Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Peter Jackson's Dwarf Problem
There's been plenty of chatter over Peter Jackson's latest film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Nine Hour Adaptation of a Single Book. Such talk has ranged from the advantages and disadvantages of a high frame rate, to its cutting-edge CGI, to OMG Brad you said Legolas was in this movie I'm going next door to watch the Gerard Butler movie. But there's one thing the media are strangely silent about:
Peter Jackson is a dwarfist.
Look at the image above. You see 13 dwarves total. Twelve interchangeable characters in funny prosthetics made to look inhuman and cartoonish. Twelve dwarves with almost no characterization or backstory in the film, each serving up a line or two of comic relief throughout the movie. And then there's Thorin.
Thorin, the leader of the dwarves, the "good" dwarf, the noble dwarf, the dwarf with a compelling background, the dwarf who manages to be an almost-lead in a movie titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Strain on the Devotion of Fans. Thorin, who just by coincidence happens to look way more like a human than any of his companions.
Where all the other dwarves have funny hats, or weird matted hair, or huge W.C. Fields noses, Thorin strikes a pose several inches taller than them with his flowing black locks, well-trimmed goatee, and well-proportioned nose. This is typical Hollywood studio-think. "We can't have a hero with x background; our audience of y background just won't identify with him." So you get David Carradine playing the lead in "Kung Fu." You get Mickey Rooney playing the Asian neighbor in Breakfast at Tiffany's. You get the dashing man-like character of Thorin in charge of 12 bumbling dwarves.
Let's turn the tables. Let's make a movie about 13 African-American men on an adventure. Let's give 12 of them funny noses and weird clothes and make them all look the same and say funny things that white people think black people say. They will be indistinguishable from one another. Then let's make the thirteenth man the leader. He'll have the conflict, the passion, the awesome action sequences. I want you to close your eyes. Can you see him leading his band of adventurers across the land? I want you to picture him, this man.
Now imagine he's in whiteface.
Shame on you, Mr. Jackson.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he's an actor and writer for whom the word "dwarf" has lost all meaning.