On Elves, Bright Got It Right

I rewatched Bright last night. I think we can all agree it had its flaws as a fantasy movie. But the one place I think it got things right was how it portrayed elves.

One thing that has always bothered me about Tolkien is his blatant favoritism of the elves. The elves could do no wrong in Tolkien’s eyes. They are moral, wise, have a 4% body fat, play champion to all things good, build beautiful cities, walk on top of snow (their boots are always tidy), and their adolescents have the clearest skin in all of Middle Earth.

What’s not to love?

They’re too perfect. How can a race as powerful and perfect as Tolkien portrayed them to be also be the world’s benevolent champions? How do they not decide to make the world of imperfect humans subservient to them?

Bright seems to agree. It flipped the script by putting elves at the top of the food chain in a bad way. The world is not better for having elves in it.

It takes a position similar to the one I’ve taken in my own series from book one. While the elves of Cathell are as insular as Tolkien’s, rather than roaming the streets as in Bright, they are not perfect, nor are they the saviors of the world.

The elves of Alethia in particular are petty and even cruel at times. They remain largely separate from the world of humans, because they care nothing for it. In their eyes, humans have done nothing but ruin the world they inherited from their gods, and they are happy to defend their Elvish domains with deadly force.

We get a little glimpse of this in book one, Into the Darkness. But no book better portrays this than Aeryn’s encounter with the elves in The Joy Thief.

I know a lot of fantasy readers like Tolkien’s view of elves. I just happen not to be one of them. So it was really refreshing to see Bright’s portrayal match closely with my own. I’d frankly like to see more stories like this.