising their brain - watching it consciously and then discussing it. Many people poo-poo the idea of thinking about it so durned much, which is par for the course of our anti-thought culture. Did anyone notice that some orcs had dreadlocks?

Tolkein wrote of a fantasy past. We know he partly meant LOTR as an agrarian vs. industrialist war series. We know he loathed technology. We know he sympathized with anarchists who blew things up. We know he was against anti-Jewish sentiment. And he wrote of a time/place where race determined behaviour, much like the "common wisdom" of his own time/place.

James, racism arose with the merchant class 28.Dec.2003 00:56

GRINGO STARS

The article I posted at first describes the process of how capitalism created racism. It is a good, brief introduction that I think makes the process quite clear, James. The egghead/academic world seems to believe (well, most all of them) that racism was not present beforethe merchant class gained real power in politics. I refer you to the many egghead books on this topic - for example Frank Snowden is a Harvard professor (talk about egghead!). Which doesn't automatically make him right, obviously, but his book is rigorous and convincing. Some other good references I recommend besides the 2 I mentioned earlier;

The Comparative Imagination: On the History of Racism, Nationalism, and Social Movements
by George M. Fredrickson

Capitalism and Slavery
by Eric Williams

British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery : The Legacy of Eric Williams
by Barbara Lewis Solow and Stanley L. Engerman

Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience
by Frank M. Snowden

My thoughts on this topic 28.Dec.2003 04:54

Duncan

Since reading the thread on Racism and LOTR, I have thought on this and been troubled by it. The Lord of the rings is one of my favorite modern Sagas, and so an accusation of that magnitude is painful to me. Even though I am not unaware of the references that others have listed here, in the end I am forced I believe that the casting was excellent, and that the choices Peter Jackson made were plausible. The primary complaints have been that; the racial makeup of the protagonists is to white, the Easter lings are all evil and swarthy and the orcs are dark skinned and representative of non-Caucasians, and that Sauron is portrayed as "dark". In this article Ill post my rebuttal to each of these arguments.

Taking on the orcs first. In my reading of the LOTR, and my watching of the movies, I never thought of the orcs as representative of non-Caucasians. If anything they seem to me to be representative of the Germans (white dudes) of World War One and Two. The way that they were portrayed in the movie seemed pretty Germanic to me. Sauraman's breeding practices to create a "master race" seemed very evocative of Hitler's Eugenics ideas.

As to the make-up of the cast of protagonists, I have to echo the earlier posters statement that this is an Anglo-Saxon epic. In every cultures mythos, the tellers are the good guys. Also it is in the vein of a lot of epics in that originate from a time when hordes of central Asians periodically swept through Europe subjugating the populations living there. There was a time when Europeans were the oppressed and non-European were the conquerors. Most empirical cultures are by there nature harsh on the people they conquer. The Tartars, Turks, African Arabs, Huns, all tried to conquer large parts of Europe at one point or another, and their policies towards the locals was for the most part pretty unpleasant with perhaps the exception of the Andulasion era in southern Spain. In the most recent example sited, that of the Turks who in the 1400's overran Budapest and attacked Vienna, the results of their treatment of the locals can be seen in the politics of Serbia and Croatia to this day. In my mind there are no good conquerors, and the highlight of the LOTR saga is to me that after defeating their enemies, the men of the west don't go east and try and conquer the easterners. Instead they settle down and start rebuilding their culture. To me that is the final moral of the story.

As this is an Anglo-Saxon epic, its understandable that the main protagonists would look Anglo-Saxon, that is to say white. If an epic movie is ever made of the end of apartheid in South Africa, Id expect the majority of the protagonists to be black, and the majority of white guys to be bad guys. Moreover I think that the central themes in this story are non-racial. They are about truth over lies, personal choice and the bonds of friendship being stronger then fear or death. Its not perfect, and it does reflect some of the views of the authors era, particularly in terms of classism and divine right, just as Mark Twains era effected his writing. However, I do not believe that these shortcomings make the work any less great, and more then I believe the attitudes of the Catholic church make St Peters Cathedral in Rome any less beautiful. They are flawed, but we are flawed as humans. We try to do better (or I try to do better anyway) then my parents did, to be more understanding, less fearful of that which I don't understand. Tolkien, for his time and place was a pretty enlightened guy. He wrote a heck of story that made those of us of Western European decent proud that he was one of us. Peter Jackson made a pretty decent movie about it, faithfully portraying the Authors created universe.


The solution to the shortcomings of the works in question is not to denigrate the work, but to create new books/movies that reflect new ideas and perspectives. Ray Bradbury said as much in Fahrenheit 451.

Racism is a Function of Concetrated Power 28.Dec.2003 06:52

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

Gringo, just because power shifted from the royals to the industrialists who use terms such as "free market" and "capitalism" does not mean power is no longer feudal. I see racism as used by the contemporary corporate feudal powers as a means to divide the masses for the purposes of conquest economics. Even though there is absolutely no logic for the spread of AIDS amongst African American males, African American males have a 50% higher rate of infection. Even if that official number is strictly as a result of ingorance, them that ignorance it is a result of racism. Even though there is absolutely no logic for the spread of AIDS amongst Africans who are much more monogamous than Americans, just the neglect of the disease in Africa by Europe and the U.S. is racist at its core but racist for corporate feudal reasons. Africa is on it's knees and America gets to play the hero and exact a very high price on its hollow rescue of whats left of Africa. Just the act of reporting as a news story that "African American males have a 50% higher rate of HIV infection" in the mass media creates the desired effect of dividing the American people along the lines of race.

The invasion of Iraq is a prime example of the use of race as well as religion by the feudal corporate power of the U.S. to create an atmosphere condusive to allow its troops to commit mass murder and continued oppression with the occupation for the conquest of petroleum.

Given the chance most humans would and do co-operate, love and share all asperations resources but ignorance, fear and distrust amongst small groups within the greater community has a tendency to turn to paranoia, demand for security and thus feudal power over the distribution of resources and labor. We have to develop more effective means for dealing with people tending toward feudal power no doubt.


Gotcha Gringo 28.Dec.2003 08:18

anonymous

When Asians are prejudiced against other races it's ethnocentrism. When Americans are prejudiced against other races, it's racism. No self-respecting Asian would agree with you. But they'd let you keep talking.

You get caught up in a lot of detail that distracts you from the basic truths. Detail is nice, interesting, colorful, but it's not significant. In the end it is all the same. Conflict between groups causes prejudice that manifests itself in racism, classism, sexism, etc... which are all basically the same thing.

Someone mentioned the Huns... good example that goes way back. Do you honestly believe there was no racism between the Huns and the Europeans they conquered? There was, way back then.

You are not the only one that has made me wonder this recently: Why do too many Americans think they are the originators of... practically everything? Such a young country... not the originators of much really. But really, really lucky.

Duncan 28.Dec.2003 08:40

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

Duncan, seeing and hearing Reverend Martin Luther Kings "I have a dream speech" as a very young child on our TV set in Canada saved me from a life of being racist. In my community "eene, meene, minee, mo catch a nigger by the toe" was the standard. racism was overt and everywhere. Symbols and sounds are the most powerful tools of any Socratic third party observation play and in the raising of children. It is of the utmost import that when promoting an idea with the budget that the Lord of the Rings films had at their disposal in a global community where white only heros will be seen just as more white imperialism, that we be as inclusive as possible. Just as an example: As a Celt I take great exeption to you desribing and legitmizing anglo saxon imperialism, the rape and pilage of my ancesters home land. Get it. The symolism of Lord of the Rings in context to today's bogus power grabing war on terrorism basically states to the world "Fuck You" "we whites of the west are the dominate race. You will wear our clothes, eat our food and except our culture as your own"

The invading hordes you describe can only be seen as reactions to psychotic murdering rampages of white imperialists such as Alexandra the Great just as Japanese imperialism in twentieth century was a reaction to psychotic murdering rampages of the white barbarian destablizing the Asian economy. Not to say that Asians have not had their moments of collective psychosis but they were much more short lived. In fact adventures of conquest beyond Asian nations borders as a destablizing force domestically and therefore not the proper practice state craft, became the popular message of most Asian governments, they settled for peaceful trade based mostly on multi cultural curiosity. This is as a result of Asian collective philosophies dominating collective decision making in societies that are much more collective and thus much more democratic. Where information and education have always been difficult to suppress.

In the west we have a tradition of destroying the community based, developed wisdom and knowledge that would knit us together to maintain stable societies. Alexandra the great destroyed vast amounts knowledge where ever his madness led him and his armies. The inquisitions imposed with brutal force by Christianity destroyed most wisdom and knowledge in Europe just as the Europeans collapsed their own economies into war creating the need to rape and pilage the world. A pattern that has not yet subsided. In America this behavior has mutated from its beginning into genocide after genocide that America repeatedly blames on its victims. America suffers from vast ignorance today believing it self to be the greatest nation in the world and the birth place of democracy. Both ideas of course, absolutely obsurd and untrue but used effectively for conquest economics.


Please understand, Anonymous 28.Dec.2003 11:30

GRINGO STARS

With the Huns, it is fairly well established that there were no institutional hierarchies of people based on skin color. With the Huns, there were ONLY two kind of people;

1. Good Huns (yes only the good ones)

and

2. Everybody Else In The Whole Wide World (fodder for the Good Huns - and slaves at the Huns whim)

And it was similar for most every culture. Until the merchant class got power.

Prejudice is something that says "you and I are different" and the markers for different-ness have changed, evolved and even been (yes) invented over the course of recorded history. I don't believe that Americans are the originators of anything but jazz and blues, truth be told. And I am more ashamed than proud of the American heritage. But I suppose I could explain things to you all day yet none of my posts would be nearly as illuminating as the books I recommend in earlier posts. Go read them and take the issue up with those who can better explain the difference between ethnocentrism and racism, or the difference in justification of slavery between ancients and colonial Americans/their European backers. They would also probably do better at not sounding like a condescending asshole like I usually do.

Class (ethnocentrism) vs racism 28.Dec.2003 12:37

Aunt Sam

In China, you have many different cultures. You have the Mongolian Islamic types, you got the Buddhist eastern types, you got the Hinduan types, and I believe ya got Taoists. All these different people with totally different cultures. The Muslims had multiple marriages, road horses nomadically across the steppes. The Buddhist ate rice and vegetables and sometimes chose not to marry. They spoke different languages, believed much different things. They were all Asian. That is the race, right? But some people had "signs." Your nose indicated an unhappy life, you ears said you would marry young but he would die. And on and on about genetic coding and mysticism to create a class order. Some women lived their entire lives bound and gagged. Their poor feet broken by bindings and their fear of speaking less retribution fall upon them. Yet none of these definitions can rightly be called racism. They were all of the same race, regardless of the cultural differences based on physical landscape barriers that caused these people to have little contact with each other and to have vastly different cultures.

In American society we have something different than caste class structures. This is something based more upon race defined by skin color. When I fill out forms in America I generally have to choose a race. It doesn't say Japanese or Chinese. It says Asian. It doesn't say England or Ireland, its says white. It doesn't say African American or Nigerian it says black. That is your race in America. As the Big G (gringo) has pointed out this movie and this book is based on epic sagas of races and their predispositions. In portraying the evil scary black characters we had folks with dreadlocks. They were beaten back. As someone who lives in a black community I flinched when I saw that. I shifted in my seat and sighed loudly. I was afraid that folks like Bison Boy and his number one fan would kill me if I suddenly started screaming at the top of my lungs. It hurt me to see that. But the movie was good. I am not saying that it wasn't but did it make me sad. Nowhere in tolkiens book did it call for dreadlocks.

Please, I know that you love your movies and games. But please be aware that there are other people in the audience who are also aware of their rights which are abused on national corporate media every day. Please be aware that they may not understand your saying they weren't dark skinned they were Chiaroscuro. They were scurro all right.

I had a friend who went to a diner in the 1990's. It was in a small town in Oregon. He was an extremely handsome black man. His skin was the color of a vanilla late. Most women swooned over him with his sexy dreadlocks and whimsical smile. You can include me in that list.. Anyway, they kicked him out of the diner. Told him that he couldn't eat there. They were very straight forward racists. No chagrin or beating around the Bush™. They told him to leave town, and quick.

Yea, Bison Boy, I understand the points you are making but they are not totally valid. Not as long as black people are thrown out of diners in small towns today and not as long as the ORCs had dreadlocks and not as long as people of color populate our jails as if to make it their small town of suspended rights. Your points are not valid as long as Guatanamo Bay holds people of color in a place of suspended constitutional rights. Your points fail with me when I see young black youth being beaten up by police officers who keep their jobs.

So bear in mind that the person with dreads who walks into see this movie may not come out talking about how pretty the elfin language was. They might just say, "that movie wasn't really my type of movie." And you know what door they waked through.

It was the door marked Black Floridans.

please enjoy the movie 28.Dec.2003 13:32

refreshments are available

If LOTR is racist because characters act according to race, the characters we get to know and and pivotal points in the story- the uncharacteristically adventurous Hobbits, the Elves who show up for the battle, and Gimli, who very un-Dwafsihly showed up for the party at all- form notable exceptions to their "racial profiles"... so what is the point exactly?

If dwarves act a certain way nobody ever said it was a result of race anymore than elves speaking in Elvish being a "racial thing" that I'm aware of.

I suppose it would really might have been more interesting if 3 in 10,000 orcs came out defective and were pacifist, but if the military starts genetically breeding people specifically to have aggressive dispositions, will it be racist to say they're aggressive? (Okay, and now how about if they try to give soldiers that kind of disposition without genetics?) And don't forget, I've been racist myself at since at least since I (gasp! how dare I?) criticized Condoleeza. I'm sure that sounds utterly insensitive, but my point would be that taking up the particular cause isn't guaranteed of itself to be noble, and the arrow isn't guaranteed to find it's mark on it's own. The question of whether we can discuss conduct without race entering into it comes to mind. As far as substantial concerns, the racial profiling under Bush & Ashcroft might be first on my mind, and Tolkien's storytelling near last.

I'm skeptical that Tolkien wouldn't have been embodying, even unintentionally, a lot about Nazi germany. What would have been on his mind, anyway? In that even, it's the fictional counterparts of the racists who are the wrongdoers. I'm not thinking he was a big fan of racism under those circumstances, or probably of stereotypes either. Aeowyn's role in the battle certainly got feminist applause from the seat next to me when I went, and not a lot of complaining about stereotyping when the extended version of Two Towers made her a warrior who couldn't cook.

Orcs weren't born naturally, y'know. They aren't some inevitable bad race of any world's gene pool. If you hold up the pictures of what Nazis did to the Jews, physically (as above), how is it different than Tolkien holding up a picture of what Sauron did to the Elves to make his orcs physically? Does it speak ill of the victims, or does it simply speak that much more ill of the forces that victimized them? (Well, unless you want to get into something about what's wrong with turning Aryan elves into something else...)

But I think there is a still a great investment in the idea that even these corruptive forces are not absolute; even if Gollum can't get his act together, we see humanity shining out his eyes more than once, after all he's been through, we see him with the ability to be moved by simple kindness. If evil had been victorious in the story, maybe it would be easier to make the charges stick. It hasn't been glorified, it can be undone still by the smallest things. I think there's a great bit made about Frodo encouraging Sam not to harbor prejudice at Gollum.
Even the thing that's on the verge of cutting their throats in their sleep, has gone of its way through the storytelling, to be almost... likeable... in a way, or at least not so easy to hate. I guess it's just me but I thought these lessons about prejudice were strong, clear and rather commendable...

I'm sort of suprised that nobody's looked at this "dark vs. light" business possibly having simple origins once upon a time. I don't have much against darkness meself, I'm actually a bit of a photophobe, but the plant life really isn't keep on it, y'know? If that's the case there's not much point trying to grip that from behind the refrigerator. I mean, can we discuss photosynthesis without perpetuating racial stereotypes, I guess is my question.

Didn't have to be, there were other colors of corn it could have been, but the popcorn at the theater will probably also be white. Please enjoy that too. Or take it back to the counter, protest loudly, and ask for a different color. Just thought I'd be first to get in that particular lick... I mean, really. Especially lately there are places to look for evil where it's a lot more tangible than Tolkien... Can I say I think this is just a wee bit silly, without someone mistaking me for a (ptui!) republican?

brrrharrrumph 28.Dec.2003 14:00

treebeard

And what about the Ents? We treeherders are all portrayed as slow-witted, indecisive, and apathetic unless it's our own bark that's in the fire... I'm not sure that this is giving anyone a very good opinion of trees...

Harrrrummmph... but let's not be hasty... perhaps it will help you to hold a higher opinion of anyone who isn't going to be so motivated to do what ought to be done with George W. Bush until the draft is reinstated and their own numbers come up... ?

refreshments... 28.Dec.2003 16:07

GRINGO STARS

The hobbits in the movie/books were anything BUT adventurous. They had to be cajoled, coerced and guilt-tripped into doing anything at all, and when they did they whined and moaned nonstop, always trying to give up and go home.

Elves are portrayed by Tolkein and Jackson as very warlike. They field armies and are known as the best warriors there are. I don't understand how "Elves who show up for battle" does anything but uphold the racial stereotype Tolkein established.

Have you even read Tolkein? Dwarves definitely throw parties.

To Lloyd 28.Dec.2003 19:32

Duncan

I disagree with the basic premise of you article; that white people are the only ones who take advantage of power. You apologism for the invasions of the central Europeans is ludicrous; most modern thought concours that they were not "in reaction to invading white armies" but more likely being pushed from behind by other central asian powers. If They were in deed reacting to the "great white hordes" then can we apologize the actions of Alexander the Great (who was not "white" as you say, to Greeks of Alexander's time, whites were the rabble on the edge of the civilised world.) because the Persians attempted to invade Greece centurys earlier? This statement shows that you have little understanding of the context of history.

Apologism gets us nowhere. Lets face it; whoever has been on top for the entirty of our known history has opressed those with less power. The Chinese opressed the Koreans for centuries, the Japanese have opressed the Han people since before any meaningfull contact with the west. The Salishan made slaves of the S'kllallam. . . the list goes on and on. The argument for the past is dead, and wholly seperate from the argument of the future. My people did terrible things in the past; to eachother, to their neighbors and to their enemies. Their sins are not my sins; I did not own slaves, promote segragation, opress other clans or steal their cattle. To believe that I am guilty of the crimes of my fathers is to follow the same arguments (only in reverse) from those who would demean other ethnic groups. To demean people based upon their heritage is wrong, and if their is any point that we have learned from history then I think that should be the one. I am not ashamed of my cultural heritage, nor do I believe that the makers of the Lord of the Rings should have to recast the whole movie to make us happy. If you dont like it, dont watch it. If you think you can do better then get cracking. I read 100 books a year on average and I await yours.

Duncan 28.Dec.2003 20:14

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

Every historical quote you made is from history writen by white men. White history cannot be trusted. The whites are the dominent global empire who are also preventing the people of the world from dealing with the white man's hate of what created them, the earth. There is a global evironmental crisis that will kill all life on this planet this century. The source of the crisis comes from Christianity's " Man has Dominion over". This simple christian ethic explains why white men have cut down all the world's forests for their corrupt accounts on paper. Why white men's technology pollutes the air and water murdering millions every year. Why they are building a space program as a psychotic fantasy to escape the mess they have made here.

We are living off of the profits created by the genocide of thirty million Native Americans, slavery and the billions impoverished by our isatiable white economy. I am not proud of this. It would be ok if the whites had learned their lesson but they have not and are more dangerous if not resisted.

You benefit from the crimes of your ancestors 28.Dec.2003 21:46

GRINGO STARS

Duncan, you are not guilty of the crimes of your ancestors. Yet today you benefit from them. It is white men who essentially rule the world today, by virtue of its most powerful empire the USA. Hollywood is the second most powerful force - only the US military is greater - in enforcing the white male viewpoint on the world. With power comes responsibility. When a big budget movie gets made by the white men of the "first world"- it gets seen by almost everyone in the world. It decides things culturally for much of the non-white world as well.

From the imperialist and colonialist oppressions of non-whites in the past comes todays hedgemony of the US. From slavery comes the most powerful economy that fueled the US imperial power. When anIndian makes a movie in India, only Indians see it and a very few hipsters/movie buffs outside of India. When an American movie gets made (and yes LOTR is an American-produced movie even though filmed in New Zealand) EVERYONE gets the image of illustrious white men conquering the degenerate dark hordes of Sauron. I enjoyed the series greatly in middle school and it still has resonance when I saw the films, but i am aware of the real effect it will have culturally on the world, namely; "White people RULE!" Just ask the neo-nazis who review the film.

Sigh. Not done yet. 29.Dec.2003 00:36

Bison Boy beartruth@softhome.net

Several quotations of Aunt Sam:

"In portraying the evil scary black characters we had folks with dreadlocks. They were beaten back. As someone who lives in a black community I flinched when I saw that. I shifted in my seat and sighed loudly."

That's true, Tolkien never said anything about dreadlocks that I know of. Truly, I do regret that the choice the hairstylist ( http://imdb.com/name/nm0654232/) made evoked a flinch reaction from you. But it seems to me that you are reacting to the image of our culture mirrored in the art of the film, not the film itself. Any such reflection is *valid*, but nevertheless it is what we each, as viewers, bring to the film. I see a very different reflection when I watch it, of course, because my experience in life is different.

Please, do indict our culture for the oppression you perceive. Such resistance to injustice will make us all stronger and more just. But labor also in fairness to separate what the film actually says from what we each bring to it.

"I was afraid that folks like Bison Boy and his number one fan would kill me if I suddenly started screaming at the top of my lungs."

You have nothing to fear from me. I do suppose that would have been rude, however, much as it would be if I leapt up in "Gandhi" and yelled for someone to kick anyone else's ass. :)

"Please be aware that they may not understand your saying they weren't dark skinned they were Chiaroscuro. They were scurro all right. "

Honestly, I am writing to defend Tolkien's story, not the movie. The book does not carry the taint you speak of, although I can see how the movie might. In the story, good and evil are indeed represented by illumination and shadow; "Chiaroscuro" if you will. Pigment is irrelevant. The filmmaker's choices may well have been different... but Tolkien's story remains the same.

"Anyway, they kicked him out of the diner. Told him that he couldn't eat there. They were very straight forward racists. No chagrin or beating around the Bush™. They told him to leave town, and quick."

Where? If you tell me, I shall avoid it... or if you prefer, I shall return there with you and eat there at your side. That should not stand, and I am willing to do my part to amend it.

"Yea, Bison Boy, I understand the points you are making but they are not totally valid. Not as long as black people are thrown out of diners in small towns today and not as long as the ORCs had dreadlocks and not as long as people of color populate our jails as if to make it their small town of suspended rights. Your points are not valid as long as Guatanamo Bay holds people of color in a place of suspended constitutional rights. Your points fail with me when I see young black youth being beaten up by police officers who keep their jobs."

My points are no less valid for being irrelevant to the reality our culture imposes upon us. Less than total validity is not the same as total invalidity. (Outside of mathematics, binary thinking is almost always a mistake, for humans are creatures of subtlety and are not easily understood.) Never doubt that I am you ally in this fight, even when we disagree about particulars. If the only good I do is as a whetstone on which you sharpen your arguments, then at least I shall have done some good.

Lloyd Hart writes:
"Every historical quote you made is from history writen by white men. White history cannot be trusted."

You are being too specific. *NO* history can be trusted. It is a cliche (but no less true for that) to observe that history is written by the victors. Yet not all conquests are absolute, not all the conquered disappear without leaving a mark. History as written by "white" men is certainly not all true, but nor is there reason to believe that it is wholly false. We must sift history carefully, looking for consistency among many points of view to have some inkling of the truth; and even then we must recognize it as sketchy and incomplete. If you think that a history is true just because it is not a "white" history, you are setting yourself up for a delusion.

At the risk of following you offtopic, please allow me to recommend that you read "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond. He is indeed a european male, but I think you will find that this history is one of the more effective anti-racist works you're likely to see.

GRINGO STARS writes:

"Duncan, you are not guilty of the crimes of your ancestors. Yet today you benefit from them."

Everyone benefits from the crimes of their ancestors. Some more dramatically and more recently than others, of course. If you think someone's ancestors are innocent of conquest, you're probably wrong. (Unless you're talking about aboriginal australians; or non-european, non-bantu sub-saharan africans. Read Diamond's book.)

"It is white men who essentially rule the world today, by virtue of its most powerful empire the USA. ... From the imperialist and colonialist oppressions of non-whites in the past comes todays hedgemony of the US."

GS, it's late and I'm cranky, so please forgive this outburst... but so what? This is nothing that we don't already know. (Besides, it won't last. Empires always fall, nothing is forever. We just happen to live at a point in history where the technical dominance of Europe has recently peaked.) Could you do me a favor and say something original for once?

"Just ask the neo-nazis who review the film."

Why the f$&^ should I care what those assholes think? They don't represent me, my nation, or my culture any more than Osama represents Islam. (And possibly a good deal less.) They're an abberration, an abomination even, and they can bite my hairy white ass.

Bah. Time for bed.

just another brick in the wall 29.Dec.2003 00:42

danny

**WARNING- SPOILERS BELOW**
I regret joining the discussion rather late. After leaving the movie on wednesday, I felt the same way as Lloyd about the portrayal of race in LotR. However, his argument was a rather incoherent whine and at times smacked of conspiracy theory... but for its faults the ensuing discussion has caused me to reconsider my own distaste for the film. The discussion has gotten a bit off track, so I'll try to give a different perspective on the Lloyd's original complaint.

While this may seem controversial to diehard fans, I believe the only productive discussion can take place at the level of the movie, as the criticism is primarily aimed at Jackson's film rendition and not Tolkien's original book. Whatever J.R.R. may have had in mind, the story that millions of viewers worldwide now know as "The Lord of the Rings" is the one that stars Elijah Wood and Liv Tyler. Furthermore, it would be naive to believe that Peter Jackson could present the story "objectively" - it's obvious that the necessities of the medium as well as the director's artistic choices represent deliberate acts of reshaping the original narrative. As such, I don't think anyone these days is interested in analyzing the 60-year-old series of English fantasy novels, but the 21st century trilogy of Hollywood films.

I also think it's difficult to question the obvious racial divide of all three films' actors. The heroes are simply all white. While in the reality of the story the villains are not black people, it's true that the only black people that appear in the film are under the masks of Sauron's hordes. The argument has been made that the story is really about racial unity - the races of "men," "elves," "dwarves," "hobbits," etc. uniting for their common salvation. This falls apart easily, however, when one considers the "races" that are supposedly so distinct are all nevertheless light-skinned, and often simple charicatures of existing white societies - the Celtic Hobbits, Anglo-Saxon men, etc. The race problem becomes even more distinct in "Return of the King", when non-European humans are not simply omitted but actually cast as villains - the Elephant-riding, scimitar-brandishing 'mercenaries', who are apparently too ignorant to realize that by allying with Sauron they are fighting those who would protect their own freedom. Of course, the real question is: does race matter in this context? As several people quite correctly observed, (Tolkien's) LotR was simply a product of white European culture and therefore stars white europeans. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" can't be blamed for casting all Chinese people. Can Peter Jackson? I believe so. Crouching Tiger, while fantastic, nevertheless has firm social/political/ethnic boundaries: China. Theoretically it would be locatable on an actual map or a history book. LotR, on the other hand, exists in an entirely fictional "Middle Earth", full of fantastic-sounding lands, castles, dominions.... none of which is supposed to have any literal correlation with reality (speaking, again, from the films). Rather than some kind of historical fiction, LotR is supposed to embody "universal themes" of the human experience - good vs. evil, triumph of unity over division, teleological embrace of one's heroic "destiny", etc. The problem is that what is being marketed as universal is, as portrayed by the film, really only accessible to whites. Furthermore, not simply white people, but elite white males.

Despite the arguments of several "womyn" on this board, I don't feel that RotK gives women much to cheer for - after all, the movie ends with the world being ruled by "the race of Men", quite explicitly NOT all of humanity. Although Liv Tyler's character Arwen makes an impressive introduction in "Fellowship of the Ring", by the third film she is reduced to a mere love interest for Aragorn, whose motivation is the hope of bearing his children. Cate Blanchett's character plays a brief supporting role, but doesn't seem to do much other than give gifts and encouragement to the male heroes. I don't remember Rosie Cotton, Sam's love interest, even speaking- she seems content to bear Sam's children and smile alot. Of course, nobody can ignore Eowyn, who is perhaps the most heroic character in the entire trilogy. I cheered at her "I'm no man!" line. :) But her presence is so anomalous as to underscore the lack of other strong feminine characters, and smacks of being the 'token' feminist. Never mind that she can only be heroic by pretending to be a man. A comparison with "Crouching Tiger" again proves instructive, whose protagonists are predominantly women, despite the culture's inherent androcentrism.

Class issues are also readily apparent. Quite simply, it's the story of elites, a history of "great men". The protagonists travel from castle to castle, interacting with wealthy kings and generals - never the common peasant. This is explored somewhat critically with the interactions between Pippin the Hobbit and Denethor, the self-indulgent steward of Gondor. His ultimate sin, however, is not greed or gluttony, but overestimating his own position in society. As a steward, he simply had no right to be acting so haughtily, and the ultimate solution was not to move away from monarchy altogether but simply to replace Denethor with a better elite. These power structures are nowhere more apparent than Frodo and Sam's "friendship". While Frodo is billed as the story's true hero, he spends most of RotK whining about how hard it is to bear the ring, being tricked by an obvious enemy (Gollum), and at the decisive moment decides not to save all of middle earth but to keep the ring for himself! The only reason the ring was even destroyed was due to Gollum and Frodo's mutual obsession. Some savior. Sam, on the other hand, the honest, dim-witted, faithful servant, is obviously the true hero. He tries repeatedly to warn Frodo about Gollum's schemes but is repaid by abandonment. He saves Frodo from the giant spider, and keeps the ring safe. When Frodo gives up while ascending the final mountain, Sam literally carries Frodo up the hill so he can toss in the ring. The entire time I wondered: why not ditch Frodo and just take the ring yourself? Obviously he is fairly immune to its effects, as he kept it during Frodo's paralyzation seeming just peachy. When Frodo is complaining about how he can't carry the ring the last few hundred yards in order to save the entire planet, wouldn't it have been easier for Sam just to run up and throw it in? He didn't even like the thing! The real reason Sam doesn't take charge is that he represents the "good slave", the servant that knows his proper place in society is in the service of his master. Sam plays the Tenzing Norgay to Frodo's Sir Edmund Hillary, and in the end Frodo gets all the credit.

Ultimately, my problem with the Lord of the Rings trilogy of films is that it is simply too anachronistic. It displays all the racism, sexism, elitism, and the teleological view of history that Western Man has so kindly imposed upon the rest of the world. As an English novel, it might be an interesting look at Western European mythology. It can not play the same role, however, in modern American society. To claim that a film that features a small group of elite white men defeating great armies of dark-skinned monsters and savage, poor, non-european humans can somehow strike universal chords in the hearts of all good Americans is simply absurd. We have been culturally beaten senseless with these same Western values for centuries, and there's no reason why we as a society should continue to uphold these antiquated tools of oppression as some sort of cinematic masterpiece. We need to hear new voices, and beating the same dead horse of white man=good, colored/female/poor=bad, is irresponsible and in bad taste.

Fox News 29.Dec.2003 10:08

Lloyd Hart dadapop@dadapop.com

Fox news has picked up on our discussion but interestingly enough the link is not to this page but rather to the Paris IMC

 http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,106818,00.html


Bison, please write when more fully awake 29.Dec.2003 11:12

GRINGO STARS

I'm sorry I am not sufficiently entertaining for you. Is that why this discussion? For your pleasure? No wonder we're talking about a blockbuster movie, then.

It's not my duty to titillate you with exciting new ideas. Everything I have read in this thread is entirely unoriginal, and there are more unoriginal articles on the subject.

In pointing out that Duncan benefits from the crimes of his ancestors, I was responding to his statement that he is not guilty of the crimes of his ancestors. True enough. Yet he is now responsible for the undue power that white males have in society, and that power is due to the crimes of his ancestors.

As for your claim that "everyone benefits from the crimes of their ancestors" - I see absolutely no evidence of this. It is WHITE people who are at the top of the racism chain, and hence benefitting from the crimes of their forefathers past. Please explain to me how an African-American benefits from his ancestors crimes.

I am glad that the US empire is so unstable economically - no empire since the Ottoman Empire (in its last days) strove to impose its military might with such a shaky economy. that, and the fact that the world now sees the USA as the primary threat to peace worldwide.

Your last paragraph where you proudly claim ignornace of what racists think, and even call them enomolous, is typical of white people today. Racism is a real problem, obviously. But for some (white people) it is not so pressing because, after all, white people benefit from the institution of racism. Understanding HOW people become *intentionally* racist is part of the solution, unless you think ignorance helps anything. Neo-nazis (or "white nationalists" as they call themselves) are organized and motivated to uphold the system of racism and to even buttress and improve teh system that enforces racism. This is not good. Don't you think we should be paying attention to their rational and argument so as to better combat them? We must understand what makes an intentional racist so that few of them are produced. And it is telling that the neo-nazi community has so enthusiastically embraced the LotR films as stories that reinforce everything they say about race. The intentional racists LOVE these films - and for very specific reasons - for the reason that the film agrees with them concerning the issue of race. Did you read the review I linked to way up above? The review says that "every white nationalist should see these films" and goes on to discuss race in most of the review. This is telling. But I guess you don't care about what they think? Neo-nazis are NOT anomolous - nothing is. They are products of a racist society and must be dealt with as a real problem. Or you think these idiots are not a problem, Bison?

Thank you, Danny 29.Dec.2003 12:23

Bison Boy

Thank you, Danny, for a thoughtful and interesting post. I disagree still, but you have made a much better case than others so far.

I partially agree with you that the films must be taken as a separate work from the books. They are from different times, presented in different media. However, the story for the films is anchored in the books so strongly that Jackson's films are very much a product of Tolkien's times, yet delayed 50 years in release to theaters. I do not think that it is fair to judge the films soley by today's standards.

Even if Jackson had wanted to update the story with more diverse casting (which is unknown to me, and I frankly doubt that he did) I don't think that he would have believed himself free to do so. Both the production and the commercial success of the films depended on the goodwill of the Tolkien fan base. While it may have been possible to maintain this goodwill with more diverse casting, it would have certainly been a more risky course. With $300 million and his career at stake, I can't fault him for playing it safe. (Perhaps others can; this strikes me as a matter where reasonable people can disagree.) Now that Tolkien's story has been faithfully rendered once, later interpreters of Tolkien on film will be more free to act... just as there are many interpreters of Shakespeare today doing all sorts of odd things. It remains to be seen if the story is so universal that anyone will bother to do so, of course, and I suppose that they will not.

I fully agree with your charge of elitism. The story is indeed elitist and classist, and implicitly supports the Divine Right of kings. This is true in the books, and true in the movies. Your comparison of Sam to Tenzig Norgay is apt; it seems as if Sam and Tenzig could both have managed the great task quite well on their own. However, I do think many underestimate Sam.

Sam is not immune to the ring's effects; no one is incorruptible. But he does prove to be more resistant to its corruption than many. Only two beings, in the book, ever were strongwilled enough voluntarily to give up the ring: Bilbo and Sam. (In the movie Boromir is added to this list, yet in the end the ring broke his will.) Sam also in the end is accorded great honor among all the peoples, and eventually passes over the sea into the West; one of only four mortals to do so. He is elevated from his humble state of gardener and ennobled... but I fancy that he still was a gardener after. :)

Eowyn may be a token female... but what a token female! I will say that reading Tolkien's portrayal of Eowyn as a boy has very strongly influenced my opinion of what I want as a partner now that I am a man. I learned from Eowyn that there is little difference in the capabilities of men and women, even if there is great difference in the roles we are expected to play. (I would feel foolish for revealing this, but my geeky childhood must be painfully obvious by now. :) It would have been better had I learned this from a woman in the real world, of course, but nonesuch were available to me. It was in fact the character of Eowyn that turned me from a proto-fratboy to a proto-feminist in my youthful view of women. I am certain that I am not the only man, nor the only woman, for whom this is true. Tolkien may or may not have desired this result, yet he produced legions of sexual egalitarians among his fans nonetheless, all from this one character. How many authors have done as well?

Danny: "As an English novel, it might be an interesting look at Western European mythology. It can not play the same role, however, in modern American society."

I don't think anyone is asking it to do such work, unless they are people here objecting that it has done so poorly.

It is in fact an English novel; English as in British. It is a mythic work centered in Britain and limited to Europe. The novel is in no sense an American work; Tolkien reportedly was quite puzzled at its success here, and shuddered at some of his fan mail from members of the 60's US counterculture. The film is only American in the sense that it was made with Hollywood money and a few US actors. Some of the central themes of the story run directly counter to the course of US society. If it were a truly American mythos, it surely would portray the victory of Sauron's minions.

The story has themes that are applicable to the universal stories of Man, which we can see if we care to look. Again, if one watches the film and sees only black and white instead of shadow and illumination, instead of despair and hope, then Jackson has failed to deliver the story Tolkien meant to tell.

The racist card again...how absurd. 29.Dec.2003 13:14

Dave editor@portlandpolice.net

How absurd. The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy movie based on a fantasy series by an incredible author, J.R.R. Tolkien. Racisim has NOTHING to do with this series at all. IT's just good clean fun...something people can read or watch as they see fit for entertainment. There are many people out there, myself included, who just like to go see a good movie that has nothing to do with real life...it's make believe...fantasy....entertainment.

I really get tired of people who always have to find a place where they think they can play a race card, even where there is NO place for such a card that is becoming as antiquated as the phrase.

you idiots make me fucking sick 29.Dec.2003 13:32

someone without an inferiority complex

as an aussie, i was very offended to see that one of the prominent orc characters of ROTK had an australian accent....

bahahaha......like fuck i was! who cares?

is attacking cultural character not the same, if not worse, than using a more general technique of casting based on skin-tone, to imply the bad nature of the culture to which those of that skin colour belong? understand that australians are aware that they come from the scum of british society, and therefore can understand things like this, and also laugh in the irony of an englishman or american using the convict thing as a means to insult an australian (do i need to mention car theft in britain and guns in the US)

this story was written as a story/myth for the english, so OF COURSE MOST OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE GOING TO BE WHITE. THERE WERNT ANY BLACK HEROES OF ENGLISH LITERATURE, NON EVEN THAT STOOD TO SELFLESSLY PROTECT THE PEOPLE AND FREEDOMS OF ENGLISH CULTURE. NOONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT A BLACK ENGLISH HERO THAT FOUGHT A BATTLE THRU THA MIC TA BRING BAK THA KULCHA FOO'. the literary function of the enemy races serves as a form of orientialism, a device that through a system of differentiation, esp. on screen, serves to manifest the antithesis of the 'goodness' of the good races. IT REALLY IS THAT GENERAL. it doesnt go any deeper than that. it is just a narrative device. get over it. the oppositional culture is not defined - it exists so that the culture, morals, and conventions ofthe culture that is being fought for can be foregrounded.

go and listen to some rappers bag eachother out over shit, ironically SOULLESS, WHITE RUN LABEL, 2 dollar beats. THATS UNITY. what a bunch of whiny, prissy BITCHES for a bunch of blokes who make themselves out to have so much machismo. PATHETIC. "get rich or die trying becuase i gotta force my hand for cash cos my mums a crackwhore slut who didnt instill a successful reward system at vital stages of youth and let me skip school while she took it up the ass for more crack and now im a dumb cunt with a hole in my face who needs money for a bacardi alcohlism and something to attract beeatches"

stop looking for keys in european literature to unlock the doors to your own ancestral limbo and ill definition of place. its reverse racism in a big way. next time a black dude gets all huffy cos i called him 'mate' im gonna palm his fucking nose into his brain.

fuck you all.

Can I take a guess what you do for a living? 29.Dec.2003 14:27

smokey

You teach sociology at a university. You are SOMEHOW associated with academia, have written term papers with similar observations about social justice and racism for college. Am I right?

Not entertaining? 29.Dec.2003 15:04

Bison Boy

No, Gringo, it's not that you're not entertaining. It's just that you say the same thing over and over and over...

24.Dec.2003 18:18 : GRINGO STARS :
"A simple Google search found that racists and white power types ("nationalists" as they say) absolutely loved the racial overtones of Lord of the Rings; "

26.Dec.2003 19:21: GRINGO STARS :
"That is why the modern-day "white nationalists" (neo-nazis) worship the LOTR films."

27.Dec.2003 23:40 : GRINGO STARS :
"The fact that neo-nazis have made the LOTR films their absolute favorites is of importance."

28.Dec.2003 21:46 : GRINGO STARS :
"[...] but i am aware of the real effect it will have culturally on the world, namely; "White people RULE!" Just ask the neo-nazis who review the film."

29.Dec.2003 11:12 : GRINGO STARS :
"The review says that "every white nationalist should see these films" and goes on to discuss race in most of the review. This is telling."

I heard you the first time, honest.

I don't give a damn what the neo-nazis make of this film, because I think the entire racist interpretation of the movie is wrong. In my mind, you and they have made exactly the same mistake, you just happen to be on opposite sides of the racism issue. (Mind you, I think they're wrong about that, too.) You assert the importance of the neo-nazis' approval of the film as support of your racist interpretation of the film. I think it's just evidence of more people who are wrongly interpreting the story.

I am willing to admit that the film could be viewed as racist, but I maintain that such is more a matter of the viewer's interpretation than the filmmaker's intent. And, in any case, Tolkien's story itself is not racist in the way we think of the term these days.

You are right to call me on the alleged benefits that African-Americans have over their West African kin. They are perhaps not benefitting from the crimes of their own ancestors, so much as they are benefitting materially from the crimes of *my* ancestors. It's a dubious benefit to be sure, and it came at a bitter cost I hope no one ever is forced to pay again. I don't know that it would have been a good bargain even if willingly undertaken, which it most assuredly was not. But in any case it's not my place to say, because it is (thank God!) outside my experience.

(Nonetheless, it does appear that most peoples around today have competitively eliminated some other society in the past. It appears that the Bantu-speaking peoples of West Africa were in the process of wiping out the other peoples of sub-saharan Africa before the Europeans came along, for instance. The story is similar among many people in many places; the Europeans are simply the worst expression of a ten-thousand-year trend. Conquest, domination, and assimilation appear to be inevitable processes of history, and I am therefore confident that the time will come when those now in power will be laid low. As a man of European descent, it seems I have more cause to regret this than you do.... but I don't regret it so very much. Like death, it is inevitable.)

The past affects us all, for good or ill. All we can do is deal responsibly with the present, and work for a better future. My level of privelige and power in this society seems laughably small to me, yet I will do what I can to secure a more just future. Perhaps one day it will be enough to earn redemption for my ancestors... but I doubt it.

GS: "This is not good. Don't you think we should be paying attention to their rational and argument so as to better combat them?"

Feel free; I'm glad someone's doing it. But that is not my calling. I can dissect their rhetoric from a safe distance at need.

don't miss the point 29.Dec.2003 15:32

refreshments are available

Gringo Starrs writes, in what I'm starting to consider something of a possble waste of the usual talent and insight I admire:

"The hobbits in the movie/books were anything BUT adventurous. They had to be cajoled, coerced and guilt-tripped into doing anything at all, and when they did they whined and moaned nonstop, always trying to give up and go home."

Of course I'm thinking more of Bilbo, the only Hobbit not to be prodded down the road with a stick. But they didn't go home. They didn't turn tail and flee. The Proudfeets might have.

"Elves are portrayed by Tolkein and Jackson as very warlike. They field armies and are known as the best warriors there are. I don't understand how "Elves who show up for battle" does anything but uphold the racial stereotype Tolkein established."

Speaking of turning tail and fleeing, I remember the Elves as happy to quietly p*ss off into the West and leave all of Middle Earth to Sauron without a fight. Two Towers has a discussion between Galadriel and Elrond that must preceed a bit of soul searching whether or not they are going to just go quietly and "leave Middle Earth to its fate". I have a hard time making warlike Elves out of that. It has been a while since I read the print form, is the new alliance between Men and Elves a Jackson innovation?

"Have you even read Tolkein? Dwarves definitely throw parties. "

Well there are Elrond's commentaries on the Dwarves... or maybe the Elves just stereotypically don't like Dwarves and vice versa, and that's one more stereotype that is overtuned by the lead characters.

I don't quite want to say I think it's a rather innocent story at serious risk of being overanalyzed, but there's the simple question of whether I should go see it 2 or 3 times more as I'd like, and it would be nice if "what am I buying into here?" didn't have to involve an exhaustive, encyclopedic recount of European history...

But this probably brings us to one point, which is how to evaluate what Tolkien was trying to say if no one can even agree on what that was. There's nothing so clear, cut and dried or so tangible to wrestle with as a single unfortunate remark at Strom Thurmond's birthday party. Another point I'd be trying to make, is that as little change I can expect for effort in the present excuse for a political climate, I expect even less to get Tolkien to rewrite the story to anyone else's druthers, or Jackson to re-shoot it on account of my discontent. Even if I could agree that there is ill afoot in LOTR, if I were picking and choosing my battles, battling it would not be one of them. It is possible to read too much into it, and I'd also hate for that to make for a distraction from anything that doesn't need anything read into it to see exactly what it is. I also tried to make the point that if it's important to be on guard against racism, it may also be important not to cry "wolf".

In the final reel, if it has potential to be taken for fuel for racism if taken as racist propoganda- "hooray for us well-built blond Nordic types and boo hiss for anyone else"- then why take it that way? If no offense were intended, might none be taken? In the unlikely event that it should adversely affect the racial perceptions of my kids when they see it, maybe then there's cause for intervention / clarification. Chances are good that those are busy being shaped (or mis-shaped) a lot more by their friends and MTV. In the meantime, if we happen to have a discussion about the content and the meaning, chances are we will be focussing on the, pardon, bright side and any positive message and lessons, and it seems to me there are enough of those. I just happened to think it had a great deal to offer in that respect that probably shouldn't be overlooked.

So... I liked it a lot, no matter how many times I've watched it I'm not any more fond of Rev. Butler, could have sworn it was harmless fun, wish anyone else had half as much fun going as I did. See ya at th' movies...

A cavalcade of the stupid... 29.Dec.2003 17:23

I can't believe they're still breathing

Highlights of this thread have included:

-> The claim that Tolkien based the LotR on Wagner's Ring Cycle, and the parallel implication that Wagner wrote the Ring of the Niebelung. The Nibelungenleid, on which the Ring Cycle is based and on which Tolkien drew is a very old story -- it predates both men by a millenia or so.

-> Gringo Starrs' amazing (and doomed) rhetorical gymnastics attempting to define racism as something that only white people do. Sorry, racism is an equal-opportunity kind of evil -- anyone can do it! The claim that ethnocentrism is somehow different from, and less harmful, than racism has no realistic basis.

-> The suggestion that the Uruk-Hai are somehow similar to Native Americans... what an absurd and offensive comparison.

-> The suggestions by several people that the fact that some white power nitwits like LotR makes it racist. That's just senseless mudslinging designed to appeal to the base emotions.

-> The total failure among those looking for racism in LotR to comprehend the degree to which the story is about racial and cultural cooperation. Legolas and Gimli start out hating each other because of their racial differences... but by Helm's Deep, they are good friends. LotR carried two important messages. One, that all good people must unite in the face of evil if they are to overcome it. Two, that one must always hue close to good in all things in order to win through. Frodo succeeds in his quest only because he remains true to his good and merciful nature, even when dealing with Gollum.

-> The outright claim by at least two posters that the fact that LotR is based on Anglo-Saxon and Celtic legends somehow, in and of itself, has racial implications. That I find extremely personally offensive, seeing as how that's the legends of my ancestors and I am rather fond of them. Furthermore, I take it as a direct and intentional slur against my ethnic background.

-> The repeated suggestion that the association of light with good and darkness with evil is about black people and white people. This is patently absurd -- it's about the fact that we are a diurnal species, and back when we were roaming around on the savannah in Africa, most of our major predators hunted by night. We were safe in daylight, but the coming of night brought hidden danger and sudden death. We're not so far removed from those days, and we carry it with us in our psychology. It has only to do with illumination, not color, and it holds with remarkable steadiness across human cultures.

-> The suggestion that the racial makeup of a film based on a book based on north European legends should somehow be balanced by someone's notion of what the racial makeup of, well, some part of Northern Europe at some random point within the last several thousand years is just plain silly. When and where are you going to put your reference point? This is a film that properly has a mostly European cast, because that's the set of myths it's based on.

And one more thing... isn't it fascinating that in LotR the one person qualified to be a King is so qualified because he is of mixed race?

There's plenty of stupidity I missed... and more sure to come. I would just like to say one more thing to everyone straining to read racist thoughts and motives into the books or the movies... in the immortal words of William Shatner, GET A LIFE!

I beg to differ, or disagree 29.Dec.2003 20:18

Anonymous stern_elfving@hotmail.com

The LotR, while being a fantasy epic steeped in Norse legend, is not racist. It is not an allegory - intentional or otherwise - nor does it portray racist themes. As for "impressionable youth", who is to say that they will not be "impressed" by the other themes in the Lord of the Rings, that friendship can be forged between those who are of entirely different background (Legolas and Gimli), that good will triumph (the destruction of the Ring), that even the most insignifcant person can make a difference (Frodo), and finally, that friendship can last through even the most perilous of struggles (Frodo and Sam). While it may seem that the "dark skinned" are evil, in truth they are not. As any reader of the novel can tell you, the Haradrim (those would be your dark skinned men) are not entirely evil. Misled, yes, evil, no. As for the Uruk-Hai being used to represent Native Americans, no. They are a cross between goblins and men. Goblins are the remenants of Elves that were taken in by the original dark lord and forced to work for him in thralldom, i.e. they are twisted, mutilated elves. Men are, quite simply put, men - most likely those men of Dunland, who were light skinned. Therefore, there is simply no chance that the Uruks could/would be a representation of the Native Americans.
On a final note, "I'm so glad that the Dwarfs, Elves and Hobits finally got their due" is simply silly. Dwarves is the correct plural of the word Dwarf in Tolkien's writings. Hobit is supposed is spelled Hobbit. If you aren't sure of the spellings, at least be sure to find someone that is.

Crap, pure crap 29.Dec.2003 20:28

Methinator

I find this entire article to be RIDICULOUS!!!!!!! Maybe if you had checked your facts a little more, you would be able to look beyond the surface of things and see that Rohan was based on the Anglo-Saxan culture and all of the rest of the races were based on cultures from ancient Europe. Yes, in the books, J.R.R. Tolkien does say that the Haradrim had dark skin, but he also did not say that the Elves, Men, Hobbits.... had white. That is just Peter Jackson's interpretation.

Why is SKIN COLOR so important to you people? AND Other Rants... 29.Dec.2003 22:02

Idealist(ic) Fool

Sorry. I left the (ic) off the last time...

I have no problem identifying people by skin color. It is a very clear thing. You become a racist when you prescribe values/beliefs/causes to that skin color. Racism is when you embrace the idea that because of skin color, that person has other things in common with simiarily colored people. By pointing out racism in this case (the books and the movie), you lend credibility to the argument that skin color is a factor and one that must have a lot of attention paid to it. Perhaps what it needs is less attention. Perhaps what is needs is to be become something merely descriptive not subscriptive(I know theirs a better word...oh well).

Another thing. I could have sworn that there were different shades of black and white(the skin color, not the "color" colors...haha).

To be frank, I'm going to go ad hominem(sp) for a second...I think you people are ridiculous. This kind of discussion should never be carried out electronically. You all just end up walking in circles. Please stop. Talk to your neighbors or something. Have a town hall. I don't know. It just isn't healthly to devote this much energy into writing where none of the author will ever meet, must less know/understand the other posters.

Whatever. I'm going to go cry or something. Plus I know that when I check up on this thread there are going to be more posts and more responds...and yes, there is no need to point out that I have taken part in a process I deemed "stupid." Thank you captian obvious...

"Perhaps they communicate so much to fill the void of their understanding."

"I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"-Mugatu

Have you read the book, by any chance? 29.Dec.2003 22:38

Saphie

I won't even go into an argument about the Anglo-Saxon culture that Tolkien drew from--a culture that existed during a time in history when Europe was still very much isolated from the rest of the world.

I will however, make an argument for the source material. In the trilogy, the Haradrim and Men of Rhun were portrayed in a sympathetic light, even though they were enemies of the Men of the West. There's a part from the Two Towers, for instance, where the Haradrim soldier falls at Sam's feet:

"It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace..."

Several times throughout the books, it is emphasized that Sauron lied to the Easterlings and Southrons and told them that the Men of the West were horrible barbarians that would burn them alive if they captured them.

This happens in war. Bad people (or demi-gods, in this case) often tell certain groups of people that others out to get them, and sometimes lie about nonexistent threats to egg them on. Because Sauron got to the Men of Harad and Umbar before they could really learn the true nature of the Men of the West, a horrible cycle started between the three races. He lied to the Southrons and Easterlings, making them fear and hate the Men of the West, they attacked them in turn, and then the Men of the West feared the Southrons and Easterlings. Without Sauron's interference, it is enirely possible that the three races might have mingled harmoniously over time. Perhaps at the end of the War of the Ring, with Sauron's defeat and the mercy shown to the captured Southrons and Easterlings, this cycle would finally end, and the three races would start mingling peacefully. In any case, this is a realistic painting of different cultures introduced to each-other at the worst of times.

In truth, the only way racist undertones can be found in the source material is if someone is really looking for them, and let's face it, if someone is really looking for something, they'll find it, even if it's not really there.

I agree that the filmmakers did not put enough of an emphasis on Sauron deceiving the Southrons and Easterlings. There was the part with Sam and the fallen Southron (though Faramir took his place in the musing) in the Extended DVD Version of the Two Towers, and it might have been a good idea to include it (among other things that were left out) in the theatrical version.

But well...it's a MOVIE. If people are simpleminded enough to become racist by watching a movie (and not being able to think critically enough to realize that just because the people of different races in the movie seem evil it isn't applicable in real life) then there really is no hope for them anyway. They'll wind up racist no matter what, because they'll look for excuses to be racist everywhere. People aren't racist because of movies and television; they're racist because they aren't taught to base their opinions and ideas on common sense rather than the media. They're also racist just because they are nasty, simpleminded human beings that feel the need to put others down to make themselves feel superior. Fantasy movies have nothing to do with that; human nature and upringing do. The media is only able to influence someone if they aren't taught to think for their self, and if they aren't taught to think for their self, they're a lost cause anyway.

You could take my 11 year-old sister, for instance, hit her with a barrage of racist media, and it wouldn't even dint her common sense in dealing with race. It wouldn't change that her three best friends are black when she's white. She's been taught to base her opinions of other human beings on whether or not they are decent human beings rather than their race or religion and so she does, and she always will.

Saphie

P.S. I'm just warning anyone who dares to call me a racist for disagreeing with this article that such immature accusations will only make me think whoever does so is an idiot, and will make laugh. (And it will make my black, Jewish, and mixed-race best friends laugh as well, I'm sure). I apologize to all who read this if none of you are even thinking of doing that after reading this rebuttal, but such people do exist, and I'm just warning them ahead of time.

Prime8 30.Dec.2003 00:29

Very dissapointing bjludy@wisc.edu

It is sad that there are people that are so concerned with equality they dig so deep to find ineqaulity.

People like the author of this article are what is holding our society back from ridding ourselves of racism. You can be an Al Sharpton and scream bloody murder everything something happens in this country that could possibly be construed as being racist. You can interpret forms of entertainment to conform to your ideas. I'm willing to bet that you could find (after completely overthinking the movie and making it into a political and sociological rampage) some RACIST and DISCRIMINITORY subliminal messages in almost every movie. But what's the point? How is this article making our society any less blind to the color of one's skin? How is this changing the readers p.o.v. to one more accepting?

Stop wasting your time playing PC police. You are not enlightening anyone. Frankly, this article is disgusting and blatantly stupid. It's hard not to respond totally attacking the author for being so pathetic.

Spend your time doing something useful. Don't waste your time thinking about how a movie could viewed as discriminatory. Do something to change someones perception of white people. Crying for your "people of color" isn't helping. I'm willing to bet that most of "them" would find this article ludicrous as I.

Pat on the back for having an Asian wife. I'm glad you took the time to point that out. That definently makes you very unracist.

Oh, btw...When you're trying to make an arguement, don't throw completely stupid ideas about politics right in the begining--it makes you look real dumb real quick. I'm not even a Bush fan, but I won't bother making a point against your comments because they were blatently idiodic.

This is a disgusting article. I'm glad there were some people that made sensible responses below it, for if there were not, this would have been a much more unpleasant waste of time.

I'm not going to cry Liberal, I'm going to cry idiot. You can capitalize the "i" if it makes you feel better.

PZ

Movies form our culture 30.Dec.2003 00:58

GRINGO STARS

More than anything else, films inform our culture. And second only to war, mass media is how the US controls the rest of the world. When a movie such as LotR comes out with attractive Nordic-looking humans triumphant over evil darkies, it has an impact. Images especially are what support peoples' subconscious ideas about almost everything. Some simpleton in an earlier post said that those who watched these films consciously (instead of in a braindead stupor) have irrationally come to the conclusion that these films would "make people racist" or some such nonsense. No one has ever said that.

We live in a very racist society. And the powerful and beautiful images of these films reinforce the supremacy of white men over all others. If this movie is mere, wild fantasy then why does it strike such a chord with our (racist) culture? Good fantasies are the ones which speak to our realest thoughts, fears and hopes. Fantasies ARE connected with reality.

Many people seem ignorant with the sociological term "racism" and also "ethnocentrism" and I can only recommend books. But it is thevery definition of racism to assign behavioral characteristic to certain races, making certain races "higher" than others, and that is precisely what LotR does. Jackson tellingly spent not even one second on the fact that the Southern and Eastern humans were tricked into war with the other humans. Jackson probably thought that might have made things a little too complex, the viewers a little too confused - it would have actually required thinking on the viewers' part (fatal for a Christmas blockbuster).

Everyone in this culture is racist to one degree or another. Including me, as much as I work against it. The most important step is admitting this so you can combat it, and most people make the decision not to even make this first step. Being conscious of things is important, and that includes watching movies. I loved these movies because I loved the books long ago as a middle-schooler, but I was bothered by a few aspects of the films. And I had to wonder why I liked the movie so much and why parts of it were troublesome to me.

People hearken back to an (entirely mythical) time when authority could actually be trusted, when there was clear social structure and everyone "had their place" - men love the idea of dominion over their household and even of righteous battle against a truly evil, sub-human enemy. I personally love the idea of the agrarians winning against the industrialists. It is obviously a fantasy. Why is it wrong to think about that?

Some genius above doesn't even want skin color ever pointed out, claiming that being conscious of race is tantamount to encouragingg racism. Any bets that person is white? Of course it "doesn't matter" if you never suffer any ill effects from racism. Furthermore, any discussion at all of racism is threatening to the white race-on-top so we should just all avoid it? That is called "white privilege" rearing its head.

I'm sorry but if ANY 11-year-old was barraged with racist media (like most every 11-year-old regularly is) it would affect her. Not a lot. But it would. Media affects people, whether you want to admit it or not. It has affected everyone, me included, so don't feel like you are untainted, because any psychologist can bring up countless studies of not WHETHER media affects people, but HOW and IN WHAT WAY media affects people. Common sense is relative, and can be affected as well. Hey, that's a very apt quote;

"I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"
- -Mugatu

You sir, are a racist. 30.Dec.2003 01:37

MJBuddy

Lloyd said, "Every historical quote you made is from history writen by white men. White history cannot be trusted."
Wow, so I am here to believe that I can not trust the history books in my school? If you can't trust your history then you lose the grounds of all future planning and ideals. Communism does not rise up in everyday life because communism, in history, has never been considered the most prosperous government. Or is this just the "white man" trying to put down communism by lying to me? If you don't learn from mistakes then you are doomed to repeat them. If we completely disavow the "white man's" history, we shall have no history or culture to learn from. Welcome to the Middle Ages, the repetition of the cast system in modern United States, and the imprisonment and enslaving of those too weak and poor to fight back. No thank you; I, like many around the world, will take these "white man lies" over ignorance and prejudice, especially the ignorance and prejudice you have shown.
"There is a global evironmental crisis that will kill all life on this planet this century. The source of the crisis comes from Christianity's " Man has Dominion over". This simple christian ethic explains why white men have cut down all the world's forests for their corrupt accounts on paper. Why white men's technology pollutes the air and water murdering millions every year. Why they are building a space program as a psychotic fantasy to escape the mess they have made here. "
Really? White men are the devil as well, I assume. Since the white man destroys all that is good and, of course, destroys the world in their wake. Please cut this bullshit right now.
http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/IMAGES/SMALL/GPN-2003-00070.jpg
WOW! Is that a honest to god Black man in that photo? Well of course he wouldn't support the "white devil" cause of destroying the planet and escaping to another one. Oh, and I believe the white people must leave all other races behind when they leave the planet. We wouldn't want any other races coming and making our planet livable as we destroy it.
"We are living off of the profits created by the genocide of thirty million Native Americans, slavery and the billions impoverished by our isatiable white economy. I am not proud of this. It would be ok if the whites had learned their lesson but they have not and are more dangerous if not resisted"
We haven't learned our lesson? Are we slaughtering Native Americans in any country in order to take their land? Are we enslaving any races or people? Are we supporting other countries and our own with funds based on the morality the country? No, No, and Yes (I refer to Bush's abortion acts: http://www.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/stories/01/22/roe.wade/index.html ... this is the only way I could even see someone considering anything slaughtering in the US, it also takes money that's being thrown away and using it to help our own economy)
Stop blaming the "white man" for all the problems of the world when incredibly large problems (AIDs spreading) and wars (War on Terrorism, constant uprisings in Africa, etc) were started by people who were NOT white. Also, enlighten yourself as to how blacks somehow got to Europe. I've never seen a french, british, or irish descention line with a main race of negro, and the amount of them like that are so scarce that you probably haven't either. At the beggining of civilization (the timeframe of Tolken's works), there were no blacks in Europe. In later history they easily moved into Europe, especially through such outlets as Morocco.

wake up, people. 30.Dec.2003 01:40

danny

I think people are failing to make several important distinctions:

-films vs. books: obviously one would gain a much better understanding of the worlds and the characters presented in the films, by reading the novels they are based upon. however, the films stand on their own as works of art. millions of young viewers like myself are experiencing "Lord of the Rings" for the first time in the theater. referring back to the novels is useful to defend J.R.R. Tolkien's work, but not Peter Jackson's film trilogy. If it didn't appear on the screen, as far as I'm concerned (likewise for most of the audiences) it does not exist.

-written IN europe vs. written ABOUT europe: I'll admit my lack of complex fanboy knowledge about the LotR universe. As one who only saw the films, my understanding of "Middle Earth" (as Peter Jackson portrayed it) is that it does not represent any actual geographical location, and is not some kind of direct allegory. Because the novels were written BY an englishman does not mean that the film interpretations should therefore cast exclusively anglos, just as a Siddhartha film shouldn't star Germans just because Hermann Hesse wrote it. Perhaps Tolkien was consolidating Norse legends, I honestly don't know. But as far as the films are concerned, I don't care. On screen, Middle Earth is a fantastic land, with no connections to our reality, our histories of conquests and racial divides (as rightly noted, perpetuated at different points by different cultures). Despite this fact, the characters portrayed in the films display very specific racial divisions, which WOW! just happen to be the same racial divisions present in our own society! If we can't help but project these prejudices onto our fictions, how can we possibly hope to change our reality?

I will reiterate my ultimate point, and leave this unproductive discussion for good. Peter Jackson has done nothing new. There are no claims of racism, classism, etc. than can be made about this film that can't also be made about the volumes of literature pumped out by Western society. This is precisely the problem. We've heard it all before, and it's what has brought us to the sad state of our world today. We simply don't need another movie telling us that white men are the heroes, the history makers, the adventurous cowboys and roguish generals we should all aspire to be. The movie ends with the "Men of the West" becoming monarchical rulers of the entire world. Would anyone care to argue that George W. Bush doesn't absolutely love this film?

Those who have disagreed here have been largely quite vitriolic and condescending in their utter rejection of any possibility of racist undertones. I doubt that anyone here actually believes that Peter Jackson is some kind of white supremacist, or views himself as a racist. (The two, by the way, are very different things, and it's not helpful to conflate them.) I'm not even accusing him of personally being racist. However, I am holding him to account for failing to recognize the implicit racism that pervades much of Western literature and media, which he has, knowingly or not, only served to reinforce. Return of the King has so far grossed US $220 million dollars in the two weeks since it's opening; last weekend it raked in almost double the second-place contender. Millions of people worldwide are watching this film, gladly soaking up its messages, and I sincerely doubt that very few have stopped to analyze it the way that we all have here. It's easy to write it off as "just a movie": why don't we all just get our liberal panties out of their P.C. wad and just enjoy the film? Jackson has the world under his spell, and for those three and a half hours he could have done anything he wanted - I mean, really, the film is not even THAT good, yet people are still spending hours in line to see it. The fact that he chose to perpetuate dangerous stereotypes and to exclude most of the real world from being able to participate in his fantasy world saddens me. But why should I care what Peter Jackson's movies say? Because I am being told by our culture that they are supposed to be MY heroes, my role models, my hopes and fears and ideals, my literary heritage. Yet there is no place for ME in that world.

ps- Bison Boy, thanks for your thoughtful response. I'm sorry to see that the majority of posters here on indymedia seem to type faster than they can think.

ps... 30.Dec.2003 01:45

danny

Gringo Stars, though I haven't agreed with everything you wrote before I must applaud your last post. maybe we can get a beer sometime and watch the rest of the world turn to shit.

and to add... 30.Dec.2003 01:55

MJBuddy

I, of course, forgot to mention. Christianity is not a "white man's" religion. It's middle-eastern. So the "white man" christianity belief you stated here...

"There is a global evironmental crisis that will kill all life on this planet this century. The source of the crisis comes from Christianity's " Man has Dominion over". This simple christian ethic explains why white men have cut down all the world's forests for their corrupt accounts on paper. Why white men's technology pollutes the air and water murdering millions every year. Why they are building a space program as a psychotic fantasy to escape the mess they have made here. "

...is just ignorance on display. Do you even have proof of the planet life ending this century? I'd really be interesting in reading such a scientific analysis of the Earth that would state such. Could it be simply that we wish to expand our race to other planets and lessen how dense our population has become. Overpopulation IS an issue, cutting down trees which get replanted is NOT.

A small thougt on the debate. 30.Dec.2003 08:42

Rasmus sumsarf@hotmail.com

Hello!
Here comes the oppinion of a swedish student on an article wich I in almost every aspect find exelent. I beg for understanding if my english is not up to good enough standards (Because it might not be.. )
and I'm glad to recieve comments or corrections on that what i have written. This writing of mine is a result of the endless critisism of he Lord Of The Rings and the meaning that they are rasist. Please have in mind that I strongly agree with the most of the article and that my critisism is pointed only to the popular (in my point of wiev) misconseptions of the story.

In the books Tolkien is very clear on saying that the "evil" men is misled and cheated by Sauron. Never does he claim that they are in themselves evil. There is plenty of whiteskinned men that also falls for the evil that is chanelled throug the ring, that it happened to be the Arab and African world that suffered most, is plainly an effect of Tolkiens own origin. It is natural that one writes about (and speaks well of) the things that lies closest to him or her.
If you wiev the extended version of The Two Towers you also find a very nice passage where Faramir honours a dead Haradrim (Arabic man). Clearly this shot is in the movie with the intention to answer to the critisism, that the director must have been shure would come up.
I choose not to analyse a fictive story all to much, the reason i find is that it is to hard for me to know what part of the story is pure fiction and which parts are bits from the real life. The Lord of the rings is foremost a fictive story, a story where good is good and evil is evil. The real world is not that uncomplicated and that we all know, we know that evil has nothing to do with the color of ones skin, and we know that one does not grow evil by having a ring. Though, as a whiteskinned person I may not be the best to understand how a person of color feels when wieving the movies/reading the books.
Even thoug the movies upsets many ( wich I find sad, and I do feel that the filmmakers could have done more to stress the non-rasism of the story)
I think that there is more real problems that our strenght can be focused on, problems more relevant than a triology of in many other ways nice movies.

With the best wishes of a happy new year to you all, and no hard feelings intended.
/Rasmus

Concluding remarks, Signing Off 30.Dec.2003 09:44

Bison Boy beartruth@softhome.net

Danny writes:
"ps- Bison Boy, thanks for your thoughtful response. I'm sorry to see that the majority of posters here on indymedia seem to type faster than they can think."

You hadn't noticed? :-)

My last thought on this thread (before I too pass into the West, as it were) is in response to Gringo and Danny. You each, in your most recent posts, see this film as acting to reinforce the dominance of European culture. I'll buy that. Intentionally or not, I think it will serve to do that.

But I think this is potentially objectionable only because it is a film made by and about the (currently) dominant culture. The problem is not inherent to the film or story, but to the cultural context in which we view it. Follow along as I tell the story of two films, one LotR, the other hypothetical:

In LotR, the filmmaker chose a story that had definitive cultural roots; indeed it was rooted in his own mother culture. (The viewers may or may not have been aware of this, but nevertheless it's true.) It so happened that the story was several decades old, the original storyteller was dead, and that the story had legions of fans slavering for a film true to the original author's story. The filmmaker chose to honor the cultural roots of the story in casting his heroes, and in visual design wherever possible. (In places, lacking any author's reference material for visual design, his hairstylist threw in a hairstyle originated by a particular culture, and worn by some exceptionally unfashionable people with natural hair of a different color.) The film is funded by members of another, prosperous branch of the filmmaker's mother culture, and is released to rave reviews and smashing success in the mother culutre, its daughters, and among many other cultures.

Let us fill in the variables in this story problem with different values:

Let's pick on the director Ang Lee, his culture the Taiwanese branch of Chinese culture. Hypothetically, he chooses the mythic Chinese story "Yangtze Vikings Attack!" by a dead Chinese scholar, author of two wildly popular works and many obscure ones. He casts a number of relatively unknown actors from several Chinese daughter-cultures, with a few big stars like Jet Li, and uses many visual motifs from various ancient mother cultures. (Lacking any author's reference material for visual design, his hairstylist gives some of the invaders blond mullets.) The film is funded by Hong Kong financiers, and is released to rave reviews and smashing success in the mother culutre, its daughters, and among many other cultures.

Did our hypothetical version of Ang Lee make a racist movie? I think not. Or at any rate, there's no reason to think the two films should differ in their levels of inherent racism.

(The fact that you and I have both assumed that the viking villains are light-skinned simply mirrors the notion that historical warriors who rode elephants generally were not light-skinned. Casting nordic actors as viking raiders is appropriate; casting south Asians or Africans as elephant riders is likewise appropriate.)

The difference between the films is one variable I left out of the story problem: the Chinese mother culture is not currently the dominant power of the world. Therefore, the hypothetical film represents plucky resistance to invading oppressors, rather than yet another example of the dominant culture's oppression of everyone else. This is not a function of the film's racism, but of its cultural origins and context.

As this discussion winds down, we can see that the charge of racism may simply have been an unintentional straw man for the real objection: reinforcement of the dominant culture. This may be a valid complaint, but alas it has not been under discussion until we have all been thouroughly wearied by the (in my opinion) incorrect accusation of racism. As Danny said: "There are no claims of racism, classism, etc. than can be made about this film that can't also be made about the volumes of literature pumped out by Western society." I agree. And so let us stop picking on Mr. Jackson and Mr. Tolkien, and move on with more productive efforts.

We each bring our perspectives to the theater. Like all art, the Lord of the Rings is a mirror in which we may see our own situation should we choose to do so. Some will see in the mirror the light of hope in a time of shadow, while others will see in the mirror the continuing long night of despair. In either case, the mirror is blameless.

So that's it for me, I'm signing off. Thanks to those who wrote thoughtfully, and a special thanks for those who took the trouble to maintain good spelling. :-) With wishes of peace and justice for all,

-Bison Boy

Oh...That one time that I was white... 30.Dec.2003 10:29

Idealistic Fool

Gringo-"Some genius above doesn't even want skin color ever pointed out, claiming that being conscious of race is tantamount to encouragingg racism. Any bets that person is white? Of course it "doesn't matter" if you never suffer any ill effects from racism. Furthermore, any discussion at all of racism is threatening to the white race-on-top so we should just all avoid it? That is called "white privilege" rearing its head."

Thanks Gringo. Now I realize I should just give up. I can't do anything without my privilage rearing its head. You clearly can't seem to get anyway for your oh-so-precious view of race as a defining factor. Clearly white people shouldn't be involved in any talks about race because of their vested interest in staying "the white race-on-top."
Oh well, I supposed it is your loss for being so jaded.

I'm not going to read this thread anymore, all of you have managed to depress me (and in truth, I don't want to read Gringo redundant and dismissive reply). I'm going to spend some time with people who can see past these barriers. Granted, Gringo probably thinks that its impossible because I'm white. Funny, that sounds a little racist...

Fool didn't get it - at all 30.Dec.2003 12:17

GRINGO STARS

Fool is not an idiot because he is white. Fool is an idiot because he is privileged AND doesn't find anything wrong with our racist system. He is privileged because he is white. Telling that he is going back to his old ways without any self-reflection. Overly defensive and egoistic, any discussion immediately wraps your ego around it. Why not just stop and think that you may actually be wrong? Oh, I forgot - that thought is practically forbidden to all-powerful white males. A recent study found that those who are most incompetent are also those who think they are doing just fine. They found that the most incompetent people never question themselves or their actions. Interesting. They found that the most competent always question themselves are rarely sure that what they are doing is right. So why do people get so huffy when they are asked to reconsider something? How arrogant. It's not your white skin that is the problem, it's your vitriolic defense of your privilege that is your problem. Drop the defensive attitude and try learning from someone you disagree with. It's human. It's how I learned from some of my mistakes.

Bison Boy says these films are a "reinforcement of our dominant culture" and I agree with him. What we disagree on is that I believe that this culture is racist. I guess BB sees our culture as not racist somehow. I disagree strongly. A reinforcement of our racist culture is racist.

Jackson decided not to make an Haradrim (Arabic) warrior a sympathetic corpse in the final edit of Two Towers. Probably because the financiers didn't wnat anyone to think that they are in any way sympathetic with the dirty Arabic "terrorist" culture. Or perhaps they thought it would inspire non-cliched thought, virtually a crime in a blockbuster meant to make money.

This film is a love letter to classist, elitist, racist, militarist past which never existed but Bush and Nazis think still do. It says our social structure is OK, even just and necessary. It is a consolation to those living in a system they mostly know is wrong but find difficult to change and harbor longings to belong to a system.

Unbelievable... 30.Dec.2003 13:18

Dante dantesinfernal@sbcglobal.net

This has to be, without a doubt, the most ludicrous thing I have ever read in my entire life.

The picture of you that instantly pops into my mind while reading your article is an overly sensitive white guy, sitting in a movie theare with a clipboard containing a racial checklist so you can go home and compare the black to white to hispanic to asian ratios. You have no time to enjoy the movie, since you're too busy comparing the various racial compositions in order to make sure nobody was cheated.

While everyone sits back and nitpics the efforts of every caucasian person, nobody cares that Spike Lee has produced dozens of "black experience" movies that commercialize the black on black violence inherent in inner city life. I have yet to hear someone bemoan the fact that there is a United Negro College Fund, but there is no such organization to help out underprivelidged Caucasian children. There is even an organization designed to advance black people, and the only qualification you need to have in order to qualify is that you're black. There have been dozens upon dozens of television programs that have had intellegent black main characters, while all Caucasian characters are portrayed as idiots or borderline (and occasionally not so borderline) psychopathic-neurotics.

I have personally been told on several occassions, when applying for high paying city jobs that I was easily qualified for, that I could not be hired because I was white. They need to have a certain percentage of blacks working for them, and since that quota wasn't met, they couldn't hire me...despite the fact that there wasn't much in the way of qualified black applicants at that time. Affirmative Action was a racist policy by it's very nature, but almost nobody but me is willing to call it that.


If a director made a "white experience" film, it would be racist.

If someone established a fund to help underprivelidged white kids to to college, it would be racist.

If someone created an organization to stand up for the rights of good, outstanding white people, it would be racist.

They have a phrase to describe things like this: double standard.


Everyone knows double standards are wrong, and nobody like them when they get the short end of one. Yet, they exist in our everyday life, and people like you complain when they don't exist.

Unbelievable indeed 30.Dec.2003 15:01

GRINGO STARS

Dante you are absolutely right; our culture is not racist and its institutions oppress white people and advance black people. Your evidence is irrefutable. Your rhetoric is perfect for stormfront.org or the vanguard news network. They agree with you, point for point.

Only in Portland 30.Dec.2003 15:26

Long Gone

I've tried to describe what living in Portland was like to family and friends. Now I can just send them this link. Thank you for tipping off FoxNews so they can do one of those "isn't the Left stupid and so far from normal...Vote Republican!" stories.

Also, there are no African-American neighborhoods in Portland. Upper middle class white newcomers from New Jersey like Aunt Sam have taken care of that. I bet that Aunt Sam works at one of the many art galleries or trendy coffeehouses on Gentriberta that don't let in poor people because it costs like $8 to buy a fucking bagel.

Viggo Mortenson (Aragon) is labeled a traitor on probush.com, although I don't even think he's an American citizen.

PS: I thought that Albino-mutant-Orcs came off quite poorly.

Spike Lee was hired for systematic racism 30.Dec.2003 15:47

Aunt Sam

Spike Lee was hired to do all the recruiting movies during the Iraq war, there by getting young men to help in the imperialistic charge.

The attempt by many indiviuals to get pissed off by the notation of racism is confusing to me.

Again I will state clearly.

I LIVE IN A BLACK COMMUNITY. THEY ARE NOT GOING TO SEE THIS MOVIE WHERE THE BAD RACE HAS DREAD LOCKS.

WHEN I ASKED THEM WHY THEY SAID, IT IS NOT MY THING.

This movie is clearly racist. You can put bing crosby in black face and have him sing about the liberation of the slaves during the civil war and it don't make it a feel good movies for the blacks.

Finally fuck you for laughing at this. Fuck you for trying to pretend that quoting this goddamn movie like the bible is going to change the visual representation that the people in my community experience. Fuck you for your "white superiority isn't white superiority" speeches.

How about crying when you were a kid becuase your hair couldn't be like hers or his? If you tried to get away from your action toys and block buster movies for a fucking second and put yourself in the eyes of the young black man who is hunted by the police everyday with dreadlocks, and how HE FEELS WHEN HE SEE THE ADD FOR THIS SAYING HIS RACE IS VIOLENT, oh but it really isn't an allegory of race, is it? And he sees the dreads, he see the cop gun against his head, and he see MUmia being beaten up in a hospital bed, and he says

THE PRIVILEDGED WHITE KIDS WERE RIGHT. It wasn't an allegory about my place in society. It was a movie against Dark versus Light.

Sure I can enjoy this movie. Give me a coke.

non sequitur 30.Dec.2003 18:59

fox news fan (not)

>I've tried to describe what living in Portland was like to family and friends.
>Now I can just send them this link. Thank you for tipping off FoxNews so
>they can do one of those "isn't the Left stupid and so far from normal...Vote
>Republican!" stories.

Fuck Fox News's concept of "normal." Fox News's Amerika is out of touch with the world. And (here's one from the Fox News people) if you don't like Portland, LEAVE. Bye now.

Blown out of proportion. 30.Dec.2003 22:39

go away

"Tolkein wrote of a fantasy past. We know he partly meant LOTR as an agrarian vs. industrialist war series. We know he loathed technology. We know he sympathized with anarchists who blew things up. We know he was against anti-Jewish sentiment. And he wrote of a time/place where race determined behaviour, much like the "common wisdom" of his own time/place. "

Actually, it started as a children's book that he then got some creative ideas for. He spent more time making up elvish phrases than he did thinking about how someone would take it as a racial statement.

Long Gone 31.Dec.2003 00:38

Aunt Sam

You were really reaching, weren't you? In fact you had to deny that there were black people in Portland and then you wanted personal information as to were I worked. You thought that by claiming that I worked in a bagel shop, that somehow my point was invalid. You have no idea of anything about me, or the community I live in, but to say I come from New Jersey or anywhere else in America as an insult undoes the very point you are trying to make. If you want to pretend your pro America viewpoint then don't tear America apart geographiclly and culturally. Your innate cultural racism is obvious here.

By the way, long gone (I can only conclude you are talking about you being high), Gentrification has nothing to do with race and is defined by introducing the rich to poorer communities. If I was working in a coffee shop, it would mean I was poor. So therefore I would not be contributing to gentrification. Idiot.

This is a ridiculous Article! 31.Dec.2003 10:33

BKB(From Dailysmile.com)

The Hulk is the greatest film of alltime!

People dont listen to BKB,He's a messageboard troll! 31.Dec.2003 10:48

Fettastic

This guy has been trolling everywhere,He was kicked off Boxofficemojo.com(a great site)and now he resides in dailsmile(a terrible site),Dont listen to him.

To the commentator called "go away"... 31.Dec.2003 12:25

GRINGO STARS

Most of the paragraph you quoted uses Tolkien's personal letters to his son as a source, not the novels. Obviously, Tokien spent probably no time at all thinking about how race would be percieved in his novels. Like most white people, he gives it next to no thought and takes it as a given that behaviour is affected by ones race, and that everyone agrees with him. The last sentence of said paragraph referred to a theme of his work, not a conscious theme he intended, but a definite theme nonetheless.

People can be racist without meaning to. People can make creative works that do not accurately reflect them as a person. People can say things they don't intend to say.

Well... 31.Dec.2003 21:16

Saphie

"He is privileged because he is white."

I'm white. I grew up in a beat-up house with furniture passed on from relatives that was over thirty years old. I grew up wearing hand-me-downs from neighbors and older cousins, and sometimes my mom had to buy our clothes from goodwill. We had one t.v. and no cable. We had one run-down used car. I got teased in school because of my ratty clothes and could never afford to buy the school lunch. Sometimes, my mom didn't have any food at home that could be packed into a lunch and I went hungry.

Was I priveleged?

My best friend (also white) was even worse off than me. She grew up in a smaller house, with less things, and her mother was sick very often. She couldn't afford health care. She went around for years with a cane because of a damaged hip because of it.

Was she priveleged?

Over time, my dad worked himself through school and managed to get better jobs and my mom worked part time and now we have two t.v.s and DVD players and I got an mp3 player for Christmas. I wear nice clothes now (albeit they are from Walmart). Our cars are still used and our furniture is still old. My dad is paying for my college, so I'll only have to work to pay for car insurance while in school. My best friend's life hasn't changed. She's still poor. My aunt's even poorer. She's on welfare and doesn't even own a car. (She's also white).

Look, rich is rich, and poor is poor. Poor has nothing to do with race. People aren't priveleged because they're a certain color. My white skin didn't get me nicer clothes or things or save up money for my college--my dad's hard work and lucky breaks did. My friend's white skin sure isn't helping her, nor is my aunt's. My mixed-race friend, who was almost as poor as my aunt (if not poorer) has an even easier life than I do, because of her (black) father and (white) mother's hard work and luck.

People are priveleged because they're hardworking or lucky or both, or maybe their parents were, or their parent's parents were. And as to that person who said that people in their black community said the movie just wasn't their thing--maybe it just wasn't their thing. Because my black friends and mixed-race friends, and Middle-Eastern friends (some of which come from crappy neighborhoods) all liked it. In fact, my black friend has seen it twice already. Perhaps it isn't their thing in the same way rap and "Tupac: Resurrection" isn't my thing.

In any case, being white does not automatically guarantee you a priveleged life. Just as being black does not autmatically guarantee you an impoverished one. I know several black families that are more well-off than mine. (My neighbor owns her own business and makes oodes of dough. She's also a single, working mother).

Look, I agree that in some cases, media can program people. When volunteering in a prominently black and Hispanic area for Christmas, I noticed that all of the dolls people bought to be donated to the children were white. No-one thought to bring black barbie dolls, or even toys that had nothing to do with race. I brought a Bop-it, myself, as it could be used by just about anyone. There's something going on there. Something ingrained. It probably isn't racism, as many of the volunteers were black or Asian, but it may have just been cultural conditioning--or perhaps a lack of sensitivity about race. In any case, the girls who got the dolls were ecstatic to just get a present.

But Lord of the Rings? What, is it offensive to people with dwarfism too, because it used Gimli the Dwarf as comic relief?

Besides, every seems to be neglecting the other villains in the film. Saruman THE WHITE. With his white robes and white skin and white hair. And the men of Dunland, who are also white. (Those were the grungy men Saruman said "They stole your land! They forced you to scratch out a living from rock!" to in the Two Towers movie). Boromir, despite dying a valiant death, did attack Frodo and tried to take the Ring from him--he was also white.

And the minority groups of Middle-Earth were adequately represented in the Fellowship. There was a dwarf, an Elf, and even FOUR hobbits. Only two men were in the Fellowship, despite their being the dominant race in Middle-earth.

That's the problem here. People are looking at the issue of race in Middle-Earth as white/black/Middle-Eastern etc., when in reality it is Man/Elf/Dwarf/Hobbit/Orc, etc.

"More than anything else, films inform our culture."

Have you watched historically-based films? They are among the most innacurate things made. If people are foolish enough to take fictional films as fact, that's their problem, and their ignorance. If they're dumb enough to take FANTASY films as fact, they need a serious reality check.

"I'm sorry but if ANY 11-year-old was barraged with racist media (like most every 11-year-old regularly is) it would affect her. Not a lot. But it would."

Wouldn't. Our father is racist. Every time he uses the "N" word she nearly bursts into tears, because in her words "it makes me sad that dad uses such a bad word that hurts people's feelings." She also yells at him not to, and tells him he's an idiot whenever he says some racist or stereotypical comment. And she treats her black friends no worse than her white friends, and even better, as she's closer to them than anyone else. So, you're wrong. She's bombarded by it every day, but she was taught FIRST to base her opinions on people on how good a person they were, and so she sticks to that.

Facts and Figures 31.Dec.2003 22:43

Aunt Sam

OK, let me get this straight. You were raised poor, your daddy is a racist, and therefore racism doesn't exist but their is class injustice. Nope, doesn't work honey, but nice try.

Okay, I WILL try again. 01.Jan.2004 19:32

Saphie

Do you hear me saying "Woe! Woe! It's not fair that I'm poor! Everyone else should be responsible for my life being fair! Woe is me! This is injust! Woe!" Hell no. My great grandparents came to the US as dirt-poor immigrants and over the generations, the people in my family became progressively more well-off. They worked hard, and they got lucky, and now I'm reaping the benefits. Class has nothing to do with it. Race has nothing to do with it. Hard work and luck do. That's what I'm saying.

Do black people get turned down for jobs because of racism? Yes. But so do women, and Asian people, and gays, and anyone who's different in some way from the employer. I had a cousin turned down for a waitressing job because the owners of the place were Greek and she wasn't--they told her this was the reason they turned her down. The world is inherently unfair--there are people of every race, class, age, religion and sexual orientation who are classist, ageist, racist, homophobic, and prejudiced against religion.

Yes, there is racism. That is something that can't be denied.

What I'm trying to say is that it isn't caused by movies or television shows or whatnot. It's caused by how people raise their children. Racists raise racists. The only reason I'm not one despite my bastard of a father is because my mom is as far from being racist as someone can be. Her best friend from college was black and used to watch me sometimes when I was little. I remember her pretty well, and she was one of the most wonderful women I have ever met. I loved her like an aunt, and was devastated when she died of cancer.

If people work hard enough they might have a chance to change people's minds about race. They might be able to make them realize that race has nothing to do with a person's quality. People used to treat the Irish immigrants like dirt, back when they immigrated over, but the Irish were bloody hard workers and over time, that racism all but disappeared.

Then again, despite working hard, they might not be able to change anything at all. Because some people are just plain bastards.

In either case, digging through a fantasy movie for things that can be twisted around to seem racist is not going to change anything for sure. Being civil and treating people of different races the same way you treat people of your own race--the same way YOU want to be treated--will. And teaching your kids to do the same will. And maybe writing serious articles on racism itself --not on an overanalyzation of a stupid movie, but on racism, and how people treat others--might change things as well, or get people thinking, at the very least. And if the point of this article wasn't to attempt changing things for the better, then why write it at all?

Why dig (and deep, I might add) for racism in the content of a movie, based on the book of an Englishman who SAID he based it on the legends he loved, and hated the Nazis, when people openly march in the streets wearing white hoods, declaring that white Anglo-Saxon protestants are the dominant race. I won't deny there is racism in the world--because there bloody well is. I just think there isn't any in the place Mr. Hart was claiming there was. And even if there is, it's not what make people racist. People telling their children that all black people are bums and saying horrible things about them does. It's only then that children are made stupid enough to be influenced by movies.

When cointelpro targeted the Black Panthers 02.Jan.2004 15:41

Aunt Sam

When cointelpro, look it up and read about it, decided to target the black panthers one of the first discrediting actions they took was they created comic books for children supposedly made by the black panthers. They were drivel yet the black panthers lost a lot of community support becuase of it and to this day there are people who recieved these "school" books who believed that the black panthers put them out.

The nazis government as opposed to cointelpro which is the US government put out school book that were openly propoganda drivel against the jewish race and religion. There were many corporations who were set to benefit by the nazis include grandpappy Bush.

All visual image out of Hollywood is made to set a mood, a political concious, a reflection of society and societies desires and values, if you will. The political climate in America is one of racism as you have aknowledged. It is one of war against people of color, and it is one in which political prisoners are being held without charges or right trial on teh soil of another coutry which has asked us to removes these people. Reports which have leaked out about these of color prisoners is that they are undergoing severe torture. This is the mood and political climate of our society which is reflected in this film.

"a person's quality" = "working bloody hard"? 02.Jan.2004 15:58

somebody or other

>If people work hard enough they might have a chance to change
>people's minds about race. They might be able to make them realize
>that race has nothing to do with a person's quality. People used to
>treat the Irish immigrants like dirt, back when they immigrated over, but
>the Irish were bloody hard workers and over time, that racism all but
>disappeared.

Hrrm, I don't think racism is perpetuated by the, er, laziness of its targets. That sounds like blaming the victim to me. It sounds like standard working-class discipline as well -- "if you've got a problem, whatever it is, it's because you're not working hard enough! get a second job! and stop whining about all this 'unfairness'!" It sounds like ... bullshit. In a world where there's plenty of stuff to go around already, poor people not working hard enough is not the problem. Telling the victims of racism they need to work harder is changing the subject.

Gross and dispicable behavior by corporate pawns 02.Jan.2004 23:06

Aunt Sam

Sean don't try to sell your wares on Indymedia. It's kinda gross and trollish. We are non corporate sponsored and not a place to advertise selling shit.


And I absolutely did not go to a site which is all about capitalist fundraisers for idiocy. Thanks.

Remember Bor! 04.Jan.2004 00:33

[Execute Capitalism.] harshunclear@aol.com

Hm. Tolkien. Black heroes...

Bor was an Easterling leader who bravely led his armies (alongside the Elves) against Morgoth, the first darklord. In fact, the character Tuor (who was actually the grandfather of Elrond, the Elflord of Rivendell) was originally going to be an Easterling.

How's that?

Let Gringo know that Tolkien wrote of the oppression of the Haradrim, of the slavery of their people by Black Numenoreans (servants of Sauron- who were, in fact, WHITE). He tells of the parts of Mordor never shown in the film: The vast plantations filled with Haradrim slaves.

In Tolkien's writings the human race begins in the East, all humans in the same area. The Silmarillion states that it was at this time that Morgoth went to the East, where he apparently committed unspoken and damnable acts. When the people of Beor (the first of humans to appear in the recordings of the Elves) speak to the Elves, they spoke of a great evil in the East that they could not speak of or could not remember. When Morgoth was destroyed his evil remained in the East. When Sauron appeared at the time of the Lord of the Rings, he had been in the East already for over a thousand or so years.

The Haradrim lived in a devastated land and were greatly oppressed by their masters: White-men driven by an evil force (one of whom later became Khamul the Ringwraith that the Hobbits hide from on the road out of Hobbiton). If anything, I'd say that's the farthest from racism as possible. It's just that Peter Jackson's cinematic excretion fails to illustrate this.

Tolkien was a Christian, and though his created world was far from being an allegory to anything out of the Bible it still deals with the themes of Good & Evil, Light & Darkness. Morgoth represents the Satan figure of Evil, and Iluvatar as Jahweh, God or what have you. Morgoth never created anything, he merely corrupted and destroyed. If Iluvatar created the Haradrim, how did Tolkien intend for them to be evil?

Just as any true Christian could not believe a black person to be evil without contradicting themselves and saying that white people are evil (besides original sin and whatnot.) But I don't want to get into that mythological mumbo-jumbo. I'm an atheist.

But here is my point:
I can understand why a black-skinned human (who had not read the books) would rather not see the films. They DO give off a somewhat pungent racist stench. But this odor does not originate from JRR Tolkien, but from Peter Jackson's vile renderings.

- the Beach Sadist

P.S. I do not mean to say that Jackson is racist (I honestly don't think he is), but simply did not explain the factors in which the Haradrim became the slaves of Sauron, and thus the enemies of the men of the West.

It depends on your point of view. 05.Jan.2004 15:17

Abigail

To Mr. Hart and all others who may be concerned:

I appreciate that people are interested in protecting the rights of their fellow humans. That is a noble thing to do. What I don't appreciate is stereotypes.

You stated that Sauron was 'dark.' Yes, if one is talking about the state of his heart, he is. But I do not think you were talking about that kind of dark; and if you were, unless you empower the forces of evil and darkness, I do not see why the way Sauron is should disturb you. He was actually an Elf, therefore fair-skinned, therefore, in this instance, no-one was being racist. And, in the movies, all you saw was his armor and the Eye, and if my memory doth serve me well enough I think I can safely say neither were black. Armor doesn't count, anyways.

Uruk Hai were gritty, dirty, stinky creatures who ate their fellows when the meat was still warm. Now, if you really want to, you can compare them to Native Americans; but I'm not sure that they would appreciate that, frankly. They showed the orcs' tents and I wouldn't have said that they were tipis, but hey, I suppose that's a matter of opinion. They didn't ride horses or use bows and arrows; rather, they ran and used crossbows. Also, they weren't nomadic like quite a few Native Americans were. The last I checked, Native Americans didn't all eat eachother. Just a thought. Or perhaps you were frustrated because they didn't have Native Americans amongst the orcs. That would have just furthered your point.

Oh, the times Tolkien lived in! They seem simpler. I do not think he worried over whether or not his work would be seen as 'politically correct.' Why must we say that because the 'good guys' appeared to be mostly white, that darker skinned people are bad? We know they aren't, so why does it seem that we have to have a visual aide to represent that? Dark has, for many years, been associated with evil. But never, ever, EVER does it state in the Bible that those with dark skins are evil. The state of a person's heart, a man's attitude, the value they place upon themselves has nothing to do with the state of their outward appearance. Don't believe me? Pick up a Bible, any Bible. The all say basically the same thing. If Peter Jackson and Tolkien wanted to use white people, it shouldn't make any difference in how you judge the characters or them.

The reason they said, 'people of the West,' reflected slightly on Christian values once more. West is , since the sun goes down that way, like the ending of an age. I suppose you could then extrapolate that it is like the end of this life, when one is able to go onwards to Heaven. They wouldn't say 'go East' because that would be like fruitlessly and selfishly clinging to one's youth. Instead, they go West into their future; leaving the rising of a new sun to people who have completed this life journey and gone on into the next.

Before you say that this has influenced kids, why don't you talk to some? Ask them if what they see when they look at Uruk-Hai are Native Americans. Ask them if what they are walking away with after these stories is that only caucasians are good. I bet they wouldn't have even thought of it like that until you brought it to that light. You see, all they see are the special effects, or the good-looking actors. Or, perhaps, they see a great picture; one of a tumultous battle between good and evil, between an individuals' heart and mind. I am a part of today's youth. I would not count myself amongst those who are racist or biased.

There are evil African Americans. There are also evil Orientals, Mexicans, Canadians, Indian Americans, Caucasians, or any other body of people under the sun. We're all bad and nobody's bad is any worse than any other persons' bad. If a person believes that we all fall short of the grace of God, as Christians like myself do, then that's just what we mean. Jesus was, after all, 'colored.' Color isn't going to condemn or save anyone.


What are you talking about?! 05.Jan.2004 19:17

Hawkelf

First, I must point out to you that this story does not take place in Europe, or any place on Earth for that matter. It takes place in a place called Middle Earth, on the planet of Arda. Thus, most of your accusations turn rather invalid, don't you think?

Secondly, concerning the Haradrim and their oliphaunts. It is true that oliphaunts resemble our elephants in many ways. Thus, they would have to live in a similar climate. And if ou hadn't noticed, such an extremely warm climate usually results in the darkening of human skin. This is one practical detail that PJ got right. It wouldn't make sense if the people who raised the oliphaunts had fair skin. They'd have burned to crisps generations earlier under the harsh sun! And if you look carefully in TTT you will notice that not all of the Haradrim are black.

Thirdly, about your 'the Uruk-hai represent Native Americans' comment. What is that about? I never saw such a connection in all the many times that I have watched the movies. They don't use the same weapons, they don't dress the same way, they don't have the same living accomadations, and last time I checked not too many Native Americans ate the flesh of their fallen comrades. Also, the Uruk-hai are a type of orc. Those nasty beasties in Moria are another type of orc. Their different races of orcs, if you wish, though I hesitate to use that word considering that you might twist it.

Fourthly, nowhere have I heard mention of Sauron being black. He was a Maia at one point, like Gandalf to an extent. He is dark and evil. That is not in reference to his skin color. That is a reference to our culture. Children are often afraid of the dark, fearing that it may hold some thing horrible and evil. We tell stories of horrible things happening in the dark. Thus, the word 'dark' has become associated with evil. Sauron is unquestionably evil from the view that Tolkien and PJ presented. Thus, he is dark and evil. It means his soul, his heart, his what-have-you is dark. It means his mind is filled with dark thoughts.

My next question is, what's wrong with King Theoden using the words 'you great men of the west' (which I don't remember) to encourage his men? The fact is, they were men of the west. They lived west of Gondor. They lived west of Mordor. They lived west. The Rohirrim were not racist. If they were, they probably would have killed Legolas, Gimli, Merry, Pippin, and all the ents on site, wouldn't they? Or at least not welcomed their assistance. I mean, those guys are from a different species! Theoden wasn't being racist, he was sticking to facts. Don't read things into it that aren't there.

This leads rather well into my next point. If Tolkien were racist, would he have written the tail of Arwen and Aragorn? Or the one of Beren and Luthien? Or would PJ have included them in his version if he were racist? I think not. This would be stepping way over the bounds of their thinking. And yes, I do know that Lord Elrond objected to Arwen's relationship with Aragorn, as did Luthien's father to her relationship with Beren. However, how could they not? They were both loving fathers who did not wish their children any pain. Neither did they wish their children to die. Elves are immortal. When one of them chooses to marry one of the race of Men they loose that. They become mortal, though their life spans still are much greater than that of their human spouse.
Okay, I'm going to get into some rather complicated family history, ready? I don't know how much of the Lord of the Rings books you have read. Beren was a mortal man who fell in love with Luthien. Tons of stuff happened to them, but the long and short of it is that they got married and had at least one child. Lord Elrond was the descendant of Luthien and Beren.
Next step. Lord Elrond had a twin brother named Elros. He was the first king of the Dunedain. Thus, he married a mortal and chose a mortal fate. In other words, he died. Aragorn is Elros's descendant. Also, Lord Elrond raised Aragorn. If there had been a way to make Aragorn immortal, Lord Elrond would most likely have taken it. As it was, he had to resign himself to loosing the man that he had raised, probably as a son. On top of this, his daughter fell in love with Aragorn and chose a mortal fate. Lord Elrond wasn't being racist when he resisted this. It probably brought up a lot of unpleasant and painful memories for him. Loosing his only daughter was most likely very hard for the Elven Lord.

I'd like to thank you ever so much for pointing out the Ents destruction of Isengard. I'd like to point out one or two things.
Saruman wasn't just a white person. He was a Maia, and once considered very wise by Gandalf. However, I'd like to point out that Sauron was also of the Maia. The Maia were like angels or something. Gandalf the Grey, Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, and two Maia the blue that never get named all were sent to watch over the races of Middle Earth by the Valar. What are the Valar? Hmmmm... well, Iluvatar (the Middle Earth aquivalent of God) created them. Some of them took upon themselves the task of shaping Arda (if you haven't read the Silmarillion, I sudgest you do. It's a real eye-opener). They created the elves, the men, the dwarves, and so forth. May I point out that Sauron wasn't even the original Dark Lord. Morgoth proceeded him, and he was one of the Valar. Sauron was like his henchman. Saruman was corrupted by the ex-henchman into being a henchman. In fact, Saruman and Sauron might at one time have been peers. And before you point out the lack of female Maia, there is at least one mentioned. And she marries an elf. In fact, I think she's Luthien's mother.
Another thing. I'm so glad that someone can find it redeeming to think that any person can be corrupted by the forces of evil. That just gives me a warm feeling side, that does.
You mention the orcs and the Haradrim again in that paragraph. With the Haradrim, what they were getting probably sounded like a good deal to their leaders. Sauron probably promised them the lands of Roham and Gondor to live on. And you can't tell me that you actually believed that every soul in that army was evil? How many of them were just soldier obeying orders because they didn't know better or their families or lives were threatened?

Now I shall address you last paragraph. I speak as a teenager in highschool who has read the works of Tolkien since the fifth grade and watches the movies more than once a month. It never accured to me, my classmates, my schoolmates, or their younger siblings that the Lord of the Rings movies had racist undertones. Those of us who are fanatical Tolkien-ites enjoy the parts that PJ got right and tear our hair out over his mistakes, both when it comes to the practicallity of certain things in the movie (the charge down the impossibly steep hill to slay the orc spear carriers that could have easily killed the horses as they came stampeding down <those that didn't fall on the way down>) and the parts of the books that he butchered so horribly. There are also the kids that watch it for the special affects, the kids that watch it for the (in their oppinion) hot actors and actresses, those who watch it for the blood and gore, and those who have become fanatical LotR movie watchers and are able to recite practically the whole trilogy. None of us caught these undertones that you say exist and could influence us. Have you actually asked any of my peers who are supposedly so impressionable? Excuse me, but we've been exposed to so much trash that we're not that impressionable anymore. And besides, I barely noticed peoples skin color other than to comment on 'Wow, PJ actually portrayed the Haradrim as blacks. For once he actually payed attention to the realities of climate and reality.' And did you notice that the Haradrim in RotK aren't all very dark? I did. Besides, PJ broke the rules of the culture, society, landscape, events, friendships, and emotions of the story as well as gravity, physics, common sense, tactics, and other natural laws that if he changed that part of the story as well he would have had the Tokein-ites up in flames. Elves are described as fair. The Rohirrim are described as pale, as are the men of Gondor. They lived too far north to have really dark skin.

Just curious, but why didn't you mention the Haradrim by name? You could have explained that the dark-skinned race was known as the Haradrim. And if you didn't know what they were called, you could have had the common courtesy to look it up. I'm pretty sure that it's in one of the song titles on the sound tracks, and would it really have hurt you that much to do a little more research into Tolkien's works? If you studied the maps, family trees, and appendicies of Lord of the Rings a few things might come clear. It would also be wise to read some of the other books of Middle Earth before posting this article. Some books to use as references would be the Silmarillion, any of the Lost Tales, the Lost Road, the Lays of Belerian, the End of the Third Age, the Hobbit, and the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

And here I would like to mention that my best friend is Indonesian American. She was in no way insulted by PJ's version of LotR. She likes it very much the way it is, and is in no way insulted by the lack of people in positive key roles with darker skin tone. If she noticed it at all. In fact, her favorite charactor is Legolas who, along with Gimli, over comes the boundries of cultural and ethnic biase to forge a strong bond of friendship. Also, in today's society people of short stature, like the hobbits, are often looked down upon. In LotR, however, Frodo is trusted with the fate of Middle Earth. Pippin and Merry are both held in great respect by both Men and Elves. Aragorn eventually knights them. Sam is also held in high esteem for his gardening abilities and he and his family are intrusted with the keeping of the Red Book.

When climate, lifestyle, and custums are taken into acount I can not honestly say that I have found racism in the LotR movies, and no more racism in all of the works of Middle Earth than mistrust between Elves and the dwarves and men, and the hatred of hobbits, elves, dwarves, men, and ents to the orcs who slay their families, butcher their livestock, and make unwarranted attacks on their homes. Perhaps with a little more research into the works of Tolkien you would find a similar result. If not, I think you are being overly sensitive and taking into account minute details that other people would ignore entirely and probably overlook if you didn't point it out.

About the Elves' skin color and race 05.Jan.2004 19:52

Eleanor

Tolkien's Eldar (elves) were not almost all blonde, as is depicted in the movies. However, I believe the general description for the average elf was "tall, fair, and grey-eyed." The hair color varied, yes. Several of the actors who wore blond wigs that didn't match black eyebrows could've kept their natural hair color. I'm sorry if anyone's said this already; however, I need to go and don't have time to read more than 1/4 of the articles.

Take a moment and simmer 05.Jan.2004 23:47

Quartermaster Kate

Forgive my spelling in advance, i'm not a literary student.

I think every one of the 'regular' posters on this thread needs to sit back and actually realise what they're arguing about.

People will find racisim in the films if they look for it. On the whole, people are going to enjoy the story.

And if you twist it on your head... a lot of these posts seem, well, distinctly anti-white... Isn't that racisim too? Or am I simply delving into this thread in a similar manner to the poster of the original article?

The people who think it's racist, will think it's racist.
The people who think the people who see racisim are being stupid, will continue to think so.

There's this lovely wall between you, thick...possibly made of titanium.

Saavy?


whoops 05.Jan.2004 23:51

Quartermaster Kate

I mean "am I simply delving into this thread in a similar manner to the poster of the original article?" as in delving into it in the same way he delved into the movies. ^_^ Apologies.

Some sense...finally 06.Jan.2004 16:51

Sabrina Raven travtravtrav@hotmail.com

to Hawkelf Thankyou for finally giving some substansiated comments on the works of Tolkein. Although I have not read ALL Tolkeins work (I'm a slow collector) I too have read The Hobbit, LotR and The Sillmarillion. It was nice to see someone making sense in this ridiculous argument.

To add (some points being reiterated from other postings
1. Middle Earth is NOT REAL. It is fiction. How do we know that Middle Earth even HAD 'colored' people. As many have said race doesn't necessarilly have anything to do with skin colour. Unless you are completely stupid you would realise that Middle Earth (as one continent of a whole planet) has MANY races (as pointed out before by other people).
2. There are armies of THOUSANDS of elves/men/hobbits etc. How do you know that some of them weren't of a different colour? In the film version (seeing this is wheremost the rage seems to be pushed) do we get to see every single hobbit, elf or man? I mean in reality we see ONE dwarf as a main character (and one or two more at the council of Elrond if I'm not mistaken), we see a tiny part of The Shire, Only one Mirkwood elf is shown (Legolas) and there are amny other mentioned peoples that we dont see in total
3. The dreadlock thing. I have a wide multicultural group of freinds (black, white, asian, etc, etc.) and I have 4 freinds with dreadlocks. Not a single one of them is black.. Not a single one of my black freinds have dreads. Its just a hairstyle.
4. Orcs are not 'black' anyway. Orcs (and the Uruk-Hai) were once Elves (and men maybe) who were mutated. Like someone said before the darkness of their skin is MUD. I don't really think the brainwashed creations of an evil dude give a shit about soap and hairbrushes and pretty clothes.

That is all the time I intend to waste on this ridiculous argument. If you don't like the film becuase you want a 'black' or 'asian' (etc) middle Earth, then raise some money, rewrite the script and make it into a black cast only movie, or an asain only cast movie. But if you do that you'd be racist under your definitions too.

Wizard of Oz -Vs- The Wiz 07.Jan.2004 08:15

Jay

If you have the money then you can remake the movie the way you see fit.

Example: link to www.amazon.com

I don't know how to break this to you... 07.Jan.2004 08:30

Anon

"I am sure that once the filmmakers read this article ..."

Uh Sparky, I don't know how to tell you this but I seriously doubt they'll be reading your little sensitivo-rant here. You're simply not that important.

Common sense! 07.Jan.2004 08:43

Bravo364 bravo364@yahoo.com

I find this view of the Lord of the Rings absolutely absurd. To think that the author of this abomination thinks so much of himself to make a comment about "once the filmmakers read this article ". Does he actually think that his opinion matters to a group of people that have had a vision of bringing a work of art to life?

To see comments like this, "In these times when a homicidal maniac from Texas", well you can visbly see this man's hidden agenda. He is just spouting off at the mouth with useless, meaningless thought.

Oh my... 07.Jan.2004 09:36

Some Idiot White Boy

I was originally going to write some sarcastic comment about me murdering PJ and Tolkein for their evil racist views, but I really can't be bothered to be honest. Parody can so easily be misunderstood.

Only thing I can be bothered to say (which you can happily ignore because I am white and therefore disqualified from participating in discussions of racism, because I obviously don't know what I'm talking about), is that drawing any attention to skin colour simply promotes the proposition that there is some difference between people with different levels of melatonin. And unfortunately most people will infer from that that such difference makes one inherently inferior or superior. This also applies to a simple tan... people seem to think that I would magically become a "better" person, and more desirable as a mate, if I were to lie out in the sun for a week and burn my skin, or apply some coloured cream to my skin to change my natural (pallid) colouration.

Is "popular culture" being controlled by some vast malignant conspiracy trying to promote the darkening of skin colour? Hell no, people are simply equating a tan to being more successful and having more time to holiday (or vacation). But I could write some rambling racist post about how it's endemic of the neo-racist backwash of anti-white feeling, with people deliberately trying to promote a "white = inferior" policy. And anyone with half a braincell would see it for the senseless brainwashed drivel it was too.

The point? You can read racism into anything you want to. If you are deliberately looking for racism you have already lost... you are perpetuating racial exclusion and racial stereotyping whether you realise it or not. "There should be more black people in this movie" is EXACTLY as racist as "There should be more white people in this movie". Oh, and if you use the term "people of colour" to deliberately exclude members of the human race solely because of their skin colour (the so called "white people"), you are using it as a racist term. Please desist.

surprise! White people see no problem... again 07.Jan.2004 11:47

GRINGO STARS

What a surprise (sarcasm alert) that so many white people see no problem, see NO racism in the mass-publicized imagery of neo-nazi-approved powerful images of white supremacy. White privilege is never having to say you're wrong, and never having to question yourself. Typical. I also like the white high-schoolers that genuinely think that they are completely unaffected by mass media (ah, arrogant adolescence). As if racism is usually a conscious action. I knew checking back into this thread would give me a laugh.

 http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/whiteprivilege.htm

You people are just silly... 07.Jan.2004 12:24

ZeusPrime

Anyone who thinks that this is the story of anything more complex than, good v.s. evil, should really consider getting a hobby or something, because you have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time on your hands to think about things and really need to step back into the real world...

Wow 07.Jan.2004 12:36

...

Wow, people like this just love to stir sh1t up in the name of being open minded. It's a fvcking fictional story!!! It doesn't exist!!! Who fvcking cares??? The story is simply about good vs evil. It takes a really bored, worthless, lonely individual to sit there and pick apart a movie to try to find something offensive about it! I'm so sick of this freakin' crap! If people don't stop with being offended over every little thing, then I hope the damn earth is hurled violently into the sun!

I will never understand why people read into something untill they find a reason why it is negative towards someone. I would love to see if the writer has ever written anything worth reading. How easy it is for him to leech off other peoples work to make himself know.

I have a friend that is black who loves the movies. I work with a woman from the Dominican Republic who also loves the movies. The guy who wrote the article is probably one of these ultra liberal white boys who are out to save the world with their worthless printed drivel! F this guy!

Yea let's just all roll over. 07.Jan.2004 13:23

Bravo364

Good point (sarcasm). Let's just give all those people that think they have been down trodden by society what they want. Let's just not care if someone is better qualified for a job and let's give the jobs to people that are minorities. Oh, wait, we already do that. For some reason if you are a minority and are applying for a goverment job you have some advantage?! What is this? It would be rascism, but apparently it is ok as long as you are not white. So what you are white and you placed yourself in debt to attend college just to be passed over for a job because someone that may or may not be as qualified as you is a minority. It does not matter that you could not get any grants. That makes sense (again sarcasm).

What a poor pitiful pile of rubbish.....the poor me, I just can't seem to make it in the business world. It all comes down to the fact that you have to be white (even more sarcasm). You ever think it might be your attitude? Could it be you give off an image that people owe you something just for being a minority? Na, it could not be that because it is so much easier to blame all white people for being white, yea that makes sense.

I know this is not how all minority groups act. There are some people out there that are truly rascist. But not all white people are rascist and it does not help when you broadly accuse white people of being white supremecist.

sarcasm for bravo the genius 07.Jan.2004 18:27

GRINGO STARS

I agree with you, Bravo (and the neo-nazis too) that this culture of ours is anti-white and that white people definitely get the short end of the stick, and that affirmative action is BULLSHIT, mannnn!

We shouldn't ever think about or discuss our blockbuster movies, we should just turn off our minds (so easy to do for us) and eat our popcorn and cry/laugh/cheer when the film prompts us too, and keep our sissified intee-leck-chewal brainifications out of it! When will white people realize how bad we have it? Those darkies always whining, always taking up EVERYTHING and leaving the white folk with NOTHING! RISE UP WHITE PEOPLE! Yeehawwww!

[the above two paragraphs were brought to you courtesy of sarcasm]

An Observation 08.Jan.2004 12:04

Faithful Lurker

"... neo-nazi-approved powerful images of white supremacy."

I call bullshit on Gringo Stars. He is implying that the filmmakers sought some sort of prior approval of their work among the white supremacist crowd. It's a good thing for anonymous posting, Gringo, because this is libel.

"White privilege is never having to say you're wrong, and never having to question yourself."

So you're saying that you're white then, Mr. Stars? Because you sure as hell have been proven wrong several times on this thread and others, and have never yet been seen to admit your mistakes or question yourself.

Congratulations, Gringo, you have become your enemy.

(And hey, that's a nice ring you've got there! Ash nazg gimbatul?)

Observe more carefully 08.Jan.2004 16:07

GRINGO STARS

I never once claimed or even implied that Jackson or Tolkein is consciously racist, and have said that I believe both to be consciously anti-racist. But intent and effect are two different things. I never said that Jackson ever sought approval from the neo-nazis. YET, after the fact, the neo-nazis fully approve of this film, staunchly so, as an affirmation of their racist belief system that race determines behaviour.

I admit when I'm wrong. Questioning myself is how I came to where I am now regarding issues of race. I identify as white, yet I do my best to deal with the privilege that this society affords me because of the color of my skin. And for most people, being white means never questioning yourself (I was not talking about myself but rather the arrogant white folks who seek to end all discussion of race as it pertains to this mass-marketed film).

I will have become the enemy when I seek to end any discussion of racism because I find it somehow boring because I don't have to suffer from racism.

When you're in it up to your nose, keep your mouth shut. 08.Jan.2004 19:18

Faithful Lurker

You say "I never once claimed or even implied that Jackson or Tolkein is consciously racist, and have said that I believe both to be consciously anti-racist."

Really? Funny, that smells like bullshit too.

Have you forgotten that you said: "LOTR's racism can't be poo-pooed simply because it is a work of fiction. Tolkien AND Jackson are to blame." You also said: "[...] Tolkien's work goes by the very definition of racism; that each of the races act according to their race. He always imputes certain behaviour to this or that race. That is racist." And how about: "This film is a love letter to classist, elitist, racist, militarist past which never existed but Bush and Nazis think still do."

Did you not post these things? Do they not imply conscious racism, or even outright claim it? You may not have MEANT to say it, but you sure as hell did. Are they crimes of intent or ignorance, Mr. Stars? Did you think you could just get away with such libel? Did you think no one would bother to read this whole freaking thread? Did you think you could intimidate anyone from calling you on it, for fear of being called a racist by you? Think again.

You say "I never said that Jackson ever sought approval from the neo-nazis." Well, that may be true. But you sure as hell worked very hard to imply it ("neo-nazi-approved powerful images of white supremacy") without actually claiming it. Been taking your lessons from Mr. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, have you? I don't care who does it, you or him. It's dishonest, and I think you're grown-up enough to know better. Was it intent or ignorance? I smell intent.

You say "I admit when I'm wrong." Fine. Prove it. You have been refuted by posters on this thread regarding specific claims of fact you have made. You have only seen fit to comment on these refutations to counter such claims, but never to admit your mistakes. Will you here on this thread, admit your FACTUAL mistakes? (Let alone your rhetorical mistakes.) I don't think you're man enough. Prove me wrong, why don't ya.

You say "Questioning myself is how I came to where I am now regarding issues of race." That's admirable. What you don't understand is that questioning oneself is a CONTINUING process, not something done once and forgotten. You show every sign of having become a tenacious idealogue, hewing to your position with a single-mindedness that any fascist would admire. Whether you're right or not doesn't matter to you any more. I recommend a new period of self-examination, and this time don't stop.

You say: "And for most people, being white means never questioning yourself." What a complete goddamn racist slur. Some of your best friends are white, I bet. It looks like a "racist belief system that race determines behaviour" to me, your "very definition of racism" even. Look in the mirror, Mr. Stars, and you will see a racist. That's right. You.

"I will have become the enemy when I seek to end any discussion of racism because I find it somehow boring because I don't have to suffer from racism." Wrong again. Way too specific. It's always much easier to become the enemy than you think it is. Maybe you need to read Lord of the Rings again just to learn that.

Dear Mr. Lurker 09.Jan.2004 00:48

GRINGO STARS

Yes, I definitely wrote the things you quoted as me saying. People can be to blame when they didn't INTEND for something to happen. because it happened, wherther they intended it or not. This film IS a love letter to a "simpler" (for white men) past, a racist past. But I do not think that Jackson or Tolkein intended any racism. It just came naturally to them. These are crimes of ignorance, not intention. I am glad you read the whole thread - it's just too bad that you misunderstood the concepts I outlined. I must not be good at conceptualizing for other people but I'll try again;

RACISM IS RARELY A CRIME OF INTENT. IT IS USUALLY COMES FROM IGNORANCE.

How many times should I say it?

Saying "neo-nazi approved images" implies nothing. Things can be approved after the fact - did you know that? When you yourself approve of a movie, did YOU have any hand in the making of it? No? Do you get my point? Don't blame your misreadings on me. I never meant to imply that. I had already said in my second post I don't think Jackson or Tolkien is intentionally racist.

I don't remember where I have been "proved wrong" within this thread. I said that elves were black haired but someone pointed out that the elves in one city are blonde. That's about it. I didn't think that was a big enough point to go on about since the discussion at that point was turning to more interesting questions of the history of the institution of racism.

I'm quite aware that questioning oneself is an ongoing process, and I continue to do so, and there are elements within the concepts of racism that I am still coming to understand, yet I found in many of the comments here are an almost complete ignorance of the history of race relations. What am I to learn from that?

You seem to deny the arrogance that accompanies many people's white skin. I see it regularly when issues of race come up. It's good of you to defend the white race so vehemently when you call such an observation a "racist slur" - but this only underscores your ignorance of what racism is. Racism is an institution backed by courts, police, military, prisons, the media - EVERYTHING. And guess what? The prejudice is fiercely pro-white in all those areas. You don't even know what racism is (which is why you are calling supposedly anti-white statements "racist") - but I am not saying that all people white people are arrogant and dismissive. I have been commenting on the CULTURE of those white people who refuse to deal with their own privilege. Actually only one of my best friends is white, but the rest of them aren't. My partner isn't either. But that is besides the point.

I know how easy it is to become the enemy and I work against that. Calling someone who calls certain white people on their arrogance "racist" would make me the enemy, for example.

By the way, your "be a man" chide is sexist. C'mon, Lurker.

hm? 09.Jan.2004 04:21

konfunderad...

It´s just a fictive story?

I understood, all right. 09.Jan.2004 13:19

Faithful Lurker

"I don't remember where I have been 'proved wrong' within this thread." Oh, Mr. Stars, how disappointing. It's right there in black and yellowish-green. One poster specifically refuted a claim that you made about the skin color of elves, which was not an insignificant factor in your arguments at the time. (You promptly shifted the ground elsewhere, though.) The poster even gave a source reference. Others have been less specific, but no less correct. I'll let you find them yourself. You do READ other people's posts, don't you?

"Yes, I definitely wrote the things you quoted as me saying. People can be to blame when they didn't INTEND for something to happen. because it happened, wherther they intended it or not." There you go, then. By your own words, you are EXACTLY as much to blame for the racist value of your statements here as are PJ and JRR for the racist value of their creations. Neither more nor less. (That you deny that your statements were racist, of course, is only to be expected from a racist. Isn't that the way YOU play this game?)

"Don't blame your misreadings on me." Why not? You blame your misreadings of the film on PJ and JRR. You even used the word "blame." Either a creator is responsible for his work, or he isn't. You can't have it one way for them and another for you. If you hold them responsible for their unintentional racism, then you are responsible for your own. You're hoist by your own petard, pal.

"Racism is an institution backed by courts, police, military, prisons, the media - EVERYTHING." That may be so. But that's the culture backing up ONE FORM of racism. I'll freely admit that it is the dominant form of racism extant today in the US, but that does not deny the existence of other forms that are unbacked by the culture. Your own language gives you away. Parse it down to subject-verb-object: [racism]--[is backed]--[by {objects}]. If racism included the backing, you wouldn't have written it that way. Even YOU don't use the word in a manner consistent with the meaning you claim for it. As others have noted, dictionary definitions of racism do not support your claims about the meaning of the word including the cultural backing. They all define the concept more generally. (You cite other authors for support, but they're wrong too.) No wonder you have trouble communicating.

As Lewis Carrol wrote: "'When _I_ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'" What you're trying to do here is change the meaning of the word "racism" to suit your argument, which is a tactic that either works completely or fails utterly. Guess which has happened here, Humpty?

"Calling someone who calls certain white people on their arrogance 'racist' would make me the enemy, for example." A lovely cheap shot, and one that I all but predicted you would use. (But it's only fair, since I'm attacking you.) Too bad for you that it's another false claim. I may be a very painful ally, but I'm against all racism. Even yours, in which you ascribe a particular behavior to a group of people based on the color of their skin. You might even be right about your assessment, but it's still a racist statement by some of your own definitions in this thread. You could have phrased the same concept in a non-racist way, referring to culture and not skin color, but you did not choose to do so.

What's that say about you, Mr. Stars? That you are simply a careless racist, or that you are a racist by malicious intent? I think you should know better than to do this from ignorance, but maybe you're blinded by your own ideology.

"By the way, your 'be a man' chide is sexist. C'mon, Lurker." Very well then. I AM man enough to admit my mistakes. I'll ignore your misquote and rephrase that in a non-sexist way: Be a decent human being and admit your mistakes.

I think you're too arrogant to do it. Care to rise above my opinion of you?

I'm still waiting... 09.Jan.2004 16:24

GRINGO STARS

What mistakes? You claim you don't want to find them (as if they exist in this thread) - but they are not in THIS thread. Of course I read every comment.

You still think that "racism" is something that can be directed to hold the poor, oppressed white race down. That is not racism. That is ethnocentrism. And I wasn't attacking white people, but rather the privilege and arrogance associated with so many white people who posted here, who are bored with racism because it doesn't affect them. I can't modify your dim view of academics who define the word "racism" in ways that differ from the white male establishment dictionaries that uphold racism, so I give up. You are impervious to new ideas it seems. Yet you are vehement in protecting the white race against "slurs" - so funny!

Someone can definitely be blamed for unintentional messages within a work of art when that message is harmful. I am not creating a work of art when I am writing a comment here - I am writing in plain English, so when you take something as an "implication" when it wasn't meant as one (and I have never imputed any intentional racism to Tolkien or Jackson from early in the thread), you just think I'm lying? I can't help that. That's your problem, Mr. Lurker. I'm laying the truth out for you. Take it or leave it.

"But that's the culture backing up ONE FORM of racism"
* That is the only kind of ethnocentrism that IS racism. You keep on with your Webster and other racists. Go look up all the different meanings of "black" and "dark" and "white" and you'll see the racism inherent in it.

Nothing happens in a vacuum, so when you treat all ethnocentrisms as equal, you are ignoring the centuries of brutal deadly oppression that put whites on top. Your chivalrous defense of white people is worse than useless in this context - that of reality - of a culture with white people firmly on top.

I'm too arrogant to care what you think of me, but your grasp of racial realities is somewhat disturbing, although typical for white folks. I guess it's hard for you to admit that a favorite fantasy of yours isn't perfect maybe?

libel dweebs 10.Jan.2004 03:29

not even

>I call bullshit on Gringo Stars. He is implying that the
>filmmakers sought some sort of prior approval of their work
>among the white supremacist crowd. It's a good thing for
>anonymous posting, Gringo, because this is libel.

Bullshit. No he's not. Nazis do, in fact, love Jackson's LotR. That's all he said.

And nothing you can possibly say about a public figure is libel. That's not how it works here.

IT's A FUKCING MOVIE! GET OVER YOURSELF! 10.Jan.2004 07:39

It came with the Frame

You need a woman bro.

Don't you guys have better ways to conduct your time.....? 10.Jan.2004 14:40

Portland Playerhater

Man you PDX folk spend so much time being consumed by politics and social change that it must warp your feeble little minds-perhaps you don't have to work or support yourselves and you have additional time to analyze the evident evils of cinematography-you can't eradicate racism, sexism, or any isms-they are engrained in the most humanist qualities-so you criticize entertainment-how about I criticize your lame indy rock subculture-hey-those emo glasses look really dumb

racism and sexism are NOT ingrained 10.Jan.2004 15:15

GRINGO STARS

Get your history straight. Racism was invented as a capitalist way to divide the oppressed - its a New World invention when the merchant class rose to real power. And sexism isn't ingrained either. Many societies were matriarchal and matrilineal - most of them were 10,000 years ago before the rise of agriculture, militarism, and alcoholic patriarchies.

The Roots of Racism by Alex Taylor;
 http://socialistworker.org/2002-2/431/431_08_Racism.shtml

Thanks for the command to quit fighting racism and sexism though - real helpful of you, that.
(sarcasm)

IT JUST A MOVIE 10.Jan.2004 15:45

Sean

There is a simple explination for all of this. Rohan is from the west he cant just change that. If the Riders did not look different and evil in some way then the effect would be ruined. AND FINALLY IT IS A FILM FROM A BOOK, NOT A WAY OF HAVING AGO AT PEOPLE!!!!

I win that bet. 'Tis a pity, because I wanted to lose. 10.Jan.2004 23:03

Faithful Lurker

"What mistakes? You claim you don't want to find them (as if they exist in this thread) - but they are not in THIS thread. Of course I read every comment. "

Apparently not. Check out the post titled "Follow-up," from 27.Dec.2003.

What else are you wrong about, Gringo? [shakes head sadly] Apparently you're too bullheaded to improve yourself through constructive self-examination. You won't even do this simple thing.

I apologize for having attacked you so forcefully. I had hoped to shake you out of your complacency, induce you to constructively examine the flaws in your methods of argument, and thus strengthen an ally in the struggle against hate. Apparently I have failed.

It's not so much that I think your positions are incorrect (although I disagree with several in varying degrees) as it is that I think you arrived at these positions and then misplaced your flexibility of thought. You show every appearance of having become an idealogue, and idealogues (in my opinion) are not especially effective in accomplishing real social change. (Which we desparately need to accomplish, as I think you will agree.)

A mind is indeed a terrible thing to waste, and you're stifling yourself. Your ideological bindings are too tight and they're cutting off the blood to your brain. Free yourself before you become stuck in such a narrow perspective for life. Stop reacting, and start thinking. Free your mind, Gringo.

Still at it I see. 11.Jan.2004 01:16

JAT

GRINGO STARS writes in two separate posts "Septemus Severenus, an emperor of Rome, was African and almost certainly Black." and "Ancient Rome had a black emperor once - can you imagine a black US president today?" I thought this was intriguing, so I Googled "Septemus Severenus." Turns out this is a misspelling of "Septimus Severius," I did get one hit with the misspelled phrase, though. It was in an article at http://www.socialistworker.org/2002-2/431/431_08_Racism.shtml, the web site of the on-line newspaper of the International Socialist Organization. Gringo is parroting "facts" from an organization that looks about as objective as your typical white supremacist site. From what I can tell, Septimus Severius was a Roman Emperor who was born in what we now know as Libya, an area of Africa that was colonized by the Greeks as far back as 700 BC and invaded and settled by the Romans around 106 BC. He was Emperor from 193 AD to 211 AD. Is this why Gringo thinks the Romans had a "black" emperor, because he was born in Africa in an area that had been settled by Greeks and Romans for hundreds of years? Please don't think that I'm claiming that the ancient Romans were "racist." I don't think you can really suggest that anyone was "racist" until the psuedo scientific concept of "race" emerged.

Question for the author 11.Jan.2004 10:40

Tolkien Scholar

I'm not sure if you're an idiot, ignorant, or simply trolling for attention. Care to clarify that for me?

The main problem... 11.Jan.2004 12:04

GRINGO STARS

... as evidenced by "Fucker"'s ingenious comment, is that Bison Boy, you, etc, are in unquestioning awe of LotR. To be sure, it is one of the better fantasies I read in middle school, and is probably one of the better Christian metaphors. But the defense of the film as "not" racist is ignoring the way that humans perceive reality, the power of film on culture, the deeply-held social beliefs of race, and the the personal unintentional racism of middle-class British Tolkien. Any assault on the supremacy of this story is to be met with righteous Rohirric attacks from such devotees.

I see no mistakes of mine evidenced by Bison Boy's comment, Mr. Lurker. I see sophisms from Bison that what Tolkien actually literally CALLS *race* "isn't really" race at all. Lawyerly and wrong. Race is race in this story. That each race is called a completely different "race" is self-evident. That they have completely different biologies is even more telling, as if to say the races of humanity are biologically determined to act differently (yet another reason why the neo-nazis see this tale as confirming their racist belief system).

As someone interested in the problem of racism, it is important to me to understand those OVERT racists like the neo-nazi "white nationalists" as well as the unintentional racists; typically thoughtless people who are against racism but are incapable of understanding that they might, in fact, uphold racism with their own actions but not beliefs. It is appalling and amazing the degree with which neo-nazis have taken the LotR tales as their own. When something like this happens, when the nazis use LotR as confirmation of racism, is this to be ignored? Should whatever speaks to them be discounted? Isn't it useful to know the enemy? Aren't neo-nazis the enemy in the fight against racism?

Neo-Nazis are capable of being unthoughtful, without a doubt. So is the average human (especially Americans) - thanks to education systems that uphold obedience over critical thought, also due to TV which makes the brainwaves calmer than when in sleep (which is maybe why so many people quit thinking when watching a movie/show). I am critical of almost everything. Call me an asshole.

[waiting for you to call me an asshole]

So I didn't turn my brain off, or on autopilot, as so many commentors have recommended in this thread. If you actually THINK about it, you will see why the nazis love this film. You can't just react because you love the LotR so much. Is the film racist? It is used as a recruiting tool and ideological justification for neo-nazis now, so you tell me. It depicts different races as acting in certain ways as determined by their biology, and there is a clear hierarchy of races - higher and lower. It meets many of the definitions of racism.

I never asked for LotR to be made differently. I'm both a critic asshole and an anti-racist, not a filmmaker.

And to JAT - read the book I recommend in this thread concerning early racism. Frank Snowden wrote an excellent book debunking the idea that racial prejudice was always a part of human history. It's called Before Color Prejudice and I highly recommend it.
 http://www.homestead.com/wysinger/beforecolorprejudice.html

As far as "objectivity" - there is no such thing in any history, journalism, news, or written piece. "Objectivity" is a myth promoted by corporate news whores who seek to propagandize their version of events. When any piece ius written, certain facts are included and some are left out. That's bias. The facts that are included are arranged in a certain way. That's bias. The included facts are argued in a certain way. That's bias. The finished piece gives a general impression that certain actions are preferrable than others. That is yet more bias. The more some source goes on about mythical "unbiased" and "objective" information, the more BS yopu know is going to come from them. ALL sources are biased, but only some of them are intellectually honest enough to be upfront with their biases and beliefs.

Humans aren't robots and we have emotions and opinions, and it is impossible to keep them out of anything we write.

 http://film.guardian.co.uk/lordoftherings/news/0,11016,852217,00.html

Don't drink the bong water again! 19.Jan.2004 13:46

ur_bias_is_showing

Dear Lloyd, you seem to have slept thru some classes at school; literature and
logic come quickly to mind. What makes you think that your "thoughts" (I'm
obviously being generous here) are noteworthy? Your flawed reasoning and
sophmoric rants seem to have been influenced by some of the products advertised
on your page. Your tirade seems intended to prove only that there are good
reasons for outlawing marijuana use; your marijuana campaign advertisers should
ask for rebates!

I see I came a little late... 24.Jan.2004 06:17

Tecknicality Tecknicality@yahoo.com

Whew! Give me a few hours of spare time and look what I do with it. It took a while, but I read this whole darned thread. All I can say now is:
Bison Boy: You sound like a smart man. I enjoyed and agreed with just about every one of your responses (perhaps even all).
Lloyd Hart: Take a look at your post from 28.Dec.2003 20:14 entitled "Duncan."

QUOTE
"Every historical quote you made is from history writen by white men. White history cannot be trusted. The whites are the dominent global empire who are also preventing the people of the world from dealing with the white man's hate of what created them, the earth. There is a global evironmental crisis that will kill all life on this planet this century. The source of the crisis comes from Christianity's " Man has Dominion over". This simple christian ethic explains why white men have cut down all the world's forests for their corrupt accounts on paper. Why white men's technology pollutes the air and water murdering millions every year. Why they are building a space program as a psychotic fantasy to escape the mess they have made here.
We are living off of the profits created by the genocide of thirty million Native Americans, slavery and the billions impoverished by our isatiable white economy. I am not proud of this. It would be ok if the whites had learned their lesson but they have not and are more dangerous if not resisted."
END QUOTE

All right, excuse me if I believe that sounded a little racist in itself. Don't think so? Take another look that quote, only now exchange every use of the words "White" and "Christian" with the words "Black," "Jewish," "Islamic," or any other race/religion/culture, etc. of your choosing. "... . It would be ok if the [Jews] had learned their lesson but they have not and are more dangerous if not resisted." Now does it sound a little more racist? The fact that a race is not in the minority does not mean that to degrade an entire population based on it isn't prejudice. But I know what you were trying to say, and to a small extent I agree. Europeans and Americans and many other countries have racism as a large part of their history. It's not something to be proud of, laughed at, or forgotten. We need to learn from our mistakes, and work to create a better world for our children. I agree with that part of what you were saying, but please do not blame the very heart of racism on the white population and all cutting of trees on Christianity. That's ridiculous. People of all ethnicities, religions, and economic backgrounds make huge mistakes. It's when we try to blame the mistakes of the few (or even many) on the mistakes of the whole that we have a problem.

As for whether I think Lord of the Rings is racist propaganda: No, thank you. Tolkien has for many a year been a favorite research subject of mine. He was an author that was upset over the loss of much of England's mythology, and so he decided to create one of his own. He based Middle Earth on the lands in which he lived, and his characters are based on the culture in which he knew. I could recommend a lot of books on the life of Tolkien and the basis for which he created his world (the biographies by Humphrey Carpenter and Katharyn F. Crabbe are a good place to start, if you are really interested), but I think the following page from National Geographic has a good, quick overview of the influences that helped him to create the world we know and love (or don't).
 http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/index.html
To quote it:
"Tolkien created the mythology and history of Middle-earth to serve as the poetic legend he felt his homeland, England, lacked. After the last Roman rulers left present day England in about A.D. 400, a series of migrations and invasions altered England's cultural landscape. First came the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes; then the Danish and Norwegian Vikings; and finally the Normans from France in 1066. As a result, many of the oral histories and legends of previous eras were lost. In part to make up for this loss, Tolkien spent years developing and fine-tuning the history and mythology of Middle-earth."

Tolkien was a lover of languages, cultures, and mythology. He did not write his books to focus on white or black people or any other skin tone, but he did stress the idea of races as a whole uniting. Very different species with very different ideals had to come to the realization that if they did not work together, the world as they knew it would cease to exist. They had to put aside their prejudice and disdain for each other and work together to banish the evil that would have destroyed them. The orcs were once elves that had been captured and tortured long ago into the grimy mess that you see in the books/movies. They are not representative of African Americans, or any human race. They are evil creatures that have been mutilated and charred beyond recognition. And as I don't think it is the nature of orcs to wash themselves, I'd imagine they have several layers of caked on grime as well. Forgive them if they look a little dark on top of being evil. The Haradrim (Southrons) are never described as evil, as several people above have already stated. They were a proud race that was tricked into complying with the evil forces around them from Mordor. King Théoden very nearly brought his people to the same fate by the evil-doings of Gríma Wormtounge and Saruman (the original White Wizard). Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, was also corrupted. The fight between good and evil in Tolkien's world does not lie in dark and fair skin tones, but in every individual's heart. Every race and species in Tolkien's world had its failures.

Tolkien wrote his novels half a century ago, in a time before Political Correctness demanded that every story have a certain percentage of protagonists from every ethnicity. I am not trying to offend anyone with that comment, nor deny that this world would benefit greatly with more heroes and heroines of different races. But the fact that one man writing a children's story (to begin with, anyway) of an ancient English society ago did not include a hero of every ethnicity does not make him racist. Nor does Peter Jackson's decision to give a few "bad guys" knotted and twisted hair make him racist. I've seen these movies with people of many different races, and I have yet to meet someone in person who has been offended by the "racist overtones" of the fantasy. Does that mean that they are blind to it or so used to it they don't pay attention to it anymore? Or might it just mean that they are not looking for something that was never supposed to be there in the first place?

To each his own...

"[I go] ever on and on..." 25.Jan.2004 06:56

Tecknicality Tecknicality@yahoo.com

This is a follow-up to my message above, in response to GRINGO STARS's last post on 11.Jan.2004 12:04. I am responding to his post separately because I ran out of time yesterday, and also because I think it is the most intelligent argument yet on the side of claiming racist messages in Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien did indeed call his creatures "races," but in reality they were to be symbolic figures of the different aspects of all of humanity. Hobbits were mythical creatures half the size of a man with hairy feet, pointed ears, and round bellies. Tolkien created them as a metaphor for all that is natural and good and innocent in the world. The hobbits lived in peace and loved their land. They expressed raw emotions without pride or shame. They had no knowledge of the evils around them, and therefore they were not tainted by them. The elves, also a metaphor for goodness and nature, were an ancient people of much sorrow. Leaving Middle Earth forever, they were a symbol for the passing of ages and the loss of culture (culture is not a bad thing). Dwarves, the short, stout, bearded men and women, were a symbol of pride, loyalty and stubbornness. Orcs and Uruk-hai, on the other hand, were symbolic of everything that is cruel and evil in this world. Their main purpose in life was the genocide of all the other races in Middle Earth. They looked like monsters (not black-skinned humans), with twisted body parts and pointed ears and grime, and they were bred to destroy the world and all the innocence in it. The "races" of men, elves, dwarves, hobbits, ents, and even a few wizards had to learn to put aside their cultural differences and work together to bring piece to their world. No one race could have done it alone, and it was only once they united that they were able to push back the growing shadow that had fallen upon the land.

If the neo-Nazis are trying to sell this material as racist propaganda, they will never be able to reach beyond the surface word "race." Any delving into the symbolism of the story would counteract everything they stand for, and therefore they blind themselves to the message of the story. A piece of work of this many levels is bound to be misinterpreted by some on its surface level, but these people will never be able to back up their beliefs with this story other than to point to the use of the word "race." They cannot call the Haradrim evil, because they are not evil. They cannot call the orcs African Americans, because orcs are not human and do not resemble humans in any way other than their ability speak. These people can point to the skin tone all they want, but all there is to see is grime.

Every single piece of fiction has the potential to be viewed and labeled as racist or stereotypical in some way by some group. But we do ourselves no credit by digging so far deep (or not digging at all beyond the surface, and perhaps that is the problem) into every story to pull out some element that could be viewed as racist when it is not present. Instead, we should look at fiction and seek the messages that the authors/directors/etc. are trying to get across to the people. If the message is good, we should do what we can to share that message with others and apply it to our own lives. If the message is bad, we should educate ourselves by it so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past. If the things our children watch will influence them, and it certainly will, then we should talk with them about the meaning of the films they watch and discuss with them the good (and bad, if necessary) themes that shine forth. Do not look for surface crap and propaganda where there is no need, only to prove to the world that you can find racist stereotyping within every piece of fiction. Instead look to the heart of what you watch, and open your mind to what it may really be trying to tell you. It may surprise you.

The Counter Argument 04.Feb.2004 13:25

Aaron

Hello All, I found this sitting on a table in a building I often go to study and decided to voice my opinoin. I won't cover all of this because Mr. Hart seems to be all over the chart so I'll stick with the point of race. First Mr. Hart you yourself are stereotypical with race your self. It seems most whites believe racisim is where a white man thinks he's better then someone of different skin color. THAT IS NOT RACISIM!!! Racisim is where one race of people believe they are better than and/or bring down another.

I've seen all of the Lord of the Rings Movies multiple times and when I see orcs and ogres and all the evil races I don't see natives and blacks and arabs I see the the portrayal of what those creatures are described like in other stories. JRR Tolkien did an excellent describing everything except the enemies. Also, Mr. Hart your ignorance is obvious. By talking about President Bush's war on terrorism you obviously think that it was an influence on the movie. So here's some enlightenment, all 3 movies had finished filming before the first one was released in 2001. So September 11th could not have possibly influenced Mr. Jackson to not putting any arabs in the movie.

You obviously didn't pay attention to the movies themselves and have never read the books. There is a great side story of overcoming race in The Lord of the Rings. In the first story (this is both in the movies and the books) Gimli (the dwarf) and Legolas (the elf) obviously have strong prejudices against the others race yet as the story progresses they over come those differences to become good friends.

Another point is that I don't see any teenagers seeing the evil races in the story as any of the middle eastern and african races. A smaller child by imagination might but that is the parents concern since it is pg-13.

And finally you said if Tolkien had been alive to over see the movie he probably would have chosen people with different skin color to play the roles of the heroes. more proof of your ignorance, Tolkien never wanted his books to become movie adaptations.

Finally you need to learn your manners. Even though you don't like President Bush he still deserves the respect of his position. I dislike President Clinton but as you see I still show him the respect of his position and I do the same for all world leaders whether or not I like them.

All I Can Say 11.Feb.2004 12:34

Arnitta Lawson arnittalaws@hotmail.com

All I can say is this, it was written by an Englishman, before racial correctness was even thought of, and after all, it did come from his imagination, a European man.

Are you all insane? 22.Feb.2004 14:15

David

Truly, after reading the article and the comments, I have to question your objectivity or lack thereof. No, there are no black characters. True. There are elves, dwarves, ents, and various other creatures that are not equal and not men. The fellowship showed a group of beings who had nothing in common join together for the common good.
How you can see racism in this is beyond me. It is a work of fantasy. If you want to see a work of fantasy changed, edited and basically rewritten to include blacks, whites, American Indians, Chinese or Azeris, then why not write a NEW fantasy yourself? You take political correctness too far, when you go to put things in that were not there before. This is a work of fantasy, and there are far more powerful political overtones than racist.
Regarding your statements on hip-hop, it's pure and simple hogwash. Hip-hop/rap, with maybe 10 or fewer exceptional artists, has only served to inflate the self-hating egos of the artists themselves and dismiss the inherent culture-damaging lifestyle that goes along with being a narcissistic thug. They've taken the word, "Brotha", which used to mean something, which used to assure connectedness, and use it now as part of a meaningless greeting.
I haven't seen any American music-based movement work successfully to be all-inclusive, unless they do sing in French, Arabic, Swahili somewhere here and I haven't seen it. Hip-hop artists will have to start doing that if they are going to convince me they want to communicate with the people of Benin, Algeria, Nigeria and Somalia.
If on the other hand, you WANT to acknowledge artists who are doing something good, look to Africa.

Oran

OMG 23.Feb.2004 21:45

Anon

YOU guys are the ones who are rascist for even comming up with that idea ... Rembember when you point your finger at someone else, there's at least three more pointing back at yourself. You people are just TRYING to make every white person seem rascist, its just a movie. The book is based on the world map yes ... and there are animals from those places in the fights, dark ALWAYS represents evil, get over it!

Your clueless 29.Feb.2004 17:54

Shellie

Do you even know fantasy/fiction from reality? Or are you one of those people that are so miserable with who they are that you look for something in everything to bitch/yell/cry racism about?

Get your head out of your ass!

LIFE IS NOT FAIR AND IT NEVER WILL BE!

Rubish 23.Mar.2004 09:03

Diviya

The story is set in 14th (I think)century wetsern Europe. The vast majority of the people living there at that time would have been white. That is the simple truth of it, and it would have looked out of place had the characters not looked western European. It is possbile to take political correctness too far, so that a plot has become false just so that people of coloured skin can feature. Thinking in this way only increases the devide by pointing out that there actually IS a devide. I am of a Indian background, although I have grown up in Britain, and I did not find the films or books at all offensive.
I also object to what you say that young people are very impressionable. The films had a 12A age limit. I hardly think that the actors in a film will really influence the way that teenagers percieve their friends and the people around them.

Rap and Hip/Hop Sexist 02.May.2004 05:26

FESK

Our family is Jamaican/Bristish descent living in Australia.
Constant subtle racism definatly effects children/ teenagers and adults. The effects are cummulative on the subconcious of all nationalities. I too noticed the skin tone of the majority of baddies in Lord Of The Rings!I have also noticed a total lack of any black representation in recent films such as Peter Pan, if your white you may not notice. However despite the era it was set in, we are talking 2004 and a good racial mix should have been included.

However Lloyd my children are girls. Please don't hold up Hip Hop and Rap up as a good example. I have never heard such sexist lyrics from any other style of music. Sexism like racism needs constant vigilance. I personally have a hip hop/rap sound engineer edit all the tapes my young girls listen too. I don't like those rappers diss'in women.
FESK

About picts 27.Mar.2005 16:14

Joe White

The picts were not dark skinned or tattooed. They were probaly blond or red headed and had light skin. The painted themselves blue. And so what if there is mostly whites in LOTR. Can we not have 1 movie without seeing blacks in it? What if it was an ancient documentary set in ancient europe? Would we still need to have blacks in it?

Not feeling it 06.Apr.2005 10:11

Afro_girl k2jthepoet@hotmail.com

If the name hasn't given it away, yes, I'm a Black girl. Afro-American to be exact and I thought I'd give a little insight to how this 'minority' sees LotR.

Ever since the LotR movies came out, I've been a major fan of Tolkien. I've read the trilogy dozens of times, the History of Middle-earth (which I'm still currently going through) and countless articles concerning LotR/ Tolkien. Since many people have said their piece, either agreeing/disagreeing with the original post, I'm not going to add yet [i]another[/i] argument to it. I've only a few things to say:

- [b]Political correctness has thrown many (not all) people into racially obssessive behavior[/b], to the point of needing to find a token minority in every part of the media to prove that it's not racist.

-[b]LotR can be interpreted into hundreds of contexts[/b]: religious, sexual orientated, political, racial, cultural, the list is endless. I for one am not going to delve into the story with an already tinted set of focals.

-My impression was that the races were depicted wonderfully. I don't think most of you are griping about race, rather than skin colour. Race is an ethnic group; people of many skin shades can belong to the same race. Elves, Men, Dwarves, Hobbits are different races. And they all had a positive place in the great scheme of things.

- [b]Though I can sympathise with the original poster, and agree in [i]some[/i] points, I can't support him on the whole.[/b] One can take a story and can find several meanings "meant" to be portrayed, good and bad.And all of them can be contradictory to the author's intentions. I've myself written stories, thought to be political, when in fact they religious. It's all based on perception.

-[b]Peter Jackson chose a all white cast to film LotR. So what?[/b] If there isn't Blacks or Asians included in everything, then one [b]must[/b] be racist? That's very unfair to assume. 'Roots' didn't have a token white slave to balance things out. Whites were slaveowners and Black were slaves. Period.

-The Haradrim in LotR were portrayed on the evil side, but they weren't evil. They were under the sway of the enemy. Who was, I should add, a white guy (i.e. Sauron).

-I don't doubt that there were originally black people in Europe. However, some of you are failing to see something. [b]It's supposed to be Euro-centric mythology![/b]Which as a rule depicts, mainly white people!

In closing, I just want to say that I respect everyone else's opinion here, even though I mgith not agree with it. LotR is a fantasy story with good morals in it: unity and protection of the environment. And the fantasy imagery wasn't bad either. Now if you'll excuse me, I've a movie to watch.

Tolkein Black 28.Jul.2005 22:18

SpeaksNoLies smnchris@yahoo.com

Mr. Hart, while I understand the flaming liberal in you compels you to write bad things about George Bush and be a racist whose bias is against your own race, I honestly do not know why you are SO stirred up about The Lord of The Rings. Mr. Hart, honestly, do not most films go out of their way to include many peoples of diverse ethnic backgrounds? It sounds to me like you are being selfish due to your marriage to an Asian woman. Do you want the world to revolve around you?

The Lord of The Rings is a story written by a white man, read for decades by white people, and a story that eventually made its way to the big screen. So its natural that the heroes are white -- watch BET, the heroes are black!! Read Middle Eastern literature, the heroes are Middle Eastern! You have a "white man is in complete charge of the earth" view -- white people are not better than all the other cultures. When they tell a story, it involves characters that are like their families, themselves, and most of their friends -- just like any other race. They're just telling stories the way everyone does, and there is no fault in that. Not all asian, middle eastern, and african legends and stories (or movies) include caucasians, so let this one white person movie slide, eh?

Now about stereotyping by making the characters dark and Eastern, THAT WAS TRUE TO THE BOOK. Also, the monsters in folk tales from other cultures are dark as well, its a moster thing. Plus, Saruman was a white guy!!

Yes, Tolkein would have been right to include people of color and distort the story a little bit. But he was every bit as right not to do it! I mean, directors refuse to remove many offensive things from scripts in order to be true to the original story, this situation is no different. It was at his discretion. It is not always necessary to throw in the token black just for the sake of it. If there's a "diverse" individual, let it be because he or she is a genuine part of the story. My people's culture is just as sophisticated as English/European culture, and when my people's folk tales finally make the big screen, I do not want them to be ruined by some out of place, funny talking Brittish guy playing the part of the tribe elder!