Respectful Insolence

Does liking some of these make me a racist?

Nooooo!

Why do I do it? Why? It only raises my blood pressure and probably contributes to atherosclerosis, stress, and all sorts of other things likely to shorten my lifespan. But I do it anyway. In my interest in Holocaust denial, I keep an eye on a fair number of Holocaust denial and white nationalist (or, as I like to call them, white power rangers) sites. It’s usually the vile stuff that you’d expect, replete nasty and vicious attacks on Jews, blacks, or any other race that is “destroying our nation” or race or worse, diluting it out with all sorts of horrific multicultural miscegenation. Occasionally, though, I find something that’s just weird.

So it was when I came across a list of “Aryan movies.” The introduction states:

Remember, none of these films except Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will are ideologically perfect. They do, after all, come out of Hollywood.

Well, I should hope not. Movies thought “ideologically perfect” by white power rangers are in general quite disturbing. Birth of a Nation, though, despite its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan, was, alas, a stylistically and technically innovative film for its time; its blatant racism was, unfortunately, a product of its time. Given that, it’s of interest primarily for its history. Triumph of the Will, of course, was pure Nazi propaganda, nothing more than unadulterated Hitler worship. Sadly, it, too, was a technically and stylistically innovative film for its time.

Our white power ranger continues:

The following is a suggested list of flicks that have something of racial or moral significance to say to us, buried deep under all the Hollywood crap and propaganda.

My curiousity was piqued. What films were on the list? Take a look. (Don’t worry, as long as you don’t go elsewhere on the blog, there isn’t anything in the linked post that’s too disgusting, and I did make sure to use the rel=”nofollow” tag.)

Some are rather expected, like Birth of a Nation, Zulu, Triumph of the Will, and Gone With the Wind, and the execrable 1980s B movie Red Dawn. No surprises there. Some were unexpected to me, but, upon further reflection, I could understand why they might appeal to white power rangers. These films included films like Braveheart (the Scottish rebel who would rather die than submit), Rob Roy (about another Scottish rebel who would not submit, except without the torture, disembowelment, and beheading of the hero at the end), and Excalibur (white power rangers love to imagine themselves bold knights in a fantastical white paradise that never really existed).

But then there are some downright weird choices. For example, The Outlaw Josey Wales may portray a Union officer as the main villain, but the title character accumulates a bunch of Native Americans as part of his little band. That may not be entirely weird, but what about the inclusion of Soylent Green? I suppose you can view it as a mirror of white power ranger fears that the nonwhite races are out-proliferating whites, although I don’t recall any sort of racial message in the movie; it was a movie about overpopulation, which was one of the huge concerns of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Then there’s They Live! I suppose if you analogize the aliens disguised as humans from that movie to some sort of racial invasion, you might be able to link the movie to white power ranger beliefs, but it’s tenuous at best.

Then there’s Lord of the Rings. Man, I get so tired of seeing one of my favorite stories of all time, if not my favorite, held up by white power rangers as a story that supports their views. True, I can see how it would be very easy for these clowns to analogize Sauron’s minions, Orcs, to the sort of views they have about blacks and Hispanics supposedly overrunning the U.S. It’s not hard to imagine that. True, J.R.R. Tolkien clearly romanticizes and mythologizes English country living in a way that resonates with white power rangers. True, Tolkien was also clearly suspicious of modernity and equated industrialization with the destruction of of a way of life he loved. None of this, however, means that Tolkien’s work is a racist. They also forget that one of the key plot elements consisted of the four main races in the story (men, elves, dwarves, and Hobbits) working together to destroy Sauron as the fellowship of the ring. Multiculturalism!

Moreover, there is evidence from Tolkien’s own writings of what he thought of Hitler and his racial policies. For example, here’s an excerpt from a letter to Stanley Unwin dated July 25, 1938 in response to a letter from his German publishers considering a German translation of The Hobbit to ask him if he was “Aryan” in origin:

I must say the enclosed letter from Rütten and Loening is a bit stiff. Do I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of ‘arisch‘ origin from all persons of all countries?

Personally I should be inclined to refuse to give any Bestätigung (although it happens that I can), and let a German translation go hang. In any case I should object strongly to any such declaration appearing in print. I do not regard the (probable) absence of all Jewish blood as necessarily honourable; and I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine.

Tolkien was a product of his time as well. While he also despised Hitler’s racial policies, he also was not above writing that the orcs were “degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.” Some of the ideas he had do seem somewhat racist in the year 2008, but he was actually probably less racist than most of his contemporaries. In any case, for the movie versions of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson pretty much scrubbed any hint of troublesome material from the books, given that these movies were made in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The bottom line is that, for many of these movies, seeing an “Aryan” message is nothing more than a case of this particular white power ranger seeing what he wants to see in a movie. And I’m not a racist for liking some of these movies.

Comments

  1. #1 Brendan
    February 10, 2008

    It’s interesting that they list Tolkien among their favorites; it appears to be another of those odd little agreements between far-left and far-right since similar claims have been advanced from both sides about the racial politics of the novels.

  2. #2 Mister DNA
    February 10, 2008

    I can’t even begin to fathom what it must be like to enjoy a movie based on criteria such as how many Jews get killed or how villanious the minority characters are. That requires some epic stupidity.

    My brother and I enjoy an occasional viewing of Truimph of the Will only to play MST3K with it.

  3. #3 Charles H.
    February 10, 2008

    This reminds me of one of my favorite crackpot sites of all time: Maoist movie reviews.

  4. #4 IanR
    February 10, 2008

    “degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types”

    There’s actually an understanding in there of the fact that “least lovely” is culturally based. But yes, that picture of the orcs is apparent in his description of some of the men who served Saruman, who looked like half-orcs.

    What bothered me in reading the LotR was the description of some of the men from the far south who fought with Sauron in the Battle of the Pelennor (iirc) – they seemed like caricatures of Africans (black men with white eyes and red tongues). That bothered me for a long time, until I realised that it was supposed to be Frodo’s description of people he had never seen before.

    What’s interesting about the perception of the LotR as glorifying the “Aryan” is that while the “Aryans” of the book (the Hobbits, the Rohirrim and Gollum) play crucial roles, are in a client relationship with the Latins (Arnor) and Byzantines (Gondor).

  5. #5 Laser Potato
    February 10, 2008

    I tried sitting through Birth Of A Nation, after being told how great and significant it was. “Tried” being the operative word. Don’t beleive the hype, indeed.

  6. #6 Blake Stacey
    February 10, 2008

    Suffering from Birth Of A Nation? Take Buster Keaton’s The General and call me in the morning.

  7. #7 Phil
    February 10, 2008

    From my limited understanding of the subject, neo-Nazis do sometimes idealise Native Americans as Noble Savages who are safely far away, largely through residual effects from Karl May’s influence on German pop culture.

    On the Tolkein issue, John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli in the Jackson movies, has regrettably used Tolkein analogies to support his rather paranoid and racist ideas about British Muslims.

  8. #8 PalMD
    February 10, 2008

    I wonder how much the neonazis in our prisons are feeding the neonazi movement on the outside.

    It’s interesting…even since my days in Ann Arbor, even since Skokie, the neo Nazi’s, despite their best efforts, haven’t managed to get much traction outside of prison and certain bars.

    Perhaps their ideas are not so attractive?

  9. #9 genewitch
    February 10, 2008

    I always thought they castrated gibson at the end of braveheart, not disemboweled him. Anyhow, racists, religious nuts, sexists, etc can all point at movies/art and say that it supports them. that’s why we have art, it’s very subjective and everyone gets what they want out of it.

  10. #10 natural cynic
    February 10, 2008

    How could they miss Santa Fe Trail with Errol Flynn as J.E.B. Stuart, Raymond Massey as a crazy, evil John Brown and Ronald Reagan as George Armstrong Custer!

    The story follows our intrepid heroes and good buddies, Stuart & Custer from their days as classmates at West Point [they weren't] to Bloody Kansas and the noble fight against the evil Abolitionists to Harper’s Ferry and Brown’s demise.

    The most egregious part has freed slaves saying “We’s free! We’s free!!” and slightly later wishing that they were back in the safe confines of slavery. The movie ignores the already split nature of the country in 1859 and the strong Abolitionist movement elsewhere and implies that the Civil War was John Brown’s fault.

  11. #11 Paul Mohr
    February 10, 2008

    Is there such a thing as a Semite to be anti to? Okay, people can hate and clump people together in any way the see fit by a characteristic. It seems however this one is nonsensical to me. Given the nature of DNA research, there is no common ancestry that can be verified for people who claim others are, or claim to be Jewish (genetically). I am Widgish and if you deny the truth of this you are anti-widgish. Just because I can’t prove I am a descendant of the first widge, means nothing. The horrible things that people do to each in groups and as individuals seems to stand on it’s own lack of merit. I am really confused about this, I just thought of it, and, can this really be true that practically even person on this planet labors under the false assumption that there is a Jewish race? It seems as absurd as Aryian. It is arbitrary and has no foundation in measurable fact. Correct me if I am wrong.

  12. #12 wolfwalker
    February 10, 2008

    genewitch, tradition has it that William Wallace was executed in the manner reserved for traitors, by a method known as drawing and quartering.

    As a very long-time Tolkien reader and fan, I have to say that to a modern eye, The Lord of the Rings does contain racist stereotypes, but only insofar as the different types of Men are concerned. And I don’t think it was intentional on Tolkien’s part. He did, after all, grow up in Edwardian Britain — a culture in which racism was as natural as breathing.

  13. #13 James K
    February 10, 2008

    The thing about Lord of the Rings of course, is that it is an epic myth kind of story and as such has set of broad themes that can be shoehorned into pretty much any cause or ideas that you wish. That’s the thing about myths, they’re literary mirrors.

  14. #14 DLC
    February 10, 2008

    Racism itself is illogical. How can you possibly dislike someone you’ve never met or interacted with ?

    But, some people are irrational.

  15. #15 Joe
    February 11, 2008

    Although… the problem with LotR is that no matter how much Tolkein may protest, the congruences with the Nazi version of fascism go surprisingly deep. It’s not just that all the bad guys are swarthy degenerates, there’s also the matter that the supposed destruction of the Shire basically involves Sauron’s minions building a factory there. It’s one of the paradoxes of Nazi ideology that while constantly increasing the degree of industrialisation in day-to-day life, it eulogised the pastoral and bucolic.

  16. #16 Dianne
    February 11, 2008

    Joe: You could read the last few chapters of LOTR in a number of ways. It could be taken as anti-Communist, anti-industrial, radical environmentalist…the underlying theme seems to be longing for a past that never existed in real life. Yes, the Nazis had the same nostalgia, but it was hardly restricted to them.

    An interesting take on a possible future of the Shire is found in the short story “Senator Bilbo”: in it the concept of “evil races” and the “purity” of different races (orcs, humans, halflings, etc) is challanged. I’m not sure if Tolkein would have liked it or had a hundred fits, but it’s fun.

  17. #17 Ian Thal
    February 11, 2008

    British novelist Michael Moorcock once wrote an essay on some of the implicitly reactionary (and sometimes racist) politics in fantasy and science-fiction entitled “Starship Stormtroopers.” You can find the essay on the web at:

    http://flag.blackened.net/liberty/moorcock.html

    (He later returned to the theme in an essay whose title escapes me– but was written in response to the revival of interest in Tolkien due to the films as well as to the Harry Potter phenomenon.)

    As far as the recommendation of Buster Keaton’s “The General”: Even though Keaton is one of my favorite filmmakers and performers in the history of film, I must confess that the near constant presence of the stars and bars is very disturbing to me whenever I watch, even though there is no explicit display of racism or defense of slavery in the film

  18. #18 Ginger Yellow
    February 11, 2008

    The thing about Birth of a Nation is that what’s impressive (historically speaking) about it is that it laid down much of the grammar of narrative filmmaking that’s been used ever since. It doesn’t seem so impressive out of its context, because you don’t really think about how cuts are used and so on while watching a film. It’s not that it’s particularly flashy, it’s that at the time there wasn’t a consistent set of rules for how to do that sort of thing. After Birth of a Nation, there was.

  19. #19 Laser Potato
    February 11, 2008

    As true as that is, Ginger Yellow, it still turns into pure evil once the second half begins. It’s valuable as a peice of cinemantic history, but it’s hard not to cringe at it, even considering the time it was made (from what I’ve heard, the film had a reputation for clearing many a theater even then.) It’s like they filmed David Duke’s subconcious or something. o.O

  20. #20 Ginger Yellow
    February 11, 2008

    Oh, yeah, I’m not in any way defending the content of the film. I’m just saying that people often underestimate the technical accomplishment because to a modern viewer the conventions it helped establish are so familiar.

  21. #21 Lucas McCarty
    February 11, 2008

    What annoys me about all story-telling no matter it’s medium; a disproportionate number of villains are disabled. There’s also a quirk where evil and intelligence are linked.

    Villains in comics tend to have larger and odd-shaped heads compared to heroes. The villains are often geniuses whilst heroes could be ‘normal’ people if they didn’t have their powers. Charles Xavier, both disabled and a genius is an exception to a long-running norm: his counter-point, Magneto oddly fits the profile for what a hero should be(wonder how long Marvel are going to be able to keep him alive whilst his background says he’s a holocaust survivor).

    In The Lord of the Rings, the main villain isn’t so much disabled by default but incapacitated as a temporary thing. But the small fry in the form of Orcs are hunched over and deformed: they’re the ancestors of fit and agile Elves. Having seen the films but only read the first book, I can’t really comment on how Gollum is portrayed in them; but I’m betting they aren’t as kind to him as the film is, with him only becoming submissive to his aggressive other self after a betrayal by Frodo.

  22. #22 wolfwalker
    February 11, 2008

    Lucas, I think you need to read the full Lord of the Rings, and perhaps add a skim-read of the earlier parts of The Silmarillion. The destruction of the Ring does effectively destroy Sauron; he isn’t killed per se, but he is rendered powerless, permanently. (Which fate is actually worse is left to the reader’s decision.) Orcs are not the ancestors of Elves. Rather it’s the other way round: Orcs are the descendants of some hapless Elves who were captured by the Dark Lord Morgoth (Sauron’s master) and corrupted by his dark magic. Their physical deformity matches their mental and moral corruption. One of the actions that illustrates the wizard Saruman’s fall into darkness is that he crossbreeds Men and Orcs to create a stronger, less deformed type of evil soldier.

    The film’s portrayal of Gollum is quite close to the book’s. Jackson added very little to Gollum’s story. His entire evil-to-good-to-evil arc is all there in the original, although it’s much more vivid in the visual medium of film.

    Also, regarding this:

    There’s also a quirk where evil and intelligence are linked.

    This is largely because of the axiom “a strong story needs a strong villain.” A stupid weak villain is easy to beat. A stupid strong villain, only a little harder. A smart weak villain is more formidable because he can use his intelligence to compensate for his physical weakness. A smart strong villain is the best (or worst) of both worlds. Either way, a smart villain almost always works better than a stupid one. Especially in comic books, where villains almost never die so you need a plausible way to explain away their survival time after time after time.

  23. #23 Lucas McCarty
    February 11, 2008

    Which still doesn’t explain away my main point: disability is used as a narrative tool for dehumanising villains. It’s just bloody annoying. The only other time you see a disabled person, they are usually the grizzled and cynical mentor of the inexperienced protagonist; the older version of the hero except something went wrong and the happy ever after never happened. Usually something related to the aquired disability. Can’t be happy and disabled and especially not disabled in the course of a heroic deed unless death is going to be the price for it.

    I knew about the Orcs origin, just got the words ancestor and descendent mixed up as I tend to. I don’t have a problem with Tolkien writing Orcs like their deformity reflecting their inner nature; it’s just that this is a concept that he probably copied from somewhere and everyone else has lazily copied it ever since. Even in the video game Fable, choosing to be good or evil in the game changes your character’s appearence to reflect it with the evil version of course being quite unattractive.

    In that sense, I’m quite approving of Bram Stoker’s version of Vampires: utterly monsterous and evil yet this is hidden, their attractive physical appearence hides what they really are until it’s too late for the victim. I’m not so fond of the modern attempts to make them appear more monster-ey, a trend started by the Nosferatu silent film but popularised by Christopher Lee as Dracula. And Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series in which the only attractive Vampires are either good guys or if they turned out to be popular and charasmatic like James Marster’s Spike, are changed into good guys.

    I know it’s art and a lot can be read into it that wasn’t intended by the creators, but this is something which in my eyes really stands out. Disabled people don’t even get a cool anti-hero to cheer on, arguably one of the most likable archtypes ever concieved. Vin Diesel’s Riddick had his disability rather down-played by stories focusing on his strengths(apparently internet Vin Diesel facts even came before Chuck Norris facts). Dustin Hoffman as Hook saved that otherwise awful film, but didn’t have enough moral ambiguity to be considered an anti-hero. When the Lawnmower Man was given the oppotunity for fulfillment and empowerment, he inevitably became evil and in one scene demonstrates that hurting someone is something he can’t avoid even if he wants to.

    Methinks it smells a bit.

  24. #24 bwv
    February 11, 2008

    Am I the only one that will stand up for Red Dawn? C’mon that was a great movie. There was many a day in high school where I wished Soviet paratroopers would have attacked.

  25. #25 clarence
    February 11, 2008

    I will stand with you, bwv. I really enjoyed Red Dawn. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I don’t remember anything racist about it, though it probably wasn’t the most flattering depiction of Communists.

    I suppose the WP rangers might be attracted to the survivalist angle, but I refuse to allow them to co-op preparedness. I am a liberal and I have a bug-out bag, dammit! With organic MREs!

  26. #26 bwv
    February 11, 2008

    Us more libertarian right-wingers would simply be prepared for the invasion with Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. The bolshevik hordes would be no match for its devastating rhetoric.

  27. #27 Ginger Yellow
    February 11, 2008

    “And Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series in which the only attractive Vampires are either good guys or if they turned out to be popular and charasmatic like James Marster’s Spike, are changed into good guys.”

    Huh? Plenty of beautiful/handsome evil vampires in Buffy. Not many that last past an encounter with Buffy, it’s true, but you’ve still got Darla and Dru (and Harmony, I suppose, although she’s not that attractive).

  28. #28 DuWayne
    February 11, 2008

    Lucas -

    Which still doesn’t explain away my main point: disability is used as a narrative tool for dehumanising villains.

    While it is true that at times disability is used to dehumanize villains, quite often it seems quite the opposite, that it is used as a narrative tool for humanizing the villain. In particular I think that Gollum fit’s this paradigm rather well. His character, using the medium of schizophrenia, shows a spectrum of very human behaviors and expressions, all at war with each other for absolute dominance.

    I also think that the associating disability with villainy, is not so much an attempt to disparage the disabled, as it is an attempt to equate villainy as being a disability – often times a mental illness. I honestly don’t believe that this is a bad thing either. This in spite of being rather mentally off, being somewhat less than a sex symbol and being particularly bright in certain veins that would probably fit the smart villain mold rather well. I really appreciate the irony, being rather less than villainous.g

  29. #29 Christ Davis
    February 11, 2008

    The thoughtcrime site is full of ignoramuses seeing everything through the narrow aperture of their fears, which a quick perusal of the website shows. Reprehensible but hackneyed. Also hilarious. A critique from one of their own: “”Absolutely no one in this `Movement’ is to be trusted absolutely.” The best ideal, the best ideas, and the damnedest group of incompetents, fools, idiots, half-wits and perverts are out there as the public face of what we all espouse, and support.” Some guy named Oliver, who I don’t care enough to look up to get his first name.

    They think The Wild Bunch is cool because a lot of Mexicans get killed. They seem to have missed the anachronisms riding open eyed to their doom theme of the movie. Idjits.

  30. #30 Christ Davis
    February 11, 2008

    That MIM movie review site is fucking awesome! They can suck the joy out of any movie ever made, with the magic of Maoist constipation!

    I quote: “In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.”

    Their reviews of the LoTR movies are extruded through the Maoist die as well. I can’t do it justice by pasting paragraphs. Go. Read. Laugh.

    Thanks a bunch for the link, Charles

  31. #31 wolfwalker
    February 11, 2008

    Which still doesn’t explain away my main point: disability is used as a narrative tool for dehumanising villains.

    I’m just not sure I agree with this. Can you give an example or two? In my experience, disability is often used as a tool for explaining a villain. In well-written fiction, few villains are villains just because they want to be. There’s always a reason that the villain became a villain. The dehumanizing aspect comes more from the villain’s own actions.

  32. #32 tim gueguen
    February 12, 2008

    Looking up the IMDB entry for Red Dawn I was disappointed. I was hoping it was another project from ’80s Israeli schlockmeisters Golan and Globus, which would making an “Aryan” endorsement of the film even more amusing. But at least one of the commenters on the subject makes up for that by recommending Death Wish II, apparently not realising that its Jewishness was upped by Golan and Globus being involved, not just Charles Bronson.

  33. #33 Lucas McCarty
    February 12, 2008

    Wolfwalker, what good is giving examples of this when you can simply give it the vague alternative interpretation that it ‘explains the villain’?

    In the book The United States of Leyland, the author has even come out and said he decided that to make the victim of the murdering protaganist mentally disabled(Autistic) because the whole point of it is to try and get the reader to sympathise with the murderer by making the victim into something few can sympathise with.

    Any number of badly-written stories contain a villain with a glass eye, claw, wheelchair, breathing equipment(excluding Darth Vader, a rare example a disabled villain actually having some substance attached to them) or some odd-end replacing a bodily function. I thought Casino Royal was great right up until the moment the villain showed off the socially-awkward blood crying that did not of course tell us anything about him except he’s a bad guy. The bomber from earlier had scars, presumerably from learning bomb-making; there’s some substance, why not make him the main villain?

    Where the hell is the well-adjusted disabled hero that doesn’t have an unexplained(but we are always presumed to assume it’s because of the disability) chip on his shoulder? Professor X is too rare.

    Regarding the rare attractive evil Vampires in the Buffy series: the two examples were of course women and had to keep with the expectations of a largely male teenage audience.

  34. #34 khan
    February 12, 2008

    Am I the only one that will stand up for Red Dawn? C’mon that was a great movie. There was many a day in high school where I wished Soviet paratroopers would have attacked.

    Agreed; I also cheered when Carrie destroyed the school and most of the small town.

  35. #35 Ginger Yellow
    February 13, 2008

    “Regarding the rare attractive evil Vampires in the Buffy series: the two examples were of course women and had to keep with the expectations of a largely male teenage audience.”

    Sure, but they are pretty much the only two long term vampires in the series apart from the Master and the “good” vampires. There are tons of single episodes male vamps who are good looking – the one who Dawn makes out with, for instance, or the one Buffy knew in school and spends ages talking to in the cemetery.

  36. #36 Lucas McCarty
    February 13, 2008

    Case in point being that Dawn did not make out with a monsterised Vamp and Buffy did not talk to a monsterised Vamp.

    The whole thing with the Vampires in that series changing their faces was odd to me, it didn’t seem to work as a narrative tool for anything but was a very deliberate feature that cost money(so was saved for the pretty vampires mostly in the earlier shows because of the budget). The consistent message though was that the bad vampires were deformed and the good vampires looked human and this was the norm which the exceptions aren’t numerous enough to disprove.

    Modern versions of the Jekyll and Hyde tale flip the premise around and have it so the Jekyll is the socially or physically disabled figure whilst the monster is an attractive alter-ego. But they of course tend to be comedies so can’t portray the Hyde-esque as being evil, only very naughty.

    I also think that I’m a big moaner and it would be very difficult to write a book, film or programme that would be appealing to most and consistent with my views on how disability gets portrayed.

  37. #37 Drekab
    February 13, 2008

    In Buffy, the vampires transform when they feed, kinda need the fangs. Since the good ones don’t eat people, you don’t see it as much. But even the good ones changed their face during fight scenes when they get ticked off or need the extra umph.

    You should try reading the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, it might be up your alley and its one of my favorites. The main character has a bit of a chip on his shoulder during the earlier books, but one of the main themes is his growing up in a world that abhors disabilities.

  38. #38 wolfwalker
    February 13, 2008

    Lucas wrote: Where the hell is the well-adjusted disabled hero that doesn’t have an unexplained (but we are always presumed to assume it’s because of the disability) chip on his shoulder?

    Daredevil?

    Look, there’s a blunt and ugly fact about fiction writing: perfect characters don’t work. They aren’t believable, because most people have some kind of mental/emotional trouble to deal with. They also aren’t very interesting, because a perfect character can deal with anything, and then where’s the story tension? Every character, whether hero villain or other, must have some kind of flaw.

    Any number of badly-written stories contain a villain with …

    Badly-written stories are just that: badly written. And one of the distinguishing features of a badly written story is that the writer doesn’t know how to handle characters well.

    Is there a dearth of good stories with disabled protagonists? Yeah, thinking back over the recent SF/F I’ve read, I’d have to say there is. Do writers make a habit of giving their villains some sort of disability? Yes, they do. Are villains usually dehumanized? Again, yes. I simply don’t see the direct connection between the disability and the dehumanization.

    Maybe I’ve just got the wrong attitude. After literally growing up on Classic Star Trek, I’ve always believed firmly that personhood has nothing whatsoever to do with outward appearance or ability, and everything to do with what’s inside. To me, the mere presence of a disability is never enough to dehumanize a character.

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