Having Will Smith as the star is the antidote

Monday, January 15th, 2018

Z Man describes Netflix’s new Will Smith movie Bright as Alien Nation with Orcs and Elves instead of space aliens:

The Elves are the Jews of this imaginary world, as they are smart and run everything.The humans are the whites, keeping society running, while the Orcs are the blacks, occupying the underclass and subjected to discrimination.


The interesting thing about this movie, though, is they don’t present the multicultural future as a paradise of diversity. Instead, it is more like Brazil where the underclass is huge and the middle class is small and fragile. In this context, the Elves live in beautiful gated communities, away from everyone else. The humans and Orcs are mixed up in the squalor, with the humans having a marginally better existence. It is a future where diversity is tolerated out of necessity, but everyone dreams of their own ethnostate.

The other strangely realistic aspect is the gross inequality. The Elves live like royalty, as they are at the top of the social order. They are clean and white and orderly. Everyone else is dirty, dark and disorderly. The implication is that the Elves pit Orcs and humans against one another, in order to exploit them. The result is the world extreme diversity is a world of poverty, for all but the elite. Imagine if the whole country was like New York City, where the elite live in penthouses and everyone else in tiny apartments.

That’s the reality of multiculturalism. The hidden cost of maintaining order inevitably bankrupts the middle-class. The people at the top are always getting their beak wet first and they will do what they must to protect themselves and their position. That means the cost of maintaining order falls on the middle, which quickly disappears. University towns exist in idyllic diversity, because billions are hoovered out of the surrounding economies to support the paradise. The university town scales up to be Brazil.

The movie does not spend much time contemplating the Elf class. All we learn is they live apart, but control society, with the help of human assistants. They do give us a surprisingly frank portrayal of the Orcs. They are physically superior to humans and they have an affinity for hip-hop culture, but most are too dumb to do anything other than menial jobs. The Orcs are so obviously a deliberate analog to modern blacks that I’m shocked they get away with it. I guess having Will Smith as the star is the antidote.

I’m reminded of the original Star Trek and how it could tackle current issues by applying even the slightest patina of sci-fi. For instance, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield features half-black, half-white people who hate the half-white, half-black people who share their planet — so it’s just a silly TV show! Nothing to worry about, sponsors!


  1. Isegoria says:

    I watched the first act of Bright, and two things struck me. First, the credits present it as a Trigger Warning Production. Second, it features a short snippet of Joe Rogan interviewing an Orc on his podcast.

  2. Graham says:


    I was never a paper and pen D&D player — I entered that world only in the 80s and again 2000s through computer game adaptations. The old SSI D&D games and some modern stuff like Neverwinter.

    Never Warcraft, as it happens.

    But even with that level of limited indoctrination, when the Warcraft movie came out I had a less than charmed reaction to the idea of an extra-dimensional Orc invasion being treated as a settlement issue.

  3. Graham says:

    Interesting how SF has tackled these things before.

    I only dimly recall Alien Nation, but IIRC the aliens were both physically and mentally superior to humans but were relatively few in number and refugees from some more menacing conqueror species.

    In District 9, the aliens were refugees/prisoners {?} who couldn’t even run their tech, I think.

    In Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: The Final Conflict, the Taelons were super-advanced and benevolent in that sinister way aliens are when handing out goodies, and were hinted to be hiding from some worse foe.

    Gordon R Dickson’s Way of the Pilgrim, a classic of occupation literature in a SF context, the Aalaag are humanity’s superiors in every possible way and are fully aware of this, and take great pains to be mysterious even to their human collaborators. Eventually it is revealed they also are afraid of something out there.

    In none of these scenarios is the presence of the extraterrestrial species a unmixed benefit to humanity, or any benefit in most cases.

  4. Graham says:

    Of course, one of my favourite SF takes on alien contact, conflict and identity issues was in a short story whose title, author and publication I forget. It might have been in one of Pournelle’s “There Will be War” anthologies in the 80s.

    Some aliens show up and advise Earth that there is a great interstellar war going on and we need to get onside with them and let Earth be used as a weapons platform.

    So a crew of aliens begins to construct an enormous weapons system on Earth.

    It later becomes clear to Earth’s leaders that they have misunderstood the scale of things- the weapons system is the equivalent of a machine gun nest and the alien commander [roughly put in the novel] is the interstellar equivalent of a buck sergeant. [I don't know if one can be a buck sergeant in military usage, but I think that's what the author wrote and the character said]. So the alien is not able to tell them much about the war.

    So that put humans in their place right there. But there was more.

    It turned out that all other humanoid life in the galaxy was silicon-based, and other sentient life based more on our biology was more non-human in form. I forget the former polity — something like the Biped Alliance or something. The latter power was almost certainly the “Protoplasmic League”.

    Humanity was understandably confused by where its allegiance should lie, if with either, but was being pressed to choose.

    Of course the whole thing was a barely veiled analogy for the plight of less developed cultures confronted by the great wars of the 20th century. Or for that matter of countless little tribes caught up in the wars of empire these past millennia. Still fun.

  5. Isegoria says:

    Yes, the aliens of District 9 were refugees in a refugee camp. The critics assumed it was a movie about apartheid, but Steve Sailer referred to it as Neill Blomkamp’s Malthusian fable of post-Apartheid Johannesburg. (That reminds me, I may need to see Elysium, where he fools the critics again.)

  6. Isegoria says:

    A buck sergeant is simply a plain ol’ sergeant, three stripes, rather than one of the higher-ranking variants, like staff sergeant, sergeant first class, master sergeant, etc.

  7. Isegoria says:

    It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I realized Bright is a cyberpunk movie, only with magical elves instead of high-tech corporate ninjas.

  8. Isegoria says:

    I guess we had to expect the “orcs aren’t evil, they’re just misunderstood” movement, right? I’m pretty sure they’ve even humanized zombies.

  9. Buckethead says:

    It’s like a low tech version of the old shadow run game from FASA.

  10. Isegoria says:

    Exactly, Buckethead. Bright looks just like Shadowrun — which you can confirm by looking at the cover art for the most recent edition’s beginner box set.

  11. Graham says:

    I like the cyberpunk categorization. I wouldn’t have got that but it seems apposite.

    Anyone here seen Badlands? It reminded me why I would not care to live in a post-apocalyptic feudal society. Lacking even rudimentary social bonds of religion, common ethnicity, or both, the pomo version is a real hell for everybody without power or military skills. At least real feudalism left something in common between master and peasant, even if it was just the last judgment or common ancestors in the forests of Germany.

  12. Isegoria says:

    I haven’t watched Into the Badlands. Should I?

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