Last time I'd talked about rather superficial and/or inappropriate attempts to weave commentary on real world social issues into a fantasy or scifi world. The discussion in the comments was FANTASTIC! I urge everyone to have a look if you haven't already.
The general consensus was that attempting to drop an analogy for social issues in a fantasy world that match those of the real world can be pretty clumsy and full of pitfalls. The main pitfall of that being an inadequate grasp of how social issues arise and develop sociologically and politically in any society and culture, or societies and cultures. Often a big faux pas is to give justification for racism (or any other issue) in the fantasy counterpart that doesn't exist in reality, thus in a way strengthening the validity of stereotypical/racist (or any other -ist) behavior in real life.
But how can one do that while avoiding the pitfall? Again, the general consensus was that the creator would have to do their homework and create the social issue organically in that world. That means the fantasy/ scifi world's history and sociopolitical interactions of different groups within and across cultures should be such that social friction will give rise to the problem the creator wants to exist. And to do that correctly (rather than sloppily as described above), in a way there should be no bad race.
If you have an “evil race”,
or an evil “school”
then this becomes justified:
Genocide does have a Disney song, who'd have thought.
Of course in Pocahontas, there has been clear demonstration that the Native Americans aren't an evil race and neither are the whites (though they have the most malicious instigators). Though I generally don't like Pocahontas for a gazillion reasons, I have to hand it to the movie that it doesn't villify any group as a lump sum.
In the same token, to have racism (or any such social issue) in fantasy, it has to be racism that makes sense within this fantasy world and without that being justified by any “inherently evil” group or race. Tolkien does it really well in Lord of the Rings, where there is clear enmity between the dwarves and the elves, solely because of their cultures and a sense of territorialism and ‘otherness’.
There's little that will change your opinion if you get to know an orc (as any hobbit can tell you), but when an elf and a dwarf getting to know each other better makes for one of the coolest bromances put on film- and a solid indication that the discrimination and enmity between these two races/cultures isn't based much on anything factual.
Social frictions all have a root in that “otherness” together with threat. A fear that these “others” will disrupt their norms, lives, security of livelihood, integrity, and more. This fear breeds enmity and hostility which can then be further cultivated by a society's nodes of power that use such enmity as a way to channel social discontent that stems from different issues into that one: poverty makes people angry? It's the Others' fault, not our shoddy management of resources. Disease makes people angry and terrified? It's the Others' fault, not our complete lack of precautions or preventions or ignorance. Drought? The Others did it! War? Definitely the Others made us do it. Etc.
This of course happens on both sides, because it's human nature to blame someone other than yourself. And in macro levels, yourself is your group where you feel you belong, and the “others” are someone that don't belong with you. And that goes for anything/anyone that can be “othered”. Women (or men) can be “othered” as lesser of the species. People with blue eyes can be “othered” as cursed within a group or those that have moles or anything that could (and should) sound ridiculous, from outward appearance to sexual orientation or special needs, not just people that are foreign one way or the other.
The point is that to depict such an issue, the fantasy world's discrimination must be just as baseless and frivolous as the one in real life, rather than an aping that looks more like the fantasy world wearing the real world's skin really badly than anything else.
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 10, 2024
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