Racism, Homophobia and Reading Choices

I’ve mentioned plenty of times that my introduction to pure fantasy was Lord of the Rings. Although it could be argued that the strange cocktail of Frank Peretti, folklore, Bible/prophetess writings (my church believes that one particular woman was the mouthpiece of God. Therefore, we read a lot of her writings…), historical fiction, Shakespeare and end-time stories was in a way a heavy preparation for fantasy, Lord of the Rings started the trend.

I love those books to this day. They are masterpieces, and I’ll defend their worth to my dying day. But they do raise the uncomfortable specter of racism.

I don’t recall noticing it in the book, it took the movie to really bring it all to my notice. The depiction of the Southrons, the Westerlings, it’s quite negative. Even the Corsairs. Asia and Africa (possibly the Middle East for the Corsairs?) were undeniably the influence in those cultures. And they were portrayed as Sauron’s willing allies.

At first, I thought maybe it was a reference to the Moorish conquests. But that’s an even worse thought, because the Moors were as culturally advanced as China and Japan. They are still the one real bright spot of the Middle Ages.

Seeing as I grew up around a lot of racism, religious prejudice and homophobia, I’m a little sensitive. Maybe I’m misreading it. Whatever the explanation, it’s hard to swallow. And it leaves me with just a little discomfort about reading and actively espousing the books.

Will I continue to do so? Certainly. They are exceptional books in their own right. They stand on their own merits due to world-building and the sheer number of people that they have brought to fantasy.

The genre world has been buzzing with talk recently about the blatant homophobia expressed by some rather well-known authors.

Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment is one of my favorite books. As a lover of mythology, folklore and a good old-fashioned fairy-tale (especially of Eastern European extraction!), Enchantment held my attention all the way through.

There’s no enchantment with Mr. Card’s expressions of opinion about the LGBTQ community. Sure, it’s not as blatant as some (Here’s looking at you, Mr. Wright), but it is still insulting and hateful to both me, and to the wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with and befriending.

Where does that leave me, the reader? Such attitudes taint my reading experience. I won’t pick up any book by Wright for sure, and I’ll feel uncomfortable about picking up a Card book.

I don’t expect the world to have the same opinions I do. I believe whole-heartedly in free thought and free speech. But anytime I see something so blatantly judgmental, it makes it really hard for me to justify support.


2 Responses to “Racism, Homophobia and Reading Choices”

  1. There have actually been a lot of accusations that Tolkien was racist. I have to say, while there certainly is some, a lot of it is probably from the society in which Tolkien was raised, and the time in which he was writing. Both of which have racism as a ‘scientifically proven norm’. This doesn’t defend it, but it certainly explains the existence of it in his writing.

  2. Exactly; what Kuro said – we can’t condemn writing done in a different era based on modern standards. Simple fact is that the world has changed A LOT in the past 30 years or so in terms of acceptance. Society is a constantly changing thing, and we’re only just starting to overcome prejudice. While it’s easy for our generation to take it for granted and get all uppity about it because that’s the only society WE know, looking back, even in our grandparents’ time casual racism and other prejudices were still erring towards being the norm.

    It’s like cavemen using flints and sticks and bashing each other with them; you wouldn’t say ‘I despise them for their simple minded ways’ – they simply hadn’t made the necessary cultural / technological progressions yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: