Racist Harfoots?

ArnoleIstari

New Member
So I read an article from the Irish Times, link below, where the author had real concerns that the Rings of Power were being racist towards Celtic people, the Irish in particular because of the accents of the Harfoots. Is there anyone in Ireland who felt similar?

 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
They are filthy, hungry simpletons. But some too fake seeming accents i noticed too...

From the other points, what should i make out of it? That tv should not show people who are poor, live under poor conditions, suffer from hunger and have no or little education?

That would be some strange conclusion.
 

Ilana Mushin

Active Member
I have to say I was surprised at how the accents all sound so familiar to parts of the British Isles. But I don’t see the Harfoots as ‘filthy, hungry simpletons’. They have a sophisticated society and culture that is related to the way they live in the world. I think the need for distinguishing accents is part of how the show is trying to keep each race separate, but also because all of the actors have different natural accents (the actress playing Nori is Australian, but Lenny Henry isn’t). Still, I reckon if one of the races were speaking with Australian accents, I’d be having a hard time not thinking that the makers of the show were drawing on Australian stereoypes in their choice. So I can see the concern from Irish people. But I really would push back on the Harfoots as simpletons.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
They are not very clean.That is because they hide in the wilderness and because they cannot change their clothes every day and probably do not have so many different clothes after all.They are hungry.This is because they are a poor people, most likely gatherers and smalltime hoe-farmers, and well, because Hobbits are supposed to have the trait of loving to eat, maybe because their forefathers were a poor folk their descendants still enjoy the good sides of life and eating is part of that. They are a simple folk, they are not really stupid or retarded or anything like it, but they are not a learned people, not a high culture.Most of them most likely can not write and read, they do not seem to know any metallurgy,,they are stoneagers i believe, Sadoc is seemingly the only one who can decipher the ancient glyphs, and we don't know their origins. Outsiders would have seen them as filthy, hungry simpletons, excwpt for maybe the hunters who by themselves were an even more primitice culture. Even their later descendants were seen as stupid farmers by the dwarves...

I am not a native speaker so i do not know what to think of the accents. If they spoke various german accents i'd find that quite odd... hence german syncronisation usually doesn't do that.Our accents are too closely associated with our own regional stereotypes so such a thing could never work.

But i'd also like to challenge that definition of racist.It is not like they say the irish are a biological race and are by nature and genetics determined to always be filthy, poor and dumb. I know certain historic stereotypes did and do exist but racism imho is another thing.

Actually... now that i defended the proto-hobbits culture ,i'll have to say i like how they painted their culture and gave them lots of depth without explaining anything at all. That is pretty good worldbuilding in this field!
 
Ireland itself has many, many different accents. At least 10 by some counts - many more if you include the gradations of one accent into another as you travel from region to region. The accent of the Harfoots is, indeed, a means of distinguishing them and their culture from the other races. It’s sort of Irish, but since none of the present day Irish accents existed in the Second Age, one cannot say it’s an Irish accent per se, nor reasonably take offense from it.

Samwise Gamgee had a kind of West Country accent in the PJ LOTRs. You could take offense at that & complain that the Hobbit of ‘lower’ social class (as compared with Frodo, Merry & Pippin) was made to speak such. Or you could take pride in a protagonist - some would say ‘the’ protagonist - speaking with the West Country accent.

The situation is the same here. The Harfoots are simply earlier in their evolution that other races and so have not yet attained a certain sophistication. But to focus on that would be to miss their intelligence, resilience, loyalty, love and purity of heart. Better attributes, I would argue, than riches and glitter.
 
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Rob Harding

Active Member
Urgh. Do we have to use 'drawing the racist card' as a phrase when someone expresses offence or discomfort? People are allowed to express opinions without being gaslit, no?

Ireland itself has many, many different accents. At least 10 by some counts - many more if you include the gradations of one accent into another as you travel from region to region. The accent of the Harfoots is, indeed, a means of distinguishing them and their culture from the other races. It’s sort of Irish, but since none of the present day Irish accents existed in the Second Age, one cannot say it’s an Irish accent per se, nor reasonably take offense from it.

Samwise Gamgee had a kind of West Country accent in the PJ LOTRs. You could take offense at that & complain that the Hobbit of ‘lower’ social class (as compared with Frodo, Merry & Pippin) was made to speak such. Or you could take pride in a protagonist - some would say ‘the’ protagonist - speaking with the West Country accent.

The situation is the same here. The Harfoots are simply earlier in their evolution that other races and so have not yet attained a certain sophistication. But to focus on that would be to miss their intelligence, resilience, loyalty, love and purity of heart. Better attributes, I would argue, than riches and glitter.
I felt it was more of a melting pot accent. There were blends of different Irish lilts and a little West Country and some Birmingham in there (though that may have just been Lenny Henry's true Brumminess leaking through). I felt it was similar to hearing Original Pronunciation Shakespeare which is very hard to pin down but has a sort of Cockney, West Country, Brummie, Irish, with some American in the blend. Since it comes from a much earlier time when those voices were thrown in the stew and before some even split off to become their own thing. Felt fitting.
 
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Makar

Member
Urgh. Do we have to use 'drawing the racist card' as a phrase when someone expresses offence or discomfort? People are allowed to express opinions without being gaslit, no?
Just as one can use Irish accents without being racist. I will say no further on this topic.
 

Odola

Well-Known Member
Just as one can use Irish accents without being racist. I will say no further on this topic.
But the Irish happen to be sentitive about being portrayed as uneducated lower-class by Anglo-Saxon mainstream. And despite the Irish being factually the most fair-skinned of all Europeans, the English did not count them in as "white" historically. So the Irish do feel to have been racially discriminated against by the English. As such a little sensitivity towards their vulnerability in this regard would not be ill-advised (have had the luck to have lived in the Republic of Ireland for several years).
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
There certainly is a culture in Britain of denigrating the Irish. But not to cast an entire country as victims, I would say that I don't think most Irish viewers would have taken offense. Regardless, people are allowed to be offended. People are also allowed to offend. And in response, other people are then allowed to express their opinion in the face of that offense. If there is freedom of speech, it goes in all directions. So does the freedom for people to respond in kind and for minds and choices to be changed and actions taken.

Again, I didn't personally see much racism in the hobbits. Perhaps a level of classism and the proliferation of the idea of the 'noble poor'. The working class being dim but with hearts of gold. Maybe? But also, this is a primitive culture and not analogous to any one group, so I don't think there's too much substance to the argument, other than the choice of Irish accents. Which I suppose one could argue as in the cultural milieu, the Irish accent holds a place as being indicative of those stereotypes fore-mentioned. I don't think it's an outright offence but I also don't think there is zero substance to the complaint.

Let's have the kind of robust discourse we enjoy on this site. But to just disregard entirely and gaslight those expressing their concerns and genuine hurt is really unpleasant and not something to be promoted.

The idea of a 'race card' is a horrible terminology proliferated largely by groups who don't want to engage in issues of racial identity and sensitivity and thus try to trivialise the issues but mocking those who raise them. To be clear, I am not saying that is at all Makar's direct personal intent. But that is where the language is rooted and how it plays out. I just think let's put that all to one side and continue the considered conversation that normally goes on around these parts.
 

David_M_R

Active Member
I felt it was similar to hearing Original Pronunciation Shakespeare which is very hard to pin down but has a sort of Cockney, West Country, Brummie, Irish, with some American in the blend.
Occurred to me also. For those who haven't heard it, here's a sample, using Hamlet's soliloquy:
. The older long e is the most obvious thing we don't have ('sleep' sounds closer to a drawn-out 'step'), but there's a lot of twists and turns that sound familiar.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Ben Crystal is an absolute legend. I watched some of his lectures/training sessions and he does a great job of showing how the jokes and puns really hit if you just perform them with original accents.

 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Having now seen Episode 3, I can understand these concerns better. In the first two episodes, we are introduced to this culture and their way of life. It's fairly idyllic, if also simple hunter-gatherer as well. So, yes, the characters are dirty, and have baggy clothes, and messy hair with stuff stuck in it. They also come across as simpletons, to some extent. But...overall, the portrayal is strongly positive. So, it doesn't seem as though there would be much to complain about, if there is a real-world connection. Who wouldn't like these Harfoots?

My impression of Episodes 1 and 2 was that the leader (Sadoc) was perhaps the only literate character. Now, we know that Nori also is expected to be able to read. So, literacy may not be universal among them, but it's more widespread than just one person. We still don't know the origin of the book and scrolls, though.

But Episode 3 shows the migration happening, in a caravan where each family must pull their own cart. It is also the case that if you fall behind...you are left behind. There is an ominous ruthlessness to their approach of 'no one left behind'. It is also revealed that the punishment for breaking their many secrecy rules is ostracization/exile. So, maybe not so idyllic after all, and maybe not so entirely likeable. Which is fine - no actual culture is beyond reproach or criticism, so it makes sense that there may be aspects of this one that are...not so great.

But that is where it becomes tricky if the audience is being invited to make real-world parallels. The accent may be pointing Irish (I wouldn't know), but the caravan method of travel could point to the Roma. And there are a lot of existing stereotypes and prejudices there as well.
 

Rob Harding

Active Member
Having now seen Episode 3, I can understand these concerns better. In the first two episodes, we are introduced to this culture and their way of life. It's fairly idyllic, if also simple hunter-gatherer as well. So, yes, the characters are dirty, and have baggy clothes, and messy hair with stuff stuck in it. They also come across as simpletons, to some extent. But...overall, the portrayal is strongly positive. So, it doesn't seem as though there would be much to complain about, if there is a real-world connection. Who wouldn't like these Harfoots?

My impression of Episodes 1 and 2 was that the leader (Sadoc) was perhaps the only literate character. Now, we know that Nori also is expected to be able to read. So, literacy may not be universal among them, but it's more widespread than just one person. We still don't know the origin of the book and scrolls, though.

But Episode 3 shows the migration happening, in a caravan where each family must pull their own cart. It is also the case that if you fall behind...you are left behind. There is an ominous ruthlessness to their approach of 'no one left behind'. It is also revealed that the punishment for breaking their many secrecy rules is ostracization/exile. So, maybe not so idyllic after all, and maybe not so entirely likeable. Which is fine - no actual culture is beyond reproach or criticism, so it makes sense that there may be aspects of this one that are...not so great.

But that is where it becomes tricky if the audience is being invited to make real-world parallels. The accent may be pointing Irish (I wouldn't know), but the caravan method of travel could point to the Roma. And there are a lot of existing stereotypes and prejudices there as well.
Irish Traveller community is large in Britain and very much faces prejudice and misunderstanding. HOWEVER most of the stereotypes and common insults levelled at the community are not present here. I think it has a distinct flavour as a nomadic tribe. From what we have seen so far anyway.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
I am quite acquainted with the stereotypes commonly associated with gypsies and travellers...
I do not see them in the proto-hobbits.
 
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