in defense of… female orcs

this is bullshit


ok, enough!  i can’t take it, not in one day.  first i see the hobbit, a movie which has exactly one named female character, then i look at juxtapoz’s “best of 2012” display featuring bic pen illustrations by juan francisco casas and i see the portrait that you can observe above.  funny, right?  isn’t it edgy?  i mean, it pushes the envelope, right?  because you see, it’s a pretty woman, half-naked, with a bag over her head.  deep, right?  it’s offensive and dirty, and yet, it’s well done.  isn’t that just radical?  doesn’t it just make you want to study art history and third-wave feminism all at once just to begin to even digest it?

1) juxtapoz, god damn it.  this is bullshit.

i used to like juxtapoz back when it was all about graffiti and cutting edge art.  now every single fucking issue has disturbing masogonistic art in it.  every issue.  women only appear in that magazine as sex objects, usually reduced to parts of their bodies, sometimes portrayed as the victims of violence or ridicule.  and pretty much only one body type.  the portrait above was done entirely in bic pen.  so juxtapoz encourages us to “focus on the skill involved,” but how can i, when half of the magazine is mid-coital naked women?  what is this?  erotica? it’s not even that.  it’s porn passing as art, stupid porn at that.  and i’m tired of being expected to be impressed.  apologies are in order.

2) why is there only one woman with a speaking part in all of the hobbit?

what, there’s no women in middle earth?  no female orcs?  how do they reproduce exactly?  do they spawn from each other’s weird orc and dwarf genitalia?  are female elves relegated to playing the flute for guests?  ok, fine, so no women are on the journey with them, well what about flashbacks?  there’s no dwarf queen to speak of?  and of cooooooourse there’s no female wizard!  i mean, that would be unthinkable, right?  an old, wise, and awesomely powerful, woman?  who ever heard of such a thing.  even in fantasy, that’s really pushing it.  and sure, you could blame all of this on tolkien.  he wrote the story and it’s a classic so no messing with a classic.  except, they did mess with it!  they totally freakin’ messed with it!

according to this article, which cites 19 differences between the novel and the movie, geladrial (the only female character in the film, played by cate blanchett), wasn’t originally in the hobbit at all.  the producers actually thought they needed to add a female presence to the movie to get people to watch it.  well, good for them, but why stop there?  after all, they were also willing to change the main character, thorin from a fat, greedy, insolent, and inexperienced leader into a dashing, noble, and completely virtuous king.  the pale orc, his arch-nemesis, barely played a role in the book, so pretty much all the details about him were made up.  also radagast, the animal-loving, mushroom-munching, brown wizard doesn’t appear at all in the book.  so clearly hollywood is willing to insert characters, embellish characters, change characters, etc… for the sake of saving the box office.  geladriel was inserted because most people don’t like watching a bunch of smelly dudes for two and a half hours.  they need some beauty.  but beauty isn’t the only thing women are capable of, and i believe, that’s not all people want to see women do.

an interesting part of bilbo’s history was that his mother might have been part-faerie.  when gandalf reminds bilbo that he is “a took,” he’s referring to bilbo’s mother, belladonna.  from the article in the beast, “while the mixing of hobbit and fairy blood in bilbo is never confirmed, it is his mother’s remaining influence that is said to give bilbo his increased spark for adventure.”  wouldn’t it have been fun if the producers had decided to expand on this mysterious little nugget of information for the film?  what a perfect way to explore an interesting female character!  but no, they actually left this detail out completely.

my point is, if you’re willing to modernize the story a bit, then you should also take into account the fact that women deserve better.  they deserve to be portrayed truthfully, even in fantasy.  and that means showing them strong, showing them conflicted, showing them fat, showing them short, showing them fighting, showing them gross, showing them wise, etc… i actually don’t think anyone would be amazed or offended.  and who knows? maybe if more film-makers made it a point to have a larger and more truthful female presence in their films, the consistent income inequalities and difference in opportunities between men and women would shrink as a result.

3) women have a place in fantasy too

it’s really, really important that women occupy space in the fantasy realm.  it’s ironic, given all the fantasizing that men do about women all day, that they have such a hard time finding roles for them in fantasy art.  but look guys, women do more than get naked or look beautiful.  and if you don’t know what else it is that they do, maybe you should get some more female friends.  i don’t believe that artists should think purely about being politically correct, but i do think that if you look at a huge amount of your work, and find that it consistently neglects the role of women, or provides a consistently damaging portrayal of women as mere sex objects, or pure providers of moral guidance, then you need to rethink your attitudes and maybe consciously start confronting those attitudes in your art.  better yet, collaborate with women!  women have great ideas about how women should fit into your story, or your art!  the sooner women are truly capable of anything in our imaginations, the sooner little girls will start to believe that they are truly capable of anything in reality.