|It's stupid how gorgeous he is, right?|
In case you don't know what the Hierarchy of Race is, here's a link to Professor Michael Hunt's paper. He teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and has written a book about how racial ideologies have shaped US foreign policy. To sum up what he says though, there's a very real race hierarchy in people's minds that informs them in their day-to-day interactions. This guy is black, thus he is less than an asian, who is less than a white. And so on and so forth. While this may not be true for everyone, and I would argue that for the majority of people it is not true, it's apparently a really big part of US foreign policy and you can't deny the fact that it's a huge part of the American legacy.
And it's also a huge part of science fiction and fantasy. Look back on a lot of the classics in either genre. You'll see a definite partitioning of races based solely on the fact that they are who they are. Yes, in Lord of the Rings the Quenya fought a war with the Noldorin and they certainly don't shy away from marrying into the race of humans. And in science fiction once in a while you see aliens turning on each other politically like Estraven's struggle against his native Karhide in Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness. But the vast majority of science fiction and fantasy (syfy) novels have a set number, kind, and relationship for the races that populate their books and authors do not deviate from these set standards. Orcs are always stupid, trolls are even worse, and elves are badass gorgeous people. Humanity is either in charge of a system of worlds and corrupted, or fighting against an organized system of worlds and pure.
Sure, you can hide behind the idea that these are tropes, motifs, structures that have worked before and can totally work again. I agree that they're fun, but I also posit that they are outdated. I'm tired of reading about the same old relationships, I'm tired of reading about the human protagonist saving the aliens because their weirdo ways saved him/her, I'm really freaking tired of reading about the same political, societal relationships between the perennially creepy species and the always beautiful ones. It's kind of ridiculous how stagnant things have become.
Syfy was meant to be a world of endless possibilities, where the problems and issues of the real world can be explored and extrapolated on a dramatic scale. Interesting interpretations should abound, not ossified hierarchies that don't even exist. Why can't the Elves be hoodlums and the Orcs be the dignified ones? Where does it say that every future society has to be a dystopia ruled by despotic aliens/humans? Everything is the same same same. Ugh.
|Funny face, lulz|
Why is it that after a war between aliens and humans, the political and societal effects aren't explored? Don't you think that aliens would intermingle with humans? That humans would influence aliens, that after millennia some of them might even adopt our religious systems? Why is it a fact that the religions of today die out in the future? After two millennia we still have Christianity, what's another two? Often I feel that the attachment to these tropes, especially concerning how aliens or fantasy races are developed and interact with each other, is built off of laziness.
Laziness, however, is a lazy answer. More probable is the idea that the whole genre of syfy is losing its focus. People are beleaguered with spectacle and awe, an empty miracle of technology that will only hold a person's eyes without ever touching their soul. And the easiest way to deliver this spectacle is to not push the envelope, to leave the bells and whistles of syfy be. There's no challenge for the audience, and none for the creative mind.
|Such a badass, so good at world building|
But it's a lot less fun. Maybe, after all of this complaining, I should throw out there what I'd like to do with my races. Maybe. I find it to be self-serving, a "Gotcha!" moment that is rooted in arrogance. I do not think that I have achieved whatever level of creativity is needed to abolish the old stereotypes. I only ardently wish that the work I am doing now is seen in that light. I want to shake things up, I want to break barriers. The Howlas aren't a single, mindless race of beings. There are Howlas who hate other Howlas, who are Christian and Jewish, who love humans and hate themselves. Humanity is not weak but burdened, under the thumb of no alien species and in detente with all of them. Argh, I'm digressing.
Either way, I think syfy needs to change. Orcs shouldn't always be stupid and ugly, aliens shouldn't always be war-mongering. It'd be nice if authors and filmmakers and showrunners could have some creativity, and even more so it would be nice if they respected the audience. Until next time then.