The LOTR Movie Site
September 19, 2000

The Arwen Debate Isn't About Female Roles

(In response to Max B.'s article.)

No one that I have seen (I've contributed to this and other Tolkien forums for some time now) has argued for lessening the presence of females in the films , or argued that Tolkien's writing, or PJ's movies, would be "fouled" by strong women. Such an argument would be absurd, as Tolkien had many strong, proactive women in his stories: Eowyn, Luthien, Galadriel, Morwen, Nienor, etc.

The controversy is over an ever-present Arwen, at the expense of a NONEXISTENT Eowyn. The fact that Arwen is female is coincidental, or the rally cries would not be to include Eowyn. How could arguments against prominent female roles include the desire to reinstate a very important female character to PJ's films?!  No offense, Max, but you've framed the issue incorrectly.

Tolkien was a progressive feminist when you look deep into his works. His ideas about social and gender equity were timeless, so it's not about the society and culture when Tolkien wrote (i.e.: the early to mid 20th century), or about him writing differently if he were alive today, as you suggest. It's about the time when his stories supposedly take place, and maintaining historical perspective. Anyone looking for Luthien to grab the spear out of Thingol's hands and slay Carcharoth herself, thereby imbuing Tolkien's writing with some shallow feminist ideals, is a thoughtless ninnie. And, yet, despite the stereotypically stifling milieu that Tolkien chose to write about, it is Luthien who repeatedly saves Beren, not the other way around, and it is Luthien who topples the most powerful being in Arda, Melkor, a scene not unlike Eowyn slaying the Lord of the Nazgul, whom men could not destroy. Tolkien had some powerful, groundbreaking thoughts about the role of women, and arguments to the contrary are made by people who read his works, but did not read them, if you catch my meaning.   

The anti-Arwen stance may indeed be elitist or purist (as if that's criminal and not virtuous!), but it is in no way whatsoever about reducing female roles. Quite the contrary, if anyone has been making inroads against the strong presence of women in Tolkien's works, it is PJ, who apparently has opted to ELIMINATE Eowyn, one of the strongest female characters in all of literature, in favor of a vapid love story.