- Apr 5, 2020
I'm kind of playing devil's advocate here, but I don't need to go searching for evidence for Tolkien having prejudice to see that he had prejudice. At the very least, the whole orcs being akin to "least lovely Mongol types" and the troll-men being black skinned and red lipped, and on the enemy's side, and that the "good" human groups are all based on Europeans, and the "bad" human groups are based on Asians, Arabs, and Africans? Yeah.You'd have to ask the people who want to make that argument.
Like I said, I think you can influenced by what you are trying to do - essentially, a cognitive bias such as confirmation bias. If someone does research on Tolkein and starts with the hypothesis "Tolkein was racist", what they will likely do is assess everything they can find that seems supportive of that notion and flag them, then bundle them up and make the argument. However, had they not started with that hypothesis, it's likely many of those same things would have passed without notice.
The flipside of that is that if one boils down LotR to "white humans good, brown/black humans bad," then that's really a surface-level reading of the text.
I can really apply this to any media. A lot of stuff that's accused of being racist/sexist, I have to ask, "really?" Of course, the flipside of that is that if you don't resemble the group being portrayed in a certain manner, you're less likely to pick up on it. Like, I recall an article by a Muslim explaining why the depiction of the Calormenes in Chronicles of Narnia made him feel iffy, so I don't doubt the feeling is genuine. On the other hand, if one's authority to speak is bound to their identity, then literary analysis got a lot more convoluted.