This seems silly to me:
A casting agent working on director Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was fired from the production after placing ads in a regional New Zealand newspaper seeking extras with “light skin tones,” according to Agence France-Presse. The casting agent was also reported to have told a prospective background extra, a woman of Pakistani heritage named Naz Humphreys, that she wasn’t suitable to play a Hobbit because of her skin color. According to The Waikato Times, video footage shows the casting agent telling people at an audition, “We are looking for light-skinned people. I’m not trying to be … whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a Hobbit.” A spokesman for Jackson’s production company told Agence France-Presse that the casting director, who was contracted by the film, was never directed to make any restrictions based on skin color. “No such instructions were given,” the spokesman said. “The crew member in question took it upon themselves to do that and it’s not something we instructed or condoned,” adding, “It’s something we take very seriously.”
I understand that racism is alive and well, but if they are looking for a specific look for the movie, I’m not sure why this is such a sin. They also don’t want, for obvious reasons, tall hobbits, and I doubt they would cast my fat 6’0″ ass in the role of a hobbit. I’m also reasonably sure Phillip Seymour Hoffman was never seriously considered as the lead for Malcom X. In my book, that doesn’t make those casting agents racist, either.
And have I mentioned how excited I am for the release of this movie?
Bone fide qualification exception. Next!
In the age of Death Panels, and terror babies, nothing surprises me any more, on either end of the reactionary crazy stick.
I read this and thought: Could you imagine Samuel L. Jackson playing a hobbit?
In related news, there is the heart-breaking story of eight pygmies who were turned down for roles as Elve knights in LOTR after some racist mentioned that they were looking for actors who were not “height challenged.” Video at 11.
i re-read The Hobbit, last month, just to refresh my memory – it’d been 20 years or so. wow, what a difference in tone from LOTR! The Hobbit is a light and chipper kids book that absolutely flies along – while LOTR can be a tedious page-skipper. i hope they find a way to capture that tone.
I know for the main Hobbit characters they used a variety of tricks to shrink them down relative to the other (Human and Elf) characters, but for the scenes in the Shire, did they just hire a bunch of actors that looked short?
Also, too: I’m pretty sure that being fat would actually be a plus for getting hired as a Hobbit extra.
Tolkien is not around to define the extent of racial diversity in the imaginary Hobbit genome, so the exclusion is a bit presumptive. On the other hand, if you are casting a new version of King Solomon’s Mines, you’d specify that your natives be black which would be sensible.
On the other hand, if you were casting a new version of Cochise, you might specify that applicants be Native Americans.
I admit to being a LOTR fan, and trust me, the books did mention that there were hobbits taller than the average. I don’t recall any restriction on skin tones, though.
I’m looking forward to the movie, but am a bit worried about the SECOND one. I know there is much material in appendices that sorta/kinda fills in part of the gap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but….
Now if HBO would do a 3 season miniseries of The Silmarillion, THAT would get me excited.
Malcom X existed. He was black. Philip Seymour Hoffmann also exists. He is not black.
Hobbits, however, do not exist. So you can imagine them however you want. Who the fuck says they’re not black? And why?
Well, because that look is not in the original book. Or in the instructions to the casting agent.
In fact, given that Tolkien himself says that there are three races of hobbits, one of which is browner than the others, and the darker ones settled the Shire, I’m thinking it shows the same kind of mindset that gave rise to Driving While Black–the automatic assumption that white is the norm and preferred.
maybe not, but those are some gigglicious images.
we can haz whole thread of funny miscasting ideas and no more depressing political shit plz? kthxbai
Well, for starters, I don’t entirely see why you can’t have a dark skinned Hobbit. I’ve seen dark skinned Vulcans and dark skinned Centaurs and Dark(-skinned) Templars. What makes Hobbits so special? I doubt anyone is going to walk out of the movie in a huff because Bilbo Baggins has a next door neighbor with too much melanin.
Past that, there’s a certain degree of white-washing in Hollywood. White male leads dominate the action movie scene, for instance. And when you peal back the curtain and demand “light-skinned Hobbits only”, you’re basically trumpeting this obnoxious facet of the business in a way that makes your company look even more racist than we all secretly acknowledge it to be.
Well if that happened we either wouldn’t have needed a trilogy- or one of the fellowship would have stabbed him in the back as he was about to kill a Nazgul.
You leave HBO alone they’re busy filming the Song of Ice and Fire and I need them to force Martin to finish the 5th book.
Suck It Up!
dark skinned people don’t exist in fantasy films or films about the distant future.
….or not. Sigh.
Well, Tolkien was a South African after all, so…
Well,… sure, Tolkien’s hobbits are hypostatized ‘ideal English villagers’– and, consequently, paleskins. And Elves, by the same token, are even whiter. But why hold on to that?
“Yes I destroyed the Ring, and I hope it burns in hell!”
I can imagine it.
I don’t know if you could do the first portion of the Silmarillion justice on screen. It’s not really a story so much as it is the detailing of a myth.
The later chapters – particularly the odessey of Faenor and his sons and the quest of Beren – would make great mini-series in and of themselves. But they’d require a fair amount of filler to flesh them out into a full running series. I’d be worried that they would just devolve into another Xenu: Warrior Princess.
Still, I’d love to see them try.
it’s always weird. i do this for a living (i’m about to go into a casting in 20 minutes) and often the “breakdown” as it is called references ethnicity or height or look. it is what it is. if the role calls for a 5 foot tall asian woman you don’t want to see a bunch of 6 foot tall black men on the day. there isn’t time to waste on such things.
since this is all based on a) a script (that is, the blueprint in the mind of the writer) filtered by b) a network or studio (studio exec: Let’s make this role YOUNGER. maybe more URBAN*) and c) then in the hands of a casting agent and director (i like the younger urban look but let’s put this woman in here–i really like her insofar as i am currently sleeping with her)…it is pretty much always random. with one proviso: if you have underlying material, like say maybe ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS BOOKS IN HISTORY–well, that trumps most things most days (not always–see network/studio exec, they’ve been known to ask if maybe the hobbit might have less hirsute feet–the hairy ones didn’t test well).
ANECDOTE ALERT: one of my first jobs was working on a movie called “Eddie”. it was written for dustin hoffman. then he dropped out, and whoopi goldberg was available, so the lead role changed from a white guy to a black woman, and really very little changed. the movie was still utterly insipid.
*yes, it means exactly what you think it means. it’s our code around here.
August J. Pollak
Stuff like this is why I roll my eyes when people makes lines about the supposed “liberalism” of Hollywood because a handful of millionaire actors donate to Democrats. It’s probably the most bigoted industry in the world, both on and off camera, even if that is mostly indirect. Other than sports teams, no other business has physical attributes as great a necessity for the product, and at the same time, the stuff being done behind the curtain is insanely dominant in white males. There are painfully few female directors, and even fewer female techs in the industry.
And don’t get me wrong; I’m not against taking a stand on saying flat out that a character isn’t the right look for a character- race included. But there’s certainly a discussion to be had about why producers think a race of fantasy characters are all light-skinned.
I’ve never seen one of those movies, but I would totally go if he appeared as a hobbit, yelling “die, you motherfucker”.
yeah I suppose the blacks and asians and mexicans could be used are orcs and forces of evil. Those orcs dont look white at all!
It’s not like they can’t slap a little makeup on extras that are a little too melaninish, but where do they find all those people with such huge feet?
I’ve about had it, with these mothafuckin’ Nazgul, in this mothafuckin’ Shire.
Seriously though, in light of the film being shot in NZ, amybe 40% of the hobbits need to be Maori. Anything less is genocide, for certain. Or Pakistani. Or African-American-New Zealanders. Anything less is Hitler. Okay, maybe I’m not being serious. Why the hell do we need black hobbits again?
Fuck! A Duck
After watching Fellowship again over the weekend, I decided that I want a sit-com or a RomCom Miniseries about the home life of Orcs.
@Suck It Up!: Star Trek says you’re wrong and you should feel wrong.
Men of the West!!
Men of the West are WHITE!
Aligned with Sauron are the elephant-riding black people!
Who doesn’t get this? Lord of the Rings was always a racist tale. A fun one, though.
The casting director’s crime was getting caught on tape saying what the production company wanted. Under the bus they go.
Speaking of movies, is anybody else as jazzed as I am about the proper remake of “True Grit” without the insipid smarminess and shitty acting of Glenn Campbell or the cliche that was John Wayne?
i think a black Beorn could work. though i always pictured him as more like the guy who plays Hagrid.
Give him a semi automatic crossbow.
and another thing John, seriously, in this day and age of advanced 3D graphic technology I cant believe you are actually saying this. they could make Gary Sinise a guy without legs in Forrest Gump and Eddie Murphy as a white Jewish guy back in the days, they cant put on a mask on a couple of brown people and make the technology work? maybe you are still not over your sinus infection…
I always thought hobbits were supposed to have a brownish skin tone anyway. What the deuce.
@Suck It Up!:
Harry Potter has a very diverse cast.
I think you’re dead on in this. We should applaud any move to diversify Hollywood. Too much racism is glossed over with “Well they were going for a certain look…” (The Last Airbender anyone?) Obviously they were going for a specific look, but shouldn’t we ask why? Why do hobbits have to be white? The answer probably lies in our own prejudices. When I read The Hobbit I imagine hobbits as white because I’m white, but it doesn’t have to be that way and a casting director definitely shouldn’t set out to make it that way.
As a side note, the height argument John puts forth doesn’t really make sense here. It would be one thing if the casting call asked for people under a certain height to make it easier on the special effects crew, but it’s asking for people of a certain race, that’s not the same thing.
I’m relatively sure you can re-think your Hobbit/Malcolm X analogy without too much difficulty. See also: Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin.
Incidentally, I re-read The Hobbit a few weeks ago after hearing the news of preliminary casting (Martin Freeman). Was that book intended for children of 12 when it was released?
Bob In Pacifica
I have never, never, ever found any movie connected to Hobbits to be in any way appealing to me. I’ve seen snippets of them on tv and have been bored. I also don’t like all that Narnia stuff either.
But I do like those movies with the kids with broomsticks between their legs.
Suck It Up!
I don’t feel wrong at all. I stand by my observation.
Honestly I could care less when our Congress is so very uhm, not diverse.
Given the amount of notes that Tolkien left, they could probably patch something together. It’d be worth doing the book just to bust out a scene with multiple Balrogs in it.
First, as some have pointed out, many Hobbits were dark skinned in the book; next, Tolkien was very much against racism and would have no problem with dark skinned elves, hobbits etc (Orcs, by the way, would follow the exact skin tone of elves since that was the race they were; so if orcs were dark skinned, then so would be elves!)
Finally, why can’t a dark skinned person play the part of any Northern European race? I saw “Much-a-do about Nothing” with Washington as the prince and he made the roll his own – being white is not the issue – following the mannerisms, voice, and style that the writer created for the character is what makes a literary person real, not skin tone.
I hope they fired that dumb ass for his stupid and very wrong idea that Hobbits are only light skinned. This is not about political correctness but acting skill; that is the ONLY criteria anyone in that proffession should be judged by – the only question is can the person act so that they demonstrate the characteristics of being a Hobbit.
As for height – sorry, but many tall people have played the roll of dwarf’s/hobbits in the LOTR (The dwarf guy was over six foot) and the leading hobbits roles were played by people all over five foot … the camera handled that issue easily.
Fuck! A Duck:
Sarah Palin’s Alaska on TLC.
i dunno, august, i think you are being WAY too hard on the casting director here. this to me is in no way racist. it’s a job, and the job has specific weird needs. hobbits needs to be short. the casting person was given a drawing and some references (NB: i’ve seen them, i’m friends with someone who is working on the movie) and just was responding accordingly. nor do i think you can impugn either peter jackson nor the producers with racism for this. i just think it is absurd to say that having hobbits only look one way makes you bad. absurd.
as for the other side of the screen, i work for all kinds of people in the business. many of the top executives i work for are women. people of color are underrepresented but the studios are working hard to rectify that (nowhere harder than fox, whose policies on affirmative action, gay partner rights and green building are the best in the industry IRONICALLY).
and the VAST majority of people out here are very left. it’s a canard to think otherwise.
Tolkien wrote his stories in a quasi-European Middle Earth, heavily influenced by Norse and Anglo-Saxon culture. It follows that the characters would reflect that (i.e., they’re white). There is nothing inherently racist about attempting to maintain Tolkien’s envisioned world for the movies.
@cleek: No wonder it went right over my head! Those fuckers knew Latin n’ shit back then!
“Color-blind casting” is anything but. Try and cast a white actor in a role designed for an African American and see how color-blind everyone is then.
I went to a house museum living history demonstration recently. After leaving one room where the last line warned about the horrors of slavery, in the next room was a black actor portraying a white slaveowner. We were really confused.
Afterward the museum person asked all of us, publicly, “be honest, did the color-blind casting distract you?” This not being my first rodeo, I said “Why of course not, it was brilliant.”
@celticdragonchick: oH and btw, we are talking about a movie franchise that has made millions in pure profit from LOTR. so its not like they cant afford some of the 3D tech they used in LOTR and a couple of makes of the minorities…
@Michael: I suppose the Kim Darby role will go to Miley Cyrus.
True Grit is a very, very funny movie to those of us who have been glad to drink from a muddy hoofprint.
Because then it would no longer be an adaptation of Tolkien (JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit), but someone’s reinterpretation (Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit).
@Socraticsilence: Oh for God’s sake, yes, a thousand time yes. My only hope of seeing that series finished is that the HBO show becomes a hit and they pay the guy enough to pick up where he left off. He’s spent years now selling miniature toys of the Song of Ice And Fire universe and sci fi novels I don’t care about. I want to know what happens next!!
Odie Hugh Manatee
How about Ahnold? James Earl Jones?
@Sasha: No! Tolkien said it himself – he was NOT copying those Northern myths but creating a new set for his own country AND he clearly stated that some Hobbits were brown skinned – these are facts and stop trying to create a false history to justify the incorrect idea that all Hobbits are lilly white.
To the extent that Tolkien doesn’t specify, I think trying for a diverse-looking cast of extras would be preferable. In fact, since skin color, specified or not, plays no role in the story, I’d love to see them go all out and use a truly diverse cast. Hire a south Asian Bilbo (Parvesh Cheena from Outsourced looks like a hobbit), a black Gandalf (Sam Jackson would be so awesome), and make every dwarf a different ethnicity.
I don’t have a problem per se with a lily white cast in a Tolkien adaptation, but bashing the straw man of some imagined enforced diversity reveals something about one’s personal attachment to white privilege. Instead of getting upset and looking for racial quotas or anti-white bias every time someone complains about something that smells of white privilege, why not step back and re-examine exactly what you feel so strongly about preserving?
Never mind The Hobbit, I want to know what Del Toro’s up to after he quit this job. I ask because when Jackson got him to work on The Hobbit, Del Toro said he was having to put aside doing H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Del Toro doing that story? That’s a movie I would be dying to see.
The fact that it’s children’s book and not very long is what has me worried about the movie adaptation. Being that it’s going to come out in 2 parts and probably be in the style of LOTR means that whoever wrote the script is filled in a lot of blanks with their own material. I guess that could be fine, but it could also be really, really, bad.
It’s as crazy as casting the lead roles in The Last Airbender with white actors.
@norbizness: Actually he wrote it as a bedtime story for his son Christopher originally.
@Suck It Up!:
Star Trek made it’s bones on one of the most diverse casts in 60s TV, and the tradition of a very diverse crew carried forward into Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. And Star Trek was virtually the definition of Futuristic Space Fantasy.
I’m not sure what you are observing, but some of the most diverse casts show up in fantasy and future films. Dawn of the Dead, Planet of the Apes, and The Matrix leap to mind.
To me the story in this is how the higher-ups cover their butts. Did the casting agent really come up with this no-dark-hobbits idea alone?
I’m not sure what Tolkien’s personal views on racism were, but the LOTR does have at the least some xenophobic elements when describing Humans that had thrown their lot in with Sauron. Not nearly as wacked as Lovecraft’s raging xenophobia, but it is there.
And Orcs were corrupted and twisted Elfs, so as far as that goes, changing their skin tone works.
Villago Delenda Est
One of the issues here is we’re dealing with a culture in which traveling about and immigration are not very common events. Which means that unless the Hobbits have a colony down south, where they’d develop higher melanin content as a survival trait, you’re not going to see a lot of brown hobbits. They’re going to be pale, reflecting a “we don’t see the sun that much year ’round” sort of complexion.
I mean, casting Samuel L. as Leif Erikson wouldn’t be any more appropriate than casting Brad Pitt as T’shaka, now would it?
I also have some doubts about why that casting person chose to say such specific things directly to the prospective actors. In fact there often are such choices made and it works out that all the ones hired were white for certain jobs…..there was no need to go around SAYING this out loud, unless this casting director was in fact racist and wanted to hurt darker skinned actors or wanted to show his power OR the rest of the hiring people had no such hobbit preconceptions and he was trying to prefilter the applicant field so HIS preferences would happen. This could be why he was fired so fast…his fellow managers realized that that individual was in fact predudiced.
Others have pointed out above that Tolkien didn’t actually say hobbits were white. I am glad they pointed that out because although I’ve read it many times I hadn’t noticed. The books have such an old Britain tone to them, that I always pictured them as Anglo without stopping to think on it.
Things have improved on black opportunities but I still see hiring favoring whites without it actually being said out loud-political correctness enforced by lawsuits and social pressure. The predjudiced learn to keep their opinions private mostly. However some of those don’t seem able to censor themselves and those are the ones that well…say things like this and get fired eventually.
New Zealand isn’t exactly like America and the natives are dark brown not “black” so I’m not sure I can accurately interpret what is going on there. Add in that this film is probably being done with crew from many countries, however I suspect the firing may have been called for.
He wasn’t copying those myths, but his stories were certainly influenced and informed by them.
I’d always imagined that his brown-skinned hobbits (of which I admittedly have only a vague memory) were more of a reference to the tanned skin from traditionally English pastoral romanticizations.
@Villago Delenda Est:
I don’t believe that this is the case, actually.
Hm. How would Maori actors fit into this?
Time to quote a bit of Tolkien:
” 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 Harfoots had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times, and long lived in the foothills of the mountains. They moved westward early, and roamed over Eriador as far as Weathertop while the others were still in the Wilderland. They were the most normal and representative variety of Hobbit, and far the most numerous. They were the most inclined to settle in one place, and longest preserved their ancestral habit of living in tunnels and holes. ”
That’s from the LOTR Prologue. I’d guess ‘a woman of Pakistani heritage’ might be exactly what Tolkien was aiming for – the less common ‘Fallohides’ were ‘fairer of skin and also of hair’.
Sorry to get all nerdy on y’all.
We already saw Peter Jackson’s LOTR so I don’t expect anything different. (From someone who hated Jackson’s whiny ass Frodo, bumbling Gimli, Superman Legolas, Hamlet Aragorn, etc.)
They can even call it an AK-47 as some middlin’ hobbit hands it out. Samuel can then say his trademark “when you absolutely, positively got to kill every mothafucker in the room, accept no substitute.”
who put these motherfuckin orcs in my motherfuckin cave ?
Villago Delenda Est
Roddenberry was making a point about racial diversity with Star Trek. It was at the time absolutely revolutionary. The first interracial kiss on television was on Star Trek, which we say “ho hum” to now, but got the show preempted in some markets in the South where you just didn’t show that sort of thing (never mind the long history of lecherous white slave owners bedding their black property).
Star Trek later, in a Deep Space Nine episode, took on the racism of post WWII America, in an episode dealing with these very issues, called “Far Beyond the Stars”. There’s a wiki page about this episode, couldn’t get a href to work.
@Suck It Up!: Star Trek. Firefly/Serenity. The Matrix. The new Battlestar Galactica, sorta. Otherwise, you have a point… although I’d say that’s more of a thing about Hollywood in general, not just sf/fantasy movies.
G4 says it’s going to be shot in 3D. I’m not so excited about it anymore.
But PJ was still trying to adapt Tolkien as true as possible, and did not radically reinterpret the story. (Whether his casting and directing choices were flawed is something else.)
@Rafael: Martin hasn’t stopped writing the series, he just got majorly stuck a couple years ago. He’s been posting progress updates on his blog and it sounds like the next book will finally be done in early 2011.
@Michael: Not sure. From the trailer, I don’t see that they really changed anything, but it is the Coen brothers, so I expect it to be good.
It’s a children’s book, but it’s an old school children’s book, so it’s got those touches of darkness that help seperate the great stories from the simply good ones. Thorin’s deathbed scene in the book always chokes me up.
I don’t think filling out the script to make two movies is necessarily a bad thing. For starters, there’s a good chance that they aren’t just making crap up whole cloth. Tolkien left behind a lot of notes covering all sorts of stuff, so there’s a good chance that anything additional that they add to the movie will be coming from that material. At a wild guess, I’d say that they’re adding the scene where Gandalf recovers the key from Thrain, and maybe adding in the bit where the White Council drives the Necromancer out of Mirkwood (I think that happens just before the Battle of the Five Armies). That’d add enough material to fill out two movies, and it’d nicely tie the events of The Hobbit into the LOTR by adding some Sauron and Saruman to the mix.
Personally, I think the book provides enough material for a good three hour epic in the style of LOTR, but as long as they’re careful with what they add, it could still rock.
I think you’d be surprised how easily you can diversify a cast and still stay faithful. Plus, as people point out, Tolkien himself specified that hobbits come in more than one color.
Regarding the Samuel L. Jackson/Hobbit mix, here’s another idea. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you made a western, had all those standard western archetypes, those tough hombres and their six-shooters, and you added… aliens?
Ladies and gentlemen of BJ, I give you… Cowboys and Aliens.
Saw a trailer for this over the weekend.
Seriously, did you watch the movies. You can cast 6 foot tall hobbits. You can cast fat hobbits. Proportions are all adjusted with oversized scenery and CGI/Digital effects. John, your commentary definitely Dates you to the era of Jim Henson.
@Citizen_X: Hell yeah, I didn’t know about that. That would be smokin’. I love Lovecraft.
@someguy: You win the thread.
More generally, when you read Tolkien on Tolkien, it’s very clear that he’s drawing from what basically is Viking stock… legends in the time of Beowulf is his source material (not just English, but also from the various Nordic sagas from around the same time). He was an internationally recognised expert in that era and area of literature. At that time, there pretty much weren’t any black people in those places. The closest would’ve been someone from southern Europe (Italians, Spanish, etc). Again, the point about Hobbits being idealised English peasants is very much spot on… and the Orcs spoke pure cockney, esp. in the Hobbit. You need to be thinking dark satanic mills here.
To my mind, these books were about what was lost to the industrial revolution in the UK. Have you looked at pictures of early English industrial workers? They were black… with coal dust.
Eh, he made some bad choices IMO. He slaughtered Gimli’s character, and super-ninja Legolas was hellishly painful to watch at times. The Fellowship was pretty much spot on (except for Arwen), but the next two did kind of go off the rails.
Boromir’s death scene was spot on though.
At the time the movies were being made I hung out on the old USENET groups alt.fan.tolken and rec.books.LOTR and there would be a ton of folks who would disagree with your assertion that PJ did not radically alter the story. Just one example is that JRRT’s middle aged Frodo was the bravest and wisest hobbit who’s christian mercy was the key to the destruction of the ring, not a whiny kid who was so befuddled that he trusted Gollum more than Sam and it was just luck that things turned out the way they did.
There are a ton of other examples. In that light having darked skinned hobbits, especially after some of the supporting quotes already posted, is quite a minor detail
My take was that they were about WWI, with a group of friends heading out, not all of them making it back, and those that do being changed forever. And Frodo has some nasty PTSD.
Don’t make me slap you, Cole. Some hobbits are described as brown skinned, even nut-brown. They ain’t black, but they aren’t all pale english roses, either.
Maybe not Malcolm X but then Fred Armisen does play Obama on SNL. Just saying.
Villago Delenda Est
Indeed, with some use of Google, you’ll probably be able to find some pretty harsh screeds attacking the PJ interpretation of Lord of the Rings. The turning of Gimli into comic relief was taken extreme exception to, as was all of Aragorn’s perpetual doubt about returning as the King, which didn’t exist in the books, but was a key plot point in the film trilogy.
Because Tolkien was writing an Anglo-Saxon mythology, set in an imaginary English village world. Hobbits are old English.
IIRC, not having read the books in years, there are three races of Hobbits, one of which is “browner” than the others, so there is a great deal of leeway as to who can play them.
Oops. Gwangung already chimed in.
@Villago Delenda Est:
Yep, I used to laugh at some of those folks as their heads exploded as I DID enjoy the movies, however on some things they were spot on. PJ’s LOTR is great entertainment, but one must read the books to get JRRT’s messages.
Not sure about labor law in NZ, but here in the US, the language used by the casting guy is discriminatory and actionable. This isn’t about hiring an actor to play a real human being (referencing your Malcom X analogy) but fictional characters.
Additionally, your height isn’t an issue either since all the hobbit/dwarf scenes with regular height characters are tweaked to make them smaller. So, if you have a yen for being a hobbit, go for it – your longshanks nature shouldn’t deter you from this particular dream. :P
Yes, yes I could. All of the actors who played Hobbits (as well as the trolls) in the LOTR trilogy were of regular height and made to seem smaller due to the wonders of movie “magic,” unless you really think that Elijah Woods is half the size of Orlando Bloom.
Tolkien’s sons were children when he wrote the Hobbit and young soldiers fighting WWII when he wrote LOTR. The subject matter reflects it.
@AdamK: Tolken was probably more influenced by WWI as he and his college chums went into that meat grinder and not all returned. Remember the Hobbit was published in the 30’s and most of the LOTR background was set by then. It was actually fortuitous (for the story only) that after the book came out there were examples of clear monsters and dangerous, world destroying powers to point to.
Speaking as a writer, I could only justify requirements on a fully superficial trait like skin tone if a specific character demanded it. Just like The Last Airbender (as someone mentioned) was improperly cast with a bunch of white people, I’d have every right to make sure movie versions of my characters match the descriptions I’ve laid out for them.
The same would in theory hold if a certain group is specified as being particularly light, dark, plaid, whatever. But when we’re just talking about extras, it becomes less important, and in this case it isn’t specified like that at all, as others have said. So the casting guy fubared it.
Tom Shippey’s books fill in this picture in greater detail. The fascinating part is that in many instances Tolkien worked from the gaps in the old legends – such as obscure words found in the Old English literature which nobody today knows the exact meaning of and which philologists had been arguing over for decades when JRRT was writing. As an example, the description of the Balrog in LOTR derives from JRRT’s re-interpretation of the word sigelwaran which is (seemingly) mistranslated into modern English as “Ethiopians” in the Old English poem Exodus, but which Tolkien thought must instead refer to something like a Fire Giant which was black as soot.
Shippey’s “Tolkien: Author of the Century” is a great read if you want more detail.
@Joseph Nobles: oh for pete’s sake. I hope my local theater at least offers the 2D option. (Which they do, about half the time.)
@Zifnab: Xenu: Warrior Princess.
Xenu? Xenu was a girl? Did L. Ron Hubbard know about this?
Looks like it’ll be a radical departure from the graphic novel from which it is based.
Still gonna see it though.
I feel that unless the person is actively promulgating a racist ideology, it’s not fair to judge a person who wrote in 1920’s and 30’s with the social mores of the day.
Certainly, from today’s perspective, many aspects of the books could be considered racist.
But times change, and I think concessions should be made when filming older texts, to align them more closely with modern sensibilities.
The REAL issue here, however, as any viewer of the Wizard of Oz knows, is what about the real midgets/dwarves/little people actors who’s careers have collapsed due to the infernal CGI Wizardry? What about them?!
“Speaking of movies, is anybody else as jazzed as I am about the proper remake of “True Grit” without the insipid smarminess and shitty acting of Glenn Campbell or the cliche that was John Wayne?”
Seeing as how I’m both a Jeff Bridges fan, and a Coen brothers fan, I definitely am looking forward to a movie that is supposed to be truer to the book !
i always enjoy reading these kind of threads. it reminds me of the guerre intellectuelle between juan cole and jonah goldberg regarding arabism and iraq generally. cole, in his academic way, just couldn’t get over the fact that goldberg would just spout off horseshit, not qua horseshit, but rather given that GOLDBERG HAS NO EXPERTISE NOR EVEN CURSORY UNDERSTANDING of iraq. and goldberg’s rejoinder was “whatever.”
that’s what it is like reading a thread theorizing about the way casting works, where people feel free to impugn or otherwise malign someone without having the first fucking clue what they are talking about. not that this will stop anyone here being sure this is actionable, or racist, or just being so SURE in their opinion that no new information may ever enter their heads.
but i think i prefer that nonsense to picayune tolkein arguments. barely.
I can’t remember now, was the Necromancer Sauron himself, or the King of the Nazgul? I thought the whole “Necromancer” thing (i.e. a magic user that summons the dead) was about the Nazgul laboring in the Dol Guldar to bring Sauron back to life – and succeeding.
Anyway, that would make a good bit of background – Saruman used to be one of the “good guys”, and leader of the wizards. In LotR, by the time we see Saruman, he’s already “embraced the dark side.” Seeing that he was once a force for good makes his ultimate betrayal so much more interesting.
That, and I want to see Christopher Lee’s Saruman again!
But in that case, if the humans are the early Anglo-Saxons, does that mean the hobbits are modeled after the Welsh? Or is that what the dwarves, with all that quaint singing, are based on?
I always wondered what sort of racial coding was going on with some of the elves having black hair, and being from the Western Lands… Phoenician settlers, as some ancient Irish claimed to be? And since JRRT was a Beowulf scholar, where are the Geats?
@Joe Max: Necromancer WAS Sauron.
Not to mention PJ turning Galadriel into some sort of weird witch and making Lorien, the most beautiful place in the world, into a dark spooky forest.
Then there was turning the noble, wise and thoughtful Faramir into an asshole. I could go on, but why bother. I hate what PJ did in his movies.
Plenty of racism in the LOTR books though. “Swarthy” and “squint-eyed ” were not used as complements. Characters with these attributes were not good guys.
@Redshirt: I loved Peter Dinklage in Underdog but was blown away by his turn as a reporter in Penelope. This is a person who should be working a lot. Speaking of creative or non-traditional casting, I wonder how often height is really objectively necessary in the casting of a major or supporting role in a Hollywood film?
Also, too: Sauron’s Blog Very funny site, but he hasn’t updated it in awhile.
Also, in the books, both Hobbits and elves occurred in three types. In both cases the fairest skinned, blonde races were portrayed as superior to the others.
I have had it with these motherfucking Orcs on this motherfucking plain!
@Villago Delenda Est:
A perfect adaptation is just about impossible, and some changes to the story or to the characters were necessary in order for LOTR to work as a movie.
Prime example: Faramir in the book declares that he would not take the Ring if were lying on the side of the road, while in the movie he is clearly tempted. And that’s the correct choice here: After hours of demonstrating how corrupting the Ring is, suddenly having a character who is utterly immune to its charms would make no sense (not cinematically anyway). Having Aragorn uncertain of claiming his destiny allows him to be a dynamic, rather than static, character — again, something that works better in cinema.
Making Gimli comic relief would have been fine. However, they made him an utter joke (worsened in contrast to Legolas’ ubercompetance), and that was absolutely unwarranted. I hope THE HOBBIT will give dwarfs back some of the dignity and badassedness that they lacked in LOTR.
My hub is of Greek bg and he loves Agatha Christie — and he is always amazed at Aggie’s casual racism against “yellow skinned” Greeks in her books from the 30s. Her Greeks are always smart but a bit underhanded and shifty, too.
Times and cultures change.
Ah, you mean racebending. :)
Cheryl from Maryland
If you want to get really nitpicky, it appears from some of JRRTs notes as interpreted by Tom Shippey that one of the influences on his vision of the Shire came from a notion he (JRRT) had developed during his scholarly work on several texts written in Old and Middle English that a sort of vestigal Mercia was perserved into the early medieval period in Herefordshire and Warwickshire on the Welsh border, as a result of which the people in those peripheral areas of England managed to retain elements of the culture of the Anglo-Saxons after the Norman invasion wiped out most of their high culture in the other parts of England and replaced it with French and Latin instead. So the Shire in LOTR is a distant echo of what might have been in England if the cultural imperialism of the Normans had failed.
I walked out in the middle of the first Lord of the Ring’s movie. I guess I’m too much of a purist; I loved the books. I felt the movie completely lost the spirit of the books. Not surprising, Tolkien was the last 19th century man in the 20th century world.
@Randy P: I would love to see Dinklage do Bilbo. Alas, it’s not to be.
However, there’s a very Bilboesque part he could do in a standalone novel I can never ever remember the name of. Dragon something. Not Pern. It’s about a divided land, little people on one side, normal on the other. A large river (more like a land torn apart) separates them. When dragons start killing the children of both lands, this one inventor type from the little people side travels north to the dragons’ land to figure out how to stop them. Awesome book, and perfect for Dinklage.
But the real question about fantasy films and racial casting is this:
If the Narnia movies make it to the later novels, how are they going to handle the Calormen?
Why are all these motherfucking honky Hobbits in this motherfucking SHIRE??
Making a note of that book. I’ve not just been a fan but devoted to reading scholarly things about Tolkien since I was in JHS. Yeah, I’m a geek.
J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford
For those of you referencing Samuel L. Jackson, he’s actually a very good example of not conforming to source material. In the Iron Man and the upcoming Avengers movies Samuel L. plays Nick Fury, who is generally depicted as a white man in the comic books, but a black man in the movies.
@Svensker: Not just Greeks. She was pretty down on other middle-easterners and blacks, too. Since Mary Roberts Rinehart was available on Kindle for free I downloaded a mystery I remembered liking as a kid. I was shocked at her casual racism as well.
I gather the Last Airbender was supposed to be Asian or south Asian. Another example: Scifi Channel– or whatever it’s called these days — adapted a Wizard of Earthsea. Every character in the books –with a few exceptions — was brown or black. the barbarians were white. So what did Scifi do? Cast a blond, blue-eyed boy as Ged, who was described in the books as having red-brown skin. Ursula LeGuin wrote the tales specifically to counter all the medieval white-skinned fantasy tales that spawned after Tolkien.
So I think it would be excellent to have some brown-skinned Hobbits. Yes, when Tolkien probably described Sam’s brown hand he probably meant tanned. But what the hey? Interpret as broadly as possible.
In future, only Smurfs will be permitted to audition for Na’vi roles.
If Thor can feature, without controversy, a Norse god that’s black, I think we can safely have non-white hobbits.
They don’t. Neither did the rest of the fellowship. Well, except Gandalf the White, who would seem to require someone a bit pasty. (Yes, I know, it’s a joke.)
But I would assume the assumption lies in the fact that the author of the book lived in early 20th century England and consequently, the assumption is based on the fact that he probably envisioned them that way, due to a lack of diversity in his own environment.
@J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: Actually, and I’m really letting the geek flag fly, when Marvel started another comic line (set in another parallel universe), they redesigned Nick Fury to essentially look like Sam Jackson even before the Iron Man movie.
@J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford:
Or not. Marvel’s Ultimate line of books reconceived not only Nick Fury as black, but as Samuel L. Jackson (the character is drawn to resemble SLJ and the creators of the Ultimate line intended it).
If anything, SLI a Nick Fury is a very good example of conforming exactly to the source material. :)
The real Marvel movie hullaballoo will be THOR directed by Kenneth Branagh with Norse gods portrayed by distinctly un-Norse-looking actors. (Idris Elba as Heimdall?)
Perhaps, but since it’s not an adaptation of mythology but of a comic book, it’s not quite the same thing. (And you can bet that their will be no small controversy once THOR gets more into the public eye.)
The one place you do see pretty color-blind casting is the opera house.
Yup. As soon as I learned that, I decided not to watch it. If they couldn’t get as simple a significant detail as that right, the whole enterprise was lost.
United Colors of Hobbiton!
Branagh’s directing Thor?! No way!
luckily, a bunch of them were written explicitly as comic relief, so the rest can be as badass as is necessary.
though i wonder if the screenplay will include all dozen of them. especially since most of them don’t really do anything but sing backups during the many songs.
Way. Very, very way.
@John PM: Uh, speaking to his attitude as opposed to his, ahem, physique.
@Sasha: I’m too excited by that news. Couple that with my Master directing The Avengers, it looks my inner-nerd will be quite busy this Summer. Awesome!
The difference was she allowed her “good” English girls to marry a yellow-skinned Greek (even tho her other characters made snide comments), but no “good” girl would have married a ME or black. Greeks were moderately European, if comical.
@Sasha: I’ve done my duty and gone to IMDB – even more excited: Anthony Hopkins as Odin?! I love it.
hey, how come nobody’s mentioned the fact that fair skinned blue eyed guys have always played Jesus, when in fact he was a Sephardic Jew?
saw the trailer for True Grit last night. cannot wait to see what the Coens have done with it. and I adore the Dude even when he isn’t playing a slacker.
looks like they are recreating the ‘no hands/reins in the mouth’ scene.
on another note, SLJ would be awesome vs. orcs I would cast him as King Under the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield or possibly Beorn.
Christopher Walken as the mayor of Laketown anyone?
@Villago Delenda Est:
This is probably the best argument for whiter Hobbits that I’ve seen, and it fairly summarizes what I’d been unable to articulate.
With that said, the people noting that the Shire Hobbits were canonically supposed to be the darker-skinned have a pretty unassailable point.
@eemom: Jesus is not as cool as Thor, nor Gandalf.
I think it is pretty much out of fashion for white men to play Othello, but I could be wrong about that. Apart from that, I agreee that most casting of Shakespeare seems to be pretty color-blind these days.
In fact, given that Tolkien himself says that there are three races of hobbits, one of which is browner than the others, and the darker ones settled the Shire, I’m thinking it shows the same kind of mindset that gave rise to Driving While Black—the automatic assumption that white is the norm and preferred.
Well, though, for an Englishman named John Ronald Reul, who was born in what is now South Africa during the Victorian era in 1892, and who spent his career as an Anglo-Saxon scholar and medievalist, I think the automatic assumption that white was the norm and was preferred can pretty clearly be assumed.
Though to be fair, I’m not saying that Tolkien was racist — far from it. But he was a man of his time and place and imaginative landscape, and that time and place was early and mid-20th England, and that imaginative landscape was Dark Ages Scandinavia and England, neither of which were exactly examples of multiracial diversity.
“Well, Tolkien was a South African after all, so….
No, he wasn’t. He was an Englishman born to English parents in what is now South Africa. Had his parents been in China at the time that wouldn’t have made him Chinese either.
@eemom: or, since jesus most likely didn’t exist, why isn’t he played by an empty space? for verisimilitude and all.
also, i’m casting right now for “hot blond, 20-25” so i’m a racist and bad. because i read it on a balloon juice thread.
also too, is it possible to kern pern? actually this whole fucking thread is kern pern porn.
Who cares about Hobbits?
I just want Martin Freeman back in the UK in time to film more Sherlock episodes.
Cole, your white privilege is showing. Ditto the rest of you whining about the very real racism shown by that casting agent and by Hollywood in general as if it’s offensive to call it racism.
Also, I remain annoyed that Jackson’s been casting standard-height people as dwarves. Where the hell are the dwarf actors he could be using and saving a mint on CGI? I can almost justify hobbit casting as-is since they weren’t built like dwarves but rather small humans. But there’s no excuse for the dwarves being non-dwarves other than blindness to the opportunities.
It has to, half the reason that they wanted to recruit Bilbo was to avoid the number thirteen. Change that and they’d have to mess with dialogue with Smaug where Bilbo calls himself the lucky number.
Finally, why can’t a dark skinned person play the part of any Northern European race? I saw “Much-a-do about Nothing” with Washington as the prince and he made the roll his own – being white is not the issue – following the mannerisms, voice, and style that the writer created for the character is what makes a literary person real, not skin tone.
Sure, and I thought that Mickey Rooney did a great job as the Japanese landlord in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, and David Carradine was far more convincing as a Chinese monk than Bruce Lee would have been. I’ve never understood why a lighter-skinned person can’t play the part of any Asian race….
LeGuin was furious with the casting and publicly disavowed the whole film. She said that she’d gotten lots of fan mail from young readers of color who were thrilled to have mythic heroes they could identify with, and she felt that SciFi had really screwed it up.
Tolkien’s sons were children when he wrote the Hobbit and young soldiers fighting WWII when he wrote LOTR. The subject matter reflects it.
No, Tolkien was a survivor of the Western Front trenches when he wrote The Hobbit — he’d already experience terrible suffering by then. I remember a quote I read from him (can’t find it now) which said (I paraphrase) that by the time he was 30 all but one of his close friends had been killed.
So what did Scifi do? Cast a blond, blue-eyed boy as Ged, who was described in the books as having red-brown skin.
That’s the beauty of color-blind casting.
Remember that the hobbits originally came from Anduin, south of Lorien, and migrated to the Shire. So they didn’t “evolve” in the north. Besides, there really isn’t evolution in Tolkien; all the races are created or modified by supernatural beings. Elves, Men, and possibly Ents were created by Eru, Dwarves by Aulë, and Orcs and the other evil creatures were corrupted by Morgoth from the existing stock.
I don’t have a problem with dark-skinned hobbits, although in The Hobbit there aren’t a lot of hobbits anyway. Thorin and the gang show up, drag Bilbo off, and he doesn’t come back until the end of the book.
I’m not an Agatha Christie fan, but her second husband was an archaeologist who spent as lot of time with her in the Middle East, which may have influenced her attitudes. They met at Ur.
I also took a pass on SciFi’s Earthsea series when I heard they got the casting backwards. Le Guin made the protagonists dark and the barbarians white deliberately.
What did you think of Joel Grey as a Korean martial arts teacher in Remo Williams-The Adventure Begins?
Or… because he specifically wanted John Rhys-Davies, who is full of awesome and win, in the role of Gimli.
I’m willing to bet there’s been at least one “reverse” production of Othello where Othello was cast with a Caucasian and the rest of the cast were minorities.
You can really have fun with Shakespeare.
To the person who said it was a qualification exception, wouldn’t you have to prove that it was a qualification exception? And wouldn’t the person to decide be the director and casting director?
They might want multi-ethnic hobbits, just as they wanted the stupid, godawful, movie-ruining, P. Jackson fetish-satisfying* elf army in the Two Towers.
Now, if they implicitly required the casting agent to do that, then it’s not his fault and he shouldn’t be fired. If not, I don’t have a problem with him being fired. Forget about racism, it’s about doing what you were hired to do, not adding or subtracting requirements.
Also, Samuel Jackson as Thorin? Think about it.
*Seriously, there was no good reason for it. It didn’t speed along the plot, or help the movie fit in. If anything, it lengthened it. I’ve heard that he wanted to put them in because we didn’t get to see the elves fighting Sauron in Mirkwood and Lorien, but that isn’t actually present in the novel proper, aside from scattered references. Tolkien wanted the elves in the background. Jackson’s reasoning could be applied to the dwarves at the Lonely Mountain, but do we see them showing up? No. I’m sorry, but the original Helm’s Deep Battle was kick-ass and the world’s most effeminate army just kind of changed the essential character of the battle, when it was arguably one of the high points of the books or certainly the best battle. Why didn’t he have the elf army participate in the end battle, if he really wanted them in the books? That battle was a bit of a throw-away in the books and could have been spruced up.
@Lysana: If you cast small stature actors as dwarves, then you would also have to cast all the hobbits (and Bilbo in particular) the same way, due to the scale issue. That’s probably impossible if you care about the quality of the acting — how many accomplished actors fall into this category? I can name one — Dinklage.
It actually makes sense to cast taller actors as dwarves, and shorter actors as hobbits, from a production point of view. As John Rhys-Davies pointed out on one of the LotR DVDs, he, at 6’1, was the tallest actor in the Fellowship. Working with hobbit actors in the 5’6 – 5’7ish range, he was the right proportion to them (dwarves are taller than hobbits). So when they were shooting, they could include Gimli with the hobbits, rather than having to do another, separate pass on a shot that had to later be composited, saving both time and money. It makes even more sense in The Hobbit, when there are going to be so many scenes with dwarves and Bilbo. Casting small stature actors as dwarves with Freeman as Bilbo would actually be a production nightmare — the hobbit would be taller than the dwarves.
I saw a version that cast a black actor as Iago, which changes the dynamic there quite a bit. I also saw a production of MacBeth that was all black and set in an African nation. Pretty cool.
Also, there is a movie of the Tempest coming out that casts Helen Mirren as Prospero. Not a color issue, but gender. Should be interesting.
As for those who hold Star Trek up as some sort of model of color blindness, be careful. This is far from controversial. When STTNG came out there was a lot of criticism that the default setting was still white with roles written for people of color were conspicuously for characters who represented “the other.” Though some put it in more scholarly terms, I still recall an Arsenio bit about the only roles for blacks were for handicapped or aliens with butt prints on their heads. Even given some of the notable exceptions, I would argue the default race on the Star Trek franchise is still white.
Dwarfs are not dwarves, and vice-versa. Much as how hobbits aren’t either.
That said, with the amount of make-up required to play a Tolkien dwarf, you could conceivably cast dwarfs as dwarves but, frankly, considering the number of dwarves that appear in THE HOBBIT, it would be easier to cast actors of regular size and shrink them down than try to find that many dwarfs.
Also for those who seem to think PJ let the book speak for itself and did little interpretation I have two words for you:
I’m sorry, my brain shut down after reading this phrase, so I did not see the rest of your sentence
@Zifnab: The story of Húrin and his family — all the way through the fall of Doriath — could be made into a tremendous series of movies.
I don’t think Elijah Wood was exactly 4 feet tall.
Maybe I’m wrong this. But I’m guessing he is at least 5-something.
And unlike Malcolm X, the Hobbits are a fictional group of people.
Complaining about non-white hobbits is like complaining about black vampires.
Umm, if you delve into Tolkieniana just a bit, you’ll find out that the physiology of JRRT’s Dwarves and Hobbits might not be quite as we imagine it: the Hobbits are meant to be more-or-less normally proportioned, if a bit on the chubby side, topping out at about 4 feet; his “Dwarves” aren’t built like Peter Dinkelage or Warwick Davis: more like short, hairy Arnold Schwartzeneggers, no taller than 5′ or so.
Fun fact: John Rhys-Davis (Gimli the Dwarf) was, at 6’1″, actually the tallest actor of the Fellowship of the Ring – i was surprised to find that Sean Bean, who always films as this big, towering guy, is actually shorter (5’10”) than I am. Though, needless to say, much better-looking….
Hey wow, something I have actual useful experience on.
I auditioned as an extra on the original LOTR and the casting sheet set only had a height restriction (155 cm I think).
A Maori woman I was working with got a callback from her audition and was definitely as dark skinned as the woman featured in the article.
So to summarise…Casting agent = unthinkingly racist and going beyond her brief but the film company itself is probably not in this particular instance.
Malcolm X was black. You point me one passage out in the Hobbit or any of the LTR books that says hobbits were exclusively white.
There is nothing that says fictional hobbits are white other than your imagination.
I can’t even think of a black actor in any of the 3 movies, and apparently there will be none in the hobbit.
I don’t recall the Hobbit book opening up by saying “in a land of whites where blacks don’t exist.”
@Socraticsilence: Oh God let him finish that book soon! He’s a large man and looks ripe for a heart attack. the casting on that series looks good.
To which I say” “Good”.
At the very least, forcing Tom Bombadil into the movie would have been a very poor decision — it would have been almost impossible to make it work cinematically.
As well it should.
Anthony Hopkins as Odin will rock the heavens.
Um, you’re apparently overlooking the part where the director of the movie never told the guy to exclude applicants due to skin tone.
Who cares about the color of hobbits in The Hobbit?
There’s only really one hobbit the whole story long. You gotta worry about casting all those damn dwarves. Samuel L. Jackson as Thorin would be fucking awesome.
@Lysana: Warwick Davis, in his characteristically diplomatic tone, said in 2002:
See, the thing is, Malcom X was a real person. Hobbits ain’t real. The idea that fantasy characters must reflect a particular ethnicity is ridiculous.
This kinda reminds me of some of the supposedly “serious” uproar among some fans over the casting of Tim Russ as a “black” Vulcan in Star Trek: Voyager. The original Trek was more creative than many other shows with respect to casting, but the plain fact was that too often nonwhites were not considered for starring or guest roles because of the racism, and stupidity of the times.
Nut brown maid, dude. Nut brown maid.
And crap, Thor the Thunder God was red-haired and red-bearded in the original myths, but he must be blonde and smooth in the upcoming fantasy film to satisfy all the Marvel fanboys and girls. So much for any sticklers for “accuracy.”
@Sasha: Uh, no.
Sorry, but this is a sore point with me. Faramir was my favorite character in LOTR, and I’m still pissed about the way Jackson wrote him–not to mention Arwen who, at a couple hundred years old, doesn’t know that when a human and an elf love each other very much, they can have children. Like, say, her father.
I also remember that before Fellowship was released, someone asked him if there were going to be any hobbits of color, and he made some dismissive comment about not being “politically correct”. Of course, that didn’t stop him from making Arwen a badassed warrior maiden in order to make a vague attempt at having more than one female character with agency in the story.
Jackson is also the one who did the modern remake of King Kong, which left much of the racism of the original intact. I’m not saying that he’s personally racist–I seriously doubt he is–but he seems to have a certain tone-deafness to racial issues that I’ve encountered a lot among non-Americans. “We don’t have the same racial issues as you” becomes “We have no racial issues and we don’t have to pay attention to them.” I’ve actually had Aussies say, straight-faced, that Australia doesn’t have a problem with race.
I’m not sure it’s as much a “racial issue” as a failure of the imagination.
Among the absurdities of the Trek universe was the remarkable uniformity of planetary climate, ethnicity, culture, etc., except for Earth, of course. Wisely, they didn’t attempt to “explain” Tuvok at all.
Faramir was my favorite character in LOTR, and I’m still pissed about the way Jackson wrote him—not to mention Arwen who, at a couple hundred years old, doesn’t know that when a human and an elf love each other very much, they can have children.
I’m with you there Darkrose, see my comment @107. Also, Arwen was a spry lass of 2,700 or so. Still didn’t know much about her own heritage though. Right.
Perhaps casting for SF and fantasy provides a unique “tell” on racism in that white people become a neutral prototype on which on can paste ears, foreheads, horns, etc., to produce hobbits, Vulcans, etc., without hearing complaints that there are no Irish hobbits or Jewish Vulcans or whatever.
Tolkien’s imaginative world is pretty explicitly racist. Races have immutable characteristics – orcs without exception are evil, elves are noble, dwarves are brave but closed-minded, etc.
And racial characteristics are closely associated with skin color: light skin and blond hair are markers of goodness, dark skin, eyes, and hair of evil.
The good races generally live in or originate from the North and West, the evil races come from the South and East.
Men, who come in both good and evil varieties, are divided by race – the good men (the men of Gondor and Rohan) are light-skinned and come from the North and West, the evil men, who are dark-skinned, come from the South.
The guttural languages of the evil orcs and other evil peoples appear to be modeled on Turkish or Arabic, while the good languages sound more like northern European languages.
@Benjamin Cisco: Could you imagine Samuel L. Jackson playing a hobbit?
Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking trolls in this motherfucking cave!