Friday, June 3, 2011

RESPONSE: Race And Races (in Fantasy)

Ars Marginal has a look at racism embedded in the elven race.

It continues to remind me: whenever you have a book, comic, TV show, etc. that is based on races having race culture, you're basically going to be creating a rorshach for people to project their own racial views onto. Because the fantasy/sci-fi culture of people being near-wholly defined by their race is, basically, a hold-over from pre-1950s racism.

It's very, very difficult to avoid -- whether it's Star Trek (Klingons are angry! Ferengi are greedy! Klingons are dark-skinned! Ferengi are basically Jews!) or Lord of the Rings or whatever, most of these fantasy or science-fiction sources seem to proceed from the idea that creatures of the same race are basically the same (with the occasional exception). It's the racial version of one-climate planets (Endor the Forest Moon! Hoth the Ice World!).

And back to the elves: sure, elves are basically racial supremacists. Except so are dwarves in most popular conceptions. And so are goblins and orcs. They all hearken back to the medieval idea that your race was good and everyone else were monsters who raped your children. Supremacists all.

1 comment:

isaac butler said...

Worth a note: I'm pretty sure that now a lot of people working in genre works are fairly conscious of this and use it pretty deliberately, particularly in video games, particualrly in video games by BioWare. The Mass Effect series is OVERTLY an allegory about international politics and race, with humans regularly playing the villain. In Dragon Age, elves are a slave caste. etc. and so forth.

and of course in literature too. Orson Scott Card most famously addresses this in the ender's game series. Samuel Delaney tries to do something about it by embracing individuality within races in Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand and it renders the book almost unreadably complex.