Lit Ignorance is Bias: The Diversity Manifesto

Discussion in 'Literature' started by CooperTFN, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. Valin__Kenobi Author: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Praji

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    I agree, I don't think they're meant to be, but the casting sure makes it look like that, and when all you have to go on is what you see on the screen...
  2. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    I won't pretend to know more than the most basic details about the precise racial characteristics depicted in LotR, but the key element that turns me off of sword-and-sorcery isn't even the stereotyping, it's the imposition of a hierarchy onto the stereotypes. Creating a race (or species, or what-the-hell-ever) to embody the noble-savage archetype or the brute archetype is one thing, but fantasy's obsession with what are effectively segregationist caste systems is where it becomes especially bothersome to me, and where it can carry particularly bad undertones that SW can't--like Mech was saying, Elves aren't just perceived as better than others (and dwarves as worse) because of cultural bias, but because of holy fiat. There doesn't need to be a justification for it, because it's self-evident in the structure of the universe. Whereas in SW, Wookiees and Ugnaughts are just other species--they're not presented as better or worse than anything else, and even their unique biological characteristics are just a fact of life. As undeservedly prominent as humans are in the GFFA, they've at least gotten to that point through demographics instead of divine edict.
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Dec 12, 2012
  3. Ghost Chosen One

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    I'm not sure what you're saying... the Elves, Men, Dwarves, Hobbits, Ents, Eagles, etc. are all equally important and it's continually emhasized that they need each other. By the time of Lord of the Rings, the Elves who returned to Middle Earth in defiance of their gods/angels are finally leaving it. The Valar and the Maiar (the Ainur, the gods/angels), are depicted as being quite imperfect. The true "God" of the Tolkien universe is only known to directly intervene once in its history, and that when he (Eru Illuvatar) destroys the greatest kingdom of Men because they defied a certain law. There are also evil characters depicted among Elves, Dwarves, Men, Hobbits, even among the Ainur. In fact, it the greatest evils come from the Ainur/gods/angels, then from Men and Elves. If anything, the evils of Dwarves and Hobbits are puny in comparison to the others (not much is known about the Ents and Eagles).

    Also, you could say humans are prevalent in Star Wars due to the "will of the Force."
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Dec 12, 2012
  4. cthugha Jedi Grand Master

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    Not what I meant. I said Tolkien basically started the practice of transferring the (yes, ages-old) practice of setting stories based on racial conflict and stereotypes in a fictional world -- with most later Fantasy & lots of later SF following in his footsteps. Now, thanks to (or, to put it more neutrally, beginning with) Tolkien, we can still write and read stories that, if they were set in the "real world" featuring humans of different "races" in the same way, would arouse the (entirely justified) outrage of everyone with their senses in order.

    Only (as you said yourself a little further up) Hobbits, Elves etc are all "basically a bunch of white dudes", i.e. they're stand-ins for humans of different "races" -- whether these align with any of the races posited by our various kinds of racism or not. The difference, as I said, is that LotR, Star Wars etc are set in a world where the biological distinctions between the different races of sentient beings are "real", whereas if you were to say the same thing about different groups of humans, claiming that one race simply has a biologically better sense of smell or whatever, you'd be instantly (and rightfully) branded as racist. -- Whereas back in the 19th century (I didn't pick that at random) ascribing essential properties such as these to different races (read books about Chaka Zulu's war against the whites, for instance) was regarded as common sense -- and unlike in earlier works, the distinctions between the races were then viewed as objective biological differences -- as in Tolkien (Il├║vatar notwithstanding) and Star Wars.

    Tolkien openly called the Dwarves the "Jews of Middle-Earth". Master blacksmiths maybe not, but think "hoarders of gold preferring to operate under ground". If you read The Hobbit and have a beer every time you encounter a blatantly anti-semitic stereotype, you'll be pretty much pissed at the end of the day.
  5. Zorrixor Chosen One

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    While that's true Coop, SW does nevertheless have its own kind of being "better than you by divine fiat" when you factor in midi-chlorians.

    Certainly, the Jedi don't go around proclaiming "We are the chosen ones born to rule!" but that's the way many, many stories end up treating it, with a Jedi needed to beat the bad guys, whereas in many sword-and-sorcery settings the protagonist is often the plain old human proving you don't need to come from the favoured race to win.

    Which is a lesson SW could actually benefit from heeding more often, by having more Han Solos upstaging the Luke Skywalkers.

    Nine times out of ten in the EU though, at least in recent years, has been the latest Starkiller being awesome and totally fantastic and the space version of an Elf.
    Last edited by Zorrixor, Dec 12, 2012
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  6. Ghost Chosen One

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    And Tolkien also said in his letters that the "real world" is much more muddled, with evil and heroes on every side, and compared the Nuclear Bomb to the One Ring in a letter to his son when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed.
  7. Random Comments Force Ghost

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    No, dwarves are not worse, just different.
    And I'd hate to be an Elf, they aren't "better" than the rest, they're responsible for most of the mess Middle-Earth is in...and others have to fix it.
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  8. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    With the proviso that if LoTR had been allegorical- the West would have used the One Ring instead of destroying it.

    While Dwarves may have been intended to be heavily Semitic (in language especially) - Tolkien made it clear once, that he regretted not having Jewish heritage himself - in an angry letter responding to Nazi questions about the subject.
  9. cthugha Jedi Grand Master

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    I know. I'm not trying to disparage Tolkien or to say he was a racist who transferred his fantasies to a fictional world. I say he came up with (or popularized) a means of continuing a narrative tradition that uses the concept of biologically different races to drive plots and provide comic relief.

    So in a way I guess one could say that his innovation allowed us to produce and enjoy this sort of fiction (with all its appeal re the Other, grouping characters into "races" with a narrow set of stereotyped characteristics and then playing with these characteristics, using them as plot points, subverting them, etc) without hurting or insulting anyone in the real world.

    But then again one might also argue that this sort of storytelling keeps the idea of a racially segregated world (as something more interesting and exciting than a world of equal abilities and stuff) alive and well in our minds. I don't know. But it's been bothering me ever since I first thought of it.
    Last edited by cthugha, Dec 12, 2012
  10. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    This is very true, and it has been a major flaw in the recent post-NJO material. There are two big problems with this: first the Jedi characters have been entirely too certain that what they hear in the Force is correct and events have been written to vindicate this confidence to the degredation of non-Force-informed viewpoints repeatedly. In the later half of FotJ this was taken to comical extremes. Second, the Jedi have been allowed to acquire their Force-skills far too easily. Learning to commune with the Force is suppossedly to be a life-long constant effort that must be continually refined in the fashion of a Buddhist of Taosist monk or hermit. It is all consuming so that a Jedi is only a Jedi. Not a Jedi and a pilot and an engineer and a politician and whatever other skill is necessary to get the protagonists out of a bind at the moment. This has been a huge problem.

    There have been attempts to address it. Survivor's Quest, to name a very explicit example, puts two of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy in a situation where their lives are saved by the accumulated job experience of an electronics technician. Regrettably examples of this kind have been few and far between in the post-NJO novels - though other parts of the EU have been much better about it.
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  11. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    I actually rather liked Mon Mothma's lecture in Ambush at Corellia on how Jedi shouldn't be "just Jedi"- they should be of the people as well- Jedi with jobs.
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  12. GrandAdmiralJello Emperor: Community & Lit

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    @TrakNar - time for your Mon Mothma quote!
  13. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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  14. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    As a principle, it certainly sounds nice, but as a storytelling setup it creates problems. Most people can either be a specialist or a jack-of-all-trades master of none. Some exceptional individuals might be able to master multiple fields - Anakin is a great Jedi warrior and a great pilot and a great droid mechanic, but if everyone is like this it leads to 'supercharacters' which is a problem.

    And even if we're just talking about the combat techniques, learning to be a Jedi is suppossed to be really hard. Engaging an opponent with a lightsaber and avoiding cutting off your own limbs while fighting is significantly more challenging than picking up a blaster and popping heads. If you give some class the ability to be good at everything, then why isn't everyone of consequence a member of that group?

    Star Wars is guilty of this with more than just Jedi, Karen Traviss did it with the Mandolorians to, often very boldly. Boba Fett actually tells Jaina 'We're all pilots here' at one point, as if learning to dogfight with high-powered warmachines in three dimensions were no big thing.

    Having Jedi spend a lot of time master the Force is equalizing. It means that the time spent in lightsaber practice, meditation, and the rest is time that they aren't spending slicing files, maintaining equipment, nursing sick comrades, learning alien languages, or even playing sabacc. This method makes a lot of practical sense, and it has been the mechanistic approach used by Star Wars RPG: the Jedi class is devestating in combat and has some Force skills no other class has, but has far fewer non-force skills.
  15. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Digging it up...

  16. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Wow, that's some racist ****.

    And, worse, so movie-centric. Greedo was a bad guy therefore Rodians = Palpatine!!
    Last edited by CooperTFN, Dec 12, 2012
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  17. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    Is no one gonna bring up Pacific Rim? I feel it is relevant
  18. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    All I know about Pacific Rim is that they ripped off a short film I made in college and apparently made off with GLaDOS in the process.
  19. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    It's more like cribs any 70's-80's Mecha anime ever
  20. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    It does explain why we didn't see hardly any Rodians in the Alliance, unless they were moving pieces of background who were offed the next chapter; Mon Mothma wouldn't let them join.
  21. RC-1991 Force Ghost

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    Mecha anime meets Cthulhu.
  22. Esg Jedi Grand Master

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    No you didn't.
    Last edited by Havac, Dec 13, 2012
  23. GrandAdmiralJello Emperor: Community & Lit

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    You'd never hear His Majesty saying something so obviously foul and evil.
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  24. Iron_lord Force Ghost

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    What book was that in?
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  25. CooperTFN TFN EU Staff Emeritus

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    Which has what to do with this thread?