Cultural Appropriation

You know you’re part of a culture when you absorb all of it, whether you want to or not.

I imagine that sports fans have a similar thing, where they know all about the activity and history of “That other sports team from way over there” or know more about “Another sport that’s not exactly what they’re into” than they feel they should, because they don’t look it up, they don’t follow it or research it, they just happen to absorb the information from other people, or through the channels that they go through to find out about those sports and teams that they are interested in.

Was that right? Did I get sports right?

Anyway, geek culture falls firmly within that same pigeon hole. It doesn’t matter where your particular love lies, gaming, anime, books, films, you’ll inevitably find out a surprising amount more than you want to about other sides of the culture. Pick up a magazine, say NEOEmpire, or GamesTM for example, you’ll pick up something unrelated along the way via adverts, small columns that might catch your eye, even a headline can give you enough information to spark up a conversation.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my list of typically geeky things that just don’t interest me, but let me give the big ones out here for the record:

Star Wars

Oh I know there’s a new film coming out, and yes it looks spectacular and all that but I remain disinterested in the series as a whole, not just the new/first trilogy with all the George Lucas fiddling, but the original/second trilogy I found to be a little dull. They’ve aged well, and some of the additions like background detail have kept them contemporary despite the complaints about the changes remastering has brought.

Sci-fi wise I’ve always been a firm Babylon 5 fan. Both universes have their intricacies and their defining characteristics that make them stand out, and I have no qualms about mixing politics with my space opera, it helps develop a more natural and organic world. Rangers and Jedi may have some striking similarities but they’re also very well defined, the historical union of two races under an ancient ethos defining the Rangers, and the mysticism of the Force and its uses defining the Jedi.


Star Furies and X-Wings also have strong visual similarities, but Star Furies have one property that makes them radically different, and for me, it’s what gives B-5 the edge, at least aesthetically. X-Wings and other Star Wars space vehicles move like aeroplanes for absolutely no reason other than “that they do”, where the Star Furies are able to flip, spin, and pull a hard reverse in seconds because there’s no need to consider aerodynamics in a vacuum.

It’s a minor advantage, but that added onto storyline that I found a little disinteresting, partially down to the ponderous pace that’s pervasive throughout all six films, Babylon 5 takes my favour every time. I understand what people love about Star Wars, because I love a lot of those aspects too, a holy order of space-wizards at war with an evil sect of their own kin, some fantastic characters and amazing visual spectacles, but not enough to make me want to watch the films over and over.

Lord Of The Rings

Sorry, Tolkein’s dull. I know he set the standards for fantasy, and his world is rich and well developed, but he’s a lousy story teller. I tried to get on with the books, I tried to get on with the films, it just didn’t take.

I don’t think it helps that Lord of the Rings is also the stereotype for all fantasy, and those stereotypes have become annoyingly pervasive in the works of others throughout the age. I’m not saying it’s stunted creativity, it’s encouraged it to some extent, but it would be nice to see some more mould-breaking ideas come out of the woodwork from time to time.


Most fantasy worlds have dwarves, elves and orcs, not to mention a few class archetypes like wizards, fighters, rangers, rogues to a lesser extent, and bound some of the race/class pairings that have become the standard that still holds true today. It’s testament to the enduring power of his work for sure, but it’s been a long time, and people are still unwilling to think too far away from the LotR box.

What Does This Have To Do With Anything, You Loveless Heathen?

Well, there’s certainly no need for that kind of name calling, it’s just an opinion!

What I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion. It can be as elaborate and well thought out as my views on Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, or they can be far more simple like my attitude towards Final Fantasy (I’m just not interested, sorry). What you absolutely should not do is vehemently reject the opinions of others out of hand.

There’s a big difference if someone is spouting misinformation, or flooding the world with an actively harmful opinion (although there’s an unfortunate habit amongst some pressure groups to use misinformation to make an opinion seem harmful), those people should absolutely be the subject of the harshest scepticism and scrutiny. Opinions hold a far greater sway on what we see and hear on a day to day basis than ideas. Ideas may be powerful, but it’s the opinions of those ideas that can make or break them.

We are surrounded by the prevailing opinions (at least in geek culture, I’ll say nothing about politics), and so we can’t help but be subjected to them whether we like it or not. And besides, there are times when knowing a thing or two about something a little outside of our preferences can help carry us through a conversation, and with a little understanding on that score, anyone you talk to will become a lot more appreciative of your personal opinions.

4 thoughts on “Cultural Appropriation”

  1. It’s true that most of the enduring “fantasy” tropes – especially within the RPG scene are basically Tolkein tropes. But JRRT wasn’t making something new out of whole cloth: he stitched together the bits he liked best of north- and west-European folklore and mythology, and glued it together with ideas he “borrowed” from his own Catholicism to make LoTR.
    Still, he must have known what he was doing, his work is still super-popular so much later.


    1. It’s sadly true to say that there are few truly original ideas in this world, and it was fairly true even then. I have respect for his work, but no taste for it personally.
      Might interest you: I found out recently that the Beatles and Stanley Kubrik were involved with a very early film adaption of LotR that sadly never saw the screen. I have to admire that kind of continuous popularity, I sincerely doubt I’ll pull that off in my lifetime.

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