Elves - a whole lotta white people?

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
We've been over this one a few times, but obviously the answer arrived at was not satisfactory.

Here's the thing when it comes to diversity amongst the Elves, and forgive me for being a bit blunt here: I don't care. Ultimately, it's a story set in a fictional Europe, so if the screen is full of white people, that makes perfect sense.

The problem with having multi-racial kindreds is how that works genetically. It looks weird for what are essentially family members to look wildly different ethnicly. (It does happen, but it's far from the norm.)

The problem with having different kindreds represented by different races is that it is impossible to do that without seemingly saying something about those races. If say, the Noldor are European and the Sindar were African, we have the clearly superior (both technologically and personally) and white Noldor coming and decimating the Orcs who have been destroying the darker Sindar.


If we did it the other way around, the African Noldor will be portrayed as rebellious and violent.


The hosts' suggestion of having the Elves all be a Mediterranean beige in complexion seems to be the only way to have them not be white.


Of course, I see that while I've been writing this, most of it has been said, so take it as you will. :)
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
The other problem is, if you diverge too much with the ethnicity from the descriptions in the source material, fans get angry. Case in point: The Last Airbender, where the Fire Nation was mainly played by actors mainly from India and the Water Tribe was played by caucasian actors. People went ballistic.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Here is the session where the intended ethnicity of the elves was discussed:

http://silmfilm.mythgard.org/season-2-session-3-the-elves/

As you can see, the consensus was that the elves need to be fairly homogenous. They do not, however, need to be 'lily-white' - so, Mediterranean or slightly blended race is fine - people with darker tones mixed into the group. As Haerengil has pointed out, particular characters are more swarthy/ruddy than others, so it's not an issue of being completely uniform. What we don't have are distinct ethnic groups amongst the different groups of elves, because there is no reasonable historical explanation as to how that could happen. No Avatar or Drow or anything like that going on.

These broad guidelines can be interpreted however you like in the casting. If you want to nominate Beyoncé for Nurwen, have at it!
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
The other problem is, if you diverge too much with the ethnicity from the descriptions in the source material, fans get angry. Case in point: The Last Airbender, where the Fire Nation was mainly played by actors mainly from India and the Water Tribe was played by caucasian actors. People went ballistic.

I wouldn't worry about that. If the fans got mad at us casting non-white actors as elves, we could just call them racists and they'd be embarrassed out of the conversation.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
There are ultimately only two solutions that are practical in any sense, I suppose.

1. Ray's idea from last page (and presumably from elsewhere earlier? still catching up I guess), where we intersperse all the Elven families with actors of any/all ethnicities with no regard for RL human genetics/phenotypes. It just doesn't work the same way for Elves as it does with RL humans. Elves played by LeBron James and Lucy Liu could have a child played by Tom Hiddleston. That's how Elves work.

2. All white folk, they're northern Europeans so deal with it and don't really talk about it further than that.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
If you want to nominate Beyoncé for Nurwen, have at it!
Yes and no. With the proposed cast as of about 3 hours ago (the last time I went through the threads) she'd stand out to the extent that you'd have to explain how/why she was there. Maybe I'm just too early.

But I definitely am all complaint with no solution - I've said it already, but I personally don't have any ideas for who or where to add specific actors of other ethnicities for any specific role.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
What if skin color/ethnicity as we define it for human means nothing for the Elves even to the individual level. ... What if the defining way of distinguishing elvish 'race' is hair color, not skin color?
While it is definitely true that elves care way more about hair color than skin color, it's not a racial thing for them, as there is plenty of variation within families. And we do want to see a difference in how Men deal with race that is completely alien to the elves.

We were instructed to make them mostly homogenous, and to consider 'Mediterranean' as a non-descript base point.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Haha that's exactly the sort of thing that's so easy to say in passing as it sounds like exactly what you'd want, and then so difficult to actually pull off.

Do we court danger and use makeup and/or effects to modify skin colour of our... palest... actors then? That's a delicate road to start down, to say the least.

Or if we're going to ignore the "Mediterranean" instruction, do we ignore it in favour of keeping homogeneity but pinkening rather than brownening as a whole, or do we ignore it and also ignore the homogeneity part as well?

Because ultimately, as amateur casting types, we just don't have the roster of Mediterranean-looking actors to fill these roles.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Nominations should continue throughout the week. Voting will open perhaps as early as next weekend (we have to give Trish a chance to tabulate all the nominations and get the voting set up).

No one has suggested using make-up or special effects to lighten or darken any actor's skin tones.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
No one has suggested using make-up or special effects to lighten or darken any actor's skin tones.
I wasn't particularly serious about that, except in so much as the current roster of nominations only match up with the latter half of "Mediterranean and homogenous", and I don't really see any reasonable way to attain the former half so I joked about an unreasonable way.

I think that this particular instruction is unattainable with the resources available to us, and so we must choose the manner in which we don't follow it. If the choice is to keep "homogeneous" while ditching "Mediterranean" that is a valid choice. If the choice is to ditch both, that is also valid. We just need to make sure we are choosing deliberately, and not just sort of by default.
 

Ray Burns

Active Member
The issue for me, and I didn't realize it until this thread popped up, is that while I love Tolkien and think that the Silmarillion is one of the greatest works of fiction ever... in a very fundamental way, as a person of color, I am invisible in Tolkien's worldview except when I am seen as 'other', and usually not in a complementary way. As a reader, I can use my headcanon to implement the hopeful thought that maybe, just maybe, I could identify with one of the heroes of this magnificent tale. It is difficult to actually 'see' that exclusion, and even in the semi-playful fun way that we're doing it here, it is kind of painful.

I think I'll stick to discussion of story and motivations and just not visit the casting discussions at all.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
The actors I've nominated for Finwë and Fingolfin are of Italian and Latino descent, respectively. Ben Barnes' name was tossed around for a role, and he has been cast as part of a 'nondescript Mediterranean fantasy race' before as a Telmarine in Narnia.

I am not ignoring the 'Mediterranean and homogenous' instructions, while also viewing 'homogenous' as somewhat flexible.

Actors who look good with red or blond hair tend to be rather pale, so for those roles, it seems natural to gravitate in that direction. For a character like Mahtan who is meant to be a red head with a ruddy complexion, it can be tricky to find an actor who will work. If someone can think of one - please nominate!

Ray - I agree that the discussion here prior to that session was - 'how should we include diversity among the elves?' not 'should we?' The problem arose when considering the history of the elves, and how we see their migration/diaspora/splitting off after only a handful of generations intermingled at Cuivienen. A racially diverse group became difficult to explain within the story....unless we ignored it completely and did 'color blind' casting, where family resemblance didn't apply. That approach tends to work better in theater, though.

If you would like to nominate non-white actors for the elves in Season 2, you are welcome to. I don't think the hosts will override a casting choice if it really is someone who fits the role. And, I realize it will be callous of me to say so...but a white audience might not even notice if someone who has some Native American background is cast. So, homogenous from a certain point of view? But I understand if you'd rather not be part of this. This project is meant to be a fun game, but this is a part where the real-life side is difficult to ignore. Sorry about that :(
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Okay, on a more (less?) serious note - consider this like anime casting. Characters will be differentiated by hair color, not skin tone.

And I cannot stress enough - nominate whoever you like. This is the part of the process where you have your say, and can choose how to interpret or whether to disregard the advice and directions of the Exec team.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
In particular, hair is the easiest thing in the world to ignore while casting. Nothing is as easy to alter as hair. In the Jackson movies, I bet fewer than 1 actor in 10 was filmed with their own hair.

ETA: I assume Hiddleston was in a wig as Loki(?) for instance. He could play almost any range of hair colours. Most other actors would be similar.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
All actors in Peter Jackson's LotR films wore wigs, except for his own children (the two hobbit kids at the party, kids in Gondor).

In this project, we have cast The Rock as Tulkas, and Tulkas' name means 'blond dude', so he will have blond hair. But the Valar are following a different set of rules from elves, and are allowed to have inhuman forms.

So, yes, I agree that a wide range of hair colors are possible. Not everyone looks good in all wigs, though. For instance, Orlando Bloom's blond Legolas has dark eyebrows, and some people find that distracting. It's easier for someone like Hiddleston to go darker with the hair and have it look 'natural.' Tolkien's elves (mostly) have a strictly specified hair color. Other aspects of their appearance may not be described, and thus up for debate. But if he mentions eye color, it's almost inevitably grey (for High Elves/Numenoreans, anyway), and practically everyone is 'tall.' So, yes, hair color is a much harder/faster rule than complexion.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
I think I'd be OK with dark eyebrows for a blond character myself (of all the things to complain about with Jackson's Legolas, eyebrows aren't even on my radar). Going back to Beyonce again (what can I say, I don't have a lot of actors' names at my beck and call, hence "all complaint, no solution" as I mentioned above), I'd be willing to go so far as to cast her in a specifically blonde role, and then make the hair match later.

I can understand if that's a step too far for many. But there are a lot of intermediate less extreme cases in between, where almost anyone can meet the hair requirements for almost any role, such that an actor's natural hair colour (or style or length) almost doesn't matter.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Obviously you don't need me to tell you that Beyoncé looks good with lighter hair:



Her acting experience is mostly in music videos, but she's had a few film appearances. I don't really think of her as a particular elf, but then, I am someone who can't really tell you what songs she sings. If you think she is elvish, but can't find a role for her, then go through the descriptions and see where she would fit best. Any elf can be a good singer.
 
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