|Alles zu Tolkien > News > 2003 | Index News|
|"Rassismusvorwurf eines britischen Literaturwissenschaftlers" (3.1.)|
|Das Kreuz der schnellen Informationsübermittlung ist die Kürze der jeweiligen Mitteilung. So geschehen beim renommierten Spiegel:|
|Stephen Shapiro wirft dem Regisseur der "Herr der Ringe"-Trilogie Peter Jackson rassistische Tendenz vor. Bei dem englischen Literaturwissenschaftler hat offenbar die Physiognomie der Orcs eine besondere Assoziation ausgelöst.|
"Beim Anblick der bösen Orcs mit ihrer dunklen Haut und Gesichtsbemalung fällt es schwer, nicht an die Aborigines zu denken", erklärt er. Schon die Romanvorlage wurzele im Rassismus, erklärt der 38-jährige Wissenschaftler. Der Autor John R. R. Tolkien habe darin seine eigenen Urängste vor fremden Kulturen verarbeitet.
"Als der ,Herr der Ringe' vor über einem halben Jahrhundert entstand", so Shapiro, "verlor England gerade seine Kolonien, und die ersten Einwandererschiffe aus der Karibik landeten." Dadurch sah Tolkien die weltfremde Dorfidylle der englischen Midlands, wo er damals lebte, in Gefahr: "Auenland, die Heimat der Hobbits, steht für die Midlands."
Wie man dagegen einen politisch korrekten Fantasy-Roman schreibt, habe Joanne Rowling mit "Harry Potter" vorgemacht: "Auch Rowling sehnt sich in die vormoderne Gesellschaft zurück", sagt Shapiro, "aber bei ihr ist sie multikulturell." Quelle: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,228264,00.html
|Aus diesem und anderen ähnlich kurzen Berichten ergab sich dann recht schnell der Eindruck, daß Shapiro sich passend zum Medienhype profilieren wollte. Doch es ergibt sich ein anderes Bild, wenn einige Emails gewechselt sind - die Meinungen gehen sicherlich auseinander, aber die Punkte, die Shapiro macht, lohnen sich, diskutiert zu werden. Hier die Stellungnahme von Dr. Stephen Shapiro, Universität Warwick, GB, in ihrer Gänze...|
|For LOTR, the problem is that the journalists often confuse my comments about the films, which is the main case at hand, and the novels.|
I'm trying to argue 4 main points
|1. Tolkien/ LOTR novels|
|Tolkien himself took principled stands against nazi rhetoric and the apartheid of his native South Africa. But if he was no racist, he was, nonetheless, a Nordicist. In a much quoted 1941 complaint against the damage caused by Hitler's bungling, non-academic Germanicism, Tolkien admitted his devotion to "that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."|
Tolkien felt the Northern races had a specific culture, and that this culture was something located in one's blood and birthplace. This is to say that Tolkien is "racialist" in believing that geographized race is the primary category through which we express culture and encounter others.
Lord of the Rings expresses this racialism as the trilogy begins by showing his characters interacting with one another based on self-evident assumptions about the social characteristics of their various races. The members of the Fellowship are often praised less for the heroism of their actions, than when they act differently from what is expected of their race.
Imaging culture as something that our bodies contain, rather than a dynamic produced out of social interactions becomes fraught as Lord of the Rings clearly presents some races as superior to others, with the ideal being the pale-skinned elves.
The more elvish blood the characters have the longer they live and taller they appear. At the
trilogy's end, when Frodo returns from his time amongst the elves, Tolkien writes that most of the next generation of normally brown-haired Hobbits were born with a "rich golden hair," as if elvish cultural nordicism is not something learned but rather genetically imprinted through association with the race. The Return of the King, the trilogy's last segment, culminates by showing how Aragorn marrying the "higher" elvish Arwen overcomes a human civil war, partially set off by the results of miscegenation.
The most degraded figures in the novels are the orcs, who Tolkien often describes as "dark" or "swarthy." Products of torture, the orcs lurk in the shadows, swing curved scimitars, rather than straight elvish swords or daggers, talk what Tolkien calls "Black Speech" and are often called "slave." In case the novels' connotation was not clear, Tolkien made it plain to a film producer that the orcs should look like "degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types."
Because Tolkien has his "bad-thinking" characters evidenced by physical disability, and his "good" ones by muscularity or dexterity, the novels train their readers to assume that looking different than the white elves can only suggest, at best, a decline from excellence or, more seriously, moral and cultural inferiority.
|At the basic level of narrative and description, it is hard not to read Lord of the Rings as an epic transmitting long-standing Anglo-European anxieties about being overwhelmed by non-European populations as well as attendant fears about the loss of a racialized cultural purity.|
I'm also interested in making an argument about the politics of Tolkien's initial entry into the
liteary field. Rather than go into long detail, let me just say that the literary field in Britain has clearly defined right-left political camps, and Tolkien is clearly associated with the right wing and acts in opposition to one known by GB Shaw, HG Wells, and George Orwell.
The literary sphere that Tolkien belongs to (largely under the wing of GK Chesterton and Hiliare
Belloc) veers during the 1930s toward support of (Italian) fascism and (Spanish) Falangism. The much quoted letter of Tolkien's disgust at being asked for a statement of Aryan identity and non-Jewish descent has often been taken to mean Tolkien wasn't on the right. The problem is that in England in the 30s fascist sympathies did not require one to be anti-semitic.
The case is complicated, here, but one needs to have a clear sense of specifically British context to Tokien, a context that has been lost in the Americanization of LOTR.
As Tolkien gets older, there are suggestions that he moves further to the right-wing. Recently,
Stephen Goodson claims to have possession of Tolkien's personal 20 year subscription to Candour
Magazine edited by AK Chesterton, who was then head of the League for Empire Loyalists. The LEL later fused with two other groups to form the National Front, which Chesterton briefly was the head of until he died in the 1970s.
|The claim can be found here:|
|2. The reception of LOTR in England in the 1950s
|When Tolkien's trilogy was first published in the mid-1950s, England was experiencing the first waves of mass immigration from its non-white colonies. The initial popularity of the Lord of the Rings may well rest on how Tolkien's tale of the "White Council's" defense against the dominions of the Dark Lord Sauron amplifies a post-war nativist fear about being racially swamped by foreigners.|
The first ship of Caribbean immigrants, the Windrush, is in 1948, one year after Indian Independence. In 1958 there are the famous Notting Hill race riots.
|3. The use of Tolkien by extreme right terrorists and Italian neo-fascists in the 1970s|
|Tolkien has become the darling for the extreme far right. Particularly in Italy where the neo-fascist MSI used Tolkien as a cultural touchstone, and ran a series of paramilitary "Camp Hobbits" in the late 1970s. The MSI later become the "post-fascist" National Alliance, which is headed by Gianfranco Fini, now Italy's deputy prime minister in the Berlusconi government. In essence, a Haider-like figure. The NA continues to use Tolkien as a promotional device.|
The president of the Italian Tolkien Society during the 1980s, a Gianfranco Turris, also happens to be one of the leading propagandists for neo-fascist thought today. Similarly, the leading neo-fascist Italian pop band is called Fellowship of the Rings.
Today, a British far-right group, the International Third Position, similarly has links to the Italians and is currently involved ina campaign to prevent Germany's NDP from facing constitutional ban.
Information on this can be found at the following sites:
Professor Roger Griffin, Oxford-Brookes on links between Italian neo-facism and Tolkien
in case link doesn't work: do google search on "The Blend of Literary and Historical Fantasy in the Italian New Right" by Professor Roger Griffin, Oxford Brookes, noted scholar on historical and contemporary fascism. See his uni web site for more.
|A US neo-nazi fan's paen to Fellowship of the Ring movie:
an English neo-pagan "volkist" reading of Tolkien as racialist
BNP Scotland celebrates Tolkien
January 1981 NY Review of Books article on Italian far-right terror, ITP, Bologna bombings, and Camp Hobbits
[in Italian] about Camp Hobbit
Italian far-right site with picture of 1970s Camp Hobbit [and below Fini, now Italy's deputy prime minister] - Celtic crosses are banned in Italy
Independent 2002 article on Italian "post-fascists" arranging private viewing of The Two Towers
[in German] article about links between Fiore, Italy, and campaign to defend German neo-nazi NPD from being banned
In English, background on Far-right Italian band, Fellowship of the Ring/Compagnia dell'Annello
Fellowship of the Ring/Compagnia dell'Annello web site - in history section posters for Camp Hobbit
Fini's political poster of LOTR
|4. The racism of Peter Jackson's films|
|It's difficult not to mistake the racial message of The Two Towers's poster. All the white lead actors are shown either looking at the viewer in the eye or in deep contemplation. Except for Gollum, whom we see as a cowering, dark-skinned body with bulging white eyes. The picture is alarmingly similar to earlier racist cartoons of Blacks as "gollywogs" or "sambos."|
Insisting of stark white-black colour codes, director Jackson presents the Fellowship's multiple races as a band of white humans who speak English, while painting the orcs as a grotesque, inarticulate, and psychologically undeveloped Black horde. The sole non-white actor in The Fellowship of the Ring was given a role that has but one sentence in Tolkien's more than thousand pages trilogy: a loathsome monster wearing tribal face paint, as if Jackson wants us to see him more as a nightmarish African or Aborigine than fictional orc. The audience's fear of empowered Blackness is first teased and then dismissed through a long spectacular sequence of the orc's death by the pureblooded Aragorn.
Given that the Fellowship consists of multiple races, we might have received a film, in the tradition of Star Trek, that was multi-cultural. Instead, Jackson chose to present the Fellowship as a band of white humans and portray the opposition as people of color.
In visual terms, there are also uncanny references to both Leni Riefenstahl and DW Griffiths's Birth of a Nation, the film that celebrated the Ku Klux Klan.
For Jackson's part, he gives viewers too little credit, since many contemporary fans in the "fantasy and role-playing community" of games like Dungeons and Dragons and Everquest often encourage players to avoid racial stereotypes in their games, Jackson makes no concession to ethnic heterogeneity and often seems not to have considered if a non-white viewer would feel that her or his dignity had been degraded by the film's representations.
|Persönliche Bemerkung von Shapiro|
|I should say that it's not my interest to deny fans of Tolkien their pleasure in reading. I've read all the books and played Adventure (the first Tolkien based computer game) and bought the Dungeons and Dragons when one could only get it in stapled pamphlet form.|
But I do think that certain questions need to be asked, most pressingly about the kind of films that Jackson is making and the extreme right's appropriation of Tolkien for a campaign of race hatred.
I would encourage the European Tolkien societies to confront the Italians and other far-right groups. One can't simply shrug off the kind of company you find yourself sharing without making a stand. (...)
Dept. of English & Comparative Literary Studies
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL
|Satzung der DTG|
§ 2 Zweck
Die Gesellschaft fördert die wissenschaftliche Erschliessung und die Verbreitung der Werke von Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, und anderer Werke, die zu einem Vergleich herausfordern. Sie stellt sich besonders folgende Aufgaben: (...)
4. Die Gesellschaft unterstützt Bemühungen, die einer Verbreitung der Werke des genannten Autors und der Förderung ihres Verständnisses dienen (...)
|Die DTG begrüßt die kritische Auseinandersetzung mit J.R.R. Tolkiens Werk und sieht es als ihre Aufgabe an, allen Tolkienfans die notwendigen Informationen für eine kritische Debatte zur Verfügung zu stellen. Die zu 99% falsche, weil unvollständige Darstellung von Materialien zu Tolkien, moderner Fantasyliteratur im allgemeinen, bedarf Richtigstellungen. Wir würden uns freuen, wenn gerade die lebendige deutsche Tolkienfangemeinde sich einer solchen wichtigen Diskussion weiterhin stellt. Denn im Gegensatz zum Klischée sind Tolkienleserinnen und -leser nicht unkritisch, sondern lediglich besser informiert - wir haben nicht umsonst weltweit einen besonders guten Ruf!|
|Für die DTG: Marcel Bülles, Vorsitzender|
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