OBJECTIVE: Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring once per every week of 2014.
WHEN: February 22, 2014, 6:00 pm. (Week 8, Feb 16-22.)
WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV.
COMPANY: Ex-Cinemanaut Becca, who almost rivals my disinterest in The Lord of the Rings, but is mostly here to keep me focused while I’m sick.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Sick. But still determined to mine a decent topic out of this viewing.
Alright, quick quiz: what do all the members of the Fellowship of the Ring (emphasis on “members”) have in common? Here’s a picture for reference.
That’s right, they’re all white– wait, that’s a completely different problem.
That’s right, they’re all male. This is a man’s movie, with manly adventuring, just manning all through Middle-earth doin’ man stuff. And don’t get nerdy about the fact that only two of them are from the capitalized race of Men; we’re not talking about sorting the humans from the elves, we’re talking about sorting the guys from the gals. Oh wait, that’s already been done for us. Seriously, here’s a complete list of every single female that Becca and I could find in the movie.
- A lady narrator, who we’re pretty sure is just Cate Blanchett.
- Galadriel, who is definitely Cate Blanchett.
The only female to get a ring in the opening.
- Some little Hobbit girls that chase Gandalf.
Their cages were probably left open.
- A grumpy Hobbit wife that hates fun.
Wives, am I right, fellas?! *slide whistle*
- An unseen lady Hobbit that knocks on Bilbo’s door, terrifying the shit out of him.
“Fuck, it’s one of those females I’ve been hearing about!”
- Rosie, a Hobbit that Samwise dances with.
But only after Frodo violently pushes him towards the frightening she-creature.
- A smattering of female Hobbits at Bilbo’s birthday party.
Seen here, admiring the huge explosion from Gandalf’s dragon.
- And Liv “If You Want Him, Come and Claim Him” Tyler.
FUCK YEAH, Badass Line That In No Way Leads to a Battle Scene!
Also, Becca thought she spotted a female Elf towards the end, but the camera was panning and a dude Elf stepped in front of “her.” Whether “she” adds to the lady count or not, the fact that we had less than a second to figure it out just proves our point: it’s hard to find a woman in Middle-earth.
Try watching the blurry bits behind where men are talking.
What I find especially interesting is that most of the unnamed women appear in the Shire, which represents home, a safe place where Hobbits like to stay, away from the perils of distant lands. But once it’s time to go on a quest, we barely see any females, for women know not the ways of adventure!
Campfires. Smokin’ pipes. Swords. This be a weekend retreat for MEN.
Side note: I’ve noticed in my time hating The Lord of the Rings that some other detractors like to point out how “gay” the films are. While I don’t join in with this sort of macho bullshit, I can see exactly where it stems from. With the majority of the first movie centering around a group comprised solely of men, it’s easy for an insecure male to turn the question of “Where are all the boobs?” into “If there’s no chicks around to suck these guys’s dicks, do they just suck each other’s?” This is where tailoring the female-to-male ratio of a film’s cast for a popcorn audience gets fascinating; not enough women and idiots call a movie gay, but too many women and suddenly the flick’s become “feminized.” It sort of makes you wonder why a studio would specifically craft movies to appeal to idiots in the first pl– oh, right, idiots have money.
Where was I? Ah. Females in The Fellowship of the Ring. There are only two that really do, well, anything. So let’s break ‘em down.
Right off the bat, Becca started laughing at Arwen’s introduction in the film: “She’s glowing! She’s angelic! She’s a healer!”
Women: kind of a big deal in Middle-earth.
Becca’s big into mythology, so I assume she was giggling at the tired “Woman as Mother Goddess” symbolism still being used in this century. (You should read her take on the same archetype in The NeverEnding Story.) While Becca wouldn’t elaborate, I didn’t necessarily need a Joseph Campbell book nearby to laugh at the same thing. Arwen’s pretty. She heals Frodo’s boo-boos. She protects him from bullies on horseback. This is a surrogate mom of Freudian proportions.
“Frodo… come on, buddy, time for school.”
She’s only in the movie because she’s looking for Aragorn, her man. Rescuing Frodo was just a side quest on her way to ride ‘er Strider. (I’m new at LOTR jokes, fuck off.) But yes, she’s very good at another type of riding. Her equestrian skills are unmatched, so Aragorn lets her take Frodo to Rivendell. That’s cool. I have no problem with it. However, it does kind of bother me when she raises her sword to face the Nazgûl, fires off a badass line that sounds good in the trailer, and then proceeds to… summon magic water-horses.
“I did not see that coming!”
Now, I’m not the sort of doof that thinks “well-written female character” means “she kills fucking everything.” It’s perfectly logical that Arwen, while an accomplished rider, might not be as good with a blade, and knowing this, she cleverly lures her enemies to a source of water and magically unleashes a wet Kentucky Derby upon them. That’s a perfectly fine scene on its own, but in a movie where we never once see a female’s combat skills but a bunch of untrained male Hobbits go off a-fightin’? It’s a letdown.
Oh, and once Arwen has her badass moment in the sun? She gives up her Elven immortality to “bind” herself to a mortal Man. If there’s a better metaphor for outdated views of marriage than a woman quite literally throwing her life away, I’d like to see it.
“So you’re supposed to sacrifice your dreams… for looooove?!” – Becca, who I love very much.
And then, off goes the Fellowship. We don’t need any experienced female riders on this journey or anything! So, to sum up, Arwen is a pretty mom who is good at a couple of things but ultimately exists to show that the male hero has some puss to come home to. Grrrrrl power!
Okay, straight up, Galadriel is in the “take a nap” portion of the movie, and I’ve never been able to give a shit about… whatever her deal is. But I tried really hard this time.
Agh, your high-beams are on.
Okay, what is with the glowing?! Are ovaries radioactive in Middle-earth? Is this how male Rings nerds see all women? Fuck. Okay, so Galadriel is a very powerful Elf enchantress, and she is curious about obtaining the One Ring. Now, for comparison, here’s a picture of a male with magical powers being tempted by the Ring:
Hmm, looks like he wants it…
And here’s a female:
AGH, STAND THE FUCK BACK.
Yes, I know they’re showing us that Galadriel is far more powerful than Gandalf, and you could argue that it has nothing to do with gender, but come on… “ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR”? No other character tempted by the Ring swears to suck all the love out of the world. I can’t see this scene as anything other than a male fear of being consumed by a woman’s overbearing love, not to mention terror at the idea of a woman with power. But thankfully, she rejects the Ring. Phew! That coulda gotten outta hand, huh, fellas?
“Ain’t no woman gonna tell me to take down my Playboy centerfolds!”
Aside from showing us the consequences of the Ring finding a powerful owner, Galadriel’s role in Fellowship is little more than being pretty (then scary) and handing the male heroes a plot coupon. We Can Do It!
A FINAL WORD FROM BECCA ON THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING:
At the 02:27:00 mark of the movie: “That’s all the women, isn’t it? This is dumb.”
ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE IMPROVED THE MOVIE:
I have some suggestions for changing the Fellowship’s roster…
[Note: While I haven’t yet seen The Two Towers or The Return of the King, I’m aware that there are more female characters to come. Becca began to mention this and I asked her not to talk about the subject, as I’m trying to analyze Fellowship as a standalone movie for a few more weeks of the experiment before I get into the sequels.]