OBJECTIVE: Watch The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring once per every week of 2014.

WHEN: July 26, 2014, 6:44am. (Week 30, July 20-26.)

WHERE: In the living room of my apartment in Portland, ME.

FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV.

COMPANY: My girlfriend Becca was in the room here and there, but not really paying attention.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Just woke up and finished reading a handful of articles.

Last week, when I analyzed Roger Ebert’s review of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, one of his quotes stopped me in my tracks. He described Peter Jackson’s film as “a work for, and of, our times,” and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was referring to the events of September 11th, 2001, which had occurred approximately three months prior to the writing of Ebert’s article. Now, what happened next really drives home the fact that I’ve never ever cared about The Lord of the Rings: I actually thought I was the first person to make the connection between Fellowship‘s popularity and the mood of America post-9/11.

While I’ve got your attention, I have a crazy theory that Avatar might be about American Indians!

Hahaha, seriously, do a search for “lord of the rings 9/11″ and you’ll find plenty of analyses of varying quality on the success of Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations in the midst of post-9/11 shock. I read five of them before watching The Fellowship of the Ring today. They said things. Yup. Here we go.

The first article on the pile was a series of interviews conducted in 2004 by Seattle Pacific University with various people involved in the production of Fellowship. At one point, they wink-winkingly nudge-nudgingly ask Peter Jackson why “these stories needed to be told right now, in these last few years,” and right away Petey picks up that they’re going the 9/11 route and cuts them off at the pass, insisting that they’re timeless stories that he’s been working on adapting since 1995. Of course, timelessness is what any fan of anything usually argues (Back to the Future will always strike a chord with anyone who doesn’t want to fuck their mom, you guys!), but it’s interesting that Jackson jumps on how there was no deliberate connection in the filmmaking process while the topic of the trilogy’s popularity coinciding with America’s need for basic good guys vs. bad guys stories sneaks on by.

No deliberate 9/11 connection, you say? Then explain the title of the second movie!
(Again, I must be the 802,701st person to come up with that joke, but it’s new to me.)

Also, apparently Peter removed the dust from the crumbling of Sauron’s tower in the third movie so it wouldn’t look all World Trade Center-y.

Yeah, this article from dvdactive.com primarily focuses on the increase of horror remakes and torture porn in the wake of 9/11, but the opening paragraph timidly argues that Fellowship (and other films) would not have fared as well if it weren’t for “disillusioned audiences” seeking escapism in late 2001.

Fuck you, Spider-Man!

That’s… seriously it. One chunk of a paragraph. The rest is all about horror movies. Next.

Look, I’m no stranger to writing a bunch of really dumb theories about movies on this very website, but at least I don’t pretend to be blowing anyone’s mind. This article posted on SFFWorld.com in 2002 goes for the opposite of the escapist angle and painfully tries to cram the story of September 11th into the framework of Fellowship, with such obvious parallels as Saruman being kind of like Osama (in that both influenced people using words) and Frodo sort of maybe coming across like an American soldier reluctantly being shipped out to fight. It’s almost charmingly simplistic, and definitely the sort of thing I would have written in 2002 (being seventeen and severely stupid about the world).

Isildur sold weapons to al-Queda? If you squint, kinda? For shame!

Anyway, if you want to read about how the people on United 93 are kinda like Samwise Gamgee (dead fucking serious), have at it, but at this point I’m pretty starved for any solid arguments on how Rings was the emotional Band-Aid we needed for our terrorism-inflicted boo-boo.

While this Chicago Tribune article from 2011 gets dangerously close to just naming off a bunch of movies and saying, “Ground Zero much?” about key scenes, it has probably the first solid analysis of Fellowship‘s appeal to those affected by 9/11 that I’ve read today, and for once, it might have actually been intentional on the part of the filmmakers. It singles out one of the most important moments in the movie:


That’s right, Fellowship opens on a completely black screen. And then a voice says, “The world has changed…” Spooky shit, right? The article likens it to a prayer, and damn, not only would that be pretty haunting had I given a fart about wizards and magic circa 2001, but it’s also something that could have easily been changed in post-production. And even if it wasn’t, wow, that must have jolted audiences awake to their depressing reality for a bit before whisking them back to a time of courage and spells and ugly bad guys you can stab without remorse.

Alright. Last one.

Truly, this 2011 Badass Digest article homes in on the exact topic I set out to explore and nails so much, to the point that listing the best parts would just be quoting the whole thing. I leave it up to you to read it, but I will extract what I think is the most important detail: there is zero irony to Jackson’s Rings films. This is why they performed so well with post-9/11 audiences; they needed something authentic, that embraced the adventure it was taking them on rather than making a detached mockery of fantasy, film, or the basic structure of storytelling. And yes, even though I’m no fan of The Lord of the Rings, the lack of pandering winks and nods and meta-awareness is powerfully refreshing.

Not to randomly make an unprovoked attack on a film franchise that’s consistently
fucking up the “authenticity over cheap inside jokes” thing left and right…

Anyway, good work, Devin Faraci of Badass Digest. I don’t know what I could possibly add to this subject now, which sucks, because I still have to try.

Frodo hugs a lot of people? And we all needed a big ol’ hug after 9/11, eh?

Awwwwwwwwww crap, I’m ruining this.

I guess all I can say is that I don’t think I would have enjoyed Fellowship any more if I saw it in theaters. Yeah, you bet I loved Spider-Man when it came out, and probably because the world was pretty depressing, but also because I’ll take mutated science powers over trolls and dragons any day. It seems bullshitty to suggest that someone would see a genre of film that they don’t enjoy just because it’s pure of heart and everything outside the screen is scary and sad. Hell, if I’d been dragged to the mall to see Fellowshipa film that put me to sleep the first time I rented it, I might have thought, “Ugh, first 9/11 and now THIS?”

Tough crowd.

Alright, there’s the light. If I gained anything from this viewing, it’s that The Fellowship of the Ring, while not a movie I enjoy, is at least brave enough to be authentic and devoid of self-mockery, and that is an encouraging thought.

The Hobbit movies, on the other hand…

Hardy har, Elf dudes look like Elf chicks!

What’s more patriotic than eagles and fireworks? MORE EAGLES AND MORE FIREWORKS.

America, motherfuckers!