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8 years ago @ The Toast - A Few Thoughts on ... · 2 replies · +12 points

Thank you - THANK YOU. Someone had to say it. Bofur is also on The List.

And I'm not gonna judge anyone for whom Dwalin hefts their hammer, if you get my drift.

I also don't think Balin is that weird. I don't find him sexy, but he's a kindly grandfather, wtf.

10 years ago @ - Geeky Weekly Funtimez · 0 replies · +2 points

*nods* Before the movies came out (but after it was confirmed there WOULD be movies), I amused myself for a while trying to imagine how I might address some things in a modern film production, and one of the things I thought about was the idea that I'd go full-out Mediterranean for Gondor, and really seriously up the "cosmopolitan, multi-racial" quotient as much as I could and in as visible a way as I could, in order to counter-balance the whiteness of the Rohirrim.

At the time, I wasn't anticipating that SB would 1. be cast as Boromir, and 2. that they'd leave him blond (I SWEAR I saw some promo pic of him where they'd darkened his hair? And he looked really GOOD. I wish I knew now what that was for and where it was). But even with them making the Steward's family blond-ish, I would have liked them to just do More More More with the casting of a variety of very different-looking peoples in Gondor.

I also saw someone suggest -- because of the "debased Mongols" line -- that it would have been fascinating had the films decided that all elves would basically be cast with Asian actors. Certainly, not what Tolkien intended, and it would have severely challenged the mental concept of, oh, pretty much ALL the fans... but it would have been interesting. (I think what above-comments have said about fan outcry would still have been true, though.)

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 3 replies · +7 points

Little did you know about the future studios' penchant for re-releasing films in theaters! (This past summer's EE Trilogy Tuesdays was AWESOME.)

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 0 replies · +6 points

Ab, gur guvat vf -- "fjnegul" pna or (naq jnf ng gur gvzr) hfrq gb ersre gb, sbe rknzcyr, Tlcfvrf, naq bguref bs Zvqqyr Rnfgrea qrfprag - aba-Rhebcrnaf, naq crbcyr ybbxrq hcba ol Rhebcrnaf jvgu fhfcvpvba naq cerwhqvpr. Nenof jrer "fjnegul", nf jrer Wrjf. Vgnyvnaf jrer nyfb fjnegul, nf jrer Fcnavneqf... ohg, gura lbh trg vagb gur vffhr gung abegurea Rhebcrna (v.r. gur Treznavp crbcyrf) unq n graqrapl gb or fhfcvpvbhf bs fbhgurea Rhebcrna naq rnfgrea Rhebcrna crbcyr sbe gurve nanepuvp, yhfgl graqrapvrf, naq... bu qrne. Cnegvphyneyl jura gur urebrf ner nyy "snve" bs fxva, juvpu vf n irel abegurea-Rhebcrna genvg.

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 0 replies · +6 points

Yeah, it's not just that letter.

And it's not that I automatically think that a descriptor like "black" is meant to be racial: see Oynpx Ahzrabernaf.

But certain descriptors of the orcs have more than a bit in common with the caricature of the "evil Asian", and... there it is. Dude, knock it off with the swarthiness!

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 1 reply · +3 points

Hang on, I could have sworn that was from the ROTK cartoon...?

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 0 replies · +11 points

Good people can have racist thoughts, and say racist things. It happens all the time, because even good people who are trying, aren't perfect.

Even when someone who says something problematic is someone we think is a good person, that doesn't mean we shouldn't say, "hey, that was still pretty problematic". Because any good person should realize that they're still working on it -- working to overcome heavily ingrained cultural reflexes, and that is often a lifelong effort. There's really no magical day when you've conquered all the bigotry you could possibly have lurking within you.

It doesn't make Tolkien a bad person. I tend to think he was probably quite a good person, because I like his work, even if I really strongly disagree with some things he believed, like his staunch Catholicism (says I, as an ex-Catholic).

But even an anti-racism activist can have an off moment in which something unfortunate bubbles to the surface. Nobody, including Mark originally, is suggesting throwing out Tolkien's reputation or his works, on account of that bad moment.

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 3 replies · +29 points

Okay, I want to try to grapple with this, and perhaps this comment is the best to try to do it in reply to.

The "debased Mongol-type" comment is problematic on its own terms, I think, and not only for the way it does or does not relate to the orcs, or to distinguishing them as human-like as opposed to bird-like (granted: wtf?).

It's problematic because it takes as read that the writer and the reader both understand that Asian features (skin color, eye shape, skull shape, profile shape) are already "other" in a negative way. That he includes qualifiers to make clear that they're "like that only even UGLIER" doesn't negate that his comparison starts with choosing a race with physical characteristics that -- yes, in the context of the time -- were widely culturally considered (by Europeans) to be evil-looking in the first place. (Seriously, it is all over popular culture during the Victorian period.)

And, sure... product of his time. Yet, at the same time, it was not a universal even in that time period that European men MUST think of Asians as ugly and evil-looking. Men and women of the time did overcome that cultural conditioning. Therefore, I don't think it can be treated as something that Tolkien just "couldn't help".

It also has to be considered that in groping to come up with a way to talk about what orcs did look like, as opposed to what they did NOT look like, he didn't HAVE to resort to that racial comparison. He could have figured out another way to put it that would not have resorted to calling upon, yes, a racist trope (just because that racist trope would have been easily understood by his correspondent).

He could have, for example, said that orcs were human-like, but humans as crossed with beasts, or with lizards, or with something else commonly understood to be unlovely, like toads. He could have simply said they were human-like but "twisted into an ugly caricature of humanity". The problematic racial part comes in the decision to specify traits of a particular race through a lens of negativity (slanted eyes, sallow skin). That was a choice that Tolkien made, and while we may examine his life and his culture to understand why he made it, it's still worth just pointing at it and saying, "hey, that was kind of racist".

I should add that -- like Mark, who has SAID THIS AND SAID THIS -- none of these thoughts make me love these books less. And I have said before, I'm glad that all of this didn't make it into the text, and therefore it allowed me to imagine the orcs as "looking evil" in a way that made me comfortable.

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 0 replies · +8 points

Lrf. Vg'f hasbeghangr gung vg gnxrf n YBG zber xabjyrqtr bs Gbyxvra'f obql bs jbex, va beqre gb or noyr gb chg gur cbegenlny bs gur inevbhf enprf va YBGE vagb pbagrkg.

V qb irel zhpu erzrzore gur frafr bs "gevpxrq be pbreprq ol Fnheba" guvat, nobhg gur uhznaf jub ner ba Zbeqbe'f fvqr. Naq gura... jryy, lbh pbhyq fnl, "nu, ohg gung'f enpvfg gb fhttrfg gung vg'f bayl gur qnexre crbcyrf jub pna or gevpxrq vagb qbvat rivy'f jbex, juvyr gur juvgre crbcyrf xabj vafgvapgviryl gb fgnaq hc ntnvafg rivy, ab znggre gur pbfg". Ohg vg'f gur Ahzrabernaf jub fubj gung abcr, juvgr sbyxf ner whfg nf fhfprcgvoyr gb orvat frqhprq ol rivy. Gur rzcunfvf ba gung, gubhtu, vfa'g va guvf obbx.

10 years ago @ Mark Reads - Mark Reads 'The Two To... · 0 replies · +22 points

I think that the infighting was certainly key. The orcs just have no unit cohesion. For one thing, you've got the competing groups. But for another, isn't it also pretty clear that any given orc does not have a great deal of loyalty towards any other given orc, even one from the same "tribe"?

What strikes me here is that Tolkien *was* a veteran of WWI, and while that deals with a modern army, it's a war that still had cavalry (even if it's also the war that demonstrated why we will no longer use cavalry). But, most of my perspective comes from having read many of the Sharpe books, which deal extensively with military strategy and how an infantry can beat a cavalry. The key is always discipline and not panicking. If there isn't any discipline and if the infantry panics, then the point is made over and over again that the cavalry will cut the infantry to ribbons.

I'm guessing that since Tolkien was writing from a time and experience closer to the time period in which those military considerations were much more present, he was kind of using the orcs here as an example of the Worst Case Infantry Scenario.