Go back to previous topic
Forum nameOkay Activist Archives
Topic subjectBeyond Black and White: Postmodernism and Race in LOTR (swipe, long...)
Topic URLhttp://board.okayplayer.com/okp.php?az=show_topic&forum=22&topic_id=33408&mesg_id=33534
33534, Beyond Black and White: Postmodernism and Race in LOTR (swipe, long...)
Posted by The Damaja, Mon Dec-19-05 08:54 PM
I don't particularly like this essay but I might as well show another side of the argument. The ideas it deals with are similar to the ones Nettrice talks about I think.


Sue Kim. Modern Fiction Studies. West Lafayette: Winter 2004.Vol. 50, Iss. 4;  pg. 875, 33 pgs

Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel (1892-1973)

Sue Kim

Document types:

Publication title:
Modern Fiction Studies. West Lafayette: Winter 2004. Vol. 50, Iss.  4;  pg. 875, 33 pgs

Source type:


Text Word Count

Abstract (Document Summary)

Kim explores how The Lord of the Rings films function within and reproduce the logic and process of postmodern, neoliberal global capitalism, both drawing on and burying issues of race. As Tom Shippey suggests, one of the weaker reasons for dismissing The Lord of the Rings novels or films is that they are "not true." The films are created, read, and viewed by people in the world, and they reflect the languages and signs, desires, actions, and values of the world.

Full Text (13450   words)

Copyright Johns Hopkins University Press Winter 2004

In terms of racial coding, the only contemporary fantasy/sci-fi blockbuster film series as immediately cringe-inducing as the new Star Wars films is The Lord of the Rings trilogy.1 In the films, goodness correlates to whiteness, both racially and as color scheme, and is associated with Europe, particularly England and the Scandinavian countries, the West, and the North. Evil is invariably black, savage, Southern (or "Southron"), and Eastern.2 All racially "white" actors, whether from New Zealand (where the film was shot), Australia, the US, Ireland, or England, are assimilable as Middle-earth heroes (although they must adopt British accents), and the "good" display a heterogeneous mix of European (mostly British and Scandinavian) cultural references. Yet despite these immediately apparent delineations, discussions of these racialized discourses have been confused, stymied, or denied. This general inability to discuss race in The Lord of the Rings stems from the texts as well as from the terms of the debate. In other words, in order to understand race in the The Lord of the Rings films (a rich and productive discussion has yet to take place on the novels), we find ourselves required to grapple with postmodernism in its many incarnations. The films, like postmodernism itself, both invoke and deny the discourses and politics of race, while sweeping other salient and concrete issues under the rug. What we need to do, in the spirit of Tolkien or not, is to reclaim both freedom of interpretation (applicability) as well as some sort of ethical, moral, and/or political ground upon which to stand.

So to move beyond reading race only semiotically in The Lord of the Rings, I want to explore how the films function within and reproduce the logic and process of postmodern, neoliberal global capitalism, both drawing on and burying issues of race. As Tom Shippey suggests, one of the weaker reasons for dismissing The Lord of the Rings novels or films is that they are "not true" (327). The films are created, read, and viewed by people in the world, and they reflect the languages and signs, desires, actions, and values of our world. In other words, the fantasy is that we must understand The Lord of the Rings or any text or film merely as fantasy, particularly when what we understand as the "fantasy" of film has undergone significant changes in recent years. The films are not merely recordings or simple mimetic representations of a modernist or premodernist text (although they certainly have such elements too); the film's production, distribution, and discourses (both within and about the film) epitomize postmodernity in a number of significant aesthetic, technical, economic, epistemological, ethical, and political ways.

"Men of the West"

The films generally draw their racial and color-coding from the novels, but in the visual medium many aspects appear more striking.3 The "Men of the West" are led by "The White Wizard," Gandalf, with his white horse Shadowfax, particularly in defending the racially white people of Rohan and the "White City" of Minas Tirith. Aragorn is a "Ranger from the North" who can speak to horses in not only Elvish, but also Old English, and Rohan is of Scandinavian design ("Audio," Two Towers)? Eowyn's lament for Theoden's son, Theodred, is drawn from Old English, and cowriter Philippa Boyens notes that they drew on "bits and pieces of Beowulf" for the Rohirrim ("Audio," Two Towers']. The costume designers discuss their intent to make Galadriel the "most white," "most elegant," and "most beautiful" of all the characters ("Designing"). Hobbit culture and language is drawn from the UK, and Hobbiton at Matamata was designed to convey "homely and familiar" comfort, that is, "Englishness" ("Designing").

Conversely, "black" signifies evil, particularly the faceless Black Riders with black hoods and horses. Although Saruman the White, played by Christopher Lee, is one of the chief villains, he proves to be merely "passing"; his castle of black obsidian and black chamber and palantir tip off viewers to his black heart.5 At the council meeting at Rivendell, Gandalf speaks "the Black Speech of Mordor."6 Director Peter Jackson notes that the scene "shows the power of black speech within the elven world of Rivendell . . . the evil force saying those words can conjure up" ("Audio," Fellowship). The various nonhuman minions of Sauron and Saruman exhibit an array of racialized characteristics, although these traits are generally mixed and inconsistent.7 Goblins are blunt-nosed, short, stooping, and yellow- and slanteyed. The ores, who are "elves gone bad" as explained by Treebeard in the extended version ("Audio," Fellowship), have brown and red faces. The Uruk-hai are tall, black, and muscular with long, coarse hair that resembles dreadlocks.8 These Uruks, a racial mongrel of goblins and ores ("Audio," Fellowship), are shown being "harvested" from mud; thus they are literally "mud people." These monster-villains are generally nameless, anonymous, animalistic monsters, except for Lurtz, the Uruk captain who is shown emerging from the mud. The filmmakers explain that they invented Lurtz to personify the Uruk-hai and to provide a mobile villain, both Sauron and Saruman being stationary ("Audio," Fellowship). Lurtz, although entirely covered with prosthetics and makeup, is played by Lawrence Makoare, a Maori of Ngati Whatua descent, who also plays the Witch King, the Nazgul captain, in Return of the King? When Makoare had to leave the production for other engagements, SaIa Baker, a New Zealand actor of Samoan descent and a professional stunt-person, took over the Lurtz role. Baker also plays Sauron in the Fellowship prologue and an Uruk at Amon Hen in the Two Towers.

Disturbingly, with their white face paint ("the White Hand of Saruman") and coarse black hair, the Uruks strongly resemble Maori warriors. In the New Zealand film Utu (1983), the Maori warrior Te Wheke, played by Anzac Wallace (a former convict, labor organizer and arbitrator of Maori descent), seeks revenge ("utu") for the betrayals by the British. Figure one shows Te Wheke after he has tattooed his face, signifying his declaration of war against the Pakeha (non-Maori, Europeans) (Blythe 240). Te Wheke's trenchant, militant rage is contrasted to his brother Wiremu's decision to pursue biculturalism. Wiremu is played by Wi Kuki Kaa, who although also ethnically Maori, appears more westernized and thereby symbolizes a rational, liberal multicultural society. "By the end of the film," Blythe notes, "Te Wheke . . . has been executed for his transgressions against Maori and Pakeha" (247). In other words, Te Wheke represents the irrational hatred of the savage other. In figure two, a picture of Makoare as Lurtz, we see their inward and outward similarities; they share brown skin, thick, wiry, black, almost dreadlocked hair, facial tattoos, a hulking physique, and an implacable, primordial desire to destroy (white) people.

The Two Towers film, with its extended battle sequences, introduces us to the "Southrons" and "Easterlings." While the novels inform us that Sauron has struck deals with and/or enslaved these people, in the films they simply appear amassing in Mordor, The Easterlings have kohl-rimmed, almond-shaped eyes and dark skin and, they wear turbans.10 Return of the Kincfz siege of Minas Tirith features the Easterlings as well as the Southrons, who are large, muscular, face-painted, and black, both groups riding atop enormous "oliphaunts" (large elephants). Again, whereas the novels at least hint at the humanity of the Southrons and Easterlings-we get a little insight into their reactions to the "Captains of the West," and Aragorn has to deal with them as peoples after the war-in the films, they embody abstract evil that disappears when defeated.11 Furthermore, Jackson notes that the inspiration for the siege of Helm's Deep came from the 1964 Michael Caine film Zulu, based on an 1879 event in which 150 British soldiers held a garrison at Rorke's Drift, South Africa, against 4,000 Zulu warriors. He recalls, "Zulu was always in the back of my mind when I was thinking about Helm's Deep" ("Audio," Two Towers), and he discusses drawing on the way Zulu builds tension for the first hour and then "all hell breaks loose" ("From Book"). In Two Towers, tens of thousands of ores and Uruks amass at Orthanc and then attack the small Rohan band at Helm's Deep; like beetles or cockroaches, they swarm over the landscape, scale the walls, and spill over (and destroy) the battlements. The correlation of ores, Uruks, and goblins with insects (and Zulus) is not inadvertent; in discussing the design of the prosthetics for the villains, famed Tolkien artist John Howe notes that they should be "insectlike," like "cockroaches," with "black, dark, nasty suits of armor" ("Designing"). Jackson also refers to other action-adventure films based on fantasies of defeating savage others. I n Moria, the cave troll scene in Gloin's tomb is an homage to Harryhausen, producer of such early fantasy films as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and when the Balrog emerges, Jackson notes that one of his references was Indiana Jones (1981) ("Audio," Fellowship).

Figure 1 (Utu-Wallace)

Still of Anzac Wallace from UtUx dir. Geoff Murphy, 1983.

Figure 2 (Uruk-Hai)

Still of the Uruk-Hai from Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, dir. Peter Jackson, 2001. Courtesy of Photofest.

Overall, the racial coding of the films far exceeds the film's intended message of cross-cultural cooperation, most pointedly conveyed in Legolas and Gimli's relationship. The filmmakers also invent other episodes to stress this point, such as when a battalion of elves, despite long-standing estrangement, come to aid the humans at Helm's Deep ("Audio," Two Towers}. But, as some critics have pointed out, the racial codings so prominent in the films and novels are unstable and, to some extent-although not entirely-contingent upon the eyes that read them. For example, Robert Giddings and Elizabeth Holland point out that Tolkien's sources are not primarily medieval Europe but early modern Indo-Europe.12 Furthermore, Kristin Thompson notes that as part of transforming 7776 Lord of the Rings into a more marketable action/horror/kung fu film, the Gandalf of the films, particularly in his special-effects laden fight scene with Saruman in Orthanc, has been partially turned into the "samurai" or "monk," a trope of Hong Kong action flicks that "derives from an important figure in Chinese martial arts narratives, the white-bearded monk. These monks dress all in white, carry carved staffs, and are mysterious sources of wisdom and great power" (62).

What are we to make of all this? One of the most curious things about the films' racial codings is that they appear to have no referent; they function at the level of pure discourse. The Uruks are big, black, savage, and dreadlocked, their faces marked with painted on designs as if tattooed. The heroes are of "the West" and "the White," while Mordor is "the Black Land." These fantastic representations can and do exceed, while never wholly shedding, delineations of current and historical racial discourses. Unlike the Star Trek episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" discussed by David Columbia, Lord of the Rings does not intend (at least in terms of the Uruks) to be a commentary on current race relations. At the same time, the apparent lack of referents is also a fantasy. It is curious and bizarre that while most of the Uruks, ores, and goblins are played by white actors, and while all the actors playing monsters are completely covered by prosthetics and makeup, a Maori actor was cast in the role of Lurtz and the Witch-King, and an ethnically Samoan actor in the role of Sauron. Two reasons for this infelicitous casting come to mind. First, as Makoare has noted, he is typecast as "the bad guy," whether on New Zealand television or Xena: The Warrior Princess. Furthermore, Makoare and Baker seem "natural" in these roles because the Uruks, Sauron, and the Witch-King are big, black, savage, and evil.

Who, then, should we "blame"? Should we dismiss the films and/or the filmmakers as racist? This does not seem a wholly fair or viable option. In fact, the entire discourse of blame, premised on the idea that racism is solely a personal failing expressed in representation and discourse, limits our understanding of how racialization works. To discuss race only in terms of discourse leads us nowhere, yet that is precisely where we find ourselves when our dialogue remains mired in postmodernism's terms of debate: total truth versus total indeterminacy, homogeneity versus heterogeneity and hybridity. Many postmodernists claim that they want to discern between interpretations, but in practice they are often more interested in lambasting modernist straw men, and they too often neglect the question: if we accept there is no divine or pregiven "objective truth," then what/ how becomes our basis for political and ethical discernment?

The Problem of Selective Applicability

The filmmakers of The Lord of the Rings explain that they sought to "invoke" the "language of the books" and their "iconic images" when possible, but they obviously had to "modernize" them in terms of "cinema-language" ("Audio," Two Towers'). Yet discussions of modernization demonstrate a certain inconsistency, particularly when addressing issues of race and politics. Jackson echoes Tolkien loyalists when he asserts that it is "inappropriate" to apply modern political thinking to a fifty-year-old story ("J. R. R. Tolkien"). But he uses Nuremburg as a reference for the army shot at Isengard in Two Towers because "that sort of imagery is so potent"; such historical references, he continues, effectively "press buttons in people" ("Audio," Two Towers).13 Shippey notes that the Ring Wraith reflects the bureaucrat, a "moral vacuum" representing anyone whose desire for power leads to the subordination and erasure of the self and one's humanity (qtd. in "J. R. R. Tolkien"). Jackson and many others have also pointed out the Ring's affinity with technology and Tolkien's antiindustry, proecology stances ("J. R. R. Tolkien"). If such references are so potent, regardless of strict historical connections, then why are modern race and gender issues-"modern" in the sense of the last two centuries-irrelevant? Moreover, although Tolkien's novels were indeed written in the 1950s, the films themselves are most definitely a modern/postmodern phenomenon.

Patrick Curry, in his aptly titled Defending Middle-Earth, dismisses race/class analyses, characterizing the bulk of them as "thoughtless," "fatuous," "miserably failed," "single-minded," reductive, and "dated" ad hominem attacks on Tolkien (16, 41, 45). But Curry also does not reject the application of contemporary politics to Tolkien's tale, noting that while strict allegorical readings usually prove specious, Tolkien's notion of applicability leaves the reader greater freedom. Read in this way, Curry argues, the stories are "profoundly pluralist," and The Lord of the Rings is a "multicultural and multiracial book" (qtd. in "J. R. R. Tolkien"). To truly appreciate the novel's exploration of the modern difficulty of identifying evil, we must read beyond strictly racial definitions of ethics.14 Again, modern politics appear to apply to The Lord of the Rings only when it is convenient for the critic. It is disingenuous to claim that certain modern politics apply (war, fascism, industrialization, conservation) and others do not (gender, sexuality, race), just as it is disingenuous to say that any one kind of reading necessarily discounts all other readings.

Part of the problem is that too often discussions of representation and politics, particularly in terms of race, have become confused-explicitly or not-by postmodernism. Curry explicitly draws on the postmodern relativity of values in his dismissal of race, gender, and class analyses. Reading Barbara Herrnstein Smith's seminal work, Contingencies of Value, after completing his own, Curry discovers he has independently reached the same theoretical conclusions (168). He earlier praises Tolkien for being ahead of his time in understanding and portraying cultural relativity: Tolkien's work "joins up with a growing contemporary sense, represented in postmodernism, of history's sheer contingency" (25). Postmodernism expresses the exhaustion of modernity, which includes "modern science, a global capitalist economy, and the political power of the nation-state," characterized by "'grand narratives'" and a "kind of deranged, totalizing rationality" in science and other fields "that produces disenchantment" (Curry 22, 23). Whereas the modernist relies on the "myth of a singular universal truth" that is "somehow directly accessible to those with the 'correct' understanding" (Curry 26), postmodernists understand that "meaning is tied to shared linguistic and cultural understandings, on the one hand-so that not anything goes-yet meanings are always open, in principle, to reinterpretation along new and different lines, including ones unsuspected by the author" (20-21). In opposition to modernism's "total overview from a standpoint that is wholly outside its subject-matter, and therefore supposedly comprehensive and impartial," Curry argues that postmodernism enables us to understand that "while every discipline will have its own set of critical standards for assessing good and bad work, such standards cannot be grounded in any kind of indisputable foundations or ultimate objectivity" (21). While modernism naively believes "the choice is between truth and myth (or falsehood)," postmodernism "sees the choice as between different truths" or "between myths and stories that are creative and liberating, and those that are destructive and debilitating" (26). Certain aspects of modernism may remain powerful, but postmodernism questions "the legitimacy and desirability" of modernity by undoing what Zygmunt Bauman calls its "war against mystery and magic" (qtd in Curry 23). In sum, Curry approvingly quotes Bauman, "'It is against such a disenchanted world that the postmodern re-enchantment is aimed'" (23).

In short, postmodernism-explicitly to Curry but, I would argue, implicitly to many others-entails not only the very important understanding that, as Curry states, "the contents of books cannot be separated from the sense that particular readers make of them" (21), but also the return and celebration of enchantment. Among those who fail to appreciate this enchantment include, for Curry, Raymond Williams, who is so naïve as to posit a "real history" in opposition to "myth": "The mythical 'vs.' the actual, the ideal 'vs.' the real-this is a set of choices which postmodern sensibilities have exposed as cruelly misleading. The 'material' is meaningless except as structured by ideas; conversely, ideas have highly material effects" (45). Curry scoffs, "Williams doesn't even seem to realize that people do not live by factual and physical bread alone, but also by ideas, values and visions of alternatives" (45-46). Curry misses or dismisses the possibility that Williams reads The Lord of the Rings because ideas, values, and visions exist in a constant and complex dialectical relationship to the "material." Thus, it is all the more imperative to argue about what kinds of discourses, myths, and histories we draw on, while at the same time, in considering and cherishing ideas, to not forget about "facts" and "bread."

Of course, ideological and critical readings of Tolkien and/or the films have only been effective to varying degrees.15 Christine Brooke-Rose dismisses The Lord of the Rings as being able to "give 'the effect of the real' by analogy" with the Cold War only (254), thereby discounting other possibilities. Douglas Stewart notes that in the novels, evil's only narrative purpose is "to be destroyed!" reflecting the problematic logic of Vietnam War-era US command. Because, like the novels, the US is "fighting for Good against Evil, and not against the finite ambitions of finite rational creatures, we are therefore fighting an enemy by definition, and not by practical circumstance, which means in turn that we can really imagine no satisfactory outcome short of Evil's disappearance" (Stewart 333). But Stewart forgets that we can read allegorically and complexly; for example, what if we defined "evil" as sexism, racism, exploitation, brutality, homophobia, discrimination, abuse, hatred, and suffering? These are things that should, by definition, be destroyed. Moreover, Stewart's correlation of the texts with the US government is an unfair characterization of not only the novels, but also the films. Evil is not necessarily monolithic in either representation; the novels momentarily portray the ores as workers caught in the bureaucratic machinery (see 934-36; bk. 6, ch. 2), and in "The Scouring of the Shire," the hobbits are caught in a bureaucracy for which their own submission and lack of organization is partly responsible. If, as Stewart argues, "folklore rather than reason is the actual guide of our military actions" (333), The Lord of the Rings novels or films are not so much to blame as we ourselves are.

To simply place blame, labeling someone or something as racist, may not necessarily constitute an interesting and productive project, but neither does simply identifying moments of representative instability, as so many postmodernist readings do, and locating redemptive and political potential in disruptions of discourse. What we have to do is understand how and why certain kinds of culturallycreated racial codings are used, and how they function within larger contexts. In other words, the instability of discourses does not thereby render everything unstable, particularly ethics and politics. Both Curry and Stewart blame the wrong things-the instability or definitiveness of a text's "message" does not necessarily determine race and politics in the "real" world. The general confusion and complexity leads us to surrender to indeterminacy and relativism.

Parallel discussions of race in studies of fantastic literature and film criticism reflect these kinds of confusion and dead-ends. Lorenzo DiTommaso, writing on the functioning and function of race in Howard's Conan tales, observes that "race-consciousness, parochialism, and racism are indelible parts of our past" because "there were, quite literally, precious few alternatives to the race-conscious or racist point of view" (167). That is, this "race consciousness" characterizes not only the fictional cultures of Howard's fantasy world, but also the medieval world on which much contemporary fantasy is based: "Race-consciousness often is an essential component of the modern literary construction of 'medievalism' (or 'romantic primitivism'), a construction that in turn frequently forms the necessary and logical setting for much of fantastic literature" (DiTommaso 151-52).16 DiTommaso defines "race-consciousness" as the ability to identify any person's vitality, strength, honor, and intelligence by sight; to know the person means to know the race, and vice versa (153). The means of identifying a person/race/culture/body include "color, dress, features, language, armor, style of combat, or religion." Such racial consciousness applies to everyone, not simply nonwhites or non-Westerners; for example, Conan becomes confused whenever characters exhibit differing racial characteristics simultaneously, such as red and yellow hair (DiTommaso 163). In like manner, in The Lord of the Rings, to know Gimli would be to know all dwarves. In today's terms, this could be called "essentialism" or even "cultural nationalism." Ultimately, DiTommaso absolves Howard (and us) of responsibility or "racist reasons" because "fantastic literature as a whole demands such medievalistic settings" (167). His oversimplification of medieval worldviews aside, DiTommaso fails to explain why contemporary authors and readers choose, love, and enjoy this mode today, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.17

This odd logical lacuna seems to derive from his assumption about what "race" and "racism" mean. For DiTommaso, "the events of this century and the subsequent sensitivity to race on the part of a significant portion of today's population have led to general decline of skin color as a means of blatant ethnic identification in both fantastic and mainstream literature" (167). That is, because race has become a matter of "sensitivity" on the part of "a significant portion of today's population," we no longer use racist representations. But we should remember that, long ago, people used to do so, and we should give ourselves a hug for our modern multiculturalism.18

Likewise, film critics who can intelligently discuss the film's aesthetics and possible commentaries on war or other topics find themselves stymied when trying to discuss race (and gender and sexuality). In Slate's "The Year in Movies: A Cry in the Dark," an online discussion by prominent film critics, the conversation becomes mired in terms of identities, discourse, indeterminacy, and relativity.19 The conversation about race and politics ignites when LA. Times critic Manohla Dargis, after responding angrily to Village Voice critic J. Hoberman's suggestion that The Lord of the Rings was disliked by women because it is "more of a guy thing" (Mon.), asks, "Do you think that a lot of (American) critics have become reluctant to deal with movies politically for fear of being labeled 'politically correct'?" ("Year in Movies," Tues.).20 New York Times film critic A. O. Scott agrees that while "there is a political dimension to a great many movies . . . trying to establish it too early or evaluate it too dogmatically makes for dull and predictable criticism." In most cases, he argues, "the political implications of movies are either muddled . . . or opaque, and their connection to the world of actual politics becomes clear only in retrospect." Politics are indeterminable because each person's political beliefs are determined not only by "age, taste, gender, sexuality, or anything else," they are also often marked by "complexity, incoherence, and unpredictability," as well as "boredom" and "muddle-headedness" (Tues.). Dargis agrees that her own politics are "a big confusing jumble" and that she does not "look at movies through a specific political lens," so "I never want to write a review with some sort of (political) checklist in hand" (Wed.). Wesley Morris, film critic for the Boston Globe, concurs that "a lot of critics do fear dealing with movies' politics," either out of the "muddle" of one's own politics or "some kind of editorial pressure" (Wed.). And Scott agrees, "politics can be quite slippery and ambiguous-and, as often as not, reflections of the political inclinations and rhetorical skills of the people watching them" (Wed.). So the answer to the question that Scott poses-"Does Return of the King, with its martial sweep and its clearly demarcated lines of good and evil-racial lines, by the way, albeit drawn between imaginary races-stand as a mirror for our own times?" (Tues.)-remains, ultimately, indeterminate.

But we can understand the politics of a film like The Lord of the Rings in more complex and concrete ways. The "complexity," "muddle-headedness," and "incomprehensibility" of the debate about representation and race may have more to do with the premises of the debates than simply each person's innate confusion. Dargis starts down a productive path at one point, although she shies away from making any definitive statement:

Yes, the critic certainly, in part, defines a movie's politics. But there is a political dimension to even the most ostensibly nonpolitical film, just as there is a political dimension to clothes (Made in China . . . by slave labor!) and food (McDonalds or Slow Food-approved). There is a political dimension to how movie money is raised, what screen-writer and director are chosen, how many and what kind of theaters a film opens in, and it is naive to believe otherwise. Everyone decides what is important to them-how much compromise he or she can stand, and what he or she does with their contradictions. ("Year in Movies," Fri.)

In reflecting modern discourses of race (and gender and sexuality), these dialogues about fantasy, Lord of the Rings, and politics in films not only point to their own limitations, but also suggest possibilities for moving beyond a "checklist" or "litmus test" model of political analyses. As Columbia points out in his critique of Star Trek's liberal humanist take on race, when race hatred is seen as stemming from primordial, essential "hatred," there is no consideration of the possible "justifications" of anger, no reflection on the dynamics of one's own structures, organizations, and processes (for example, the Federation), nothing but a blissful Utopia of a future devoid of racial conflict:

Insofar as that rational-logical structure, the Federation, represents the white power structure in place in the U.S. (and the neutralizing and blinding ideology upon which it rests), the show offers us the spectacle of that power structure and of what we might call hegemonic whiteness watching the Watts riots in horror, while relying on its Utopian displacements to make those conflicts strange, alien, not part of "us" and significantly not our fault. (85)

We can see a similar dynamic operating with The Lord of the Rings. Although several critics note that the content of the novels and films depict overcoming fetishization, alienation, addiction, and other forms of subject-determination based on repression, the films function on willful repression. The experience is that our "selves" are okay because the kind of racial strife between the elves and the dwarves is, for us, a relic of the past. We are okay not only because it is "just a movie," but also because its production, marketing, and distribution is transnational and multicultural, as was suggested when white Danish-American actor Viggo Mortensen and New Zealander (ethnically Smoan) actor Sala Baker greeted one another at The Two Towers premiere with an affectionate head-butt ("Filming").21 But while The Lord of the Rings films were produced by and for multicultural societies putatively dedicated to racial, ethnic, and cultural harmony, the fantasy of cross-cultural cooperation and harmony draws on (while denying) racist discourses that are themselves "real" yet elusive. In doing so, the films obscure their own premises: the economic, political, social, and psychological processes that rely on, create, and exacerbate racism in our world.

The Postmodernism of The Lord of the Rings

Roland Barthes, Christian Metz, and other theorists of the cinematic apparatus have explored how the film form functions through the repression of the knowledge of irreality and difference, on the level of content (suspension of disbelief) and of form (the film-projection suppresses the difference between individual frames and different shots). Laurent Mannoni and semio-psychoanalytic critics theorize that it is not that viewers believe the content of the film is real; rather, viewers believe the apparatus itself, the camera-eye, the projection mechanism simply records "what is there" (Cha 352). And the viewer's (intentional) faith in the apparatus, premised on repression of knowledge of the mechanisms, reflects the subject's desire for unity, wholeness, and "Imaginary" oneness with the world and meaning.

But as Boyens and Jackson half-facetiously observe, today we no longer need assume a unitary form for film. Contemporary editing software on home computers enables anyone to reedit a film into whatever form they would like, so, as Jackson points out, "really there's no definitive Lord of the Rings" ("Audio," Two Towers). Furthermore, we no longer have the illusion that the camera "merely captures" anything; not only do the DVD extras and countless interviews demonstrate the incredible amount of technical and artistic skill that went into creating the special effects, we have the reality of multiple possible films (theatrical release, extended or "director's cut" version, DVD manipulation of favorite scenes, home DVD-editing software, network television broadcast). In fact, Jackson continues, "one extended cut can speak to another extended cut, independently of the theatrical version" ("Audio," Two Towers). For example, the Faramir/Boromir/Denethor storyline exists almost entirely in the extended versions of The Two Towers and, we can presume, the forthcoming The Return of the King extended cut. In fact, astute viewers, particularly those familiar with filmmaking and editing processes, note that some back-story appears to be missing in theatrical releases, and they assume and expect they will see more scenes in the later editions.22 So not only do we not believe that the fantasy on screen is real-particularly with fantasy and sci-fi films-but we no longer even have the fantasy that the camera is unitary or simply captures, technologically, reality. We are no longer (if we ever really were) "passive viewers"; now we can literally make and remake the film any way we choose. And the films' DVD extras are highly entertaining viewing in their own right. All these things, including breakthrough technical innovation, have simply become part of the expected enterprise of each new blockbuster film.

Do these changes in film mean that we no longer require a conscious or unconscious reaffirmation of subjectivity via the "Imaginary" of the apparently unified cinematic image? Is viewing a film no longer the "dream-like" or "womb-like" experience articulated by Barthes, Metz, and others? On the contrary, although today we have a greater understanding of, appreciation for, and even assumption of sophistication and innovation in filmmaking, particularly of fantasy and sci-fi films, we are more deeply buried in the fantasy-or "enchanted"-than ever. Our "re-enchantment," as we might put it, is bound up with the films' profound postmodernism in two interrelated but distinct senses of the term: the formal/aesthetic and the economic/structural. I will focus on the latter, although the former also calls for discussion.23

The films' production and distribution epitomize the logic of global late capitalism: transnational labor forces (both in terms of recruiting skilled workers from anywhere in the world as well as in terms of core nation/First World capital utilizing periphery/non-West labor), global and diversified marketing and merchandising, and an increasing emphasis in developed/First World countries on information/technology industries and short-term, nonunionized, mobile labor. First Miramax and then New Line financed The Lord of the Rings films, but the actual production was relegated to lower-cost New Zealand. Renowned Tolkien artist Alan Lee, whom Jackson recruited along with John Howe to help design the film, speaks of the film as a "huge collaborative process," involving over three thousand crew members and over three hundred people in the art department who worked for three to four years to create Middle-earth ("Designing"). Richard Taylor, the president, supervisor, and spiritual guru of Weta Workshop, discusses how he hired principally young New Zealand artists who did not necessarily have film experience but had a solid background in art ("Designing"). Artisans, craftspeople, and artists in New Zealand who could make swords, costumes, sets, masks, and a wide variety of objects-in both traditional and innovative ways-were contracted for this film, working "day and night" for several years ("Designing"). Although the films were shot in New Zealand, the cast, crew, and others involved with the production and marketing were international. Specialized information- and technology-innovators were brought in from all over the world for this short-term project designed for mass global consumption. In various ways, these workers are information/technology workers, not quite "part-time" but nevertheless temporary, mobile, young, and not unionized.

The final product both hides and exposes all this labor. The obscuring of technical wizardry and aesthetic manipulation characterizes not only contemporary fantasy/sci-fi films but, in various ways, films, texts, and other works of art in the past. But, as claimed repeatedly by Jackson, Taylor, and others, in contrast to the delightfully cheesy Harryhausen movies and even the original Star Wars films, the breakthrough of The Lord of the Rings is the incredible realism of the fantasy.24 Also hidden is state support and involvement in the production of this high-tech export product. The New Zealand army not only constructed the bridge, but also built roads and planted the trees and gardens for Hobbiton at Matamata ("Audio," Fellowship; "Designing"). At the same time, the film's marketing strategy entails recording all this information and selling it as a product. The Lord of the Rings franchise broke and is breaking ground not only in terms of technical filmmaking, but also in its innovative, synergistic marketing strategies. "The modern strategies of the big Hollywood companies" entail far more than the film itself; merchandizing and marketing campaigns involve repeat viewings, DVDs (in original formats, extended versions, and extra appendices), free web publicity, video games, infotainment as advertisements on networks like the Sci Fi channel, magazines, etc. (Thompson 61). As Kristin Thompson observes, "A fantasy film, especially as part of a franchise and even more especially as part of a franchise with an existing fan base, can generate enormous income from licensed merchandise and tie-ins" (58). New Line and AOL, both subsidiaries of Time Warner, also broke new ground in their savvy manipulation of the internet publicity campaign, "controlling rather than thwarting" piracy for publicity reaching over 65 million people around the world (Thompson 54-57).

But while the films were made by people from several countries (primarily New Zealand, the US, England, and Australia) who constitute an increasingly transnational popular culture in a global economy, New Zealand itself remains marked by the history of colonialism and imperialism in two senses. As a former British colony, New Zealanders retain cultural, economic, and political ties to the former Mother Country. Beyond the general influence of British television on Jackson, particularly the work of veterans Bernard Hill (Theoden) and Christopher Lee (Saruman) ("Audio," Two Towers), several other references to former colonial relations appear throughout interviews and the DVD commentaries.25 Furthermore, the Maori, Tagata Pasefika (people of Pacific Island descent), and the entire country continue to struggle with economic, racial, and cultural problems.

Traditionally, New Zealand has prided itself on its commitment to diversity and progressiveness, particularly in opposition to Australia, currently getting a very different kind of publicity with the success of the film Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002). As Jane Kelsey puts it, the country "used to claim credit as the first country to give women the vote, as the birthplace of the welfare state, for a harmonious multiracial society and, more recently, for being 'clean, green and nuclear free'" (1). But as Paul Spoonley points out, the importance of race and ethnicity, particularly in terms of Maori and Tagata Pasefika marginalization, has in fact increased since economic restructuring and its aftereffects ("Mahi Awatea?" 62).

Like many countries that emphasized industrialization in the decades following World War II, New Zealand restructured its economic and social policies in the 1980s, shifting from a reliance on manufacturing and state-sponsored services to deregulation, flexible accumulation, and information-, technology-, and service-based industries, in order to compete in the emerging global economy. The "New Zealand experiment," as it has been dubbed, is a "model of pure neo-liberal economic theory," enacted by a Labor government between 1984 and 1990, continued by the National government in 1995, and praised by the World Bank, the Economist, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as an "international success story" (Kelsey I).26 As the underclass, which consists of disproportionate numbers of Maoris and Tagata Pasefika, loses jobs and relies on an ever-shrinking state support system, the discourses of race have also changed: "traditional forms of hostility (racism) have been reproduced at the same time as the more sympathetic positions amongst Pakeha have evolved" (Spoonley, "Mahi Awatea?" 63). That is, the effects of the "restructuring of international capital and the revision of state policies in capitalist countries" with an eye toward "global integration of production, trade, and finance" (Ongley 22) contradict and complicate New Zealand's narrative-shared by many in other First World nations-that racism is on the decline and "diversity," whether national liberal multiculturalism or transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, is on the rise.

The overall impact on the economy and social structures should not be unfamiliar to those living in the US. Between 1985 and 1994 in New Zealand, twenty-seven thousand manufacturing jobs were lost, while jobs in the "tertiary sector" (that is wholesale/retail trades, service industries, and business/financial services) increased (Ongley 23; Kelsey 376). Many of these positions were part-time, a trend that has been dubbed or "McDonaldisation," that is the "casualisation" of work (Spoonley, "Mahi Awatea?" 69). In addition, many of these new jobs are characterized by "intensification," where "in order to increase productivity, many have to work harder and with fewer opportunities to earn overtime or penal rates," as well as "underemployment," or "when workers are working part-time but would like to work more hours." Most of these jobs have no benefits, job security, or union representation, and two-thirds of part-time workers are women (Spoonley, "Mahi Awatea?" 68-69).27 Donald G. Baker parallels these new socioeconomic dynamics to the vision, developed in the works of Alain Touraine, of "emergent technocracies" with three major classes: the "players" or "small technological elite"; the "operatives" who are "trained and educated blue- and white-collar workers"; and the marginal "underclass," or the large number of dispossessed who are ignored by public policy and society, either "through benign neglect or views that hold such individuals responsible for their own 'condition' in the emergent sink-or-swim society" (795).

Such economic restructuring seeks to make New Zealand competitive in the global economy, but it has also directly impacted ethnie and race relations in New Zealand. Maori and Tagata Pasefika, who provided much of the labor required during the postwar expansion years, have found themselves increasingly cast aside (Spoonley et al., "Migration" 12). The Maori had traditionally held many of the jobs lost when thirty state agencies, including the post office, railway, and forestry service, were privatized and corporatized (Spoonley, "Mahi Awatea?" 66). Furthermore, Maori and Tagata Pasefika employment has traditionally been concentrated in lower-tier jobs and in industries that used to be protected by the state, such as "shearing, seasonal orchard and horticultural work, freezing works" (Spoonley, "Mahi Awatea?" 71). The Maori have also suffered significant losses in jobs that they have traditionally held, like "driver, labourer, machinery operator and assemblers"; only Tagata Pasefika, Spoonley notes, are clustered more in these jobs ("Mahi Awatea?" 67).28 Overall, cuts in manufacturing and state-related jobs led to a two-thirds decline in employment between 1985 and 1989, and 80 percent of those who lost their jobs were Maori. In other words, one in four Maori who were employed in March 1987 had lost their job two years later (Spoonley, "Mahi Awatea?" 65-66).29 While one-third of whites in New Zealand are in the working class, one-half of Maori and two-thirds of Tagata Pasefika are proletarian (Loomis 67).

The changes in economic and social policy would not be inherently problematic if the labor forces recruited during the years of manufacturing expansion were not cast aside, but today, in the new economy, many of these workers lack the "education and training required to take advantage of the new areas of employment growth" (Ongley 23). The second and third generations (descendents of immigrants and migrants) are not, generally, moving out of their parents' class, for many of the same reasons that class is racialized (and vice versa) in the US-lack of educational resources and opportunities, cultural stereotypes, institutional discrimination, etc. So despite the emerging, increasingly disparate class system, the divide between Maori/Tagata Pasefika and the rest of New Zealanders is seen in terms of a "racial problem" (Spoonley, "Mahi Awatea?" 58-59). Or, paralleling moves by DiTommaso, the Slate film critics, Jackson, and Curry, structural, ethical, and systemic problems are cast in terms of identity, culture, and race.30

Such conditions are clearly not limited to New Zealand. Citing William J. Wilson's When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, Baker compares the New Zealand underclass to the "dispossessed class of urban blacks and whites" around the world, "individuals or groups with limited skills, education or capital" who are "faced with the possibility of structural unemployment or subsistence-paying jobs" (795). Terrence Loomis connects the New Zealand economy to the common factors and history of underdevelopment: "unequal terms of trade, onerous credit arrangements, foreign dominated capital formation, fluctuating commodity prices dictated by metropolitan markets, costly bureaucracies and reliance on aid and remittances" (9-10). In the Pacific and other places, Loomis points out, underdevelopment is "reproduced by the particular form of articulation between capitalist and pre-capitalist modes of production" (10), and he goes on to echo Robert Miles's words from Racism and Migrant Labor that '"uneven capitalist development is both the precondition and cause of the internationalization of the labour market'" (11). The conflict between modernist and postmodernist forms of accumulation explicated by David Harvey in The Condition of Postmodernity actually exacerbates not only uneven economic development, but also the racial divides and discourses that characterize developing and developed nations.

These processes rely on the burial of race-or the privileging of certain conceptions of race and the denial of others. As Loomis notes, modern "paternalistic racism usually relies on the denial of the fact of its own existence" (120-21). Liberal analyses of race relations, relying on the basic relativity of values, ethics, and viewpoints, are premised on the notion that racial conflict arises from identity/ ethnicity/culture. But "racism and ethnic categorization," Loomis argues, "are important means of class domination which are given effect through individual behavior, institutional policy and public ideological discourses" (4). Limiting the terms of the debate to identity and discourse does not, ultimately, explain the processes that unevenly distribute resources and divide potential working-class allies by racial animosities, often over a manufactured, unnecessary scarcity of resources (Loomis 4).31

In A Dream Deferred, David Pearson argues that liberal multiculturalisms that locate questions of race in identity, discourse, or culture actually contribute to processes of exploitation and marginalization:

Problems arise . . . when multiculturalism is used as a legitimizing label for policies which practice a fraudulent alternative, one which disassociates multiculturalism from equality of opportunity and thereby opens the way to de facto differential incorporation. Multiculturalism might mean little more than the encouragement of cultural diversity in private lives while no attempt is made to redress discrimination in the public domain. Pakeha elites are content to encourage cultural diversity in the arts, recreation, and cuisine-this is unthreatening, enjoyable, and enhances the tourist industry to boot-but power imbalances between ethnic groups remain untouched. (233-34)

And, one could add, purely cultural multiculturalism is easily assimilable into fantasies that draw on a polyglot of cultures, in content and form. For example, The Lord of the Rings filmmakers note that the funeral of Théodon's son Theodred (cut from the theatrical version) combines an Old English elegy, sung by Éowyn, with the Maori custom in which the men hand the body to the women ("Audio," Two Towers).

This is certainly not to return to the claim that race (or gender or sexuality) should be subsumed under economics. But discussions of discourses and semiotics of race without links to concrete political, economic, and social structures and processes lead to relativity and ambiguity. If we limit ourselves to discourse, then what basis do we have to evaluate even the relative justice and/or merits of certain claims and beliefs? Even if we reject the idea that there is "one truth" and that anyone has direct and clear access to it-and I do reject that notion-then what are our bases for distinguishing between truths, myths, ideals, and interpretations? The answer does not lie in the miasma of confusion that postmodernism leads us into. Andrew Sharp points out that although we must understand that neither Pakeha nor Maori are monolithic, "it is not a postmodern debate. Although the identities of the subjects and agents of justice may be fluid and 'constructed' . . . the identities at stake are as real as concrete human lives can and do make them" (317).

So the shift in our understanding of, relationship to, and role in cinematic form has not necessarily translated into a critical grappling with the idea of the unitary self at one with the world, premised on the repression of desire, difference, conflict, and exploitation. The production of The Lord of the Rings draws on the processes and logic of postmodernism, while the content of the film completely denies any such thing-it stresses identification, unity, moral clarity, wholeness, justice, etc. The film is the ideal product in the new global economy, completely marketable, merchandise-able, and multiplyable into various versions, tie-ins, "news," etc. In other words, The Lord of the Rings juggernaut epitomizes postmodernism as the logic of late capitalism, moral and cultural relativism, corporate synergy, and/or the use of any and all formal and technological styles. In this light, the aesthetic forms of postmodernism appear to be the most benign. But the film and too many discussions of race assume that, first, racial conflict is simply a relic of the modern/premodern past (particularly a conception of the Middle Ages that fantasy as a genre, for some reason, is compelled to draw upon), and, second, racial conflict is simply a matter of identity, ethnicity, culture, and, in short, race. These "enchantments" of postmodernism have concrete, material, and identifiable consequences in our world.

So the most powerful, ubiquitous, and destructive fantasy is not The L ord of the Ringst Ie but certain aspects of postmodernism itself. In her essay on the representation of aborigines in twentiethcentury Australian fiction, Helen Daniel notes that the aboriginal and white sense of self emerge together in novels that consider past and present not in terms of personal experience alone but in terms of "the public world of historical event felt as a weight clamping down the present" (58). While The Lord of the Rings films mimic a situation where the past weighs on the present and future (both in terms of Middle-earth's fictional history as well as the Middle Ages, the World Wars, the Cold War, etc.), the production, distribution, and consumption of the films are premised on the repudiation of fundamental parts of not only the past, but also the present. That is, while the story stresses the importance and power of history, continuity, identity, and ethics, the films rely on discontinuity, alienation, moral vacuity, and suppressed pasts and presents. The films' "racializations," drawing on popular racial discourses, mystify race into the abstract (it is there but not), ignoring and denying the actual political realities of racialization and late capitalism while relying on those very processes.

I want to end by considering briefly what in the films and novels might be useful, not in terms of a "litmus test" of race or postmodernity, but in terms of what they may offer us. One key component of these texts certainly is the sense that we are fallible and sometimes cannot foretell the ultimate effects or purposes of our own actions. Charles Nelson explores how Gollum, despite his treachery, is a twist on the classical "guide": he leads Frodo to Mount Doom as well as to compassion (60). In the novels this is cast as being part of "a higher order, a greater plan" (Nelson 56). In similar ways, our best (liberal) intentions can serve processes and purposes beyond our immediate range of vision if we are not constantly vigilant and self-critical. To resign ourselves to our limitations, to relinquish hope that we can truly move beyond ourselves-this is contingency and relativism.

The implicit liberal-conservative consensus on the discourse of race relies on such postmodern contingency and relativism. Discourses of race, or any other politics for that matter, cannot remain on the level of discourse for the very reason that Curry points out: texts are multilayered and created (and re-created) in the act of viewing and reading. This is why The Lord of the Rings can and has been read as both conservative to the point of fascism as well as radically antiestablishment. C. N. Manlove observes,

The trilogy came out just when disillusion among the American young at the Vietnam war and the state of their own country was at a peak. Tolkien's fantasy offered an image of the kind of rural conservationist ideal or escape for which they were looking (it also could be seen as describing, through the overthrow of Sauron, the destruction of the U.S.). In this way The Lord of the Rings could be enlisted in support of passive resistance and idealism on the one hand and of draft-dodging and drugs on the other. (157)

The novels and films can and do have very real impacts on the world, but not only at the level of myths and ideals. Tolkien himself sometimes rejected such simplistic romanticism. Discussing Tolkien's essay "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son," Manlove notes that for Tolkien, "heroism has a place . . . only when it has a firm grip on the real world" (288).

Shippey points out that Tolkien's notions of evil also arise from the real world, placing Tolkien among modern writers such as George Orwell, William Golding, and T. H. White who "expressed in their highly different ways . . . that people could never be trusted, least of all if they expressed a wish for the betterment of humanity" (116-17). To Shippey, "the major disillusionment of the twentieth century has been over political good intentions, which have led only to gulags and killing fields" (117). What we need to do is differentiate the wholesale rejection of socialism and progressive politics implicit in many such arguments about the fallibility of people, from the very valid point that human beings are complex individuals in structures and groups, making history but not in conditions of their own choosing.

At the same time-and I think this is equally important-we should not discount the importance of those myths, ideals, and discourses to our lives. Indeed, neither "the real" nor "the discursive" makes any sense without the other; they are dialectically related and mutually determinant. The problem today, particularly in discussions of race and representation, is that our sophistication and/or quantity of discourse has far outpaced and neglected our attention to "the real." These are profoundly postmodern films (in many respects) of a determinedly antimodern or modernist text. Frodo recognizes his limitations (inadequate knowledge, fear, parochialism, weakness, addiction), honestly assesses the world around him on the information he finds, and risks everything for justice and freedom; the world in which we live sees all three of these actions as irrelevant and/or impossible.32

Perhaps, for various aesthetic, formal, and technical reasons, texts are shallow compared to the "real" world; but whether this is true or not, we do not need to be limited by texts, reading practices, and discourses. In other words, simply because a text's meaning may remain unfixed (because constantly created anew), ethics, politics, and other idea and ideals of our world-which of course include those texts-need not remain wholly indeterminate. Although postmodernism claims to reject metanarratives, it relies on the narrative that we have moved from premodern and modern worlds that naively believed in ethics, structures, and justice, to a postmodern world where these things are all hopelessly indeterminate. In other words, postmodernism is the politics of despair. Economically, socially, and aesthetically, postmodernism is a valid and valuable descriptive and analytical concept; politically and epistemologically, it ignores the ways that some modern phenomena-exploitation, racism, repression, and even hope and justice-are not relics of the past.

On the director and writers' commentary track at the conclusion of The Two Towers, Boyens and Walsh discuss how they had written themselves into a corner when Frodo asks, "What are we holding onto, Sam?" They had to stop and ask one another, what are they holding onto? Finally, they invented the line, "There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for." I could not agree more.


1. The original Matrix film (1999), as laughably atrocious as Reloaded and Resurrection may have been, at least attempted to be ethnically sensitive and diverse. Zion is a multiracial city, and each ship's crew pointedly includes nonwhite members. The film's principal heroes include Lawrence Fishburne (Morpheus) and Jada Pinkett Smith (Niobe), and the chief villain Agent Smith is played by Hugo Weaving (who also plays Elrond in The Lord of the Rings), Beyond their status as major franchises, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings films also share production crews and techniques. Graham Fuller notes that the original Star Wars trilogy "borrowed much of its iconography from The Lord of the Rings" (20), and Eric Bauer discusses The Lord of the Rings's similarities to the Harry Potter films. Peter Jackson has discussed visiting Skywalker Ranch before filming and getting significant help with "previsualization" computer technology ("Visualizing"). At one point in Fellowship, instead of "spies of Saruman," Ian McKellen (Gandalf) supposedly joked, "spies of Star Wars" ("Audio," Fellowship); Christopher Lee (Saruman) played Count Dukuu in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and The Lord of the Rings producer Barrie Osborne, supervising digital colorist Peter Doyle, and actor Hugo Weaving (Elrond) worked on The Matrix. In terms of artistic success, however, J. Hoberman of the Village Voice sees no comparison at all: "The Matrix trilogy imploded; the Star Wars series seems but a pale Tinkertoy Tolkien imitation."

2. My focus is on the films as modern and postmodern phenomena. As Stephen Glosecki and others point out, much of the original medieval color schema that Tolkien drew on had little or nothing to do with race or racism in contemporary terms. My interest in both Tolkien and the films lies in the use of such color schemes, symbols, and other imagery in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, when such things do bear racial baggage. In other words, even when the original sources are not racial, and while I acknowledge that we have to understand the past in its full complexity to understand the present, in this article my focus remains the significance of the films in the present, in modern contexts, for modern audiences, and with modern motives, assumptions, and psyches.

3. Although the novels share many of these characteristics, in Tolkien's texts the character of Aragorn symbolically unites various colors and must establish peace with the Southrons and Easterlings after the final battles. In other words, partly due to the novels' ability to explore symbolism, diplomacy and war, culture and history in greater depth and subtlety, the novels' black-and-white coding, while still strongly apparent, is more ambivalent than in the films.

4. Glosecki notes that the Rohirrim are based on "Germanic warband society," and Éowyn and Eomer's songs "tend to reflect the alliterative line of classical German verse." Furthermore, Théoden means, roughly, "ruler of the people" in Old English.

5. Interestingly Christopher Lee has also appeared as the title character in The Face of Fu Manchu (1965}. Also, in the novel, when Saruman reveals his alliance with Sauron, he "comes out" as "Saruman of Many Colours." As Gandalf recounts, "I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered." Gandalf counters Saruman's reply with, "I liked white better," but Saruman merely sneers, "White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken" (260; bk. 2, ch. 2). When Isengard falls, Gandalf not only banishes Saruman from the White Council, but also strips him of all color (587; bk. 3, ch. 10). At the end of Return of'the King, Saruman appears in "rags of grey or dirty white," and he looks at the hobbits "darkly with his black eyes" (995; bk. 6, ch. 6 / 1031; bk. 6, ch. 8). In terms of color coding, Saruman's journey is the obverse of Gandalf's.

6. The only direct reference to "the Black Speech" in The Lord of the Rings is found in Appendix F, 1139-40.

7. The various goblins, ores, and Uruk-hai also often speak with working-class cockney accents.

8. Brendan Helmuth asks why the villains in the first film are all "rastafarians."

9. Makoare also played "Macenus/Barbarian Leader" in a 1995 episode of Xena: The Warrior Princess and "Mr. KiI" in 2002's Die Another Day. Asked why indigenous people always play villains, he replies, "I always play the bad guys . . . it's a type cast thing. ... I am not upset about it ... whether you play the bad guys or good guys, the pay is the same. 5 bucks, heh"; in New Zealand, he continues, "everyone knows me as the bad guy. ... I think I'm the first choice" ("Impromptu Chat"). Makoare also voiced Lurtz (Makoare, "Interview").

10. On the actors' commentary track, Sean Astin enthuses about the Easterlings' "South Asian" look. Elijah Wood points out humorously, "Soldiers do wear eyeliner. I just wanted to point that out. They do." And Andy Serkis (Gollum) replies, "Easterlings particularly" (Astin, Wood, and Serkis).

11. In a scene cut from the theatrical release (and thought by Sam in the novel), Faramir wonders aloud about the humanity of a fallen Easterling. Jackson argues that this addresses Tolkien's critics: "People say that he's racist, people say that he's prowar," but such a scene "could only have been written by somebody who had first-hand experience of war as Tolkien