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The Racially Charged Hobbit Post

01 Dec

 

A couple of things I hadn’t realized:  That I believed Hobbits to be white, and that there was clearly and obviously something wrong with that.

I’m not going to get into a dorktacular Tolkien debate about it, but I asked a few of my Pals Who Know Their Tolkien, and it does appear that some Hobbits might have a darker skin tone – a certain variety which dwell near the mountains, and are related to dwarves. 

But the Hobbits in the upcoming film The Hobbit are from The Shire, and in a quick Dork Summit, a few of us put our heads together, and we’re pretty sure that the Hobbits of The Shire are specifically described as being fair-skinned.  They’re little white people with big hairy feet, who like to eat a lot and take naps. 

Here’s a still shot I got out of National Geographic*:

See?  Cartoon images of fictional characters do not lie.   

So it was quite a surprise when I saw that this casting director right here was just fired from the set of The Hobbit for specifically calling for “fair-skinned” actors to play extras in the film.  In particular, a woman of Pakistani heritage was told that she wasn’t suitable to play a Hobbit because of her skin color.

Which you know, she wasn’t.  Like remember in old movies when they’d get white guys and stick ’em on horses with feathers on their heads and stripes on their faces, and say “Look!  They’re Cherokee Indians!” 

It’s not that there couldn’t be a black Hobbit – I almost said African American Hobbit just now, but that doesn’t make any sense, does it? – It’s just that they’ve spent about a hundred million dollars building the actual Hobbit town in New Zealand, building it in painstaking detail right down to center-mounted doorknobs. 

Tolkien tells us more than what the Hobbit’s houses looked like and how many meals they ate and what they were good at – he told us they were, in The Shire at least, a fair-skinned people.  We’re going to holographically replicate his whole world down to a hundred thousand tiny details, except we’re then going to inject it with our own multicultural ideals while we’re at it?

I mean, sure – knock yourself out.  It’s not like Hobbits of Color, or Asian Hobbits, or Hobbits Who Appear To Be From Pakistan – it’s not like any of that would bother me.  It’s just that I don’t think this guy was doing anything sinister when he made his assumption that they were looking for little white people.

I love his quote, allegedly from an audition video, in which the casting director – who is in so much trouble that they aren’t even telling us his name – tells everyone:   “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.”

He’s not trying to be…. whatever.  See how he even starts to address the racial issue, and then realizes he’s talking about motherscratching Hobbits, and says for crying out loud, what’s the problem here.  You show up with a green, two-foot mohawk and you’re not getting the Hobbit job either.

But then all hell breaks loose, and suddenly he’s out of work.  That’s the really baffling thing about this story.  A spokesman for Jackson’s production company is quoted as saying this is “something we take very seriously.”

I mean, it is?  Allegations of pervasive skin-tone accuracy in your selection of Hobbit extras?  You know, I guess if you’re a hundred million dollars into it, you probably take about everything Very Seriously Indeed, but I don’t know how long I could discuss this in a meeting without cracking up.  I think I’d be sitting in a bar with the casting director and no job.

So, let’s say you’re casting a movie, and you need a hundred extras to be Zulu warriors.  And then I show up, and you tell me, Tom, dude, you’re white.

Zulu warriors are definitely not white.  And it would be pretty offensive to, you know, paint me or anything.  Seems to me like I’m just not really qualified for that job.  I’m probably not the right guy to cast as an extra in a movie set in Mongolia, either.  Can I really sue you for that?

In other words, I think it might be okay to turn people down for acting jobs based on the color of their skin, if it’s the plain old wrong color for the part they’re after.  Jeff Bridges is a great actor, but he’s just not right for the part of Malcom X.  He’s not even on the list, because he’s white and it’s not that complicated.

Now there are a lot of minute details in Tolkien’s work, so it’s possible that I and my Dorktacular Hobbit Information Squad have missed something, and he does allow for Hobbits of Color.  And again, Jackson feels free to change whatever he wants to change, anyway.  That’s why you probably don’t know who Tom Bombadil is, or if I spelled it right just now.

I mean, the new, multicultural Hobbits are still going to dress and act like Hobbits, right?  They’re not going to be like jive-talking Hobbits, or Hip Hop Hobbits, or anything like that? 

Cool.  So then really, I don’t see the problem.  Except I still don’t understand why this guy is in so much trouble for saying, come on dudes, we’re looking for little white people.  He just knew what Shire Hobbits looked like, that’s all – it was his job, you know.

Probably they got the word out pretty quick, so I don’t think it’s going to happen again, and the only people who are going to notice that not all of the Hobbits in the movie look exactly like they’re from The Shire are going to be me and my Dorktacular pals, and we’re reading you loud and clear.  Authenticity is one thing, but there’s no reason to be a bunch of White Hobbit Supremacists. 

That’s no problem, either.

Excellent, then.  Proceed with your movie-making, Mr. Jackson.

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Earlier:  The Harry Potter Experience
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And:  The Way of McCheese
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*Photo not actually from National Geographic.  Come on, now.

 
 

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7 responses to “The Racially Charged Hobbit Post

  1. ecossie possie

    December 2, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Can to get white Zulus in fact Albinos are 99 percent African origin….So to be adult about it Nah Nah Nan nah Sounds to me someone is being rather to precious about casting criteria in the Hobbit movie….

     
  2. Kimberly Kinrade

    December 2, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    It’s true that being politically correct can venture into the ridiculous. Sounds like it has in this case. Certainly there needs to be an understanding that when looking for short, white hobbit people, a tall black person would not work. But then, neither would a tall white person. No. They must be short and white. With hairy feet. This is very particular and does not need to become a racial platform from which to sling political turd.

    Now, it may be that Tolkien harbored some secret racism, therefore his characters were more white than not. Or, it could be that he was a white man and wrote what he knew. IDK.

    Maybe we should be looking at racism in literature in general. The white man’s take on character choice and skin color. Hm…nah… I think that’s been done. I confess, many of my characters tend to be white, and my leads tend to be female. Well, what do you know? I’m white and female. And I write what I know. I can imagine the life of an Indian man, but I don’t think I could write him as well, you know? I could have him in my story, and I would do my best to do him justice, but it would require a lot more research.

    Is that bad? Does that make me racist? I mean, I’d love to READ the book he writes with the Indian man as the main character. Sure would.

    Well, I think I’ve gone off topic. Kind of. The point is, the author wrote from his world view and the movie wanted to replicate his story as closely as possible. So the Hobbits were short and white with hairy feet.

     
  3. ecossie possie

    December 3, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Come to think about it that TV show Roots was incredibly racist towards white people.Only the black characters were slaves an all the white people slave owners .Talk about type casting.

     
  4. Robert Scott Lawrence

    March 6, 2011 at 6:14 am

    You are indeed correct, Sir Tom. I suppose they should have just advertised that they were looking for Welsh midgets with enormous heads and hairy feet and they could have finessed the whole race thing that way, but who would have thought anyone would really care? It’s not a Gap ad, for crying out loud, it’s The Hobbit. We have a script that says what hobbits look like. “No, I’m afraid you’re not sufficiently hobbit-like. What? I’m fired?”

     
  5. penpusherpen

    August 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Pc ism at it’s most absurd-est. Tom ( Future-wise) …. what about height-ism? Hobbits were um.. a tad on the small side compared to us humans, apparently half our height, almost dwarves but not magical, and not bearded as they are, …. so almost miniature people, BUT fat in the stomach and hard soled hairy feet (no mention of the BIG Feet worn in the film) … AND long thin brown fingers… OH my Gosh, I must read this book again, I re-read LOTR after seeing each film, ‘cos I felt I needed to… fix wise. now with mention of The Hobbit areading I must go… Tom Bombadil?..and the Barrow Downs..and the sword, nary a mention in the film, but then they’d’ve needed to do six, seven or eight films to do any kind of justice to all characters… anywho, way off topic but what the heck… Tolkien is King.. xPenx

     

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