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Chomsky and Zinn on LOTR
April 28, 2003 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Unused audio commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, recorded Summer, 2002, for The Fellowship of the Ring (Platinum Series Extended Edition) DVD, part one and part two. [Via Sassafrass Log.]
posted by homunculus (26 comments total)

 
What is "The Fellowship of the Ring"? I keep hearing about it. Does it have something do with whatever happened on Septermber 11th that people keep talking about? Is it something to do with that apple product, the iRaq, that everyone keeps posting about?
posted by srboisvert at 11:34 AM on April 28, 2003


What is this DVD, of which you speak? Is Mr. McSweeney involved? Where are my damned pancakes!
posted by Outlawyr at 11:44 AM on April 28, 2003


Funny stuff.
posted by GriffX at 11:55 AM on April 28, 2003


I have no joke here, I just like saying, "No war for pipe weed!"
posted by MrBaliHai at 12:06 PM on April 28, 2003


This is wonderful! A refreshing change from the majority of Lord of the Rings humour that mostly just resorts to "So-and-so in the Fellowship is gay! snicker snicker"...

A favourite bit:

"Zinn: It's on fire. Somehow being an on-fire eye is this terrible thing in the minds of those in Middle Earth. I think this is a way of telling others in Middle Earth to be ashamed of their eyes."
posted by Robot Johnny at 12:08 PM on April 28, 2003


Funny as hell... I read part one a couple weeks ago; good to know part two has arrived! Man-Elf coalition indeed.

I've heard the case made that going out to kill some orcs in modern fantasy literature is a sanitized, fictional version of going into the inner city and killing some niggers. Which has some weight to it. While this is outrageously funny and over-the-top, methinks the speakers mentioned might have something to say about our fantasy outlets.

(and before the lynching begins, let it be noted that I love Tolkien!)
posted by kaibutsu at 12:17 PM on April 28, 2003


Chomsky: I think the Hobbits are criminals, essentially.

[this is good]
posted by muckster at 12:20 PM on April 28, 2003


It's amusing, but they have to completely lie and misrespresent the facts in Tolkien's books to do it, and it keeps distracting me. Example: "How do you think those wizards get the money to build enormous towers and fortresses?" Well, of the five wizards, only Saruman has a tower, and he didn't build it, men did. They gave it to him after they abandoned it.
posted by dnash at 1:17 PM on April 28, 2003


great post.

Chomsky: Think of it from the Black Riders' perspective. No doubt they arrived at Weathertop thinking, "Can we ask a few questions? We'd like to talk to you."
posted by boltman at 1:31 PM on April 28, 2003


Reading it, hearing it in Chomsky's voice and intonations is remarkably funny.
posted by the fire you left me at 1:36 PM on April 28, 2003


Decent satire, imho.

I've heard the case made that going out to kill some orcs in modern fantasy literature is a sanitized, fictional version of going into the inner city and killing some niggers. Which has some weight to it.

I see your point, Kaibutsu, but it only makes sense to me when bastardized religions (KKK in this case) are correlated to the mythical aspects of the trilogy. The myths in the Lord of the Rings are literal... i.e. Morgoth actually exists, and created an inferior, inherently cruel and vicious race called orcs. The bastardized religions that we are currently plagued with in reality are not, and cannot sanely be, taken literally by a moral person. Anyone that tells you that minorities, gays, jews, etc. are inherently evil is a nut-job, but to say "well, I'm sure some of the orcs could be pretty nice guys, they were just raised in a bad environment" is silly... which is why I found the link funny.
posted by zekinskia at 2:12 PM on April 28, 2003


Well, obviously this is a vast oversimplification of Chomsky and Zinn and...

Oh, forget it. This was spit-up-my-drink funny. Thanks for the link.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:21 PM on April 28, 2003


Both were laugh-out-loud funny, altho overlong.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:10 PM on April 28, 2003


Started reading ... Yawn ... Kept reading ... Heh .... This sounds kinda like a graduate seminar ... Uh oh ... chuckle ... snort ... har har har ... starts laughing hysterically ... Falls off chair.

What can I say -- I was totally disposed to dislike this, and it won me over.

Zinn: Now Frodo, son of Drogo, agrees to take the ring to Mount Doom. Something tells me that no one in Mordor calls it Mount Doom.

Chomsky: And everyone baits Frodo into this. "You are our agent, going on a suicide mission. You have to do it for the Motherland."

Zinn: So is Frodo the Mohammed Atta figure in this story?

Chomsky: He's a fanatical true believer. And crazy. Obviously, totally insane.

Zinn: And listen to what Aragorn tells Frodo: "You have my sword."

Chomsky: So militaristic.

Zinn: Notice that no one says, "You have my diplomatic skills." I think the only real diplomat of Middle Earth is Gollum. He's the only one who makes any meaningful, cross-cultural exchange with any of these people. Being a torture victim at the hand of the Orcs, and his attempted strangulation of the Hobbits.

posted by jokeefe at 3:13 PM on April 28, 2003


I think it would be the height of obscure witticism to come up with a context free grammar that defines standard chompsky-style anti-American screeds, in chompksy normal form of course.

Unfortunately, I really can't be arsed.
posted by delmoi at 3:42 PM on April 28, 2003


Apropos of nothing: I'll cut you bitch.
posted by Wood at 4:20 PM on April 28, 2003


The culture of consumption is founded upon whatever the new thing happens to be. One day it's mithril, the next day it's pipe- weed. Perhaps tomorrow it will be kingsfoil?
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 5:05 PM on April 28, 2003


I've heard the case made that going out to kill some orcs in modern fantasy literature is a sanitized, fictional version of going into the inner city and killing some niggers. Which has some weight to it. While this is outrageously funny and over-the-top, methinks the speakers mentioned might have something to say about our fantasy outlets.

This is an interesting idea that deserves careful consideration, but after thinking about it for a while, I don't think so. I think orcs were created to be vehicles for stereotypical, violent evil, and nothing BUT evil. Something that can be wiped out without any real bad feeligs.

No matter how bad human opponents are, I think, you know deep down somewhere they aren't totally evil. If the hero kills a bunch of enemy soldiers, you might be happy he's alive, but there's a part of your mind that might feel guilty about their deaths. Even barbarians or mongol raiders have parents, siblings, and children waiting at home.

With orcs, it doesn't matter - you're usually not shown the home life (if any), and all orcs are shown as uniformly bloodthirsty with no redeeming characteristics. So the hero can slash/shoot away without anyone feeling bad for the orcs that aren't going home to their villages.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:58 PM on April 28, 2003


I think it would be the height of obscure witticism to come up with a context free grammar that defines standard chompsky-style anti-American screeds, in chompksy normal form of course.

Unfortunately, I really can't be arsed.


Who is 'Compsky'?
Oh, him.
posted by armoured-ant at 1:16 AM on April 29, 2003


With orcs, it doesn't matter - you're usually not shown the home life (if any), and all orcs are shown as uniformly bloodthirsty with no redeeming characteristics. So the hero can slash/shoot away without anyone feeling bad for the orcs that aren't going home to their villages.

Yeah, that's what I meant by 'sanitized.' The orc stereotype is structured so you can run around killing them by the hundreds without a second thought. (being terribly careful not to sound too much like the caricatured Zinn and Chomsky...) Why do we want this? Why is this escapist literature concerned with guilt-free oppression and wars with no ill consequence?

nem tudom, just thoughts which, I think, deserve reflection.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:07 AM on April 29, 2003


If there are any gamers out there, you might want to check this out.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:27 AM on April 29, 2003


Why is this escapist literature concerned with guilt-free oppression and wars with no ill consequence?

If you think that LotR portrays war as having no ill consequences, then you may want to go back and reread it a bit more carefully. The sense of loss and lives changed forever at the end of the trilogy is hard to miss.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:50 AM on April 29, 2003


Why is this escapist literature concerned with guilt-free oppression and wars with no ill consequence?

I would interpret it being more concerned with unlikely heroes triumphing over merciless and nearly all-powerful enemies.
posted by GriffX at 8:46 AM on April 29, 2003


Right. And "Leave it to Beaver" was a show about living a happy and priveledged American life. But when we look at that show today, we can see many of the cultural problems of the day being reinforced. June Cleaver in her housewife's uniform springs to mind, as does the lack of diversity in that happy, white neighborhood... Of course, the 1950's TV viewer didn't sit down saying, "Hey, let's glorify the patriarchy!" any more than you say "Hey, let's glorify the oppression of the Other!" when you watch LoTR. And this is my point: our modes of entertainment often contain strong messages we aren't neccesarily looking for, or even intended. I think old Chomsky may agree wholeheartedly with that statement, and probably throw in a few more chapters, but I won't put words in his mouth.

*shrug* just sayin'.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:19 AM on April 29, 2003


It's amusing, but they have to completely lie and misrespresent the facts in Tolkien's books to do it, and it keeps distracting me.

Which is what Chomsky and Zinn do in general, which is why it's funny. Heh.
posted by wrffr at 10:35 AM on April 29, 2003


Of course, Zinn and Chomsky would never sit down and rebuke the political leanings of LOTR. But what if they DID, in the form of outlandish chariactures? ...This would be the result.

This is the nature of comedy, in this crossing over of two very different concepts and agendas. Well done! (if a bit exhausting.)
posted by Down10 at 1:53 AM on May 2, 2003


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