Jan
05
2013

Alyssa Rosenberg disagrees with me on the Hobbit…

…not that we know each other, or anything.

Alyssa Rosenberg – who is, by the way, far too smart and sensible about SF/fantasy material to be on ThinkProgress* – asks the question Should there have been any women at all in the Hobbit? - and her answer is doubly surprising.  First, because her answer was “No;” second, because I don’t entirely agree with her.

The first part is easily-enough understood; Ms. Rosenberg takes the reasonable view that there’s nothing inherently wrong, per se, about a movie that has what she calls “[a]ll-male spaces and social circles” as its background**. And if there’s a movie out there that would have an excuse to do that, it’d be The Hobbit, which is of course based on a 1930s child adventure story written by an English academic who had probably never really considered the issue in the first place***.  And that’s fine, and most people would agree that that’s fine.

But at the same time?  The Hobbit was released in 2012, and it’s brought in $251 million domestic, $765 million worldwide, in the last three weeks.  On a practical level you have to expect that Jackson and del Toro are going to want to have a few women in the cast.  It’s a lot like the Captain America flick: spoiler warning, but we didn’t HAVE an integrated military in World War II.  But such a thing bothers us today, so if you’re not trying to make a point about that… you don’t.  And if you’re not trying to make a point about early 20th Century gender roles, you just stick some women into the plot wherever you can manage it (I fully expect to see a couple of characters added along those lines in the next two movies, too)****.

And if the purists object… well, they grumbled at no Tom Bombadil and no Scouring of the Shire, so they’ll probably sit still for this as well.

Moe Lane

*I note this despite the fact that in this case she’s writing for Slate.

**That I find such a view as startling as I do refreshing is either a reflection on me, contemporary feminist writers, or (probably) both.

***The argument over whether JRR Tolkien did or did not have a problem with strong female characters is the subject for another post, which I will not write.

****My wife also notes that The Hobbit trilogy is being made as a prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  That means that you’re going to see characters from the second trilogy sandwiched into the first one whenever possible.

6 Comments

  • Jeff Weimer says:

    Since The Hobbit IS a prequel to LOTR (how did Bilbo just happen to have that ring, anyway?), it makes sense. But I figure the common characters Tolkein put in in the first place should suffice, so no crowbarring folks in that he already didn’t OK?

    • acat says:

      Umm.. if you read The Hobbit, Bombadil and Dewberry* were pretty much shoehorned into it. IIRC, Bombadil was from another Tolkein work and he .. liked the character.
      .
      Where I do take issue with Jackson is that he’s not making “The Hobbit” as a stand-alone piece, he’s making “The Hobbit: Lord Of the Rings Prequel” .. and that means what was a light adventure tale suitable for kids who aren’t ready for Lord Of The Rings yet is being loaded down with extra durm und strang.
      .
      This is great, as I am not a young reader, but it does do a disservice to the source material…
      .
      Mew
      .
      .
      * IIRC, that was Mrs. Bombadil’s name.. but I usually skip over that section as it doesn’t advance the plot.. another way it’s a clear shoehorn/crossover.

      • Crawford says:

        ISTR that “Tom Bombadil” was the name of one of his son’s toys.

      • Luke says:

        Fie on you, sir.
        Tom Bombadil was an integral part of the setting. He provided a great deal of perspective on the world (starting with the fact that not all of the powers in the world were involved in the battle against Sauron). Not to mention the sense of history he imparted to the story. Or the implications of Angmar. He is largely the source that gives the story its scale and scope.
        As to his role in advancing the plot, yes, a good deal Tom was extrinsic. Yet not all. The Ents were foreshadowed. As was the Fellowship being unable to to traverse Redhorn Pass due to the animosity of Caradhras. I also recall the barrow-blades being rather important later on.
        (“Their roots go deep” and Saruman bringing down avalanches were very nearly as grating as Elrond half-elven bitterly bemoaning the weakness of men.)
        .
        There are plenty of characters in The Hobbit. In fact, there are enough that several of them tend to run together. There’s absolutely no call to add more. Especially Galadriel. She just doesn’t fit the scope of the story. It’s Bilbo and twelve dwarves, with occasional assists by Gandalf, Elrond, Beorn, Gwaihir, Bard, Thranduil and Dain.

  • rykscoogan says:

    Galadriel’s appearance isn’t gratuitous, when you consider that PJ is incorporating some of the appendices into “The Hobbit.” I didn’t find it weird or objectionable and I even welcomed it, as I am more of an LOTR/Silmarillion fan than a “Hobbit” fan, anyway. I do rather object to the upcoming gratuitous appearance of a made-up female elf, however. Much as I like Evangeline Lilly (yeah, Lost fan too), there is no such person as Tauriel in Tolkien’s work. Now THAT is gratuitous!

  • Freddie Sykes says:

    Jackson more than pre-made up for an alleged paucity of women in the yet unseen Hobbit trilogy by inflating the role of Arwen in The LOTR. The biggest shortcoming in The Return of the King was the fact that the Shire was left undisturbed in the movie but not in the book.

    RE: we didn’t HAVE an integrated military in World War II…

    Indeed we did not wrt fighting units in WWII but non-combat and non-integrated combat black troops served in many theaters.

    For me, what makes up for the softness of historical details is this exchange:

    Red Skull: You could have the power of the gods! Yet you wear a flag on your chest and think you fight a battle of nations! I have seen the future, Captain! There are no flags!
    Captain America: Not my future!

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