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It's something of a cliche to say that political correctness has gone mad, and usually the people who say it are simply complaining that they used to be able to say anything they liked, no matter how much it offended people.
Well, we might have found a genuine case of it being true. Andrew Duncan, the esteemed sci-fi author, has claimed that the characterisation of orcs in The Lords of the Rings series is racist and has 'dire consequences for society'.
Speaking to the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast, produced by WIRED magazine, Duncan said "It's hard to miss the repeated notion in Tolkien that some races are just worse than others, or that some peoples are just worse than others."
"And this seems to me - in the long term, if you embrace this too much - it has dire consequences for yourself and for society."
Of course, the horrors of racism are well known and the general assertion that Duncan makes is correct, were it not for the obvious, stand-out point: orcs aren't real and someone made them up deliberately as horrible creatures.
One could infer similarly politically incorrect themes from the world of Middle Earth: perhaps the Ents are responsible for deforestation, as they keep getting up and walking off, or maybe the Elves are a drain on the public pension pot, what with being immortal and living into extreme old age. Why should the hardworking, taxpaying men of Gondor subsidise a load of pointy-eared freeloaders who live to 900
Of course, there are real-world themes to be found in the Lord of the Rings, but given that it was written in the 1940s, it is unlikely that modern discourses on critical theory and race played much a role in his work.
J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the series, was known to refer to aspects of religion in his work - he was a devout Catholic - and often dropped links to his native area of England, the Midlands, into the geography of Middle Earth.
In his personal life, Tolkien was a noted anti-racist and vocal opponent of the Nazis, even going as far as rejecting notions of 'Nordicism', which was often read in the mythology of the Lord of the Rings, as having too many associations with the racist ideology of Nazi Germany, which also invoked Nordic-style symbols in their propaganda.
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