The LOTR Movie Site
December 12, 2000

Responses, Responses Everywhere...
Brian M.

Greetings. I think this one's going to be kind of long, even given that I've only had time to read Max's response to me, so I'll dive right in:

1. "As I said, Smurfs are not simply a huge difference, but one that is absolutely alien to the Middle Earth. Including a woman, another dwarf or one less hobbit are not so."--Still, you're just pointing to a matter of degree, even if the gulf between the two is huge. If you hold true to the idea that the text is just an artifact, then the argument that anything could be alien to it is nonsensical. If there is no objective meaning in the text, then all judgements anyone makes based on it are merely subjective. So, in effect, it reduces your objection to the smurfs, that they are, "absolutely alien" to "My opinion happens to be that they are alien." Can you back it up? Not with anything from the text. It will always just be your opinion, and one among many.

I also find it odd, that your difficulty in accepting the smurfs as simply "a change" is that they are alien to Middle Earth, but at the same time have no problem with introducing traits to a character in that story, namely Arwen, which are just as alien to what Tolkien actually described as papa smurf would be in Orthanc. Remember, the trouble isn't just with the idea of adding someone to the Fellowship, its also with altering characters in ways unjustified by the text (or author) itself. Neither the active Arwen nor these blue fellows appear. (More on this in #7) If you add one "just because", you can't complain if someone else wants to add the other on those same grounds.

2. "Secondly, I believe it comes down to what we interpret as the heart of the story."--Pardon me if I get the terms mixed (my last lit class was years ago), but I don't think that we can necessarily equate the theme of the story with its heart. First, it's difficult to do with a complicated work like LOTR. Which one will you choose? There are any number that Tolkien wove into it (including the one you mentioned, some more prominent than others), and to reduce the story to just one won't do justice to the whole. It will almost always be a gross oversimplification, just ask Bakshi. Secondly, if we strip the story down that far, even if we retain some of the trappings, it essentially becomes unrecognizable. What Tolkien did was take that skeleton and flesh it out to become LOTR. I can write a story to meet those criteria, even use the languages, characters, and places that Tolkien created. I could post it on the Net somewhere, claim that it's a continuation of the LOTR, and then get laughed and jeered out of cyberspace. In short, I don't think you can reduce something like this to "theme+trappings=LOTR".

3. "I still fail to see how. Mercutio was presented as being in love with Romeo in the 90's retelling. It really had no overall effect."--I haven't seen that yet, and given my aversion for Leonardo Dicaprio (however you spell it), I'm not likely to. I would guess, however, that it had to significantly alter how the two interacted, even if you thought you could live with the changes. Have you seen any of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series the BBC put out? I can think of good examples for both sides there, and it would give us common ground to discuss this on.

4. "But neither am I a PPM theorist. I made the comment that we exist in that arena now, and that there are ideals within it that I do agree with."--But you brought it up originally without any qualifications, which threw me. You've only been adding them later, as we go along.

5. "I am more in line with the Avant Pop mode of thinking at times. Are you familiar with it?"--Like I said, I'm a bit rusty. Strongly existential? Well, we can talk about it over e-mail.

6. "I ask how strictly shall it guide? And what areas exactly? *ALL* areas?"--So strictly that we would have to have a clear-cut reason to alter it. If we're going to accept it as a guide, I think it should remain present in every area we deal with. 

7. "And two: I believe that the Author is not a stand-alone being, that the author is linked to the audience and that an audience consideration in the "guiding" is desirable."--True, you do need to take into account the audience, but only so far as to understand what must be done to communicate authorial intent to that particular group. So, for instance, if Tolkien had described a character as saluting a superior in a way that was intended to communicate honor and respect in Middle Earth, but is considered obscene in the target audience, then change it. But only do so if it is necessary to communicate Tolkien's meaning.

Also, the changes we're discussing now, specifically Arwen and the Fellowship, aren't being considered because they are even remotely necessary to communicate Tolkien's meaning. They are including in the hope of lining New Line's pockets. Though I don't think Jackson is considering this just to be PC, that is the crowd the changes appeal to. I simply don't think its necessary to please that vocal minority in order to make their money. There are thousands, probably millions, of women who like the books just like they are, and see no need to change them.

8. Finally, a quick distinction from an earlier post. The more I think about it, I don't believe our discussion of the changes in the Arthur Legends is really analogous for the simple reason that at their heart, they are legends and not literature. The supposed events depicted are not the work of any one author, and are easily open to interpretation, which can, and has, produce some great literature.

This has already gotten too long, so I'll stop there. Merry Christmas all.