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January 4, 2004: Cowboys and Indians

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One more round on the Tolkien stuff - An Insult to American Indians!


See this:
The Racist Tapestry of Lord of the Rings !
Lloyd Hart, indy-media (Paris) « Déculottez vos phrases pour être à la hauteur des sans-culottes (1968) »  Monday, December 29, 2003

It goes like this:


I don't imagine that it was the intention of the director or the producers of the Lord of the Rings films to paint a racist stereotypical tapestry over what could be described as a basic set of principles of humanity's behavior in the natural environment and with each other.  However, the fact is that the only people of skin color in the entire three part series of films are all associated with the Dark Lord Sauron, the destruction of the earth and all of its occupants.  Not to mention the elephant riding mercenaries that resemble the cultures of the Arab world as well as Africa, Persia and East Asia and the fact that the Monarch of the land of Rohan, King Théoden a white guy yelled out "You great warriors of the West" in the final part of his speech to rouse the troops into battle in the third film.

In these times when a homicidal maniac from Texas (the Texas capital punishment policy under Bush) has stolen the American throne and called for a "crusade" against the "evil doers" in nations that white people have been invading, terrorizing, raping and pillaging in for 5000 years with zero provocation, I think we could manage some cultural sensitivity in our popular culture which one must acknowledge has a powerful propaganda affect on the general population that participates in it. 

... It is important to understand that young people are impressionable and influenced by the symbols foisted on them by the popular culture.  It would not have been that difficult to make a contemporary version of the Lord of the Rings that included the heroic symbols of people of skin color.  I think J.R.R. Tolkien wouldn't have minded including people of skin color as heros in these films if he were alive today.  Especially after witnessing the rise of the civil rights movements in both the U.S. and the UK.  I'm so glad that the Dwarfs, Elves and Hobbits finally got their due but unfortunately this was washed away by the lack of heroic images of people of skin color.  After watching the Lord of the Rings films I thank the universe and Mother Earth for the Rap/hip-hop culture and the counterbalancing influence the Rap/hip-hop culture has on the youth here in America and around the world.


Yeah, yeah.  Heard it before.

Glenn Reynolds over at InstaPundit has this to say:


Some racist twit in Paris thinks that the Uruk-hai in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings look like American Indians.

As someone of Native American descent, I'm deeply offended.  So is reader David Emigh, who writes: "As a Cherokee brought up in New Mexico I can think of NO Amerind that looks like the Uruk-hai."

All my relatives are tusk-free!  A guy who sees a resemblance to American Indians in the Uruk-hai is like a guy who sees a resemblance to black people in chimpanzees.


Okay then.

Recommendation?  Don't read either of these links.

Cowboy Films


A few days ago Dick Gephardt was fretting about cowboys again.


See: Gephardt Says Bush 'Worries Me'

Democrat Critical of President's Foreign Policy Expertise

Dan Balz, The Washington Post, Thursday, January 1, 2004; Page A01


Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said yesterday that President Bush lacks an understanding of the complexities of national security policy and has displayed a cowboy mentality toward the rest of the world that threatens to leave the country less secure against terrorist and other threats. ...


Yep.  The same old line.   A critic who calls himself Tacitus says this (the URL is


... there's nothing wrong with having a "cowboy kind of a belief."  The implication in the use of "cowboy" as a pejorative - which, as far as I can tell, originated in Europe and was imported for the use of American Democrats - is that cowboys (popular culture cowboys, mind you) have incorrect, oversimplified views of the world.  But that's not really the message of truly great cowboy movies and literature.  The hero-cowboys of Shane, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, High Noon, The Searchers, and The Magnificent Seven all confronted profound moral issues and eventually saw things as they were.  Most important, they took action and accepted the consequences of that action.  Themes of altruistic self-sacrifice, defense of the weak, and even anti-racism suffuse these films: the cowboy protagonists are noble.  Calling someone a "cowboy" as a pejorative reveals a profound ignorance of a significant section of American popular culture and a contempt for the moral content of the common man's entertainment - hardly desirable attributes in a would-be president.  Unwittingly on the part of those who fling it about, it's quite the compliment.


Sure, sure - he means the Jack Palance versus the farmers kind of cowboy, not the Yul Brynner versus the bandits kind of cowboy.  Right, Dick.


One shouldnt malign cowboys, per se, it seems.  It may be time to consider the classic films.


Neal Gabler did that in a piece in Salon, writing about Arnold Schwarzenegger in addition to George Bush.


See Pax Schwarzenegger

He's got the boots and the twang, but Bush is no cowboy when it comes to foreign policy.  Instead, he's the Terminator, a cyborg lumbering through a very long revenge movie.

Salon Magazine, April 10, 2003  


Here are some key points:


The Europeans [who use cowboy as a pejorative] are wrong, largely because they don't really understand the western and its values.


As the Europeans caricature the cowboy, his signal characteristic was that he shot first and asked questions later.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In reality, the idealized cowboy of our westerns was always under control and never acted precipitously, preemptively or wildly.  It was the gangster who sprayed his machine gun indiscriminately, the gunfighter who made his bullets count.  More, the cowboy never chose to fight and certainly wasn't eager to do so.  A reluctant warrior, he usually had to be goaded into battle, breathing a heavy sigh as he finally strapped on his guns and lumbered down that dusty street.


... In the western, and in warfare, this reluctance was less a function of the gunman's caution than of his humility.  He was clearly a moral figure who believed in his cause, which typically was to defeat the villains, and establish a democratic order; yet his code was instinctive, not ideological.  He appreciated complexity and difficulty, and he realized that no matter how noble the end, the outcome was never certain.


... As a result, cowboys didn't swagger or vaunt.  They exuded a quiet confidence rather than arrogance.


Perhaps, above all, there was always, in the best and most enduring westerns, a tragic dimension.  The cowboy was fighting to facilitate a social order and a civilization of which, poignantly, he knew he could never really be a part because he was, by temperament and profession, outside its boundaries.  He did his job and left.  He also understood that when one assumes the obligation to vanquish evil, one must sacrifice one's own personal comfort and gratification.


Look closely at the films of John Wayne.  What one sees is that Wayne must always choose between his duty to society and his personal desires, especially the desire for a family, which is why Wayne is usually alone in these films.  (His best movie, "The Searchers," is partly about this sacrifice.)  This accounts for the weariness one often feels in the western hero - that stern, sad countenance, and that slow gait that seem so much a part of the national iconography.  American soldiers often have the same look and attitude.  It is a form of virtue.


I guess Bush is more Jack Palance than John Wayne.  But perhaps he'll do his job and leave.  Anyway, folks hear Dick Gephardt say Bush is a cowboy, and decide this is an insult to cowboys, as we know them in our westerns.