I'm going to leave this unrated, because I'm really just using this review as a place holder to have a bit of a rampage about the SyFy Channel adaption of LeGuin's Earthsea books, and mention something I didn't have space for in my other review of A Wizard of Earthsea
It's maybe a secondary sport of readers to both long for and bitch about the film adaption, like betting on the sidelines during a prize fight. Back when I worked retail, one of my co-workers and I would amuse ourselves for hours trying to cast a perfect Sandman
film, although we always got hung up on who would direct, and who would play Death.
Anyway, one of the most quietly awesome things about A Wizard of Earthsea
is that LeGuin made her fantasy characters have dark skin. I don't like physical descriptions of characters, because it's so often beside the point and superfluous. (See also: sex scenes.) I'm willing to hand out exceptions: I think it's important we know that Jane Eyre is plain, and that Rochester has a big forehead. (Big forehead
...ifyouknowwhatImean.) But one of the most rousing criticisms of fantasy as a genre, for me, is about how horribly lily-white the standards of beauty are, how white=good, and black=bad, and how racial purity is a sign of moral purity. Yucky, yucky, yucky. So, Le Guin slyly steps in and makes her characters not-white: Ged with his red-brown skin, Vetch with his black; no violet cat-eyes for the women, no blonds. There is no moral correlation between skin color and moral worth, no component of sexual purity tied to blond hair. (As a natural blond, I have a whole bitch about this, but I'll silence myself for the moment.)
So, along comes the SyFy Channel adaption - and yes, it still hurts me to write SyFy and it always will - and they fuck all of this up. Danny Glover as Ogion was the only only only thing that was okay, but Danny Glover could read the phone book and I'd be happy. They turned Ged into a petulant white boy; they took every lovely thing about Ged's un-heroics and turned them into a sick parody of themselves. I said this earlier in a pm to a GR friend, but I'll say it again: maybe it doesn't matter what the skin color of fantasy characters is - it's not like the fictional worlds view race in anything like the way new millennium Americans do - but if it really doesn't matter, then why are they always white? Le Guin herself had some
pointed things to say about the matter, and you should totally read them.
I still haven't worked up the nerve to watch the Japanese anime version of Earthsea
. It sounds like the adaption is pretty loose, but at least isn't the offensive betrayal of LeGuin's stories that the SyFy version is. (Yup, still hurts to write. SyFy Channel = EPIC FAIL.)