This is one I’ve been wanting to write for a good while. JRR Tolkien’s 129th birthday seems as good a day as any to write about it.
So what exactly am I talking about? There’s been a trend for years to try to draw dissimilar comparisons between fantasy stories and games (especially Dungeons and Dragons) and the real world. Heroes are compared to burglars and mass murderers, while monsters and villains are made out to be poor innocent and misunderstood victims of the heroes’ actions.
There’s so many angles to attack this from. First is the idiotic idea that if you’re truly good, you’re supposed to see ANYONE doing anything bad as a victim and completely excuse their behavior. In many areas today, people are even expected to flee their own homes instead of confronting a burglar. Being truly good does not mean being a doormat, a victim OR tolerating evil. If it did, that would mean we should turn our back on and outright excuse racism, homophobia, rape, pedophilia, etc.. Is that REALLY the kind of world anyone wants to live in? Taken to it’s ultimate conclusion, such a mindset results in a society of survival of the fittest where the strongest take whatever they want with impunity.
Being TRULY good means taking a stand against what’s wrong, but having a measured response that doesn’t exceed the problem.
Then there’s tearing down heroes in general. Most of the people who buy into the above idea don’t pay attention to the pattern the last couple of decades where just about every hero has been portrayed negatively in some way. MLK cheated on his wife, Ghandi helping create Pakistan led to Muslims dying on the move there (as if it were his plan no less), the founding fathers owned slaves, the great thinkers of the Enlightenment started the idea of racism (talk about a complete lie), all the way down to negative portrayals of everyone from King Arthur to Captain America (who was supposedly secretly a Nazi) and Superman. There’s a plan there to take away anyone or anything that people could look up to as a role model.
More to the specific point of the post here, MONSTERS ARE NOT PEOPLE. The biggest flap along these lines was a social media campaign to destroy Wizards of the Coast because people were offended by the portrayal of Orcs and Drow Elves in Dungeons and Dragons. There were multiple complaints about them being representative of black people. D&D is based 90% plus on Tolkien’s middle Earth. Can anybody who has watched the Lord of the Rings movies and seen the nearly identical Orcs tell me ANYTHING they have in common with with black people? Two legs and two arms, that’s about it.
What does it say about the people making those charges that THEY see a black person when they look at the above picture?!? The same goes for D&D’s imfamous Drow Elves:
If anything, they look like a gothic elven vampire with that grey skin.
The Twits on Twitter got their way though, and the 5th Edition rules for Dungeons and Dragons have completely watered down and changed the stories for Orcs, Drow and other creatures. They’re not evil, they’re just misunderstood.
So after the Orcs raid the village, killing most of it and carry off the women as slaves and entertainment, the heroes are supposed to go give them hugs and psychological counseling I guess.
There’s nothing wrong with having evil in a fantasy setting any more than there is admitting that a small percentage of people of every race are legitimately evil in the real world, and a large portion of the rest will follow anyone like sheep.
Without conflict, there’s nothing to drive a story, not a catalyst for the character’s growth either. Makes for a pretty boring story, huh?
LOTR Seen Thru the Lens of Moral Relativism:
Let’s take this misguided utopian ideal and apply it to the Ring trilogy, since it’s Tolkien’s birthday. The book starts out the same, with Bilbo getting the ring and heading off. He’s of course followed by the other 3 hobbits. However, when the Nazgul start chasing them, they quickly agree that the poor creatures must be that way because they led unhappy lives, and that if they just approach them and show some compassion and understanding, everybody will be friends.
The Nazgul kill all four hobbits in a gruesome manner and return the ring to Sauron who promptly takes over Third Earth, reducing it and it’s population to ash. End of book and trilogy.
Sounds exciting, huh? Yeah… not really.
Social justice and equality are wonderful ideas we should all embrace. NOT when they’re taken to such an extreme that there’s no such thing as right or wrong, OR we can’t even admit that somebody did something evil.
When it gets to the point that standing up to evil is seen as the real evil, especially in a completely fictional setting, something is VERY wrong with society’s thinking.
As I’ve said before, the worst evils out there have been caused by “well meaning” people taking good ideas way too far.