Power Around the Dragon
Hollywood brings them out, doesn’t it?
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
September 18th, 2022
I could be writing about Trump’s possible (likely) treason, and the increasingly vicious tactics of his brownshirt followers. I could discuss Ukraine’s resurgence against the Russians. That would cheer most folk up. I could talk about the looming catastrophe in the UK, where they named as prime minister someone who physically and ideologically looks like the discards from Margaret Thatcher’s embalming. Hell, I could even talk about how the Dodgers might win 113 games this year, but how they had an unfair advantage because they play in the same division as the San Francisco Giants.
Instead, I’m going to talk about two sort-of competing television extravaganzas, and the flat-out weird response some of the viewers have had.
They’re both prequels, one to Game of Thrones (GoT) and the other to the Lord of the Rings (LotR). Both have massive budgets and a plethora of special effects. HBO’s House of the Dragon (HotD) features everyone’s favorite family of firebugs, the Targaryens. It stars Paddy Considine, Matt Smith, and Rhys Ifans. Amazon has Rings of Power (RoP), with a mostly British cast, and the story takes place over thousands of years long before LotR. For the TV series, thousands of years is compressed to several dozen years, meaning a few corners got cut.
Four episodes in, I think RoP is the better of the two, but that’s not saying much. Remember how GoT sagged and stumbled in the final two seasons? HotD seems to be following that sad legacy, only without the memorable characters still alive in the final years of GoT. So far, none of the characters (except Matt Smith, who should have stayed a Doctor) are particularly memorable, and even Smith sees the wheels come off his role in a painfully awkward and utterly unnecessary sex scene with the princess, his teenage cousin (Ew…) For some reason, this grim encounter makes the now-retired-virgin princess decide to rape the captain of the guard. I don’t see things looking up from there. The dialogue is strained and wooden, to the point where it reminded me less of GoT and more of Star Wars’ second trilogy. Honestly, they could add Jar-Jar Binks and it would be an improvement. RoP has better acting and dialogue, but feels horribly crowded, as if they were trying to compress the entire Harry Potter series into one 24 page comic book.
So as you might imagine, I’m not writing in the role of a fan-boy outraged by attacks on my precious.
While I enjoy the spectacle of the series, which is where most of the budget went instead of good writers, the spectacle of the fen is even wilder, but lower budget and much less enjoyable.
Fans are howling in outrage because of the shows’ casting choices. Some of the actors aren’t white, or of pure European culture, or woke. This includes Elves, Trolls, Dwarves, Harfoots (Harfeet?) who were the pre-production run of Hobbits before they found New Zealand and settled down, along with Lannisters, Targaryens, Crab people, and the Snakes.
I can almost see the objection when it comes to the Targaryens, who all sport Johnny and Edger Winters’ style platinum-blonde hair. Mind you, none of the actors have that hair color in real life; they all either dye or sport wigs. Yes, even Daenerys. That doesn’t bother the dumb mouth breathers; they don’t care about the hair color. It’s the color of the skin that has them biting rocks and screaming incoherently whilst flinging their shit through the bars.
Anyone who thinks members of a royal family are all the same color don’t know much about history, European history in particular. The only reason the royal families have full sets of DNA at all is because politics required outmarriages to foreign potentates, including North Africa, Egypt, Turkey, and other locales. At least one of Henry VIII’s wives had skin darker than that of Mohammad Ali. The powerful families in George RR Martin’s universe aren’t any better behaved than royals in real life, and you can bet there’s all sorts of dotted lines and the occasional virgin birth cluttering up the royal genealogy. And swans. Lots of swans. So it’s utterly unremarkable that there should be a certain amount of variety.
As for elves, hobbits, faeries, etc: Listen, you shambling idiots. They are IMAGINARY. They don’t really exist. They have physical characteristics, of course. Dwarves are short and built like brick shithouses. Elves have those ear thingees. Harfeet have big hairy feet. Faeries have wings. Cardassians have vulvae in the middle of their foreheads. But rarely, if ever, is skin color or accent mentioned. Which means the show runners have free latitude to pick the best actor, as opposed to the best white actor.
Racism is silly on the face of it, since there really is no such thing as human races. Tolkien lived in an era when it was believed races had certain defining characteristics (blacks were of inferior intelligence, Japanese industrious, whites dumb bastards who vote for people like Trump) and it may or may not have informed the characteristics of the races with which he populated Middle Earth. But those races weren’t human—they were all imaginary. Even more imaginary than the traits bigots of the time attributed to others. Japan has hundreds of fables about the lazy farmer, or an indolent son, or a layabout wife, to demolish the notion that all Japanese were hard-working and driven. Sometimes the lazy character was the hero in the story!
The other big objection is that Tolkien based Middle Earth on “European culture.” It’s even been suggested that Mordor was modeled on Nazi Germany.
OK, good point.
European culture is real, you know. Anyone who has traveled to Europe knows that the Norwegians and the Italians are identical. Same appearance, same language, same culture, same religion. You can’t tell one from the other. Likewise the Flemish and the Turks. Identical, right down to the shoelaces.
Obviously, European culture is as real as dwarves, orcs, dragons or intelligence in Trump world.
So my message to the crowd screaming about how “woke” the shows are is this: Grow up, you idiots. It’s fantasy, just as your views on race and culture are fantasy, only much less obnoxious and self-serving. Find something better to worry about, such as why nobody wants to sleep with you.