Monday, 29 November 2010

I'm not a racist but...

The story of The Hobbit's arduous journey to the big screen is longer and more gruelling than the one described in the book itself. Directors jumping ship, legal wrangles over copyright, strikes and a studio bankruptcy - it makes a trek across Middle Earth seem like a piece of piss.

Now it looks like all the pieces are finally in place. The cast has been named, Peter Jackson is snuggling into the director's chair and the veggies have been growing in Hobbiton for 18 months now.

But it's not all plain sailing down in New Zealand, since a new controversy has erupted over the film's discriminatory casting policies. Apparently, Middle Earth is the fantasy equivalent of Tunbridge Wells, and won't tolerate any multi-ethnic halflings.

According to Digital Spy, an actress who attended a extras casting session was turned away for being the wrong colour. Naz Humphreys has complained to the press, saying "It's 2010 and I still can't believe I'm being discriminated against because I have brown skin. The casting manager basically said they weren't having anybody who wasn't pale-skinned."

It's a shame that the franchise has been tainted with suggestions of racism, since Tolkien's tales are all about the need for different races to unite against evil. Having said that, a hobbit of Pakistani descent might seem a little incongruous when surrounded by flaxen-haired, apple-cheeked kinfolk. 

Several years ago, an amateur production of The Sound Of Music saw a multi-ethnic cast of children playing the Von Trapps. Although the kids were all meant to be fantastic in their roles, it did give the impression that their deceased mother was something of a bike.

Peter Jackson's representatives have been quick to apologise for the 'casting restrictions' and stress that "It is not something the producers or the director of The Hobbit were aware of. They would never issue instructions of this kind to the casting crew. All people meeting the age and height requirements are welcome to audition."

But for some, the damage has already been done. So it won't be long before the set becomes overrun with offensively racist statements like "Is it true that all Hobbits have big feet?" and "Once you go Orc, you never go back."

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