Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Diversity is where ya find it...Unless you're hit over the head with it...
From a recent article in Men's News Daily, it is apparent that one Andrea Lewis has a bone to pick with J.R.R. Tolien and his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. According to Mizz Lewis, the books are racist and sexist because:

a) The main characters seem to represent Euro-centric figures (i.e. are white), or reinforce the notion that only white people are good or can fight evil
b) The few female characters, according to her, are usually secondary, subservient and chained to a patriarchy.
c) Any mention of "people of color" is typically in the negative, although I hardly recall Tolkien ascribing racial features to any of them
d) One would get the idea that Middle Earth was a bastion of white (human) male patriarchy run rampant.

Well, apparently Mizz Lewis has not read Tolkien, whose books are certainly more "diverse" than anything that purports to be so today. This got me to thinking about what I read as a child (unbidden and without the constant reminders about diversity, thank you) in the late 70's and early 80's.

When I was growing up, I read comic books, as I'm sure most young boys do (or did). Within those pages, one could find superheroes that were: Immoratals (Thor, Hercules), Mutants (the X-Men), blind (Daredevil), Androids (the Vision), accidentally-enhanced (The Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Spider Man), on life support (Iron Man), older than dirt (Captain America). You could also find superheroes from other worlds (the Green Lanterns, for example), black (the Black Panther, Giant Man), female (Batgirl, the Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Hellcat, The Invisible Woman, and Wonder Woman --- an amazon, no less). You could also be introduced to aquatic beings like the Submariner and Aquaman, who quite frankly was probably the lamest, most useless superhero of all time.

Sounds like a pretty diverse group to me.

If one looks at, say, the X-Men, we see a group that "evolves" from being a bunch of middle-to-upper class, white, American teenagers, who are eventually joined by: a Canadian (Wolverine), a Russian (Collosus, and at the height of the Cold War, no less), a Scotsman (Banshee), an African Woman (Storm, and african-african, not Halle Berry, BTW), a Japanese (Sunfire), a devout-Christian, demonic circus freak, who's darker than Jesse Jackson (Nightcrawler). They are led by Professor X, who himself, is confined to a wheelchair. Their arch-enemy, Magneto, is a survivor of the Nazi death camps. They are further strengthed at times by a disco diva (the Dazzler), and a naif, pre-teen (Sprite).

Heck, even Wolverine's old Canadian superhero outfit (Alpha Flight) counted a pair of French-Canadian twins (Aurora and Polaris) and an American Indian (Shaman) amongst their number.

When I graduated from comics to Tolkien, the diversity was even more ridiculously obvious. Tolkien wrote about elves (five different varieties, no less), Hobbits (two varieties), Men (eight different varieties, at least), Dwarves (two kinds), Orcs (tortured and seduced elves, categorized by utility). There are Ents and Huorons, tree-like beings. There are angelic-like beings, such as Saruman, Gandalf and Tom Bombadil. The undead and demons abound. Dragons, with cruel intelligence and cunning, abound in the tales of the First Age.

And the women of Middle Earth are NOT the powerless slaves of the patriarchal order Mizz Lewis believes them to be. The wisest and most powerful of the elves was Galadriel,a woman. It is Eowyn who finally defeats the Nazgul in the battle before the gates of Gondor, defending her fallen king --- a foe that no man could stand against. The tales of the First Age (the Silmarillion) abound with brave, resourceful and strong women. All you have to do to find them is to look for them (i.e. read the damn books and screw the movies).

Eventually, I moved into the realm of mythology, which is chock-full of powerful female gods, amazons, Valkyries, Furies, and witches, who operate outside the gender-norms we're all supposed to disdain.

I read encycolpedias, cover-to-cover, in my spare time and so I learned about other parts of the world, the people that lived there and the notable non-white, non-Euro, non-American notables listed therein. It was not perfect knowledge, granted, by it was an awareness.

The point is this: I did not need the PC police to tell me to read these things, I gravitated to them naturally because I was left alone to find my own interests and raised to use my own brain.
I did not analyze and categroize according the gender or race because there was no need to. In my opinion, people are people, and are identified as individuals, not as groups. I still hold to that opinion, although Mizz Lewis and others of her ilk do not, presumably because they could not earn something like an honest living if they did.

But then again, her agenda has nothing to do with "education" or "enlightenment" or even improvement of the self. It has to do with indoctrination and the belief that only she and her buddies know how to think.

I think Mizz Lewis has an abundance of free time and nothing better to do with it.

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