[this post is a continuation of a longer conversation]
Lord of the Rings was written in a different age, in the 1950s. I’m not saying that’s a good excuse, but attitudes were different back then, so you can’t really compare things like that to modern books who should know better than to class ANY over-all race as the bad guys.
Okay, first, LoTR wasn’t written in the 1950’s. Second, “a different age” isn’t a secret code for “racism is fine.” It was just as wrong then as it is now. And it’s not just bad because of some abstract concept of morality - not seeing or reading about people like yourself in a positive role has a measurable impact on the way people perceive themselves, especially people of color. THAT’S why LoTR is problematic - because it was part of the trend where POC are ALWAYS cast as the bad guys. Which is the excuse white people have used for genocide and colonialism and murder for a long time.
I know Tolkein’s work influenced a lot of the genre, as HP Lovecraft did with the sci-fi horror genre, and yes, there is an awful lot of rascism in there. I’m not saying its okay. Its awfully uncomfortable stuff. I’m just saying that back then, people didn’t know better. They should have done, but they didn’t.
We can’t change the past, but we can change the future, and by doing that is taking new steps forwards into how we present and show race, by showing that race shouldn’t be an issue. That it isn’t down to race that makes a person good, bad, whatever, but it is the person themselves.
Racism is incredibly bad and shouldn’t exist. But if books keep putting it out there that an over-all race is bad (as said, white, black, whatever, it doesn’t matter!) then it is still racism and shouldn’t be a thing.
No. Reverse racism is not a thing. Racism against white people is not a thing. POC don’t have the institutional power to oppress us.
Wanting more poc characters in stories is because there aren’t enough poc characters in stories who are a) developed characters, b) not racist stereotypes/always the villains.
Wanting to show white people as the bad guys is because a) white people have historically been the bad guys on a global scale. Our ancestors were the ones responsible for colonialism and the reason racism exists. So it’s pretty much actively racist to say “omg don’t show us as the bad guys that makes me uncomfortable!”
And b) a privileged group generalizing an oppressed group (in this case white people and poc respectively) gets the members of the oppressed group killed, while the oppressed group making generalizations about the privileged group has absolutely no effect on the privileged group other than “i’m white and this makes me uncomfortable because for the first time I’m being confronted with something other than the idea that my race is the default, the pinnacle of beauty and goodness, etc etc etc.”
I suggest that you take a step back from this conversation and take some time to educate yourself on racism, because what you’re arguing is ignorance and misinformation.
Yes, LoTR was written in a different age (and earlier than you think—I am not google, look it up yourself). Tolkein was writing heavy-handed comparisons to things going on in his world—the destruction of the natural environment, the destructive power of the new machines of war, the industrialization of what was once peaceful, idyllic countryside. It’s possible he is actually more heavy-handed with allegory than CS Lewis (with whom he was friends, thus their works share certain similarities). And yes, he did have “different races” that were, like Spock, “like” us, but “different” from us too. That may have either been all he thought he could get away with at the time.
The more likely explanation is that Tolkein was much like his peers—sexist (notice the females in the story mainly serve to propel the men forward?), racist, classist and homophobic. He was an ivory tower academic. Insanely smart. But that can lead a person to be sheltered. And the others of his ilk were similarly products of their time—racist, sexist, classists.
That’s how the world was. That was who got an education back then, and that is who wrote things and got them published.
THAT SAID. When you do a modern adaptation, you have the opportunity to go not only build on those old themes of war and industry and the destruction of the natural world and mens greed, and whathaveyou, becuase they’re still modern themes. But you have the opportunity to present that fictional world in a way that is more representative of our modern values. With inclusion. With… some chicks. Though I did appreciate the facial hair on the background and very briefly seen female dwarves. Galadrial isn’t in that scene in the book, but if they hadn’t put her there (she does advance some plot points thru her conversation with Gandalf though) the movie would have been a complete and total fucking sausage-fest.
You can interpret it for a modern audience AND you can correct some of the mistakes of the past. Tolkein created an amazingly in-depth world. But he was not god. He was a fallible man, prone to the prejudices of his time.
I am a HUGE Sherlock Holmes fan. I think Arthur Conan Doyle is a very interesting real-life character. But he was still racist and sexist as fuck. He actively worked against the sufferage movement. And he was all pissed off that everyone liked Sherlock Holmes and not his “serious” works, which include a history of the Boer War which is both boring and OMG MORE IMPERIALIST/RACIST PROPAGANDA than anything by Kipling. The Lost World SOUNDS fun. Dinosaurs and big game hunters, right? RIGHT? No. It is soooo racist (and there’s a total lack of chicks) that it is actually kind of painful to read.
They were men of their times. They may have even been good and decent. But they were fallible. There’re things we know better about today, and we should attempt to live up to that. I think we have a responsibility to try.