These are two instances where racist subplots and worldbuilding in the novels have either been resolved or muted by the show.'The show' being Phillip Pullman's extraordinary novels adapted for the BBC as 'His Dark Materials'. One of the best tv shows they've put on in 2019, at that.
But there is a slightly more unavoidable issue represented by the character of Iorek Byrnison. While Iorek is, of course, an armored, sentient polar bear and not a specific caricature of a particular ethnic group, he does generally accumulate tropes associated with the figure of the “noble savage.”Oh. Here we go.
Enter Iorek Byrnison: a violent, intensely honor-driven character from a “primitive” culture who teaches the protagonist about life by virtue of their (in this case eventual) moral superiority. While the panserbjørn are, of course, not human beings, it is striking that much of the culture Pullman invents for them is based firmly in a series of Noble Savage stereotypes. When this is paired with offhand remarks in both the novels and the show about how Iorek was tricked into dishonorable behavior because he was given alcohol, we have a character that is an amalgam of Noble Savage stereotypes with a hint of First Nations-directed racism thrown in.And who is this chap, who can apparently see racism in a children's book? Why, none other than one of California's finest whackademics, of course!
Tyler Dean is a professor of Victorian Gothic Literature. He holds a doctorate from the University of California Irvine and teaches at a handful of Southern California colleges.I'm only astounded he hasn't - yet - featured in David Thompson's blog...