Inclusion of queer characters?

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Homosexuality was removed from the DSM-II in 1973, the same year Tolkien died. So, it is fair to say that for his entire adult life, most of the general public and professional psychologists considered homosexuality to be a disease. There were (obviously) exceptions, notably Kinsey, and there was a reason it was removed (in no small part due to activism demanding it be so). But, it was listed in versions I and II of the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a pathology by the American Psychiatric Association. Regardless of whether or not it was considered a disease, it definitely is and was considered sinful and disordered to act on homosexual impulses. I am hardly suggesting that we take overly biased researchers from the 1950's seriously. I do think it is important to maintain some awareness of historical context, though, and not just in an 'everything before 1990 was garbage' way. Based on how Tolkien wrote about elves, I could see them considering homosexual desire to be disordered in the same manner that attraction to a close family member (incest) was disordered. Would audiences like that? No, of course not. But that doesn't mean the elves wouldn't behave that way.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the history, there is this overview:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695779/



As for some of the questions you've raised.... Marriage is, at its heart, the basis of the family unit, and thus the building block of society. Not all married couples have children, and not all children are raised by their biological parents. But one of the main purposes of marriage (from the point of view of a society) is to provide a stable environment for the rearing of children. Now, in our own society, gay couples can be together without being married (just as straight couples can), and many couples (both married and unmarried, gay and straight) participate in childrearing. Many gay couples have children because one or both of the partners has children from a previous relationship, and of course gay couples can adopt, and many have been quite generous in their willingness to adopt children with disabilities who are in need of a great deal of care. One can certainly make the argument (and in fact, the argument was made before the US Supreme Court when gay marriage was legalized) that recognizing marriages between same-sex couples contributes to providing stable homes for children in our nation.

It is more difficult to translate this argument to elvish culture. Elves do not have serial relationships (with the exception of Finwë). Thus, no elf would have children from a prior relationship. If an elf were in a homosexual relationship, that would be their first and only relationship. So, any such relationship would automatically mean no children for those individuals. Now, could they adopt and raise others' children? Certainly, in war time, there would be orphans, so that is something that could happen. Annael raises Tuor, whose parents both died in his infancy. We never hear that Annael had a wife, do we? My comment about 'more appropriate in a post-apocalyptic cultural break down situation' had to do with the fluidity of relationships rather than the permanence of marriage. Storylines in which couples get together and break up frequently, in part fueled by the high death rate of difficult circumstances, are stories in which marriage doesn't have a lot of meaning. Survival requires making and breaking bonds as necessary. Even in a culture which does recognize marriage as rather important, such a disaster bends the rules. A lot. Thus, teenaged Margery Tyrell was on her third marriage in Game of Thrones and had yet to consummate any of them, because despite being married to the king of Westeros, her third husband was just a child. Elves...obviously wouldn't do that.

Obviously plenty of people get married and never have or raise kids. I'm not suggesting that marriages don't count if there's no kids. What I am saying is that a society's understanding of marriage tends to be strongly tied to that society's understanding of childrearing. And so...what impetus would an elvish society have for recognizing a homosexual union? Sure, if it happens, and they are surprised, they could take it in stride. But...we're talking about a very stable culture for which nothing changes for a large chunk of time. They would methodically debate the issue and reach some understanding of what that marriage means for them. And so...what would their conclusion be? And it would have to be consistent with their strict understandings of monogamy, as well as marital fidelity and perpetuity. I wasn't suggesting that they can't accept it, but rather that it is possible that they wouldn't. The idea of denying yourself something that is unlawful would probably seem perfectly fair to the elves.
 
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Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
But one of the main purposes of marriage (from the point of view of a society) is to provide a stable environment for the rearing of children.
This seems to be pretty common, if not universal, for human cultures in the real world. I'm not certain, though, that the association would be quite so strong among Elves. They clearly were given both the ability and the desire to have children, for some purpose that probably had nothing to do with preventing Elven extinction. Raising children is described as one of the most enjoyable activities for them. But they also experience a lasting spiritual attachment to the person who they marry, which seems to be valued for its own sake, and remains in full force long after they decide to stop having children.

I think it's fair to say that the focus on having children as a biological necessity is less intense for beings immune to age and disease. (It's also less urgent -- Elrond can afford to wait until he's 3608 years old without worrying about [whatever the male equivalent to menopause is called], or chromosome division problems, or the woman he loves dying of old age or becoming infertile. He likely wasn't _happy_ about waiting so long, and there were other risks -- Celebrian might have sailed West, or been slain by Orcs, or decided to marry some other guy. But Elrond probably didn't have hormones and instincts urging him to reproduce Now, before it's too late! Tolkien did say that Elves normally marry young. But then he also said they normally have children in young adulthood too, and that doesn't really make sense if you look at the Annals of Aman, or consider that Fingolfin is older than Maedhros, so... I'm not convinced that particular statement in "Laws and Customs of the Eldar" is consistent with the historical events.)

If an elf were in a homosexual relationship, that would be their first and only relationship. So, any such relationship would automatically mean no children for those individuals.
Indeed. Just as an Elf's choice of marriage partner is [normally] for all Time, if one chose to marry somebody who could not give them children, they'd both have to live with that decision until the End. This difference from heterosexual relationships would certainly be a noticeable one. And an Elda who both wanted biological children, and wanted to marry/have sex with somebody of the same physical sex as themselves, would be in a tough spot. They'd simply have to choose one or the other -- much like Finduilas was put in a position of choosing between two men whom she loved. That would definitely count as an "ill chance". That may lead to Eldar regarding homosexuals as unlucky/unfortunate just to find themselves in such a situation.

But maybe not every Elf wants biological children very badly. Some never wedded at all. At least, given that Elves have less of a strong reason to crave reproduction for its own sake, some of them might not.

There's also a possibility that Elves help raise their siblings' children, to some extent, or even help raise their own younger siblings. That isn't the same as having one's very own children, of course.

I'm not certain if adoption of non-relatives, or an equivalent of legal adoption in the U.S., exists in Eldarin cultures. Elves have taken foster children, but those children don't seem to have become the legal heirs of their foster-fathers. Granted, none of those children were Elves. Turgon adopts his nephew as his heir, but they were closely related. In any case, they clearly have a concept of fostering orphans, and it's evident that an Elf doesn't have to be married to do so, since Maedhros wasn't married.


My comment about 'more appropriate in a post-apocalyptic cultural break down situation' had to do with the fluidity of relationships rather than the permanence of marriage. Storylines in which couples get together and break up frequently, in part fueled by the high death rate of difficult circumstances, are stories in which marriage doesn't have a lot of meaning.
I wonder to what extent this became the case in Edain cultures during the tail end of the First Age? Certainly there must have been an awful lot of war widows. Is remarriage after your spouse dies an accepted practice in Edain cultures? I can't think of any examples off the top of my head.

Rape apparently did happen among the Edain. In the Narn, there's a scene where it's clear that Androg is trying to rape a Halethian woman, and it's apparent that this is something he and some other outlaws have done several times. That may be the reason (or one of the reasons...) they were outlawed to begin with.

And so...what impetus would an elvish society have for recognizing a homosexual union?
I think they would consider sex to be an act of becoming married, necessarily because of their view of the two as synonymous. I don't think they imagine sex and marriage as separate concepts. That is, I don't think it would occur to them to say that two men (or two women) who had sex together, are not married.

Of course, "Are they married now?" is a separate question from whether Eldar would consider gay sex/marriage to be a good or a bad thing. Or if it is acceptable, equally as valuable or happy as a marriage that can produce children. Or what kind of a wedding, if any, should accompany gay sex/marriage.

But...we're talking about a very stable culture for which nothing changes for a large chunk of time. They would methodically debate the issue and reach some understanding of what that marriage means for them. And so...what would their conclusion be?
I think that, if homosexual attraction is something that any Elves experience, then it would exist from the beginnings of their kind (or at least, it would be just as old as heterosexual attraction, whenever that started happening among them.) So, I don't think it would be anything new -- just as it isn't actually something new among humans.

The Eldarin concept of marriage being synonymous with sex didn't necessarily date back to Kuivienen, so there would potentially have been some development and change of attitudes over time -- about sexual relations in general. There was a time when the Elves existed before any of them had had sex at all, so the first sex (let alone the first pregnancy and childbirth!) must have come as some surprise. (That would be a really interesting event to write a fanfic about, actually.) Having a detailed, formalized philosophy about marriage is surely an Eldarin or Valinorean development. And of course the legal/theological statements in the Statute of Finwe and Miriel only date back to shortly after Miriel died, and were only known in Valinor.

If on the other hand, no Elves ever feel homosexual attraction (because it's unnatural), then they wouldn't hear about it or think about it until somebody told them about homosexual attraction among Mortals. I imagine in that case, their reactions would probably start with squick. Maybe just because any such concept is totally foreign and weird to them, or maybe because (since it's against Eru's laws) they would in fact have an instinct to be grossed out by homosexuality.

My point about homosexual attraction being unnatural, vs. being natural, is tied to Elves being unfallen and immune to disease, "madness", and so forth. If it is against Eru's laws, then Elves would never experience it. Or at most, it would be as unheard-of as Maeglin's desire to rape Idril. Hence, if more than, like, one or two Elves in all of recorded history ever do experience homosexual attraction... then that necessarily means we have changed the setting to make it perfectly OK by Eru's laws. Homosexuality would not be unlawful in that case. And if [our version of] Eru was OK with homosexual relationships, the Valar would be aware of this, and would educate the Eldar (or at least, the Calaquendi) about this, just as they educated them about polygamy being against Eru's laws, and about what happens to an Elf after they die. The Calaquendi, or all Eldar, would be aware that it was not against Eru's laws.

Some Noldor might decide the Valar's opinions about this are stupid... they sure disagreed with Manwe about other stuff, like not killing people. But kinslaying isn't the norm in Noldorin Exile culture. On the other hand, racial prejudice may well be more common among Noldor than kinslaying. I'm sure the Valar tried to teach the Noldor that they are not superior to the Vanyar or Teleri, buuuut, well... we know how that went over with certain characters...


In any case, the Avari might have vastly different attitudes from the Eldar.
 
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Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
*Admin/moderator hat on*

Hey people,
I've been asked to look into a couple of threads, including this one, as admin to check out how well we're adhering to our Rules of conduct. There is a feeling that all of us haven't been doing that. In case someone is wondering what those Rules are, you can find them here: https://forums.signumuniversity.org/index.php?threads/rules-of-conduct.2582/#post-20826

I'm not going to criticize anyone. As a matter of fact, I think people as a rule have handled this rather difficult subject quite well and without letting things become too messy. Nevertheless, the discussion has become unnecessarily heated at times. I'm not referring to specific posts now, you will have to find them for yourselves. At this point, I'm just going to ask people to read through the thread and what you've written, read the Rules of conduct, and then read your posts again, and reflect on whether you could maybe have written things differently.

Also, check out this guy. Make him your role model.



 

Emerwen

New Member
First serious post. I know this is from 3 yrs ago but thought I'd throw in my two-cents anyway.
In addition to including LGBTQ+ characters in the show, there's something else we can do to make it less heterosexist and more LGBTQ+ friendly: to tone down the gender essentialism in Tolkien's works.

Here's the definition of gender essentialism from Wikipedia:
"Gender essentialism is a concept used to examine the attribution of fixed, intrinsic, innate qualities to women and men. In this theory, there are certain universal, innate, biologically- or psychologically-based features of gender that are at the root of observed differences in the behavior of men and women. "

Gender essentialism and prejudice/discrimination of LGBTQ+ community often goes hand in hand. When we tone it down, we consequently make our world less hostile for gender minorities.

Although I am aware that Tolkien has expressed some pretty strong gender essentialist view in his letters, I would argue that the nuanced treatment of this issue in his legendarium has allowed us enough space to work around it. On one hand, his depiction of the Ainur is highly gender-essentialist: the Valar and the Maiar's adoption of gender according to their nature as well as their conformity to the norms of their chosen gender might be a sign that Tolkien believed in the connection between gender and nature. On the other hand, his depictions of the Eldar and Edain are strikingly non-gender-essentialist: his liking for female characters who behave outside of the gender norms of their culture (Haleth, Nerdanel, Galadriel and Aredhel, just to name a few) might be a sign that he does not believe that women, at least, have to be attributed certain characteristics according to their gender. On top of that, we have the Laws and Customs of the Eldar which depicts a surprisingly not-so-gender-essentialist culture (although aspects of it is still present), all the more significant given that Eldar are basically idealized humans. My conclusion is that Tolkien is perhaps not the most orthodox of gender essentialists: although he did seem to believe that nature dictates one's gender, he did not believe that one's behaviour has to be constrained within gender norms.

As interpreters, we have the choice to amplify certain things and downplay others, and this is a place to exercise such a choice. Whether or not we decide to actually represent LGBTQ+ characters in the show (I would love to see them if done well), the least we can do is to create a world where gender minorities wouldn't seem out of place or unnecessarily marginalized. For example, we can amplify the defiance of gender norms that is already so abundant in Tolkien's works, and give even the traditionally masculine and feminine characters plenty of nuances. When portraying heterosexual relationships, we should try to base their chemistry more on their personalities and less on cliched notions of masculinity and femininity. In other words: we should not let gender stereotypes flatten our characters or undermine the depth of a relationship. With any luck, we should be able to give off the impression that we the producers are aware of the faults in Tolkien's works, and are subtly making an effort to amend them while remaining faithful to the books.

I am by no means suggesting that this can replace actual LGBTQ+ representation. But just in case actual representation doesn't end up working for whatever reasons, this can potentially be a bottom line to fall back upon. Good thing is we are already doing it anyways.

And personally, Iove the idea of Maglor having a husband in Valinor.
 
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Haerangil

Well-Known Member
What does it mean practically?

To have males show typical effiminate behavious and females male stereotypes? Or to add more ambiguity and lessen stereotypes?

I feel so far we have both, but both also is already in the books as well if you look at it.
 

Emerwen

New Member
What does it mean practically?

To have males show typical effiminate behavious and females male stereotypes? Or to add more ambiguity and lessen stereotypes?

I feel so far we have both, but both also is already in the books as well if you look at it.
Sounds pointless to say it, but it essentially means that we should not get lazy with characterization (which I certainly do NOT see this show doing) and substitute personalities with gender stereotypes. This will be easy for major characters, but we need to be especially careful with original/minor characters.
One such example is Shinkai Makoto's Your Name: the two protagonists are nothing more than physical embodiments of gender stereotypes. The guy loves basketball, is impulsive and uses his fists to solve problems. The girl loves knitting, is gentle, sensitive and cries a lot. That's it. There is nothing else to their personalities. As a result their love story is the most boring thing on earth (not to mention a couple terrible male-gaze scenes that are extremely creepy to watch).
Another example is Moffat Era Doctor Who. I lost count of the times he played into that sexy, feisty "strong female character" cliche; for all I know, they could all be the same character. It's simply tiring.
I am by no means suggesting that I'm seeing Tolkien or our show doing anything like this; in fact, I think we are totally on the right track. I'm just pointing out that avoiding such pitfalls will make sure that our show is free of sexist/heterosexist undertones, and more comfortable for women & gender minorities to watch (comfortable in the sense that they don't see real-life discrimination reflected in the show, NOT in the sense that their favourite characters are somehow going to be saved from horrendous and totally pointless deaths).
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Ok. Well one thing i'd like to mention is: gender stereotypes continually change. Captain James T. Kirk in the 60ies was a totally different thing than... i don't even know... he's so oldschool that kind of guy died out in film pretty much completely.

Now our characters are a portemandeau from various eras, theres some renaissance and Borgia in the Feanorians i'd say, some shakespeare too, a lot of medieval , antiquity and biblical similarities, some norse viking edda, some 19th century romantic dandy... the worst thing we could do was normalizing and making fit with what are the stereotypes of our 2020ies...
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I would not want to include anything so jarringly modern that the audience is completely yanked out of Middle-earth. I much prefer to leave interpretation up to the viewer, rather than beat the viewer over the head with some point. I'm okay with conveying season themes explicitly, but not incidental axes to grind.

Speaking of Haleth, though...we are to her part of the story now. When I was writing the script for episode 4, I did my best to convey her character in a way that left things open for the viewer to interpret, rather than making explicit choices. So, 18 year old Haleth makes it rather clear that she has no intention of marrying or having children. That life is not for her. She never shows romantic interest in anyone (male or female). So, what is her deal? Up to the viewer to decide. If they want to view her friendship with Bril as unrequited romantic love, they can. I didn't write it that way, but I also didn't write it so it can't be that way, either. We'll have to see how the Amazon bodyguards come across in Episodes 5 and 6, but I imagine that will be equally open to interpretation.
 

Emerwen

New Member
Ok. Well one thing i'd like to mention is: gender stereotypes continually change. Captain James T. Kirk in the 60ies was a totally different thing than... i don't even know... he's so oldschool that kind of guy died out in film pretty much completely.

Now our characters are a portemandeau from various eras, theres some renaissance and Borgia in the Feanorians i'd say, some shakespeare too, a lot of medieval , antiquity and biblical similarities, some norse viking edda, some 19th century romantic dandy... the worst thing we could do was normalizing and making fit with what are the stereotypes of our 2020ies...
Nah, I'm actually suggesting *not* reducing characters (especially minor/original ones) to stereotypes, whatever culture or time period that is. I'm not saying gender should be taken out of how they are presented on screen; I'm saying that there should be more to each character than the norms of their gender. If we don't get lazy with characterization (which we are not in the slightest), this pitfall can be easily avoided.
 
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