R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

I've just finished writing an e-mail in which I talk about why, even though I'm passionate about The Lord of the Rings -- every time I read the books I appreciate and admire Tolkien's genius more -- I have absolutely no desire to get involved in LOTR fandom. So I figured I might as well transfer some of those thoughts over here.

I am aware, of course, that LOTR fandom did not begin with the movie. Ever since the books were first published, there have been fans analyzing, discussing, writing about and even composing fanfics based on Tolkien's vision of Middle-Earth. Some of it was serious and scholarly; some of it was whimsical and parodic; and no doubt some of it was utter rubbish. But for the most part, I think the original LOTR fans had respect for Tolkien's ideas and values (even if they didn't share all of those values, or even subjected them to criticism), and made some attempt to echo his use of language and subject matter.

Since the movie, however, it seems like LOTR fandom has gone straight to Mordor. Now it's all about how "hot" the stars of the movie were (and thus, by extension, characters like Aragorn and Legolas are "hot" as well), and endless speculation and exposition about who in the Fellowship was sleeping with (or would like to have been sleeping with) whom, and wearing Pervy Hobbit Fancier t-shirts. Basically, it's all about lust -- an emphasis which is completely antithetical to Tolkien's own focus and intent. It's not as though Tolkien avoids all mention or implication of sex -- people fall in love, they get married, they have children, and there are even discreet mentions of darker things like rape and incest -- but he certainly doesn't invite the reader to lust after his characters, or to take pleasure in imagining them lusting after each other. And I can't help thinking that if he had any idea of how current LOTR fandom is treating his characters and the world he created, he would be deeply grieved and feel, with good reason, that these fans had entirely Missed The Point. Which indeed many of them have done, because they're fans of the LOTR movies and actors rather than (or at least more than) fans of the books, so they don't even know or particularly care what Tolkien himself was on about.

Now, I do know that there are still pockets of fans who appreciate and value Tolkien's work, and try to reflect something of that in their own writing. (Though, as a friend mentioned to me just this morning, it's virtually impossible to write like Tolkien, and it's probably better not to try.) But since the release of the first movie, the fandom seems to have been swamped by squeeing fangirls -- an intrusion which I suspect the more book-based LOTR ficcers, artists and essayists hotly resent -- and even if I were tempted to turn my lifelong enjoyment of Tolkien's works into full-fledged fandom participation, I'm certainly not going to do it now.
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