Friday, November 06, 2009

killing orcs

In my post on Iglourious Basterds I said
In a way I think we're being tempted to indulge in sick fantasies and think it's OK because it's happening to Nazi's.
I think I should have left out the "in a way". That's how the film was (misleadingly) marketed.

The idea of righteously slaughtering enemies does seem to appeal to us. Lot's of fiction panders to this. It always bothered me in Lord of the Rings the way killing orcs is treated. It's one thing to kill them in war when they're the aggressors, but orc slaughter is often treated as a good thing in itself even when a particular orc isn't threatening. Humans are encouraged not to show mercy or take prisoners because of how mean the orcs are. We're okay with it because they really are nasty pieces of work, they're literally created that way! specifically so we don't feel bad about enjoying their suffering. It's not like individual orcs have a choice in anything, what if some of them were sensitive poets, what the hell are they supposed to do? Defect to the humans? Yeah right.

Orcs are not just bloodthirsty and hate filled, they're ugly and smell bad. Even though they're pretty intelligent, we're encouraged to think of them as lower than animals and that it's a moral duty to exterminated them. A service done for the world and the future. Given what we know about how humans treat outsiders and how genocides usually proceed in real life, is it wrong of me to find this a bit creepy?

(I know it's "just fantasy" and I am a big LOTR fan. But I do think it's true that films like this are appealing to a dark side of our nature.)


Trevor Black said...

The laughter of the cinema did bother me. I laughed at some of the killing too. That bothered me too. I know we don't only laugh when things are funny, we also laugh at toilet humour , baby jokes, and other things that make us feel uncomfortable.

I am not sure if this movie falls in to the category of things I would have been better off not watching.

I am a big free speech and experience person. That most things are worth it. I talk about openess and honesty and all that jazz, honesty even about the dark stuff, honesty even in the testing of ideas that are maybe not true. But more and more I think honesty (not just about truth) depends on emotional maturity, and perhaps some things we are just not up to the task for...

Perhaps, for some things, it is better either not to know or to just turn your head and not watch.

TLT said...

LOTR may appeal to our dark side of our nature, to want to categorise the enemy as wholly evil and subhuman. It makes it easier to kill them.

Nevertheless, I found the Orcs and other such "evil" characters not entirely satisfying to watch. A character that's more a human mix of light and dark is more interesting and poses more interesting moral dilemmas. Gollum is a good example. For interest, what characters do you like with "good" and "evil" characteristics?