The Hobbit and Sexism

There has been a storm brewing for a pretty long time now. I will let it rage on page today and hopefullly putting  it to words makes it tame down somewhat.

This post is about The Hobbit and Sexism..

Do you still remember, as I do, when visiting the Middle Earth on a silver screen was a pleasurable experience. When the nature of New Zealand and the props and costumes department made you ooh with wonder. When you were still getting used to seeing one of your favourite secondary worlds in the flesh.

Well, not entirely though. I read The Hobbit when I was 10 and The Lord of the Rings when I was 11. This was in the first half of 1990s. I still remember that my teacher extended the loan period from the normal two weeks to three for The Lord of the Rings. I borrowed the book from the school library. I really don’t remember much about that reading experience, except that I was enthralled and what fascinated my imagination the most at the time, were the descriptions of places and people. I remember seeing the place in my mind very clearly.

So you might guess that since I’d had a clear picture of the people and places in my mind for ten years before I saw the first film (and had reread both books several times), not everything was as I’d imagined it.

So imagine me, stepping back into this magical world after several years and watching the new Hobbit films. The scenery is pretty, I admit. The people are pretty. There is, yet again, too much fighting scenes, that have been put in and then because of that, some interesting non-fighting scenes are left out. There they are again, the horror film elements that Peter Jackson in vain uses to make better a story that is so good that even his additions can’t ruin it.

And then, Tauriel.

I have heard the explanations why Tauriel was added. And I agree with them totally. No girl, or boy, should need to watch a film trilogy which has no women in it.

Tauriel herself doesn’t bother me as such, but it’s what they have made of her. There is so much potential, which falls totally flat on its stomach, breaks a few ribs and crawls under the ruins of the tower on Ravenhill and stares unconsolably at the events unfolding.

When I was a child, it did not bother me one jot that the 14 characters (plus Gandalf) were all men. I should feel ashamed. I should think I’m a bad feminist. But I don’t. The gender of the characters hasn’t made it more difficult for me to identify with the characters. I feel as if people who find it so, are missing the point of the book. The point of the book for me is friendship.

I was brought up in a household which has always upheld the equality of gender. It really hasn’t even been upheld, it’s just been there. I think this is one of the main reasons that it hasn’t bothered me that all the characters in The Hobbit are men. I never saw there to be any reason why they couldn’t be women, any of them, but they just weren’t. And I do see the double edged sword here. People see it as an assumption that they are all men. Because they are going on an adventure. And doing man stuff. And that assumption is bad. What I’m saying is that I didn’t assume anything like it. It hasn’t warped my mind to thinking that only men can have adventures and should be the heros of stories.

In Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, I fully appreciate him bringing in female charachters (TWO WHOLE female characters! Are you sure we can manage two women!?). But the way in which he brings in Tauriel makes my skin crawl.

As I said, for me the theme of The Hobbit, by J.R.R.Tolkien, is friendship. And acceptance. Thirteen tough guys take a small, nerdy, anxious person with them and that person overcomes his fear, and earns his place among the tough guys. Which has bothered me far more than the gender of the characters. I feel like Thorin and those in his company, who think Bilbo has to earn his place in the crew, are being jack asses. But I really like that also the tough guys have to grow to learn that being small, nerdy and anxious is as valuable as toughness.

Anyway. I’m finally getting to my point. (Finally.)

Tauriel is a kick-ass character. She fights well, she makes her own decisions. What I don’t get is, why the bloody hell does she have to have this romantic plot with Kili to promt her actions?!?!?!?!!??!?!?!

Why, oh why couldn’t she just be the elf who accepted the dwarves as people, people who make mistakes and who are hungry for gold, but people all the same. Her potential is the intelligent elf who sees the matter from a new perspective and because of that helps the dwarves, the elf who befriends, Eru forbid, some of the dwarves and accepts them as equals and fights with them because of that. Completely missing from the film is also the acceptance of the rest of the dwarves of Tauriel. It seems like they are grudgingly okay with her because their mate has a crush on her. This bothers me so much because in the book, gender has no relation to the actions, in my mind, of the characters (even though they all happen to be male), but in the films the romantic blerghplot between Tauriel and Kili makes gender relevant.

I have read The Hobbit an n amount of times. I really don’t know how many. Always, when I’ve finished it, I start it again. I’ve read it from end to beginning twice (a chapter at a time) and I’ve read it aloud several times. I have it in 10 languages. It is one of my favourite books. And still, after all these years and reads, what touches my heart very strongly is this simple line:

Fili and Kili had fallen defending him [Thorin] with shield and body…

I was looking forward to this scene in the film. It is just mentioned after the fact in the book, so I was waiting for Peter Jackson to show me one of my favourite heroic moments, when these friends stand side by side and fight Goblin and Wolf, Orc and Warg. Instead, Fili fell from a tower and Kili had a lame “romantic” death at the feet of Tauriel.

So yes, I am all for adding female characters to stories where there are none. But I am totally against the requirement, that if there is a female character, her existence must be justified by a lame romantic plot.

So grrrrr…

Okay. I might continue about this later if I feel like it, but now it’s over and out from me. Have a good Wednesday!

Love,

Maiju

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