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Topic subjectRE: Let's discuss subliminal racism = Peter Jackson's work.
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=33408&mesg_id=33487
33487, RE: Let's discuss subliminal racism = Peter Jackson's work.
Posted by NothiNThere17, Sun Dec-18-05 09:32 AM
Okay, before I start, I just want to say: This isnít going to be the best thought out or most complete response. I just stumbled upon this discussion while looking for some tour information, and had to respond. But, itís getting late, and Iím tired. So, Iím going to make this quick.

First of all, I canít much respond to any of the talk about King Kong. I have never seen the original, the 1970ís remake, or the new version. But, from what everybody is saying, I gather the natives of the island where they find Kong are represented ďbadlyĒ in everybodyís opinion. But, have any of you stopped to think that you saying the natives are being represented as savages is an extremely prejudice remark in itself. (Since some people have brought up sociology, so Iíll try and do this with sociology and anthropology in mind.) The simple fact is that throughout history there have been a lot of civilizations that practiced things like the occult, human sacrifice, did things like made jewelry from human bones, etc. And, the vast majority of those civilizations (who existed on all continents, mind you, except maybe Antarctica) existed before recorded history. From what little I know about King Kong, Iíve gathered that the island where Kong is found is a place that prehistory is supposed to have survived (i.e. there are dinosaurs, there are giant apes, and the people live in a way that nobody thought still existed). Also, Iíve gathered (and maybe Iím wrong on this) that the island is supposed to be fairly tropical. Now, if these people have been living on a tropical island for thousands of years, untouched by the rest of the world, I would assume they would adapt to their environment. Well, guess what, people in hotter tropical environments adapt by having darker skin. So, it is unreasonable to have these natives have paler skin. The reason people of Europe have paler skin is they adapted to a colder more overcast environment. The reason people of Central America, South America, and Africa have darker skin is they had to adapt to the exact opposite of environments, hot sunny climates. Now, since the island is supposed to represent pre-history and these people are living in a tropical environment it is not too unreasonable to make them people who are of darker skin and practice things like human sacrifice and the making of jewelry from bones. Also, modern sociology and anthropology teaches that there is no savage. Just because these people are shown as something that we would not normally associate with ďcivilizationĒ does not make them un-civilized. But, instead they are simply civilized in a different way. Their civilization has gone through as much progress as any other; it just simply took a different direction. Now, if the characters in the movie call these people ďsavages,Ē then those characters are prejudice. But, that does not necessarily make the movie prejudice. The movie could simply be trying to paint the picture of a land radically different from our own. And, to say that these people are being shown as ďsavageĒ only shows your own bias about what you think civilization is. These people are only being shown as different, civilized in their own way. You put a negative connotation on how they act; their actions are not inherently negative. If people watch this movie and see a bunch of wild dark skinned savages attack a bunch of innocent pale skinned travelers, that only shows that the audience is prejudiced not the movie. The actions of the natives are only bad when we apply our own prejudices and pre-dispositions. But, if we see it as they are simply civilized in a different way and simply have different notions of morality. Then these people arenít necessarily represented in the negative, but instead are represented as neutral (neither bad nor good, simply different). Now, Iím NOT saying the movie DEFINITLY isnít racist. I canít make that judgment; Iíve never seen it. Iím just saying: making the island natives act the way they do is not necessarily inherently racist and if you look at pre-history is maybe even understandable and realistic. And, making the island natives of darker complexion is very reasonable (that is, if the island does in fact have a tropical climate otherwise it probably is just racism). Iím just saying: is the movie racist? Maybe. But, donít forget if you look for prejudice hard enough in a piece of media youíll probably find it, even if itís not actually there.

Now, as far as LoTR: Do I think Tolkein was a racist? He probably was considering the time in which he grew up. Do I think his story is racist or prejudice toward any group? No, and I think a lot of the arguments that claim it is are either a bit of a stretch or jumping to conclusions. First, some people have mentioned how all the heroes are white. Well, the story is set in Middle Earth. Middle Earth is a land that very clearly parallels feudal Europe, more specifically feudal Britain. Guess what, there werenít many people of color running around feudal Britain, thatís just a fact. Pre-Globalization you didnít get very many people of different skin colors in the same place. You are supposed to get that Middle Earth isnít the entire world, but just the part of the world were the story takes place. And, in this part of the world the people just happened to be white (which is a reasonable choice for Tolkein to make since he was trying to parallel feudal Britain). Now, some may say, well the orcs arenít white. But, if you remember that is explained. The orcs used to be elves, and since the elves are white then the orcs used to be white as well. They arenít a people from another land or anything like that; they are simply altered elves. Other people have pointed out that the orcs have black skin, obviously racist. Well, how many people of African decent have you ever met with black skin? Because, maybe we are meeting different people, but every person I know and have met that is ďblackĒ actually has brown skin. Yes, some are darker than others, but they all definitely have brown skin. Actually, I think I can safely say if I ever meet a person with truly black skin I would probably shit myself a little bit just out of shear amazement. The orcs having black skin in LoTR has nothing to do with racism. It has everything to do with the old idea that white/light = good, and black/night = bad. And, that is an idea that is much older than racism (note I said racism not prejudice). Racism started in colonial times. There was prejudice before that, but it had nothing to do with race. Prejudice in pre-colonial times had to do with religion and culture. Take the Spanish Inquisition for example (pre-colonial times for those non-history buffs). The Muslims and Jews in Spain were heavily persecuted. But, if those Muslims and Jews converted to Christianity and adopted the culture of the country they were living in they were treated as equals. Their persecution had nothing to do with their race; the idea of ďraceĒ hadnít even crossed the Inquisitors minds. The only thing that mattered was religion and culture. Skin color was a non-factor in those times. Skin color was only made a factor during colonial times, because the darker skinned slaves were converting to Christianity at a fast rate. But, the slave owners couldnít just start giving up their slaves and treating them as equals because they had become Christian; they were too valuable to the economy. So, racism was created as a justification for the continued enslavement of Christians. So, racism is only a few hundred years old (and if you want to try to argue that go talk to a history or anthropology professor first, because he will back me up). But, the idea that white/light symbolizes good and black/night symbolizes evil is a very old idea. If anybody reads the Bible you will remember that Jesus. About 1500 years before colonial times, described himself as ďthe way, the truth, and THE LIGHT.Ē Also, the tradition of putting band of LIGHT or haloís around holy peopleís heads in art isnít exactly a new idea. Also, many Eastern religions, which are as old and older than Christianity, will describe especially spiritual people as having a glowing LIGHT or aura radiating from them. White (along with Light) has been a symbol of purity in European cultures and cultures across the world for thousands of years, and itís opposite black (along with Night) has been a symbol of corruption and evil. So, I think we can safely say that the idea of white/light symbolizing good and black/night symbolizing evil predates and has nothing to do with racism; itís just old folklore. I think it is more than reasonable to believe that the orcs have black skin not for racist reasons, but because the color black had long represented evil especially in European tradition. This is also why Gandalf is made into the White wizard and much of his magic is manifested as beams of light. It is reasonable to believe that while Tolkein was trying to create a mythological story for Britain he would use themes from old European traditions and folklore. I really donít think LoTR is meant to be racist. If anything it tries to teach that all races should work together, and try to defeat the real evils of the world. I mean, look at the fellowship. It is made up of elf, dwarf, hobbit, man, and wizard (I asked a LoTR nut about this once, the wizards apparently arenít quite human. If you pay attention they mention that Gandalf is thousands of years old, obviously not quite human). This is trying to show different races how to work together, not trying to separate them. Now, as for the claims that LoTR is sexist and anti-feminist, I think itís a bit of a stretch. Somebody made the claim that the ring of power (the object whichís destruction the entire story is based around) is vaginal. And, that the putting on of the ring represents penetration. Now, I see how this person can see this, but it just seems like a bit of a stretch to me. First of all, lets say the ring is vaginal. And, putting on the ring does represent women enslaving men with their ďevilĒ vaginas. But, the story starts out by explaining that the elves received three rings, the dwarves seven (I think, maybe it was five), and the men nine. And, in those 19 (17?) rings was the will and power to govern all the races of Middle Earth. Now, these rings are obviously positive things. So, if the ring of power is vaginal. And, he wants to have the ring symbolize feminism and itís threat to the world, why would he include 19 other rings (which if one is vaginal they all have to be vaginal) that are so obviously positive? Or, could it that he chose to make it a ring because of something much more rooted in European tradition? What did nobility in feudal Europe wear, besides a crown, to represent their lineage and power? A ring. Have you ever seen in movies a peasant or somebody get down on his/her knees and kiss a ring on the hand of a King/Queen? Do you know why they did that? Royalty wore rings that had their family crest on it. A Kingís lineage was the reason he was ruling; it was the source of all his power. And, his family ring was a symbol of that lineage. So, basically, the family ring was a symbol for the source of royaltyís power. People would commonly be identified as royalty, because they wore a ring that bore the royal seal. I think it is fairly reasonable to believe that it is the RING of power and not the, oh letís say, necklace or power, not because the ring is vaginal and meant to represent feminism. But, because rings were traditionally a symbol of lineage and therefore a source of power in European history. Also, the comparison between a sword and a penis is also made. The argument is that the sword is phallic, and these men are using ďtheir manhoodĒ to stop the power of the ring and restore peace to Middle Earth. Well, I guess I can see how the sword is phallic. But, lets not forget that Gimli uses and axe. Legalos uses a bow most of the time. And, actually, most of the soldiers used spears not swords. The swords are only actually used by the more important human characters. And, thatís just because traditionally, throughout history, most soldiers would use spears but the officers and nobles would use swords (swords were to expensive for most armies to equip all their soldiers with). So, they ďsavedĒ Middle Earth more with spears than with swords. Now, if you want to claim that spears are also phallic, again I can see it, I guess. But, can you name a weapon that isnít phallic? (And, the whole point of LoTR is itís an epic tale of war so donít try to say, ďWell, they didnít necessarily have to use military force.) The sword is phallic, the gun is phallic, the spear is phallic, the double bladed war axe is probably the most phallic of them all, the arrow is phallic, the war-hammer is phallic, the mace is slightly phallic, really the amount of things you can say are slightly phallic is ridiculous if you really think about it. Maybe, just maybe, he was trying to tell an epic war story, and people just tend to read into the shape of weapons a little too much sometimes. Also, I think it is odd that a story that is so sexist would have to very strong female character. And, the story would have one of those female characters kill the King Wrath, something ďno man could do.Ē Seriously, Tolkein always claimed that all he was trying to do was write a great epic, and that LoTR was not intended to be an allegory for anything. Just, when you really look for something in a well-told epic of the scale of LoTR, youíre probably going to find what youíre looking for. Youíll find it, even if what youíre looking for wasnít really even there in the first place.

Wow, that turned out much longer than I intended. Anyway, thatís my two cents; Iím going to sleep.