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 enjoy the next two. But it is not without complaint.
It is not just a desire to stay true to the text, it’s that the story should to stay true to the essence of Middle Earth. You could say Tolkien fans can be rather difficult. It is with good reason. This isn’t an everyday text we are dealing with, it is one of the mos influential books in literature, one of the most lauded, alongside being one of the most criticised, but what it is not is “swords and sorcery”.
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.
Describing Eowyn as a “female warrior” is both inaccurate and reductive. Eowyn was Tolkien’s most complex and interesting female character, perhaps one of his most interesting characters overall. Tauriel is a made-for-Hollywood character.
What can we expect from Tauriel? Evangeline Lilly claims she is “supposed to be an absolutely ruthless, deadly killer” in direct contrast to the spirit of Middle earth, where ruthless killers are hardly admired. 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 the Hornburg in The Two Towers is one of the most significant examples of a deliberate misinterpretation of 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, trying to kill an already-dead Orc to catch up. It is far removed 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!”
While it is true the Dwarves in The Hobbit novel are for the most part, a little more light-hearted, this wasn’t the case in The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson insisted on using Gimli as the funny-side-kick-to-Mister-Majestic-elf in the LOTR movie trilogy. Jackson 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 reduced to comic relief.
The Hobbit will feature the dwarf Kili developing feelings for the elf Tauriel. We have seen a dwarf enchanted by an elf before, yet 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 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.