Are Orcs Racist? Why We Believe They Aren’t

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

Racism is a true & sad part of our world, it has been like that for a *long* time. We are at an inflection point in time where sincere efforts are taken to remove that ugly part of our life & strive for a brighter, connected future. Rage topics like this are a step backwards. I’ve attached a photo of a tweet that raided the fantasy world of its innocence & fun. Let’s take a deeper look.

The first answer on Google if you search up the definition of racism is this:

“prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

So this will form as our guide on the topic of racism, its ties to games (D&D) & the entertainment industry as a whole. The image below is what should be seen as inappropriate, targeting a real-world group. 

“What does this have to do with my D&D campaign, video games & movies?”

Nothing, absolutely nothing. Continue playing D&D the way you see fit, keep watching whatever you want to watch & playing whatever you want to play. With no thought nor recourse as to the real-world implications of you doing what you genuinely enjoy. Seriously, pay no mind to people that think in this perpetually negative way. You’re doing great & you should not feel bad for enjoying what you find fun. Now since that is out of the way…

What is this “Orcs are racist” claim based off of? What gives them credibility?

The original author of the tweet based their claim off of the new D&D Player’s Handbook. Based on their comments in the thread, we can assume they are outraged at the idea of an inherently savage race being a legitimate thing in the new Dungeons & Dragons book. This claim has no basis on Orcs, nor any fictional character for that matter. Let’s discuss why.

The cultivation theory.

I’ll save you a Google search & give you the first definition of cultivation theory that pops up:

“The primary proposition of cultivation theory states that the more time people spend ‘living’ in the television world, the more likely they are to believe social reality aligns with reality portrayed on television. The images and ideological messages transmitted through popular television media heavily influence perceptions of the real world.”

Now this speaks about television specifically because the theory itself is a bit dated but it is still prevalent in arguments people use today for modern media mediums. Think: “Violent video games are going to make my kid violent.” People who cry racism to the orcs description in D&D may have a few underlying concerns for what this can turn out to be.

1) This fictional “racism” is going to transfer into the promotion of real-world racist attitudes.

2) These negative tropes strip these fictional characters of their individualism & label them according to their race.

The argument against number 1 is that there is little to no evidence suggesting that what we see in the media will translate to our real-world actions. What’s fictional generally stays in the land of fiction.

The argument against number 2 is that there is little to no grounded traction for the argument to gain a foothold. The first thing we need to realize is we are discussing a fictional character that has no real world connection. After reading quite a bit into this topic, the online consensus of which race orcs are related to is that there is no consensus. Some believe it is referring to Asian groups, others believe African groups. This inconsistency in itself is evidence that some viewers may be projecting their own stereotypes onto the orc race.  

Google: "Satanic Panic"

It’s dangerous to give credibility to misguided projectionism.

When we roleplay as fictional characters, we are donning a persona of the intended subject. Most don’t do this with inherent harm as the subject, they do it to simply play & have fun. When we begin to strip users of their fictional play, there can be real-life implications. Let’s say we decide to outlaw D&D. What are the implications? The users that used to roleplay as their favorite characters no longer have the outlet they desired. Their pent up emotions will find another way to materialize themselves. That is NOT something we want to happen. I won’t give details because this will go on a case-by-case basis, but we want to give users as many fictional online/offline outlets to release their emotions into. That does not happen when we retrospectively interpret inherent bias in fiction & attempt to correct it with a murder cry online.

Do we play by the rules? Not everyone.

The last part I will discuss is the redundancy of the argument entirely. Who are you trying to convince that orcs are racist? The D&D makers? The D&D users? If your goal is the users, your cries will fall on uncaring ears. If a user wants to play by the D&D rules, they will play by it. If they do not like the way orcs are depicted for some other reason, they will play by their own roleplay & rules. If your goal is the D&D makers, they will do what is best for their community. If a large majority of players had a genuine problem with it, they would know & correct it as to not lose their consumers. But the majority have no problems with it, so it will stay.

Closing Remarks.

The world has a million & one problems. If you feel strongly about an issue, you can get the online world to acknowledge it with little to no effort. But is that what you want to do? It amazes me that millions of people still die of starvation & poverty, at a time when there is too much food for one nation. We fight senseless wars for old politicians that don’t care how many bodys are thrown against the military industrial complex. We delegate space travel to a novelty, the one subject that can be a true salvation for our species if we decide to colonize closer planets & alleviate the stress we put on Earth. Fight about something that matters. This matters, but on an individual level, if you see racist remarks being given to anyone, speak up. If you see celebrities, or companies making racist remarks, boycott them. Don’t fight a fictional battle, fight the real battles that are being raged day in & day out.

Do Something Real.

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of Greystone Games nor its subsidiaries.

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