Director Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” creates a strong sense of déjà vu. The various denizens of Middle Earth, the rousing battle scenes, the guttural voice of the Gollum are all welcome back on screen. One cliché, dredged up from Hollywood’s past, is not so welcome: The evil albino. A major villain of the new trilogy is Azog, repeatedly referred to as “The Pale Orc.” This bald, scarred amputee already had enough dermatologic baggage to easily identify him as an adversary for the ages. Did Jackson have to give him albinism as well? He is blue eyed, has alabaster skin and even rides a white wolf-like Warg who shares his genetic inability to produce pigmentation. The evil albino has for decades been a movie stereotype. Fortunately, after a major 2006 media campaign by NOAH, an albinism advocacy group, this archetype went the way of the dodo bird. One could argue, as did fans of the self-flagellating albino monk assassin of “The Da Vinci Code,” that promoting this epically overdone stereotype was done to stay true to the original novel. Not so, since while Azog is briefly mentioned in the appendices of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, no mention is made of his being “pale.” In fact, if Jackson remained true to Tolkien, this character was killed in battle years before the events of “The Hobbit.” In a year when there was an actual (albeit tongue-in-cheek) hero with albinism in “Pirates: Band of Misfits,” there should be no need for Jackson to step onto a slippery slope of resurrecting the ruthless, hateful evil albino killer. Perhaps in one of the sequels, he can toss in a morally sound character with albinism: a dwarf, elf, or human for whom the condition is incidental, not based on prejudice. Good natured Bilbo would approve.
More on Albinism at Skinema.com.