The changing image of Orcs in Pop Culture

OrcThis Sunday, I was watching the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on TV and it struck me that the orcs in the movie are positively evil … Chaotic Evil in fact. They are completely selfish and have no respect for society, value personal goals above everything else and are seeking to destroy things. Do note, that the book was written in the 19th century by J. R. R. Tolkien and he intended to pose orcs as those wretched and evil creatures.

Many games were inspired from this epic … Dungeons and Dragons, Diablo … and not to mention Warcraft. Warcraft at the outset posed Orcs as Chaotic Evil as well … but in later versions, Blizzard decided to make this race playable … no doubt due to player demand. First the race became playable and was turned into Chaotic Good … then they actually took a u-turn and finally became Lawful Good.

The reason why this shift in alignment was done, was so that players could identify with certain aspects about the race and start playing with the race. Secondly, in all the previous references of Pop culture, the Orcs end up on the losing side … because they are evil and good always triumphs over evil. No one wants to end up on the losing side … why would you play a game where you know that whatever you do in the end you will lose? Thus, to stop the obvious end … the Orcs were made into a lawful society, with a war chief to rule over them.

Over a period of time, characters developed in Warcraft … and you had Thrall the War chief of the Orcs. Thrall was honourable, Thrall was good and benevolent … Thrall later on went on to become one of the most powerful druids of the Cenarion Circle in World of Warcraft.

A race which initially started off as pure evil, has now to date become a race which stands for honour and pride. From the human flesh eating orcs in LOTR, to the honorable orcs in World of Warcraft, the orcs have certainly gone a long way in their brand image. Although I am an Alliance fellow myself, I can understand why the Horde has an appeal to people … I wonder how many of those people would have stood by the Orcs had this image transition not been done.