Sunday, September 8, 2013

Trigger Warning: Tauriel

Thanks to tumblr user chervenkotka for their permission to use their art!
As ladies who love sci-fi and fantasy, we’re often judged before we have a chance to speak. The vast majority of us have had run-ins with stereotypical guys in trilbys and/or ratty t-shirts demanding we ‘prove’ our nerd cred. Likewise, if there is a female character, there will be hate for that character just for being female. Pepper. Arwen. Sansa. Chell. Rose.
Shockingly, given the intense feminist presence in the Lord of the Rings fandom, we are doing the exact same thing to Tauriel, wood-elf captain of the Mirkwood guards. The female archer will make her debut in the next installment of the Hobbit franchise, in theaters December 14th.
The character has received a mountain of hate to rival Smaug’s hoard- dammit, Jim, her movie isn’t even out yet and Evangeline Lilly is bracing for the backlash.
Now, if you voice opinions on movies or characters until they come out, you will often be surprised (I said Paranorman would be horrible. It wasn’t. I thought Frankenweenie would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It wasn’t.). However, there is no arguing with opinion and opinions cannot be wrong, only the way in which they are expressed. So to clarify the point of this entire article, I’m not upset with anyone for disliking a character, I’m upset at the extreme and bombastic manner in which some dislike is expressed.
For example, this brings joy to my heart:
Thanks to tumblr user faramircaptainofgondon for their permission to use this example!

Editing her out from the cover of Empire magazine ‘because I refuse to acknowledge her existence’ does not.
Tauriel has been hated for all the reasons real-life girls are hated- appearance, romance, and mere existence.
She doesn’t look like an elf! If this is just because you hate redheads, you are bad and you need to feel bad. Not all elves are pale and dark/fair because My Little Genetics, DNA is Magic! Deoxyribonucleic acid encodes genetic instructions, including but not limited to controlling hair color. Wood-Elves are not the High Elves we saw in LOTR. They are “more dangerous and less wise1” as Tolkien himself said. They are very nearly a different species altogether.
She’s a threat to my Legolas/Gimli or Kili/Fili/Thorin or [obscure] ships! If you are against a character because it prevents your ship, that is neither a mature nor well-thought-out argument. Instead, this is reducing a character to their genitals. This is patriarchy at its finest. Great job, we’re all very proud of you. Congratulations on taking a progressive fantasy series and reducing the well-written, complex characters to who you want to see bone each other. (Remember before when I was talking being proud of you? That was sarcasm. I was actually talking about you being a misogynist. And I’m sorry. You didn’t react at the time, so I was worried it sailed right over your head. Which would have made this apology seem insane. That’s why I had to call you a misogynist a second time just now.)
She exists. I understand this point of view from book purists. I really, really do, being one myself. However, Jackson took the largely unfilmable LOTR, adapted it, and walked off with 249 awards. Jackson has more than earned our trust. While Tauriel is not named in the book, her role is, because she’s genderbent!
“Then Bilbo heard the king’s butler bidding the chief of the guards good-night.
‘Now come with me,” he said, ‘and taste the new wine that has just come in. I shall be hard at work tonight clearing the cellars of the empty wood, so let us have a drink first to help the labour.’
‘Very good,’ laughed the chief of the guards. ‘I’ll taste with you, and see if it is fit for the king’s table. There is a feast tonight and it would not do to send up poor stuff!’”
Likewise, many of the characters’ roles are changed because this is a modern adaptation. Remember Radagast? Guy with the hares everyone loved? He has one line in the book, not a ten-minute extravaganza with lapines.
“‘I am a wizard,’ continued Gandalf. ‘I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me; but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?’”
Remember the orc captain Azog, the big scary fellow with an Extended Battle Sequence and Action Weapons? He has one line in the book.

“‘Your grandfather Thror was killed, you remember, in the mines of Moria by Azog the Goblin-’”
Remember Legolas, star of the new trailers? He isn’t even in the book.
Remember Galadriel, so far the only named female character we’ve seen in the Hobbit trilogy? She isn’t in the book either. Neither is Rivendell.
If you’re complaining that by her very existence she cheapens all the other female warriors, by other female warriors I suppose you mean Eowyn. Tauriel doesn’t cheapen them, she adds to them. Not only is there is a long and proud tradition of elvish warriors, Tolkien was writing from a specific point in time. Furthermore, in no way does having more female soldiers in modern-day armies cheapen their predecessors OR their male counterparts.
She’s a girl. Shut the bleep up. (HOW IS SHE DOING THAT WITH HER MOUTH?) This is 2013. Stop hating half the human population because they possess different genitals. I will burn the patriarchy out of your trilby. The Hobbit, the canon book, has no named women characters. You cannot make a movie today with zero ladies. Not only is that horrible, horrible filmmaking and writing, nobody would go see it because you cannot make money by alienating half of all potential ticket-buyers. This is simple economics.
She pulls away focus from Bilbo with her overblown rebel dwarf sympathies. We have barely any information on this character. Stop blowing everything out of proportion. Nobody complained about Galadriel’s long spiels in the Council. In fact, it was a relief to NOT focus on the comedic dwarvish shenanigans for a scene or two. In the end, the focus of The Hobbit will not always be on Bilbo, just like the focus of LOTR was not always on Frodo because movies are adaptations.

Tauriel is a fabulous insertion because she sympathizes with the dwarves. Middle-Earth politics are byzantine, labyrinthine. It is one of the most well-imagined, complex and dynamic imaginary worlds in the history of fantasy. So much outside material is being pulled from all the unfinished works, the bits and pieces and snippets of things Tolkien scribbled down to come back to later.The Hobbit is leading up to LOTR, which can be comfortably contained in 3 movies. It’s telling us much more backstory and setting up many of the bigger issues like Rivendell politics. Because every other person is immortal or so long-lived as to be essentially immortal, politics are complex, far-ranging, and long-lasting. Grudges stay alive for centuries, if not millennia.That’s why Legolas’ and Gimli’s friendship in the books was so major- it represented a swinging back towards peaceful unity among the races.
Tauriel represents that minority of elves who did not support their leader’s decision toward animosity with dwarves. She provides a different perspective. If one hates a character for adding depth, subtlety, and political and gender representation to a fictional world, one cannot be considered a very good fan of said world.
TL;DR: Wait until the movie comes out to judge a character with such killer lines as
"When did we allow evil to become stronger than us?" and  "It is our fight.”
1Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. p. 116. Print.
2Ibid, p. 123.
3Ibid, p. 85.
4Ibid, p. 22

1 comment:

  1. I think Tauriel is awesome (and so is Evangeline)! But that didn't stop me producing this silly little video, which you might also enjoy: