Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Eldorion on Sat Nov 04, 2017 11:22 pm

TranshumanAngel wrote:I think my own opinions are best captured by this post courtesy of u/uluithiad of r/tolkienfans:

This is the problem with most stances that are similar to yours. Because Tolkien cared so little about the identity politics that gorge themselves on race, race, race, much (I say 'much', not 'all') of what he wrote is either absent of such description or done with enough vagueness to satisfy a spectrum of interpretation. And then, the people who do play those identity politics have the habit of perceiving their ideas mapped onto Tolkien as being Tolkien's ideas, depending on how 'just' or 'problematic' they want to hold him.
If you've identified only the relatively primitive Woses as non-white and left off the Men of Lossarnach and Lebennin, who while of Gondor are actually explicitly given the same color descriptors as the enemies of Gondor you claim are identifiable as non-white, the problem isn't with Tolkien.

Link:

[url=https://www.reddit.com/user/Uluithiad/?count=250&after=t1_dkbemrf]https://www.reddit.com/user/Uluithiad/?count=250&after=t1_dkbemrf[/url

I'm not really sure what the relevance of that is since I did identify the men of Lossarnach and Lebennin, as part of the broader class of "the majority of the population of Gondor proper", as non-white. I guess maybe it was the term "Gondor proper" that's a point of confusion? Probably not a great choice of words on my part since the fiefs arguably don't count as "proper". I think my meaning was fairly clear from the context (contrasting it with Harad, referring to Tolkien's discussion of indigenous Gondorians in general and "Tal-Elmar" in particular), but if it was not I apologize for that.

In any event, if you disagree with my take on the racial makeup and social structure of Gondor, then by all means come at me. Just show a little courtesy from one Lorist to another and don't throw reddit reposts at me in lieu of book quotes and arguments of your own.
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Forest Shepherd on Sun Nov 05, 2017 12:20 am

Eldorion wrote:
I'm not really sure what the relevance of that is since I did identify the men of Lossarnach and Lebennin, as part of the broader class of "the majority of the population of Gondor proper", as non-white. I guess maybe it was the term "Gondor proper" that's a point of confusion? Probably not a great choice of words on my part since the fiefs arguably don't count as "proper". I think my meaning was fairly clear from the context (contrasting it with Harad, referring to Tolkien's discussion of indigenous Gondorians in general and "Tal-Elmar" in particular), but if it was not I apologize for that.

In any event, if you disagree with my take on the racial makeup and social structure of Gondor, then by all means come at me. Just show a little courtesy from one Lorist to another and don't throw reddit reposts at me in lieu of book quotes and arguments of your own.

Easy tiger! The relevance is that THA is sharing a thoughtful post describing a possible route by which a fan might claim that their own projected beliefs are actually Tolkien's. I don't see anything in THA's post that is aggressively challenging you in particular, unlike your reply.

In its original context, the discussion was that another reddit user was racist because they had assumed that the Wild Men in the Druadan Forest were non-white. The accused cleared their name by explaining that their perception of the Wild Men had been coloured by Ted Nasmith's depiction of them in the Tolkien Beastiary: https://ashsilverlock.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/tn-the_aid_of_the_wild-men.jpg?w=1200. Additionally, they pointed out that Jackson intended to use native Kiwi actors for the role of Ghan-buri-Ghan et al., at least before said roles were cut from the film. I believe it was the Maori actor Wi Kuki Kaa? Or is that a rumour?
Source: http://forums.theonering.com/viewtopic.php?t=42715
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0433922/

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Forest Shepherd on Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:39 am

Eldorion wrote:
Finally ... look, I'm not trying to start a fight, but I said something similar in the Doctor Who thread recently so I'm just gonna lay it out here. I think we as a fandom need to do some serious soul-searching as to why the idea of people of color in Middle-earth provokes such a strong reaction.

The current political climate. I think it's disingenuous to claim that ingrained racism is responsible for most fans' positions on this. A desire for the familiar to remain so could be responsible, certainly. But the kick-back against any changes are stronger because of where the call for these changes is perceived to be coming from most strongly: the culture in Hollywood that idealizes principles of diversity, equal representation, and inclusivity. The manner in which these principles are sometimes pursued tends to get under the skin of those who do not place as much value on said principles, and people get upset. Names get called, banners are raised, and extremists on either side see an opportunity to gain support by striking out in strong opposition to the caricatured views of the "other side". I suspect that many people upset by calls for greater diversity in movies and TV are simply tired of hearing about how their particular cultural attitudes are bad and the cause of society's problems. Nobody wants to be preached to about how something which every single person in the entire world inherently has (ingrained cultural attitudes) is a specifically bad and dangerous thing that needs to be cast off.*

It's a big mess, and I'm sick of hearing about the whole thing. Hence, in part at least, the kick-back against the idea of LotR being dragged into the middle of that mess by the question of casting for a TV production.

*Well, that is to say, I do agree with the idea of actively countering certain ingrained cultural attitudes: those that are clearly harmful. But within the context of a person's dedication to, say, the principles of the U.S. and a set of religious ideals about how to treat other people that hardly needs to be said. I mean to say, I think that other people should be allowed to enjoy the same freedoms as I do, and that I should treat others as i would like to be treated. But that's not part of conversations about race these days.

Eldorion wrote: Let's look at it from a Lore perspective for now, though. There is a lot of migration of peoples throughout the history of Middle-earth. Migration means intermarriage. Gondor ruled a huge chunk of Middle-earth in the mid-Third Age. A sprawling cosmopolitan empire involves people traveling and resettling within it. Tolkien explicitly states in Appendix F that the majority of the population of Gondor proper (to say nothing of Harad) had an ethnically mixed background. The majority of that descent came from the indigenous inhabitants of Gondor (the Dúnedain were always a small minority), who were related to the Halethrim and the Dunlendings. And guess what? They were dark-skinned (ROTK, VI 1). (This also means that the Halethrim in the First Age were dark-skinned too.) So in Gondor, especially in its early days, we have a largely dark-skinned native population being ruled over by a mostly light-skinned elite. And in Rohan in the mid-Third Age, we have a predominately white people expelling the dark-skinned inhabitants of a region (the Dunlendings) in order to take that region as their own country, something that the Rohirrim themselves in LOTR don't even try to justify on moral grounds. Fiction isn't written in a vacuum, and Tolkien himself drew attention to the colonial parallels. Read the appendices to "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn". Read "Tal-Elmar" for god's sake. Tolkien, whatever his personal opinions on race may have been, explicitly and repeatedly called out Dúnedain imperialism for the oppressive, murderous phenomenon that it was.

Very interesting! If an adaptation of LotR were to take these matters into hand, it would greatly help in doing away with protest that an ethnically diverse cast was being included simply for the sake of living up to the current ideal of diversity.

Your mention of the oppressive nature of the Dunedain "imperialism" reminds me of how Ghan-buri-Ghan calls out the Rohirrim for hunting his people in the past when Theoden and Co. are escorted by the Wild Men in RotK. Of course, the Wild Men were physically quite different from most men and more like dwarves in some regards, as I recall.

But I'm curious as to what you mean by the Dunedain being an oppressive, murderous phenomenon. Is this something that I, a more casual reader of mostly just the "core" books, would have encountered? I mean, before the fall of Numenor I get how the Numenoreans became more and more despotic with their points of control along the coast of Middle Earth, is that what you're referring to or is this something that crops up in the descendants of Elendil and the faithful that escape Numenor's destruction?

Eldorion wrote:
And that's not to say that I know all about Tolkien's attitudes on race, or that I think his opinions map directly on to modern progressive ones. I doubt they do. There are some eyebrow-raising moments throughout his writing. But he also wrote his stories while staying very cognizant of their internal textual history and the people who recorded them. But film can't reproduce the source tradition in a 1:1 manner. As a visual medium, it is more readily suited to giving a quasi-objective view of things. This is especially true in sprawling, multi-character, worldbuilding-heavy fantasy epics, because the camera is often detached from the viewpoint of any individual character. So why not take the opportunity to explore an aspect of Tolkien's subcreation which has been so often ignored? And why not acknowledge the existence of mixed-race people and depict people of color in roles other than victims, whether of Sauron or of the Dúnedain? Especially since films are inescapably a product of their time and culture. If Tolkien fans feel that this somehow destroys the integrity of the original work, I think that says more about the world we live in than anything inherent to Tolkien's writing.

I'm not even saying that I think greater diversity in casting is a likely outcome. It's very possible that this show, if it is made, sticks to the overwhelmingly white mode of most fantasy. And if it does, I'm not gonna boycott it or anything. I might be a little disappointed at the missed opportunity but I don't think the show has an obligation to address these issues. But I am discouraged by the knee-jerk response to even the outside chance of fantasy fiction being less white, and I don't want to be part of a community where no one calls that out. If I am alone in this perspective, that's fine; I don't plan on making a habit of jumping in with a screed like this every time some comment is made. I don't think that would ultimately be helpful or productive. But I do want to put this out here at the start for the sake of any lurkers who may be reading this thread and to speak my own conscience. If I end up withdrawing from discussions of the show, you guys know why.

Peace.
I think we're both overreacting, as is typical around touchy topics.

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Eldorion on Sun Nov 05, 2017 2:43 am

I'd like to let THA speak for himself, but if I was in fact mistaken in my assumption that his post was meant to imply that I was making a similar mistake or misrepresentation of Tolkien, then I will offer my apologies for that. I definitely could (and should) have replied in a less confrontational manner.

Forest Shepherd wrote:I suspect that many people upset by calls for greater diversity in movies and TV are simply tired of hearing about how their particular cultural attitudes are bad and the cause of society's problems. Nobody wants to be preached to about how something which every single person in the entire world inherently has (ingrained cultural attitudes) is a specifically bad and dangerous thing that needs to be cast off.

I don't think that ingrained cultural attitudes are an automatically bad thing that need to be cast off. I don't think they can be cast off; culture is a pretty integral part and product of human societies. Nor is any culture, including our own, uniformly bad or dangerous or whatever. There are in fact plenty of things to be grateful for about living in this country, as I'm sure you agree. But there are also plenty of things to criticize, and I don't think the fact that airing those criticisms sometimes makes people uncomfortable (and I totally understand how they do) is a reason to not bring them up. But there are plenty of societal problems that people have to live with every day, which is on a whole different level from simply not wanting to hear about them.

And look, I'm not in any way immune from this. I come from a very privileged place in society for a number of reasons (and this is true despite my mental health struggles and multiple hospitalizations, even if I feel I've been dealt a shit hand in that respect). This isn't something I feel guilty about, but I try to remain cognizant of it, and to work to understand other people's experiences. But I am just as much a product of the context in which I was raised as anyone else. I used to have some beliefs that I now look back on with embarrassment and I'm sure that 5-10 years down the line the same will be true of some beliefs I currently hold. In fact I hope that's the case, because I don't want to be a stagnant person. But who knows exactly which ways my beliefs will change. I certainly don't, or else they'd already be different.

It's a big mess, and I'm sick of hearing about the whole thing. Hence, in part at least, the kick-back against the idea of LotR being dragged into the middle of that mess by the question of casting for a TV production.

I stand by what I said about art not being made in a vacuum, but I don't think that artists (and entertainers, for those who don't consider commercial films to be art) have an obligation to address any particular social or political themes in their work. But the part that bothered me the most was the implicit assumption that casting the series in a more diverse way was automatically political, or PC pandering, or a form of activism. My point is that there doesn't have to be an explicit political motivation for more diverse casting, but the mere presence of people of color and women in spaces that are traditionally white and/or male dominated is often construed as a political statement.

On some level that's true in that nothing is entirely apolitical, but by that metric continuing to cast primarily white and/or male actors is political as well, since the reason why such roles are so common (e.g. how few movies have female protagonists) stems from centuries of deliberate marginalization of others. But because that's been the case for so long, a lot of us (again, I'm not immune here) just assume that white and/or male is the default and that any deviation from it has to be justified, whereas maintaining the status quo does not. And I think that's a reflex that's worth pointing out since it's usually unconscious. But this doesn't mean that I think anyone is a bad person for having that thought pattern or that there are never cases where it makes sense to cast a certain role as white and male.

I am really not the best person to try to pontificate on social justice issues and I make no claim to be speaking authoritatively here. Just trying to explain my previous post and give an honest response to yours.

But I'm curious as to what you mean by the Dunedain being an oppressive, murderous phenomenon. Is this something that I, a more casual reader of mostly just the "core" books, would have encountered? I mean, before the fall of Numenor I get how the Numenoreans became more and more despotic with their points of control along the coast of Middle Earth, is that what you're referring to or is this something that crops up in the descendants of Elendil and the faithful that escape Numenor's destruction?

The short answer is that the aforementioned appendices to "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" depict the early Númenóreans (even before the division into the King's Men and Faithful factions) devastating the ecosystem of the Enedwaith, which provoked low-level warfare with the indigenous inhabitants of the area who wanted to stop the deforestation of the area and expel the interlopers. The Enedwaith* sided with Sauron in the War of the Elves and Sauron for this reason, though (predictably to the reader) he didn't really help them out either. The whole thing culminated with the Númenóreans deliberately destroying the entire ecosystem (not even attempting reforestation anymore) and the Enedwaith's way of life more or less out of spite.

The other text I referred to, "Tal-Elmar", depicts the Second Age Númenóreans (explicitly stated in a later note by Tolkien to be members of the Faithful faction) visiting Gondor in the early stages of its colonization and telling the native inhabitants of the coastal regions that they had to abandon the area or they would all be killed. I apologize for the abbreviated descriptions but if you are interested in a lengthier discussion of this topic may I please direct you to the below-linked book review that I wrote last year which touches on this topic among others:

https://terpconnect.umd.edu/~jkeener/tolkien/hightowers.html#numenor

I will add that part of the reason this doesn't come up in the core books as much is that the LOTR Appendices and the Akallabêth are intended to be understood as the product of in-universe hands, and while there are some contradictions by Tolkien about the exact details of the textual tradition (in this case mainly with the Akallabêth), the consistent factor is that the histories are told from the perspective of the Eldar and the Dúnedain (more specifically the Elf-friends aka the Faithful). So the Akallabêth claims that the Faithful had little to do with the dark side of Númenórean imperialism, but in other stories and histories like the above that were written either from different cultural perspectives or from a more detached god's-eye-view, we see a very different picture. But there is still evidence to be found in LOTR itself, even in the Appendices, where we can glean clues from the things that the internal historians were willing to admit.

I would like to be clear that my historiographic approach is not a revisionist "the other side of the story that Tolkien didn't show you" approach in the vein of The Last Ringbearer. Tolkien is very forthright about the textual traditions, unreliable narrators, and opportunities to question things. Possibly the earliest and still one of the best scholarly discussions of this was by Alex Lewis in his essay "Historical Bias in the Making of The Silmarillion" (Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992, ed. Reynolds and GoodKnight). Unfortunately, the Proceedings are ridiculously hard to find, but I'll include a couple links to other discussions of the topic.



*Sindarin terms ending in -waith can refer to both geographic regions and the inhabitants thereof; see also Forodwaith.

I think we're both overreacting, as is typical around touchy topics.

This is probably true.


Last edited by Eldorion on Sun Nov 05, 2017 4:13 am; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Forest Shepherd on Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:42 am

Nice, thanks for the links!

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by TranshumanAngel on Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:11 am

Ah, I see I have created a giant misunderstanding! I'm so sorry - I should have contextualised that post much more thoroughly. The post was a quotation, in no way a direct response to what you (Eldo) wrote - I was meaning it merely as a general ballpark statement of my own views, although I see now that just plonking it there without context was needlessly confusing Crying or Very sad

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Eldorion on Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:18 am

No worries THA, and I'm really sorry for misunderstanding things and jumping to conclusions. Miscommunications happen and I definitely did not handle this one well. :/ I think I get what you mean now, though. Anyway, now to go clean all this egg off my face...
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by TranshumanAngel on Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:25 am

That's okay - it is an incendiary topic, and I don't expect I'll comment further on it. We probably agree more than not, in any case.
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Eldorion on Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:27 am

Yeah, I think I've put all my cards on the table, so it's probably best to let it lie.

Here's hoping we get official word on the Tolkien Estate situation soon, though. Razz
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by TranshumanAngel on Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:35 am

I'm surprised the Estate hasn't come out right away and distanced itself. There was some speculation that the rights being discussed were actually those for other works still the possession of the Estate like the Silmarillion, but I find that incredibly hard to believe.
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Mrs Figg on Sun Nov 05, 2017 10:58 am

halfwise wrote:I think serializing the books so they can be done right - much like GoT (Blue, settle down) - would be a good move.  And even if the rights are owned by Saul Zaentz the production would gain immense credibility if given the nod by the Tolkien Estate.  If I were Amazon I'd know I could easily buy (or lease, however it works) the rights; it's getting the seal of approval that would require focus.


Agreed, a tv series would be perfect, if they had a big budget like HBO.

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Mrs Figg on Sun Nov 05, 2017 11:05 am

Forest Shepherd wrote:

"Yeah so I think most people were probably happily surprised during this episode. I mean, very early on during pre-production we gathered the writers and literary experts together and hashed out some questions we had coming into the project. I remember one question came up in particular. It was, "Why aren't there any black elves?". Building off of that we got to where we are today, with a Rivendell that is far more representative of the sort of diversity that we absolutely need in a story as universally loved as Lord of the Rings."

Neutral

I can see this particular mindfuc*ingly clearly too. Extremely Crabbit  it would end up like 'Legend of the Seeker', along with New Zealand accents and Maori face tattoos.

I also stand by my opinion that this is about current fashion for racial/gender diversity and not because there 'are no' Black people in Tolkiens world, because I think that is disingenuous, the story we are telling in LOTR does not specifically mention dark skinned people, apart from periphery characters like fallen Haradrim warrior in Ithilien or mentions of Southrons etc..so I wouldn't like it to go down that route. But really why does diversity have to impose itself on everything? If a story is about a group of White dudes going on an adventure, whats wrong with that? that's why Tauriel was so annoying, it was diversity at its most unsubtle.

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by malickfan on Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:43 pm

TranshumanAngel wrote:I'm surprised the Estate hasn't come out right away and distanced itself. There was some speculation that the rights being discussed were actually those for other works still the possession of the Estate like the Silmarillion, but I find that incredibly hard to believe.

Nice to see you drop in again after so long THA Smile

As usual, I A)agree with Eldo on most points and B) Lack the insight, energy or verbosity to contribute with any interesting points of my own (though I will say a LOTR TV series somehow seemed more exciting prior to Game Of Thrones I have a sneaking suspicion this TV series is guided less by the desire to do a more faithful adaptation of the source material rather and rather to just cash in on the current craze for fantasy TV with a well known name, wouldn't put it past Amazon, WB to add buckets of gore/sex to jazz it up for modern audiences, then again although it's always interesting to see new interpretations of the books anyway I'm not entirely convinced a longer, more faithful adaption of the book would make for interesting TV for modern audiences and conventions anyway-how would they pull of Tom Bombadil?)


I'm well known on this forum for my opposition to hypothetical adaptations of The Silmarillion (not least because the published Silmarillion is effectively a edited adaptation/compilation of Tolkien's drafts, C.Tolkien has expressed regrets about some of his editorial decisions with the Sil and some of the material later published in the HOME/UFT may well have made it into the 1977 Sil had he more time to work on it...if we never got JRR Tolkien's Silmarillion, why would I want to see an adaption that would have to invent, change or create such vast swathes of the narrative/dialogue to appeal to mass audiences that it would barely resemble the source material anyway?) but that is an intriguing thought, I'm currently inclined to agree with Eldo and think some of those journalists got their wires crossed or sources confused (even if the Estate has buried the hatchet with WB and decided to get creatively involved with this rumoured TV series, I just don't see Christopher Tolkien changing his mind an optioning the rights at such a late stage) but perhaps there is some truth in these rumours/speculation, perhaps C.Tolkien is preparing to retire or step down from running the estate handing over the reigns to younger family members with different ideas? At this point in time with all the cultural impact from the movies, videogames etc perhaps they have just come to the conclusion that it is better to try and have some input in these things rather than just pointing to the books in annoyed silence...

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by malickfan on Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:45 pm

I'm going to wait for more information/clarification on the Estate position before I get too excited/annoyed.

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by halfwise on Sun Nov 05, 2017 2:02 pm

Okay, I'll weigh in and get it out there.  There are two competing themes here, and I honestly don't know if a solution is to be found.

One is that Tolkien clearly portrays a set of white people as a master race. Even if he reflects history by faithfully recounting the ugliness that comes from that, and even if he is only reflecting history of the last few hundred years rather than saying this is the expected hierarchy of the races, the fact that a very powerful work of art has white people dominating non-whites reinforces the nagging feeling that somehow this is the natural order of things.  Those with a scholarly mind can accept this as no more than a fictional history echoing the happenstances of our own.  But to those who have experienced cultural/racial domination and to children especially this can be poison. I've said before that despite the bits of ridiculousness that result from the PC movement, it has had a powerful and usually positive effect.  I don't think it should just be tossed away.

On the other hand a PC approach can easily destroy a work of art. I think this is a bit too obvious to say much about.  In some cases it has no effect: Kenneth Branagh cast Denzel Washington as a prince in Much Ado About Nothing, and it didn't feel like it was destroying the otherwise historical integrity of the film (it had nothing to do about being PC except that Branagh felt free to be race-blind in choosing his cast). But Shakespeare has achieved the level of being considered universal and it's not clear Tolkien would survive a similar treatment.  In the PJ appendices they joke good-naturedly about "The Bro-han": Maoris in blonde wigs running around in the background.  If we actually saw a Brohan up close it would destroy the carefully crafted sense of history and peoples that Tolkien created, and that would be a huge loss.

Tolkien was very careful to ensure his work rang true from a historical perspective.  The Gondorians and Rohirrim both think of themselves as virtuous and rightful owners of their lands, yet they grind other people under their feet.  It's possible that if portrayed from this more "Roman" perspective of sometimes cruel but culturally advanced overlords who unthinkingly destroy the lives of very human other peoples, then the PC need to claim this is not the natural order can be satisfied.  This is along the lines of what Eldo was saying, but I think a conscious decision to bring it forward more than Tolkien did might achieve the desired effect.  It's a ticklish business.

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Mrs Figg on Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:24 pm

halfwise wrote:Okay, I'll weigh in and get it out there.  There are two competing themes here, and I honestly don't know if a solution is to be found.

One is that Tolkien clearly portrays a set of white people as a master race. Even if he reflects history by faithfully recounting the ugliness that comes from that, and even if he is only reflecting history of the last few hundred years rather than saying this is the expected hierarchy of the races, the fact that a very powerful work of art has white people dominating non-whites reinforces the nagging feeling that somehow this is the natural order of things.  Those with a scholarly mind can accept this as no more than a fictional history echoing the happenstances of our own.  But to those who have experienced cultural/racial domination and to children especially this can be poison. I've said before that despite the bits of ridiculousness that result from the PC movement, it has had a powerful and usually positive effect.  I don't think it should just be tossed away.

On the other hand a PC approach can easily destroy a work of art. I think this is a bit too obvious to say much about.  In some cases it has no effect: Kenneth Branagh cast Denzel Washington as a prince in Much Ado About Nothing, and it didn't feel like it was destroying the otherwise historical integrity of the film (it had nothing to do about being PC except that Branagh felt free to be race-blind in choosing his cast). But Shakespeare has achieved the level of being considered universal and it's not clear Tolkien would survive a similar treatment.  In the PJ appendices they joke good-naturedly about "The Bro-han": Maoris in blonde wigs running around in the background.  If we actually saw a Brohan up close it would destroy the carefully crafted sense of history and peoples that Tolkien created, and that would be a huge loss.

Tolkien was very careful to ensure his work rang true from a historical perspective.  The Gondorians and Rohirrim both think of themselves as virtuous and rightful owners of their lands, yet they grind other people under their feet.  It's possible that if portrayed from this more "Roman" perspective of sometimes cruel but culturally advanced overlords who unthinkingly destroy the lives of very human other peoples, then the PC need to claim this is not the natural order can be satisfied.  This is along the lines of what Eldo was saying, but I think a conscious decision to bring it forward more than Tolkien did might achieve the desired effect.  It's a ticklish business.



I agree with all your points, also I would add that we are looking at things from a 21st century point of view where these things have become loaded with both guilt and angst for some and agitprop from others, its difficult to look at it from a early 20th century prospective any more. we are trapped in our age which makes Tolkien, for me, seem all the more important to keep out of race discourse if possible. Because I am cynical when directors choose to make traditionally white/male characters other, it seems like blatant marketing ploys, imo, they do it to differentiate their product more than wanting to live in Coca-Cola-esque utopia where races live in harmony. When this is plonked into a show or film its also glaringly obvious why they made those casting choices.

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by David H on Sun Nov 05, 2017 3:54 pm

Halfy wrote:Kenneth Branagh cast Denzel Washington as a prince in Much Ado About Nothing, and it didn't feel like it was destroying the otherwise historical integrity of the film

Denzel deserves credit as a fine actor for carrying that role. For me that's what it all really comes down to -- how well the actor, director and editor tell the story.

Another great example of colorblind casting was Morgan Freeman in "Shawshank Redemption". Stephen King had originally written the character of Red as a redheaded Irishman, but Freeman was mesmerizing in the role so the writers added one line of dialog and never looked back!

(Also gotta mention that Ralph Bakshi appeared to have cast Strider as Native American... Shrugging )

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by halfwise on Sun Nov 05, 2017 5:33 pm

And Boromir was a Veeking! Norway

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Sun Nov 05, 2017 6:25 pm

{{ My own feelings on this are generally positive until I have reason to be crabbit.
I have always said I thought a tv series was the only way to do it justice, using the BBC radio 4 production as an example of how it can be possible and faithful in spirit. And more optimistically to my mind I see no reason why anyone would creatively want to just reproduce PJ's version for the small screen- the very reason surely for such a project now at all would be to differentiate it from PJ's and the best way to do that with the luxury of the added time is to more closely follow the book- giving viewers a version of the story they simply saw none of before: Crickhollow, Fatty Bolger, the Old Forest Tom Bombadil and many more important secondary characters like Gamling properly fleshed out.

Talking of Gamling on the subject of races Tolkiens world is more nuanced than its public image would imply in my view.
If they want to comment on grey areas then simply include the references to why the Wild Men of Dunlending hate Rohan, include the scenes and references to them speaking in a language that was once heard throughout Rohan before they were cruelly and unfairely treated by the incoming men of Rohan, include the Woses especially, the mistreated original aboriginal inhabitants of the region. I wouldn't even object some small areas of added material, minor inclusions of exposition that give some backstory to the Gondor/Haradrim history and let the viewer know its not always been a war situation between Gondor and Harad, and once they mixed more freely- this history means I see no reason for there not be 'arab' like Gondorians in appearance descended from those days, in fact it seems likely to me there would be.
Also would be nice if somehow they could make it clear that Tolkiens use of White=nearer God and black= nearer the devil is not based on skin colour.  Mad  The Numeoreans were nearer to Eru and were good by their actions, hence more white, when they fell from grace the worst of them became known as Black Numenoreans, but they hadn't undergone a change of skin colour- its a reference to spiritual states not skin colour. Same goes for Black Riders- if any are black of skin we dont know- nor do any of the many characters who describe them as 'black men'- but that could be meant in both senses- dressed head to foot in black and giving off an unwholesome disturbing presence, hence spiritually black also- its quite possible the hobbits were deliberately using that double meaning when describing them. Either way last thing references to black and white or who is on what side are is anything to do with race- the Haradrim are not bad because they are black, they are spiritually black because they are acting badly in siding with Sauron. And that's completely different. Had Boromir successfully seized the Ring and gone on to lead his armies against Sauron he too would have become black, no skin colour changing required because its referencing his closeness or distance from God!!!

And the final reason for some optimism is that it will hopefully bring more folk back to the forum, and maybe some newbies too, (good to see you again Trans!  pub ) and the worse that can happen is they fuck it up entirely and give me something new to be crabbit about for the next ten years  Twisted Evil }}

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Mrs Figg on Sun Nov 05, 2017 9:30 pm

here's to grass length wars. pub

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by TranshumanAngel on Sun Nov 05, 2017 10:56 pm

I know I said I wouldn't comment on this again, but I just wanted to reiterate (what I think is) an important point from the quotation I provided earlier:

And then, the people who do play those identity politics have the habit of perceiving their ideas mapped onto Tolkien as being Tolkien's ideas, depending on how 'just' or 'problematic' they want to hold him.

We do well to remember that so much of this is our own concern brought to Tolkien's work - he really doesn't actually describe very much at all. Martin is far more descriptive and uses a ton of stereotypical imagery, in the case of the Dothraki, say. By comparison the Haradrim are barely treated at all, the Easterlings even less so. That's why generalisations like "all good people are white and all bad people are black" are not even wrong, as the saying goes. We just don't know enough to even make generalisations like that. People bring those kinds of paradigms to the text. As many here point out, the southern Gondorians are described as 'swarthy', the Woses are never described in skin colour terms and the Easterlings who are described are of the "bearded men with axes" type - no skin colour mentioned. Only the Haradrim are dark skinned as they are said to live in an African type desert. The text itself is therefore fairly limited in its descriptive content, and we ought to bear that in mind, I think.
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Eldorion on Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:09 am

Mrs Figg wrote:I think that is disingenuous, the story we are telling in LOTR does not specifically mention dark skinned people, apart from periphery characters like fallen Haradrim warrior in Ithilien or mentions of Southrons etc

Here's the description of the Haradrim soldier you mentioned (my emphasis):

TTT, IV 4 wrote:Then suddenly straight over the rim of their sheltering bank, a man fell, crashing through the slender trees, nearly on top of them. He came to rest in the fern a few feet away, face downward, green arrow-feathers sticking from his neck below a golden collar. His scarlet robes were tattered, his corslet of overlapping brazen plates was rent and hewn, his black plaits of hair braided with gold were drenched with blood. His brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword.

And here's a description of Samwise Gamgee four chapters later (my emphasis again):

TTT, IV 8 wrote:Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping side- ways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned deep in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast. Peace was in both their faces.

To be clear, this quote does not indicate that Sam's hands were tanned or dirty. The Prologue to The Lord of the Rings explicitly states that there was variation in skin color among Hobbits and that some were "browner of skin". These differences were more pronounced in the earlier eras of Hobbit history from before the Shire was settled, but that some differences could still be observed in the late Third Age. There was some relationship between skin color and class ("the strong Fallohidish strain [ie, lighter skin] could still be noted among the greater families, such as the Tooks and the Masters of Buckland"), but Tolkien was vague on the specifics, and there was plenty of of intermarriage between Hobbits of different groups. So for background extras or most Hobbits who never receive a personal physical description in the book, you could cast actors of color and it would be consistent with the text. It is in fact the uniformly white depictions of Hobbits which deviate from the text.


Last edited by Eldorion on Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:16 am

{{Im not entirely sure those two can be equated unequivocally Eldo.
brown is often used as the colour to describe the skin of white folk who have led a largely outdoor life, such as farmers or shepherds, or in Sam's case gardeners. Brown weathered skin. Aragorn likewise is described as weather-beaten but also dark if memory serves. Whereas it seems more likely to me the reference to brown on the Haradrim is meant to indicate a racial difference.
But then Gondorians themselves should at the least have a Mediterranean appearance in any case so a wide variety of skin colour would already be evident in southern races even before considering the years when there was both political allegiance and probably more importantly, commercial and cultural trade between the two nations. }}}

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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Eldorion on Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:21 am

LOTR, Prologue wrote:Before the crossing of the mountains the Hobbits had already become divided into three somewhat different breeds: Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides. The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides. The Stoors were broader, heavier in build; their feet and hands were larger; and they preferred flat lands and riversides. The Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer than the others; they were lovers of trees and of woodlands.

Brown skin is listed as one of the distinguishing phenotypic traits of Harfoots, along with stature and facial hair. It's not about how much time they spent outside.

Edit: and to be clear, beardlessness is also brought up as a phenotype, not a cultural practice. From later in the Prologue:

The Hobbits of that quarter, the Eastfarthing, were rather large and heavy-legged, and they wore dwarf-boots in muddy weather. But they were well known to be Stoors in a large part of their blood, as indeed was shown by the down that many grew on their chins. No Harfoot or Fallohide had any trace of a beard.
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Re: Amazon, Warner Bros in Talks for LOTR Series Adaptation: Variety

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Mon Nov 06, 2017 12:29 am

{{Which strain is Sam?
But I am more being wary of attributing descriptions as definitely linked to one thing such as skin tone- here for example is a description of the rangers in general-

'They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree'

Gandalf in his letter to Frodo describes Aragon as 'lean, dark, tall' yet Frodo in Lothlorien when he has his vision of the younger Aragorn describes him as ' a young lord tall and fair'.

Tolkien is descriptive, in the moment rather than consistently depending on the mood being conveyed. }}}

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