A 1969 interview with Frank Herbert breaks down DUNE's white savior complex

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/09/16/a-1969-interview-with-frank-he.html

6 Likes

I figured they were more like the Mujahideen?

9 Likes

Bedouin.

19 Likes

Not to be a broken record on this point, but a whole lot of Dune comes from the Trans-Caucasus Islamic tribes experience fighting the cruel – but largely ineffectual – attempts at conquest by Imperial Russia. This book was briefly a bit of a thing in the early 1960s when Jackie Kennedy said she was reading it.

16 Likes

Herbert: “… in studying sand dunes, you immediately get into… the mystique of the Kalahari… the Black folk of the Kalahari… and how they utilize every drop of water…”

That… for all the misogynists and racists who still have a problem with Sharon Duncan-Brewster being cast as Dr. Liet-Kynes.

16 Likes

One prominent aspect that differentiates Paul / Leto from traditional savior stories is that their place isn’t “inherent” (as in endowed with traits by a higher power, eg a creator) is that they are manufactured through complex breeding by people.

5 Likes

So eugenics, then?

16 Likes

That’s the word I was looking for.

7 Likes

Although certainly not inherent the way royalty works, it’s still pretty icky as a concept, especially given its association with brutal racism. But it seems that Herbert was in general working to create a critique, so…

11 Likes
2 Likes

That, and the prophecies they use to secure their place amongst the Fremen were engineered by the Bene Gesserit themselves specifically to enable exploitation of “primitive” cultures.

14 Likes

Yeh it’s icky, I agree, it just makes it slightly harder / complex to affix that the author intended to associate race with “saviorness”. Not willing to make a full blown defense here though.

Yeh those BGs were brutally calculating. Analysis material for Freudian complexes abound.

3 Likes

that looks like the paperback edition of dune my mother read to me when i was 9 although whoever had owned it first (she bought it at a used book store) had lightly drawn clouds and rain on it which made me wonder why they kept talking about deserts when it was raining on the cover. some years later i pulled it off the shelf to read it for myself and saw that the rain was an aftermarket addition.

i know this comment isn’t strictly on-topic but not too far off-

10 Likes

Durrani’s article is really great, even if I don’t completely agree with all his conclusions on author’s intent.

Also, I love that the new movie is giving a chance for the people who have been looking at the ideas in the books for a long time to bring those to the people who are looking at them for the first time. It’s creating some pretty interesting conversations about ideas that go beyond some of the less complex storytelling that has come to dominate movies for a while. It’s tempting to be the gatekeeping nerd when it comes to stuff like this that you’ve loved for so long (well, actually…the Sardaukar wouldn’t ever fight like that because…) but it’s fun to see what so many people think about this stuff that’s been more niche for so long.

Still not sure about “crusade,” though…

2 Likes

I know – BB is where I heard about it in the first place. It’s dense going but a fascinating book.

4 Likes

As famously depicted in the 1980 comedy film The God Emperor Must be Crazy.

18 Likes

I still haven’t watched The Gods… movie. I’ll have to get on it.

7 Likes

Was it very in depth? Or was it medium? Make up your mind!

4 Likes

I know that the movie has been criticized for depicting the nomadic hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari as being completely ignorant of the outside world and also for being a South African film that completely ignored Apartheid, but it’s still a fascinating glimpse into a culture that has developed to survive extended periods without access to surface water.

7 Likes