The LOTR Movie Site
November 15, 2000

Another Reply to Max
Stephanie C.


Again, I respectfully disagree. I don't necessarily expect you to agree with me about some of this, but at least we can discuss our differences reasonably!

First, Arwen's story DOES need to be told, and well. I don't contest that. But replacing her with Legolas? Friend, perhaps your views on what is necessary to promote Arwen seem a tad bit extreme. Legolas is a fascinating character in his own right, valuable for his own self and for his own personality. Do you really think Gimli would bond with an elven princess? He's a very jealous admirer of Galadriel, for heaven's sake! Replacing Legolas with Arwen would warp the story (not to mention the characters) almost beyond recognition--and worse, I'd argue, do it for no sufficient reason and to no good effect.

As for LOTR women not being allowed to take on "masculine" roles, I challenge, first, the idea of characterizing human qualities according to gender. That in itself skews thinking about men and women. I also believe that women are generally used, demeaned, treated unfairly, and restricted when they collectively allow it. That isn't to say that pressures and influences aren't significant or hard to fight. But WE, as women, make choices and take the consequences of those choices. Putting us in the role of victims or urging us to take inordinate risks in order to gratify our pride and conceits doesn't help us learn or develop the strength to be a force for good in the world.

Your real beef with LOTR, I believe, is that it focuses on men and that women's roles in the story seem insignificant or powerless. To a certain extent, you have a point. I would remind you of Eowyn, Galadriel, and Arwen, though. Each wields a considerable amount of power and must decide how to use it properly. On a deeper level, don't make the mistake of equating force, influence, or aggressive activity with power or strength. Brutes may have force, influence, or aggression for a time, but they have no real strength.

Women, more than ever, need to be wise, intelligent, and very strong. That is real womanhood. So I am furious when Hollywood sometimes seems only to depict women that are martial artists, use guns, wield a lot of power, and get romantically involved with someone--and most often lose all of their brains the moment a guy with a nice smile comes along. It's a double standard. The value of these women, in the eyes of their fellow characters and the audience, hinges on physical attractiveness and brute force, rather than intelligence, character, and leadership qualities. Worse, these women are depicted as smart, strong, and assertive, but ignore their minds, their morals, and reality under pressure. That's the real gender bias in our culture. I think it would be fascinating for Jackson to explore Arwen's decision to give up her immortality and marry Aragorn, as I think Galadriel's decision to refuse the Ring is fascinating and want to see Eowyn's story. That much I think is entirel!
y appropriate and even necessary. But let's be realistic. No story can tell every story, so let the rest go and let us concentrate on the specific story Tolkien wanted to tell. The rest can be told in other stories. We love the LOTR because it is what it is, not because it needs to be redone to pander to certain attitudes.

The idea of Jackson devaluing Eowyn's role sends unpleasant shivers up my spine. So he's going to make Eowyn's role into a cameo just to create another Warrior Princess? For the sake of simple efficiency, he should have just left Eowyn as she is--she's a very interesting character and should be promoted, not made into a second class character. The contrast between Eowyn and Arwen as they were in the books actually adds richness to the story. You can see, in the book, how Eowyn could have been bitter at the thought that Aragorn was in love with some flimsy, priveleged little elf-girl (ignoring Arwen's very real experience, strength, and wisdom). You can see how Aragorn might have thought that Eowyn was way too hard and prideful to be able to love. You can also see a lot about Aragorn in the way he deals with his romantic entanglements. There's a great difference between a man who wants a woman he thinks he can protect and cherish and one who wants a woman who won't have any of !
that. Jackson is messing with characterization here, not just adding characters, and that bothers me.

Jackson's directorial decisions about the roles of Arwen and Eowyn would seem to me to diminish exactly what he was trying to establish by integrating Arwen more fully into the plot--a female presence in the movie. Admittedly, this is Jackson's interpretation of the story, and he certainly has the right to make his movie. But I, personally, feel that he'll lose more in getting creative with the story than he will by sticking close to the original. Some movies, like X-Men, can get away with major changes because the original story isn't well known. I don't think LOTR is like that. Tolkien structured the LOTR plot very tightly, and as Jackson himself remarked, Jackson has ended up going back to the original anyway in many instances because Tolkien did it right in the first place. That's why LOTR is a classic.