Fantasy Debate

Discussion in 'Every Day Debating' started by Cascador, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. Druid of Lûhn

    Druid of Lûhn The Little Lamb.

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    Re: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

    tl;dr

    Game of Thrones is about 13th or 14th century, whilst Tolkien's setting is pre-10th century. Women had a really important part from the early 13th century onwards, but before that you only had very few that were seen as important; Tolkien has Arwen, Galadriel, Eowyn, …
     
  2. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    Re: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

    All in supporting roles. There were no women in the Fellowship. And the fact Eowyn had to disguise herself as a man to participate in the battle. Yes, she kills the Witch-King, declaring she's a woman. That's the only scene where you can't accuse Tolkien of sexism. However of course she didn't join Aragorn (due to illness) and the rest to the Black Gate. And maybe you had only a few who were seen as important pre-10th century. So, what stopped Tolkien of including them? You have a wizard in the fellowship. Would a witch in training (for example) to join the fellowship be too far-fetched? After all while based on the real world, it isn't. It's still fantasy. It didn't stop other writers who didn't agree with Tolkien's view on women, race and such, to import them in their stories even at that time and before his time.

    Btw I think the whole debate should be moved or this thread will be locked down.

    edit: I contacted Olivia_The_Lamb if these posts couldn't be moved.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013
  3. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    I'm not at all offended! Your responses have been polite, well thought out, and have me thinking and evaluating/re-evaluating my own ideas on the issue. How could I ever be offended by that? :) Similarly, I hope you know that I would never deliberately offend you either.

    Fair enough. Likes and dislikes are completely individual. I can't bring myself to finish reading GRRM's ASoIaF because they got way too dark and gruesome for my tastes.

    I don't disagree with you necessarily. I'm only trying to point out why they might have been the way they were. Let's face it, revolutionaries of social reform are the exceptional individuals in the population, not the norm.

    I agree to disagree with you on this point. More on that below because first I want to make a point about this:

    I have to disagree with you on this. My husband's grandmother is 92 and she was living in the Netherlands during WW2. She showed me a picture once that was taken on the day her town was liberated from the German occupation. It was a picture of the townspeople jumping up and down in the streets for joy and the photographer happened to catch her in the shot. She was 9 months pregnant with her first baby at the time. It was an absolutely amazing picture for us of the younger generation to see but for one thing. She told us that she got in all kinds of trouble from her relatives for being in out in the street that day. Why? Because of her "condition". Women were "secluded" when their pregnancies became obvious in those days. She explained that it was because it was considered "indecent" for a woman to be seen in such a condition. Her family was hardly one of the elite either. My own grandmother couldn't even bring herself to say the word "pregnant" during her life for the same reason (and boy did my mother and I laugh ourselves silly about that! :D). As a single mom living below the poverty line with four daughters, my grandmother could hardly be considered one of the elite either. These kind of attitudes are sexism in action in the most common of folk.

    Now, about this:

    I think I'd rather use an extreme and arbitrary example to illustrate my point rather than an explanation.
    Awhile back we had a debate between me and a bunch of other people about plants, of all things. To summarize it, my argument was this: Plants must feel their own version of pain. Pain is only awareness of damage to one's body. Plants must be aware that they are being damaged because they have evolved defenses to protect themselves from damage. The sensation of being aware of damage to one's body must be unpleasant because if it was a neutral or pleasant sensation, that would be mal-adaptive for survival. Plants don't need a nervous system to be aware of damage to themselves. A mammal without a nervous system would die. Since plants live without one all the time, it follows that they must have some equivalent system that serves the same functions, including sensing bodily damage. Therefore, plants must experience their own version of pain.
    Now I don't think that this is a mainstream / common belief, and frankly, it's pretty "out there" compared to the way most people in our society regard plants. The responses I got to my arguments in that thread support that assumption pretty clearly I think.
    For illustrative purposes, let's say that at sometime in the future this theory is somehow proven to be correct. (and no, I'm not saying that it is correct, I'm just using it as an example... we're not getting into that debate again here in this thread! lol) So now the futuristic society (who has managed to develop some kind of artificial food) looks back on our current societal morality and beliefs about plants and thinks.... OMG, how could they?!?!?!!?
    You used HG Wells as an example of how intelligent people could think about the problems in their own society and then educate others about them. In your posts you seem to wonder how come Tolkein and others didn't jump on board the women's rights train after discovering HG Wells and his revolutionary ideas? How could they not see that their beliefs were in error? They were people of intelligence, were they not?
    In our example that I've given above, the futuristic society might look back on us and say, "Well somebody posted those ideas about plants on the internet way back in the day so it wasn't like people didn't know about it. They must have been people of poor character and deliberately hateful mindset if they would continue their barbaric attitudes towards plants after reading that. How could they not see?!!?!?!? Furthermore, why did they continue writing stories without plants portrayed as living organisms worthy of consideration and and equal rights to mammals?"

    You also said this:
    In light of my example above, I would ask you this then: would you judge yourself and our society as harshly as you judge people like Lewis and Tolkein for their beliefs? Or will you consider where they're coming from, learn from their mistakes and go through life doing the best you can with what you know and believe at the time?

    It's easy to look back at the past and condemn people and societies for what we consider to be blatantly obvious errors and misconceptions today. I think that I really like the idea of thinking that I'm "enlightened" compared to previous generations... that is until I skin a carrot, transect it's living body and then throw it in my boiling soup anyway. Then I have to think that just maybe those patriarchal types who wrote Arwen in as little more than an inspirational seamstress for Aragorn might just have been peeling their own carrots. (So much for a healthy diet BTW.....lol)

    Yup! it sure is....

    I don't think Lewis would have thought so though, which is why I assume he presented such a clear vision of his ideology in his writings. There are few shades of grey there, only black and white for the most part.
    I haven't read all of the Dune books and I think I read the first few at least 20 years ago now. If what you say about Frank Herbert is true, I think that's an interesting perspective you have there. From what you've said, you believe Herbert's books reflect a progression in the author's life journey, rather than the journey of the characters in the story. That would be finding a way through the muddy waters indeed, and it would be all the more fascinating for it. :)
     
  4. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    When you spoke of your grandmother being judged of being seen when she was pregnant, I didn't immediately jump to the conclusion that it was "sexism". Yes, it could be seen as sexism today, but it was more about social graces. The reason why it was seen as taboo when a woman was seen pregnant in public was because it was evidence of sex. I actually talked to Padmé about this and she said the same. It wasn't just about being sexist, it was a social taboo. She even gave some examples that over a hundred years ago it was seen as wrong to coo over children, even newborns. To acknowledge them was all right, but to go to the extend of appreciating the baby, laughing etc... was seen as wrong. She even gave an example concerning men. In the Victorian Era and so forth it was seen as the height of bad manners to look at his watch in public. This gave others the impression that he was bored and wanted to be elsewhere. This has nothing to do with sexism towards the male.

    Now plants register damage, not pain, like any other living being. It's the only way they can heal themselves. But they don't suffer or anything. But let's say to continue your example that they do suffer and that is something they discover in the future. Or maybe already a belief that is going on today. So you asked me would I criticize myself as harshly as Tolkien or C.S Lewis. Well in comparison I don't think I have done something wrong to the extend that Lewis did or Tolkien did, however I have done some bad things in the past and I do judge myself heavily on that. I don't condone my behaviour back then. Things like criticizing religious people in a harsh way. It was just wrong of me. So do I judge myself on that, yes I do. But I was ignorant to a point. Maybe because of the society I lived in. Maybe because of others who thought the same as me? Would I judge them, yes. I just hope they learned from their mistakes just as I did.

    Let's bring up another example (I used him as an example before). You learn from society, i.e your parents and everybody around you. From the world you live in in general. Now Mel Gibson's father was a holocaust denier. And years back I didn't know what kind of man Gibson was. You're almost thinking 'Poor Gibson, having a father like that', but now I know more about Gibson, and he's as bad if not worse than his father. So I'm not thinking the same any more as in 'Poor Gibson, cruel father.... Must have hated him.' So of course I judge Mel Gibson. Or should we still excuse him because he learned all his flaws (being sexist, racist etc...) from his father, just as other people learned from society? Of course not.

    And actually sometimes you think that in other times it was not better... While in other times it was worse. For example (if Foin read this he would explode), in Ancient Greece homosexual activities were seen as quite normal. While in Rome, I remember that there was this Roman General, who murdered his first-born son seconds after death. And it was seen as 'Romantic', because that's where the term came from. Again do you excuse all that because it were the times. No, you acknowledge that it is wrong. Even today the Chinese make huge profit and likely might become the most powerful country in the world in 20 years as some predict, simply because the system they have is similar to having slaves. They hardly pay their people anything. If you look back in history the greatest Empires were built on the back of slaves. (Ancient Rome, America, United Kingdom, Ancient Greece). And in America they even still profit from slaves today, just because of all the buildings they've built. They set the foundations. We'll jump to another time. Anti-Semitism was quite the norm as you would put it in the early 20th century. So again do you accept that and say it were the times.

    But to come back to your example of plants. It's not really a good example. The difference being that women's rights was not something unheard of in Tolkien's time. And the idea of plants suffering? Well we know they have no brain, so call us widely ignorant, because we seriously doubted they would suffer (if they actually did) because of that reason. It would have to be for us a great scientific discovery that plants do suffer and let the news spread. While with women's rights it did already exist.

    And about liking and disliking. It's not really the same. (or is it?) Do you judge GRRM' himself and/or his writing or is it simply a matter of taste, because I DO judge Tolkien and his writing. For me it's about the intent, because I know what kind of man Tolkien was and what the writing is about (though the racism is more obvious than the sexism). So if somebody else had written LOTR with open views similar to today, maybe I could enjoy LOTR, because it's not exactly out of my taste, except for the things I've tried to point out. Again I have no problem with others enjoying it, as long as they don't try to excuse it.
     
  5. JNK

    JNK King of tards

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    good Lord fellas... you can write.... tons of tons of lines ;) I suck in that department ;)
     
  6. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    I think it is wrong to look at a fantasy story and try to impose the real world upon it too much. We can certainly say in a theoretical way how it compares to the modern or ancient world; but we can't say its right or wrong because the nature of fantasy in itself is that its taking us somewhere fantastical. Somewhere that is a fantasy; a different world, region, race, people, cultures, etc.....

    As such I've no problem with sexism, racism, speciesism. Rape, pillaging, murder, slaughter, genocide, genetic weapons etc.. those are all fine too. Because its not real. Just because the fantasy people in the book I'm reading identify differently to myself in some situations or have a different social structure doesn't really bother me - in fact I greatly enjoy when the fantasy world IS different. I often come to feel that when I read a fantasy book where the characters just feel like modern people with modern values etc... I start to feel like I'm reading a weaker book (assuming the setting isn't contemporary modern times of course).


    To go back to Lord of the Rings I don't find it sexist that there are no female leads. Indeed I fail to see why that represents an element of sexism. Because if you take the fact that there is (for example) no female in the Fellowship of the Ring then you've got to say - well there isn't a gay person in the fellowship either - or one representing each ethnic group - or even each species. You start to end up unravelling the story because you want everyone to be equal in standing and representation and then you're not really reading (or writing) a story but more just trying to appease every single possible reader group and the story and world you've built slowly falls apart.

    Tolkien's Middle Earth is Tolkiens Middle Earth - women and men have their place as do all others. For my own reading of the works I get the impression that its not that Women are chastised or downtrodden; its just that their role in life doesn't lend them to feats of war or adventure. Yeah they are the ones who take care of the house and is that a bad thing? It's just how life is.
    I can appreciate that a female reader might read the story and say "well great, but now I want to read a fantasy book with a female lead". And that's fine - perfectly fine, sometimes I want to read a book where the lead is something and I go out and find a book that does that - I don't impose upon other works the requirement to meet that standard nor consider them lesser because they don't fit specifically with my taste in that regard.

    I'd also point out that of the females we meet in Lord of the Rings most are fairly strong in their character itself - Mr's Sackvile Baggins certainly does not (as a character) appear to be a weak person or socially down trodden and indeed a woman strikes down the Witch King.
     
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  7. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    Well, I don't really have a problem in general with it either. There's lot of these elements in ASOIAF, but we know that the writer doesn't condone any of this. If I fail to see that he does condone one of these, then the fault is on me. However with Tolkien we do know that he was racist, sexist etc.. So that is what is different

    Well, LOTR is meant for a larger audience, even children possibly, so you don't need to highlight certain sexualities in the story, hence why there is also no actual intercourse in the story. And I do think that what you say about ethnic groups is an interesting point. But that's something I can look besides, after all it did take place in a western world. Middle-Earth was kind of his own version of Europe, while Mordor did represent the East, hence why the orcs were described as dark-skinned versions of the heroes almost. Which does trouble me. Some of us are used to grow up in environments with mostly white people. So I'm not going to complain that a book doesn't include any other ethnic groups, just as long as they aren't portrayed in a bad light.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2013
  8. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    When Tolkien grew up many people were (by todays standards) quite racist. Much of it was built on a stronger sense of national pride coupled with significant inexperience with ethnic groups.

    That said I don't really care about an authors views; I care about their writing. I don't care if Tolkien was a racist and if Anne McCafrrey didn't like gay people. What matters is that I enjoy the fantasy worlds that they write about. Sure their personal views will directly influence the worlds they make, but so long as I'm reading a story and not a preachers service trying to convert me to their world view then I'm ok with that.

    From what I've heard the Sword of Truth series starts off strong, but ends up developing into a preachers service through the writing. The author also has some odd views on what he's writing but I don't care about that bit of course.


    I think if you research the author and try to impose their world views onto the worlds that they make in fantasy you can run a strong risk that you end up forgetting the fantasy and you start to make connections that might be present but which were never intended nor obvious based upon normal reading of the material. Indeed many authors might slip things into their work subconsciously instead of making a deliberate choice to add them.
     
  9. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    Well that's where we differ I'm afraid. I think I could enjoy LoTR to a certain extend, but my knowledge of Tokien would ruin the experience and tbh, it's not just that. I just don't find LoTR that interesting, really. But that is a matter of personal taste, not what I described in earlier posts. And I think that I disagree with others about whether it was intentionally done or not. Considering what I learned of Tolkien and Lewis, I am not sure if it was intended, though imo it seems likely. With Lewis I'm sure, he did try to make a point when it came to women. With Tolkien I'm not, because his messages were subtle, though I'm pretty sure the religious propaganda was intentional. I just can't see how he, as others suggested, would overlook the sexism and racism.

    And as I said Faerlind. Just because Tolkien grew up in a racist society doesn't make it right. I'm glad at least that Faerlind does admit that there is a problem concerning sexism and racism and such in the stories and that she doens't condone it. That is, as I said in earlier posts, where I do feel offended. With people who deny there is a problem. Now from I've read of you Overread, you don't deny it either, but you just rather ignore it so you can enjoy the fantasy in these stories. Well, I got no problem with that. If you enjoy it that's good for you.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread Wolfing it up! Staff Member

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    Aye, I would say that where we perceive to see racism/sexism can vary. Indeed many times these situations are not black and white and what can appear very insulting to one group can appear very tame or with no threat at all to another group. Then you also have groups that feel insulted on behalf of other groups which can open up a whole new can of worms as they tend to be overly protective and as a result can see even more insult than even those groups can see.


    It can also vary so much upon context as well.

    For example if I say "Hello Nigger" or "Hey Nigger" to a black person this can appear both as the height of insult through to just a general greeting depending upon the group of individuals I'm talking to. Indeed who I am saying the words can also greatly affect their reception.
     
  11. S.J. Faerlind

    S.J. Faerlind Flashlight Shadowhunter

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    Maybe we have different definitions of the word "sexism" then? To my way of thinking: if people consider pregnancy as visible, incontrovertible proof that a woman had sex and that is considered as "indecent" by society, then that is sexism at a grass roots level. If it was strictly a social taboo to demonstarte evidence of having sex, then why were children allowed to be seen in public, displaying the fact that both of their parents were "guilty" of the social taboo? I can't think of a single example of a society where men routinely hid their children away from the eyes of others because they were proof that a man had sex at one point. If secluding pregnant women was only due to a social taboo, then why were women supposed to hide their pregnancies but men didn't have to hide their children? That's a double standard.


    I don't think it's possible to force anyone to learn from their mistakes. It's been my experience that judging people harshly for them only polarizes them against a different point of view anyway and how does that help the situation? I happen to think that judgement is almost always about power: it's about who's right and who's wrong. It isn't usually about reform or resolving issues. I try my best not to judge others because of that. I don’t always succeed however so I guess that makes me a hypocrite.

    Why do we need to "excuse" him? He can stand on the sidewalk and expound upon his ideals as much as he likes. I can choose to listen if I want to, but I don’t have to accept those ideals. He can attack someone in the street because of a racist belief. I can choose to intervene and defend that person. I can also vote for political parties that will enact laws that say that assault is a crime. If Mel is sent to prison to keep others safe I can choose to visit him and debate his ideology with him, or not at my option.
    There is no judgement in that approach, save one, and that is this: Is this ideology right for me? I don’t have to excuse or judge anybody but myself then because after all, I’m really not qualified to do that anyway. At first glance, that seems like a recipe for anarchy. Imagine a society where every individual goes about doing whatever they feel is best for them according to their own moral belief. Societies need rules in order to function after all. Personally, I think it ties right in with the concept of democracy and the laying down of acceptable common rules of behaviour (ie: laws). Everyone gets their say in the process of voting so laws are supposed to be a consensus of what the majority feels is in their best interest.

    I feel like we’re belabouring the same point and that we’ve already explained our positions on this already but here we go again......
    No, I wouldn’t accept it. I would understand it in context. The past can’t be changed and neither can the people who lived it. It was like that back then, period. Understanding in context does not mean that I have to own slaves myself, buy goods made in China or demean anyone else’s religion. As I have said many times, I believe there is good and bad in all things. I’ve noticed many comments in all kinds of debates that lead me to believe that people feel the need to absolutely accept or absolutely reject things. If one part of something/someone feels “wrong” to them, the entire thing/person must be “wrong”. Honestly, I don’t understand that mentality. Nuggets of “right” are often interspersed among all the nuggets of “wrong” in even the “worst” of things or people. It is possible to sift through all of that, take what I want from it, admire the good stuff about it and write the rest off as nothing I want to keep.

    I try pretty hard not to judge anybody beyond myself. I have no problem with GRRM himself or with the quality of his writing. I think he’s a great writer actually. My inability to finish his books has nothing to do with judgement of the man or his ideology. It has to do with the fact that the brutality and psychological trauma his characters go through in the story makes me feel physically ill when I read about it. I couldn’t finish Goodkind’s SoT series either once his villains started torturing children. (That book hit the wall :D) I don’t enjoy reading that stuff and it’s as simple as that.

    :D

    Amen to this post and let me add that I think it’s far better for humanity to explore harmful aspects of life in fantasy than it is to pursue them in reality. Maybe we should all go play those hyper-violent video games and get it out of our systems! Just remember to leave all that bad stuff firmly in fantasy where it isn’t going to hurt anyone. Personally, I like JNK’s smurf-killer game. :D
     
  12. Cascador

    Cascador Who's Anakin?

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    Well men were judged if they gave too many attention to their children. As I said with cooing too much. That was indecent of them. This was mostly with men, not women. For them it was more normal as long as they also didn't exaggerate. But men could barely give attention to their children. And yeah it is sexist. And I think it's wrong. Well judging them is a big word, because you pointed out later about me judging people. I don't judge everyone. I can't because I don't know them. Just like with Tolkien, I can't completely judge him, but he was imo just not a good person. (I'm sure he does have fine qualities) if you think that he was sexist, racist etc... And is it seen in his work. Again judging is a big word. I don't like to say that I do. I just don't like the guy very much or his writing. But understand very well that he wasn't exceptional as George Orwell and such. And you can't entirely blame him for that. I just think that a man of his intelligence could have learned from the mistakes in his society. Maybe I'm overestimating the man.

    See my point above about 'judging'.

    Well with Mel I would say I do judge him. But yeah what do you see as judging... I don't approve with his actions, his ideology. But I'm not really thinking that he should go to jail immediately or put in a mental institution. I mean he has done some very crazy aggressive things. I can only have my own opinion on him, and yeah it's certainly not a good one. So yeah if that is judging... Ok, I judge him.

    Well yeah I do think we're going a bit in circles. But indeed not all is black and white. Like I said I'm Tolkien also had good qualities. But I'm more familiar with his bad traits, rather than his good ones. So I'm not really saying that he was evil or anything. I don't see him as completely wrong, because as I said earlier I don't know him completely. I just don't approve the things I've already mentioned many times. And by that I just can't read his books as I believe that you can see what kind of mindset he had and it is seen in his books. I could still read it, but that's different from appreciating it. But we've already talked about that as well.