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21640Re: [mythsoc] Are Hobbits white?

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  • Darrell A. Martin
    Dec 8 3:45 AM
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      On 12/7/2010 7:02 PM, David Bratman wrote:
      > My point was, "This is a thought-provoking article." If you were
      > looking for a definitive opinion on this point from me, you may have
      > to wait a while. The question worth raising is, even if authors make
      > assumptions about their creatures' race - and Tolkien's are not
      > entirely clear, as I pointed out - are movie adapters obliged to
      > reproduce them? Certainly, as Darrell points out, there is plenty
      > else in Tolkien's books that Jackson did not feel obliged to
      > reproduce.
      > The relevance of UKL and GRRM is that I wished to discuss the
      > depiction of fantasy creatures in general, and not just Tolkien's
      > hobbits. I would have thought that was obvious, especially when I
      > wrote "an author's assumptions about the skin color of his fantasy
      > creatures" and not "Tolkien's assumptions about the skin color of his
      > hobbits." I think that compare-and-contrast parallels with other
      > authors might be informative in discussing this question regarding
      > Tolkien, and that's why I wished to discuss them.
      > I said nothing about _Tolkien_ being white. I wrote, "Tolkien was
      > English" in contrast to GRRM being American; I would have thought it
      > obvious that this is a reference not to his skin color but to his
      > nationality, since that's what I wrote, and the concomitant default
      > assumptions he might have. If an Englishman of the past might be
      > excused for racial assumptions, it's tougher for an American (of a
      > more multicultural society, at least in the past) of today (a more
      > multicultural time) to take the same excuse, yet GRRM ... Well,
      > it's an interesting question.
      > DB


      I did not, apparently, make it clear enough (or at all) whose opinions I
      was responding to in each point. If in any of what I said I contradicted
      you, specifically, it wasn't intentional -- although I am not against
      that in principle [grin].

      My reference to Tolkien being white was a logical leap, imprudently
      skipping intervening steps; the point being that some will assume that
      being English and all that, Tolkien was a stereotypical White
      Anglo-Saxon Protestant -- ergo his characters would be. (His being white
      is the only part of the stereotype that is not either debatable or just
      wrong.) That is irrelevant as far as his characters go. Tolkien
      describes his Hobbits as if they were certain kinds of English folk.
      That *ought* to end the discussion, in my opinion.

      However, it is a cinematic tradition that what an author wrote is of
      little consequence. The contract is sometimes nothing more than
      protection against a claim of plagiarism. There are exceptions
      (Rowlings' unusually restrictive terms for the Harry Potter series comes
      to mind) but they are unusual. Some alteration is unavoidable because of
      the differences between the media, and some adaptation results in a
      clearly better movie; but sometimes there are changes that seem to arise
      solely from the filmmakers' desire to tell their own story, not the
      original author's. If Hollywood can do it to the Bible, what chance does
      the Hobbit stand?

      The thoroughly unsatisfactory answer to your original question, then, is
      that the author's authority extends only as far as the contract allows
      and his or her lawyers can enforce it.

      I fear I assumed something more specifically tied to Tolkien than you
      intended, in your reference to Le Guin and Martin. I have opinions that
      would not be considered Politically Correct about why many Americans, in
      our supposedly multi-cultural society, tend to like fantasies that are
      more or less based on northwestern Europe in the more or less Middle
      Ages.... I do not think it an accident that the "Game of Thrones"
      trailer shows actors that are white, or very VERY white.

      My biggest disappointment with "Game of Thrones" is not the lack of
      racial diversity in the cast (there is at least one little person,
      though). It is that it can be accused, in my opinion, of the failure
      which Le Guin described in her essay, "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie."
      That is, that it is too much like a modern international political
      thriller, just with swords and a dash of supernaturalism thrown in, for
      my taste. I may still like the TV series, eventually -- not immediately,
      I don't get HBO.

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