Scattered Thoughts on the Desolation of Smaug and Tauriel

28 May

This Memorial Day, many members of my family and some friends gathered together to celebrate the day…and compared notes on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. We all saw it recently, but at different times. There seemed to be remarkable agreement.

  1. It was better than the first one
  2. It was still too long
  3. It looks like a video game
  4. Smaug was cool
  5. Martin Freeman does a good job as Bilbo
  6. How could there possibly be that much darned treasure in that cavern?
  7. The romance was beyond belief cheesy
  8. Bard looks like Legolas’ long lost, illegitimate brother. My sister’s theory is that Thranduil was a libertine and the land is peopled with his heirs.
  9. Oh, cool! That’s Jeeves playing the Lake Master (from Jeeves and Wooster with Peter Laurie and Stephen Fry – somebody had to tell me because I hadn’t recognized him)
  10. Jeeves has definitely come down in the world
  11. What is that thing on Thranduil’s head?
  12. Why black arrows? What was wrong with regular arrows?

Where there was disagreement was whether or not the dwarves in the barrels going down the river scene was either so ridiculous it was cool or bemusedly stupid (I was in the stupid camp).

And why is it called The Desolation of Smaug? Smaug hasn’t desolated anything yet? That happens at the beginning of the third film.

One thing that has really been floating around in my brain is musings on the decision to not only add a female character, but to contrive a romance, as well.

If the purpose of adding Tauriel is to round out a world dominated by men (as the actress, Evangeline Lilly, says), why fall back on the old trope of romance. If it is enough to have a story of men on a quest, why can’t it be enough to add a woman interested in or participating in that quest? Is it the woman or the romance that is supposed to be rounding out this story?

Perhaps it’s natural that adding a woman makes people think romance. Perhaps they added the romance between her and the dwarf, Kili, because they were trying to be original and not do what everyone was expecting (adding a romance for Legolas).

It can be interesting to add a female character to a story – though I don’t think a story is somehow less dimensional if it lacks women. Complaining that The Hobbit needs more women is like complaining that Little Women needs more men (though it does have quite a few men, but they are slightly incidental). I recently watched a film from 1933 called Wild Boys of the Road, which is about two boys who leave home in search of work. They are joined on their journey by another girl, one of very few girls in a group of many boys, but there is no romance. It’s not needed. She manages to round out a story without resorting to romance. It’s not part of what the film is doing. It was trying to highlight the plight of teenagers during the depression.

The only reason I mention Tauriel is because I have read her addition to the movie defended in terms of progressiveness: she is a woman who can fight just as the men can (which, if that is the extant of female progress, doesn’t strike me as very impressive). But her real function seems to be to provide romance. I’m not saying it’s bad. Hollywood has been adding romances where there is none from the beginning of Hollywood time (think The Big Sleep). It’s just not progress.

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Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Fantasy


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