Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hobbit Racism?

Okay - so the issue is serious. But the fact that it is related to Hobbits, makes it amusing as well. Can there be brown-skinned Hobbits? May be not. From Dawn:
Peter Jackson’s troubled “The Hobbit” project was embroiled in a race row Monday over a casting agent sacked for telling a would-be extra she was too dark to play one of the pint-sized creatures.
The independent contractor who made the comments and placed an advertisement in a local newspaper specifying female hobbit extras “should have light skin tones” had been dismissed, a spokesman for Jackson’s Wingnut Films said.
“No such instructions were given, the crew member in question took it upon themselves to do that and it’s not something we instructed or condoned,” he told AFP.
The row erupted after Briton Naz Humphreys, who has Pakistani heritage, attended a casting session in the New Zealand city of Hamilton last week, queuing for three hours only to be told her skin tone was not suitable.
“It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe I’m being discriminated against because I have brown skin,” Humphreys told the Waikato Times newspaper.
And now Naz has started a Facebook group called, "Hire hobbits of all colours! Say no to hobbit racism!” Okay this may be a smart move.

And here are some other details of the incident:
The Waikato Times said video footage showed the casting agent telling people at the 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.” The agent also placed a classified advertisement in the Bay of Plenty Times listing essential requirements for potential hobbits, including age, 16-80, and height — below 170 cm (5 foot 7 inches) for men and 158cm (5ft 2in) for women. The additional demand for light skin tones applied only to women.
The casting agent has now been fired. Read the full story here.

And while we are on the topic of movies, here is the way Star Trek should have really ended:

I actually did have a problem with the new Star Trek movie - it had no sense of exploration or wonder in it, along with an awful ending - and so I actually prefer this alternate end to the film. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

I'm a little afraid of the backlash I might receive, but as a fantasy geek, I do believe that hobbits should be people of pallor out of fidelity to the source material. I think that Tolkien was essentially creating a mythological Northern Europe.

By the same token -- and utterly unlike the wretched Syfy adaptation -- Le Guin's Earthsea should *not* feature whites except for the barbarian Kargs. Alas, Le Guin doesn't get the same attention as Tolkien does.

Salman Hameed said...


You are right on both fronts. But I think some modification can be made to take into effect the realities of the 21st century. I remember reading about the depiction of "savages", when the remake of King Kong (incidentally, also by Peter Jackson) - and as far as I remember, the filmmakers stayed true to the original. So it is a difficult issue...

And I can't argue about the case for Le Guin. You are absolutely correct, she doesn't get the attention she deserves.

Ayesha said...

Sci Fi and fantasy doesn't necessarily require absolute accuracy. Anyone who watches Doctor Who or Stargate will know that the writers and fimmakers take plenty of liberties with history and literature, without compromising the essence of the original. It's not impossible. It just requires a certain amount of creativity and balance.

hedge said...

re: Star Trek (not hobbit-racism)

Great. Now I have beer up my nose.

As for hobbits... I'm as big a fantasy geek as anyone else who has learned Old English so they could read much of Tolkien's source material in the original language, and I understand the importance of Artistic Vision and all. But the idea of hobbits-of-Pakistani-descent just doesn't detract from the story for me. Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother in Beowulf, now, that's another story altogether.

Larry Gilman said...

Dark-skinned hobbits are perfectly consonant with Tolkien's original text: hasn't anybody consulted the book? There are three "breeds" of Hobbit (Tolkien's word), the Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides. "The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless . . ." (quoting Tolkien's Prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring). Tolkien thus explicitly imagined three hobbit breeds or races varying in skin color and other ways. Bring on the brown, baby!

We might conjecture that our 2010 brown is a little browner than Tolkien's 1954 brown, but who in their right mind could really object to that?

Actually, I wish they would just leave the books alone and not film them at all. Nothing to do with skin tones or "faithfulness" to plot. These big, splashy, battle-oriented, computer-enhanced extravaganzas seem to me to do no service at all to Tolkien's imaginative heritage. Not to mention the spinoff crap, like the plastic Galadriel figurine with the Happy Meal. Pass me a bucket, please . . . .

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