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Paul DeStefano
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For those who don't follow such things: Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is a great online roleplaying game like EverQuest and World of Warcraft.

There's been an intriguing shift in the thinking of just what constitutes a 'bad guy' and ESO really forces that imagery to the forefront.

I don't believe the word is ever actually used exactly, but many inherently evil dudes in the game are classified evil because they are racists.

As soon as a character judges another due to their race, you can be pretty sure that later on you will have to bring him to justice (by capture or kill or whatever depending on your choices).

Example: You stumble across what is kind of a military college. It is run by essentially elves. They beat their cat people students and throw them in caves without food, forcing them to renounce their racial religion. They claim it is to 'cleanse' them.

Well, after investigating and verifying this is actually the motive and that students are segregated and tortured based on race, you can be pretty sure a lot of the staff will be getting their heads bashed in by you and your friends.

That's one of the more blatant examples, but they really abound. Racial tension is clear and racial rivalry is everywhere, often in a good spirited manner, but once it becomes judgement and restriction of rights due to race, lines are drawn.

I was also most pleasantly surprised when I rescued a woman from an attack and she ran to be reunited with her wife.
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Michael Carter
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This is a fairly old trope in the Elder Scrolls games.
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mlcarter815 wrote:
This is a fairly old trope in the Elder Scrolls games.


It was definitely in Oblivion and Skyrim.

I'm amazed how they truly brought it to the forefront.
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There's a definite trend in fantasy to break free of the mold of Tolkien's imitators, who often assigned character traits based on character race (though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work). There's ups and downs to that trend, but mostly ups.

This example sounds like it's largely about acceptance targets, though.
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twomillionbucks wrote:
There's a definite trend in fantasy to break free of the mold of Tolkien's imitators, who often assigned character traits based on character race (though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work). There's ups and downs to that trend, but mostly ups.


This actually generated an interesting conversation during our last gamenight where I mentioned Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game could be seen as racist, but not necessarily in the negative way. You obviously have different races who have different abilities and you choose one race over based on what abilities you like best. Of course these are races in the true sense of the word, being actual separate species. So the parallel to the human racism concept is not accurate, unless someone conveniently ignores that pesky detail in their zeal to legitimize racism.
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TheChin! wrote:
twomillionbucks wrote:
There's a definite trend in fantasy to break free of the mold of Tolkien's imitators, who often assigned character traits based on character race (though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work). There's ups and downs to that trend, but mostly ups.


This actually generated an interesting conversation during our last gamenight where I mentioned Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game could be seen as racist, but not necessarily in the negative way. You obviously have different races who have different abilities and you choose one race over based on what abilities you like best. Of course these are races in the true sense of the word, being actual separate species. So the parallel to the human racism concept is not accurate, unless someone conveniently ignores that pesky detail in their zeal to legitimize racism.


Race as a concept refers to demes rather than species- a local population of one species sharing a distinguishable gene pool. They're not clusters in the mathematical sense (more similar to other members than to members of other groups) but they do convey meaningful 'groupings' of gene probabilities.

In Tolkeins work orcs, elves and humans can and have interbred, and in fact it the orcs of middle earth are a genetically isolated group of elves. Racism in and of itself would not be bad if it referred only to cold, hard facts. In Tolkiens writing orcs are undoubtedly cruel and evil before they adopt the culture of their people.
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twomillionbucks wrote:
though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work

I'd argue it would be quite foolish to believe Tolkien fantasy wasn't inspired by a 19th century world view and a fair dose of reactionary romanticism (e.g. science and technology as tools of evil). But that isn't particularly harmful; it merely serves as an excellent escapist fantasy for the capitalist bourgeoisie.
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Simon Mueller wrote:
twomillionbucks wrote:
though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work

I'd argue it would be quite foolish to believe Tolkien fantasy wasn't inspired by a 19th century world view and a fair dose of reactionary romanticism (e.g. science and technology as tools of evil). But that isn't particularly harmful; it merely serves as an excellent escapist fantasy for the capitalist bourgeoisie.

No, Tolkien's world was modeled on the ancient and early medieval Germanic epics which were his research specialty.
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whac3 wrote:
Simon Mueller wrote:
twomillionbucks wrote:
though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work

I'd argue it would be quite foolish to believe Tolkien fantasy wasn't inspired by a 19th century world view and a fair dose of reactionary romanticism (e.g. science and technology as tools of evil). But that isn't particularly harmful; it merely serves as an excellent escapist fantasy for the capitalist bourgeoisie.

No, Tolkien's world was modeled on the ancient and early medieval Germanic epics which were his research specialty.


His distaste for industry and engineers in general is really obvious in LotR. The foundation of his story and world is grounded in ancient and early medieval Germanic epics but his personal touch gave it an anti-industrial tone.
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whac3 wrote:
No, Tolkien's world was modeled on the ancient and early medieval Germanic epics which were his research specialty.

It didn't say that it wasn't. But I'm not aware that German mythology had the white-skinned people from the North and the West triumphing over the dark-skinned people from the South and East. Or backwards people living in meadows, forests and mountains triumphing over modern people living in cities and wielding knowledge and technology as weapons.
 
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CaffeineBot wrote:
Race as a concept refers to demes rather than species- a local population of one species sharing a distinguishable gene pool.

Race as a concept is much older than genetics and the latter has proved many a racist assumption wrong. What is perceives is race is mostly defined by culture and geographic heritage; even superficial differences like skin colour don't paint an accurate genetic pictures, with for example the genetic distance between Europeans and Africans being shorter than the one between Europeans and Asian. Moreover, from Iberia to the Urals, Europeans pretty much form one genetic block thanks to the Migration Period, but that didn't stop the Germans from deeming people slightly East of them as subhuman based on some arbitrary racist ideas. It's not in the genes, it's in the eyes and the will of those with a strong sense of "us versus them".
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Simon Mueller wrote:
it's in the eyes and the will of those with a strong sense of "us versus them".


Tu quoque.
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Simon Mueller wrote:
whac3 wrote:
No, Tolkien's world was modeled on the ancient and early medieval Germanic epics which were his research specialty.

It didn't say that it wasn't. But I'm not aware that German mythology had the white-skinned people from the North and the West triumphing over the dark-skinned people from the South and East. Or backwards people living in meadows, forests and mountains triumphing over modern people living in cities and wielding knowledge and technology as weapons.


You're missing the fact Tolkien himself was well aware of the problem the orcs presented, and, while he kept them as they were due to needs of the story, he did devote energy to delving more deeply into their psychology. For example, he pointed out that orcs display admirable loyalty and courage if nothing else, and it's explicitly stated that some fought on the side of the free peoples during the battle of Mount Doom. The individual orcs we meet aren't stereotypes; they're given distinct personalities and conduct themselves fairly well between each other. Quite frankly the problem orcs have is not that they're orcs, but that they have literally millennia of history of being enslaved and used as soldiers. The orcs hated Sauron as much or more than the free peoples did; they simply lacked a way of breaking out of his thrall. Without Melkor or Sauron driving them on they tended to live quite peacefully in small communities of their own. In short, they're victims of an evil god and demigod, not Tolkien's racism.

The movies, of course, lost this layer of subtly and made them irredeemably evil.
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twomillionbucks wrote:


The movies, of course, lost this layer of subtly and made them irredeemably evil.


I heard that the first draft of the script had Mordor called Pennsylvania, but they changed it because all the extra syllables made the movies too long.
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TheChin! wrote:
twomillionbucks wrote:


The movies, of course, lost this layer of subtly and made them irredeemably evil.


I heard that the first draft of the script had Mordor called Pennsylvania, but they changed it because all the extra syllables made the movies too long.


And on top of that, one can simply walk into Pennsylvania.
.
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twomillionbucks wrote:
The individual orcs we meet aren't stereotypes; they're given distinct personalities and conduct themselves fairly well between each other. Quite frankly the problem orcs have is not that they're orcs, but that they have literally millennia of history of being enslaved and used as soldiers. The orcs hated Sauron as much or more than the free peoples did; they simply lacked a way of breaking out of his thrall.

That isn't quite true given that the orcs led themselves. A war party sent off to loot a distant human village does in fact have the choice to desert with very little chance of retribution. There are only two explanation why they don't do that; either they are evil by nature or they are ruled by fear so much that they wouldn't dare risking to disobey orders. Tolkien of course decided to use the latter variant.

Quote:
For example, he pointed out that orcs display admirable loyalty and courage if nothing else, and it's explicitly stated that some fought on the side of the free peoples during the battle of Mount Doom.

Since that was the last battle you might as well interpret it as a sign of disloyalty.

But let's not kid ourselves here discussing literary devices. I didn't even criticise the use of evil monsters in a piece of fiction; which would be silly. I only said that the books were "inspired by a 19th century world view and a fair dose of reactionary romanticism", which the orcs illustrate without interpreting their portrayal as racist: for example they aren't really dumb, which would be a racist stereotype, instead they sadly use all their wits to create machines (bad) as opposed to art (good).

The orcs simply serve as anatagonists who can be killed without thinking about it all that much. And reading the newest discussion on the death penalty, that particular mindset appears to still be alive and well today.
 
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Simon Mueller wrote:
Race as a concept is much older than genetics and the latter has proved many a racist assumption wrong.


This does not mean that the concepts convey no useful information. Some markers are more easily identifiable than others without DNA analysis.
That the concept has been used to enforce ideologies of supremacy does not mean that it is inherently wrong. I don't think it's sensible to deny that there are identifiable human sub-populations with distinct traits.

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TheChin! wrote:
twomillionbucks wrote:


The movies, of course, lost this layer of subtly and made them irredeemably evil.


I heard that the first draft of the script had Mordor called Pennsylvania, but they changed it because all the extra syllables made the movies too long.


As if Peter Jackson cared how long his movies ran.
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Tolkien wasn't racist. I mean, some of his best friends were orcs.

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mlcarter815 wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Simon Mueller wrote:
twomillionbucks wrote:
though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work

I'd argue it would be quite foolish to believe Tolkien fantasy wasn't inspired by a 19th century world view and a fair dose of reactionary romanticism (e.g. science and technology as tools of evil). But that isn't particularly harmful; it merely serves as an excellent escapist fantasy for the capitalist bourgeoisie.

No, Tolkien's world was modeled on the ancient and early medieval Germanic epics which were his research specialty.


His distaste for industry and engineers in general is really obvious in LotR. The foundation of his story and world is grounded in ancient and early medieval Germanic epics but his personal touch gave it an anti-industrial tone.

He may well hve believed that too but it's not foreign to the old epics either.
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Simon Mueller wrote:
whac3 wrote:
No, Tolkien's world was modeled on the ancient and early medieval Germanic epics which were his research specialty.

It didn't say that it wasn't. But I'm not aware that German mythology had the white-skinned people from the North and the West triumphing over the dark-skinned people from the South and East. Or backwards people living in meadows, forests and mountains triumphing over modern people living in cities and wielding knowledge and technology as weapons.

When the last time you read the Nebelung?
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whac3 wrote:
mlcarter815 wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Simon Mueller wrote:
twomillionbucks wrote:
though I'd argue Tolkien himself wasn't guilty of this, and his imitators often missed subtleties of his work

I'd argue it would be quite foolish to believe Tolkien fantasy wasn't inspired by a 19th century world view and a fair dose of reactionary romanticism (e.g. science and technology as tools of evil). But that isn't particularly harmful; it merely serves as an excellent escapist fantasy for the capitalist bourgeoisie.

No, Tolkien's world was modeled on the ancient and early medieval Germanic epics which were his research specialty.


His distaste for industry and engineers in general is really obvious in LotR. The foundation of his story and world is grounded in ancient and early medieval Germanic epics but his personal touch gave it an anti-industrial tone.

He may well hve believed that too but it's not foreign to the old epics either.


How's this;

The epics were certainly the basis but he was a Hardcore Romantic*.


The interest in the folk cycles is more a reinforcement than a denial of that trend.

*Edit: I presume everyone knows, but just to be safe, this is meant in the sense of the 18th/19th century literary/artistic movement that was focused on an embracing of nature and a rejection of the enlightenment of the industrial revolution.
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Geosphere wrote:
mlcarter815 wrote:
This is a fairly old trope in the Elder Scrolls games.


It was definitely in Oblivion and Skyrim.

I'm amazed how they truly brought it to the forefront.


Uh, did we play the same game? *Everyone* in Skyrim was racist, not just the "enemies". The Stormcloaks, while not exactly the good guys, were certainly painted no worse than the imperials they opposed, and they were basically "Skyrim for Nords". The Companions, who were largely set up to be the unversally beloved heroes of the game (as opposed to the graybeards, who many people seemed dubious about), were formed around their great hero who basically committed elf genocide. One of my first quests for them, as an elf, was to retrieve the longlost axe of their famed progenitor who might have tried to kill all the elves but it's all okay because I guess he missed a few ha ha. (I decided to leave the Companions, at that point.)

EDIT: Actually, one of the nice things about games like Skyrim is it's quite possible we *didn't* play the same game. :)
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whac3 wrote:
When the last time you read the Nebelung?

How do the Huns in the Nibelungenlied compare in any way to the orcs in Lord of the Rings? Or Etzel to Sauron, for that matter.
 
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