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Now They're Saying Lord of the Rings is Racist Against Orcs. Or Something.

SourceIn demonising orcs, the ugly, monstrous enemy of the elves, did JRR Tolkien betray a belief that “some races are worse than others”? That’s the debate that has been at the heart of claims in the British press recently accusing the Lord of the Rings author of harbouring racist views.

The subject of Tolkien and race is not new; it has been discussed comprehensively by scholars. … The last burst of this media debate was in 2002, prompted by Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

The latest media interest was triggered by a Wired podcast with fantasy fiction author Andy Duncan in which he … spoke of the “repeated notion in Tolkien that some races/peoples are worse than others” and how this idea can lead to dangerous outcomes. …

“And this seems to me—in the long term, if you embrace this too much—it has dire consequences for yourself and for society.”

Well that solves that problem. Thanks, scholars!

Here I was, thinking racism is an entrenched, intractable problem, doomed to plague society forever. But nope! Just denounce a dead author who created one of the most admired, influential and universal works of fiction ever written – one which gave birth to the entire genre of Fantasy literature, film and gaming – and poof! the scourge of racial intolerance goes away forever. With one wave of the scholar’s wizard staff. Golf clap to you, scholars. Take a bow, fantasy fiction author Andy Duncan.

By way of background, I read Lord of the Rings in middle school and it shot a Legolas Elf arrow right into the middle of my little nerd heart that I’ve never wanted to pull out. I grew up dreaming of living in a world where some filmmaker would be able to do it justice. And by the turn of the century Peter Jackson exceeded my wildest expectations. He created not only the best movie trilogy ever (including the original Star Wars), but for my money the best cinematic achievement of all time. Because I thought Tolkien’s vision was an enduring work of character development, world creation and universal themes so complete, as one critic once noted, it’s almost as if he didn’t create it. It’s like this world always existed and he just discovered it.

Stupid me. What I thought LOTR was a great author’s take on Good and Evil. Of Free Will vs. Oppression. But the whole time it was really just an old British snob’s way of saying white people are better than everyone else, and taking 1,008 pages to make his point, plus Appendixes, footnotes and illustrations. Like a 3-volume set of the articles your crazy uncle posts on Facebook for the 40 people who haven’t unfriended him.

I mean, Ol’ White Supremacy JRR wrote it right after World War II, having nearly watching his nation enslaved by a force of pure menace from the East. So I always took it as a metaphor for the necessity of good people to risk everything fighting tyranny in order to remain free. With the orcs as Nazi stormtroopers. Shows you what I know. What a Captain Obvious take by me. I would’ve gotten an F on that book report in Professor Duncan’s class.

So the lesson here for all aspiring fantasy fiction writers (like Andy Duncan) is to make sure your work is sufficiently woke to pass academic muster in 2019. If you’re going to create a race of demonic beings with an insatiable appetite for cruelty, conquest, power and greed, make them a metaphor for something the academics will approve of. Males with toxic masculinity, say. Smokers. Gun owners. Heteronormatives who use binary pronouns. People who didn’t much care for the last Ghostbusters reboot. Church goers. Beer drinkers. Barstool fans. Men who treat college football players to burgers and fries. Because apparently now, even making them dead ringers for the worst people in history – the Nazis – isn’t being woke enough any more. Duly noted. Rot in hell, JRR Tolkien, you hater.