This morning Voyager Online asked why the majority of online reactions to the newly-created elfmaid Tauriel sadly seem to be misogynistic and packed full of nerd-rage. The first part of the question is simple enough, it doesn’t take a lot of eloquent thought to brand a female character you dislike a “stupid bitch” and we all know what the internet is full of. The second part of the question is a little more complex.
I have to preface this by stating that I have enjoyed all of Peter Jackson’s adaptions so far, and I am sure I will enoy the next two. But it is not without complaint.
Is it just a desire to stay true to the text? No, it’s a desire for the story to stay true to the creation of Middle Earth, and Middle Earth is no trifling matter. The reason The Lord of the Rings has inspired such a devoted fanbase is because Tolkien changed the world of fantasy literature forever. His publishers didn’t like the idea of an unseen foe, thought that people didn’t want to see fallibility in their heroes, the book was too big, and too risky, not foreseeing it would become one of the most-read books in literary history.
You could say Tolkien fans can be rather difficult. It is with good reason.
Voyager asks “if you need to pad out the story why not pad it with some kick-ass female role-models?” adding that we had the female warrior Eowyn in the LOTR movie trilogy.
Firstly let’s not reduce the character of Eowyn to a simple “female warrior” when comparing it to the movie-creation character of Tauriel. Eowyn was Tolkien’s most complex and interesting female character (and there was certainly not a lot of them in Lord of the Rings), initially a tragic character, infinitely brave yet desperately sad, one who sought peace as well as glory in battle and death, until “her heart changed, or at least she understood it; and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.”
What can we expect from Tauriel? In a cringe-worthy statement Evangeline Lilly claims she is “supposed to be an absolutely ruthless, deadly killer” clearly not grasping the anti-war themes that pervade Tolkien’s works (whether you cordially despise allegory or not Professor). With statements like this it’s not surprising so many fans are complaining about the “video game” aspect of The Hobbit movies, something we of course saw in the LOTR movie trilogy, but not on such a grand scale. After all they had to leave a lot out, in The Hobbit they are getting to pack a whole lot more in.
The Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers is an excellent example of the film-version not respecting the text. In the book, Legolas and Gimli are keeping count of how many they have slain. Peter Jackson interpreted this, in the movie, as a sort of testosterone-fuelled silly game which ends with Gimli out-scoring Legolas, jeering at him and Legolas having a little tantrum and trying to kill an already-dead Orc to catch up. Of course it is a far cry from the book, where it shows men in battle trying to master fear, and comradeship, Legolas telling Gimli “You have passed my score by one. But I do not grudge you the game, so glad am I to see you on your legs!”
Then there is the treatment of Gimli. It is true the Dwarves in The Hobbit novel are for the most part, a little more light-hearted, but this wasn’t the case in The Lord of the Rings. A far cry from the first dwarves of Middle Earth, who fought Morgoth alongside men and elves at The Battle of Unnumbered Tears, Peter Jackson insisted on using Gimli as the funny-side-kick-to-Mister-Majestic-elf in the LOTR movie trilogy. Yes he did show the friendship between Legolas and Gimli develop, a very important theme in the book, but he also left a lot of Dwarf traits out to make Gimli look less hardy than his human and elf companions. Dwarves in fact, are much stronger than humans (and hobbits) and have much more endurance, so what was the necessity of having Gimli puffing and complaining while running behind Aragorn and Legolas, if not to make him more amusing? Clownish, in fact. Gimli is comic relief.
In a spin on Gimli’s ardent admiration of Galadriel, Peter Jackson will have the character of Kili mooning after Tauriel. Gimli and Galadriel’s exchange was symbolic, a pledge of peace and mutual respect. I doubt Kili’s affection for Tauriel is going to show us anything important, other than the two prettiest characters in the movie indulging in some flirting to please those who like a little romance. I am not even going to get into the portrayal of dwarves and hobbits as sex symbols. It is weird, and icky.
The Hobbit, was of course a children’s book, and never intended to be a serious epic as The Lord of the Rings was. Movies are marketed at different audiences, decisions made for marketing and merchandising reasons, and more often than not take at least some of the heart out of the story it is adapted from. It is not changes and additions The Hobbit in particular that get fans worked up, it’s not because Tauriel is a girl. It is, quite simply, the treatment of Middle Earth as a whole.
Because yes, it is “Our Precious”.
Read Voyager Online’s Blog Fan Rage, Women & The Hobbit