Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

Two more essays: Aratlithiel on the Films, Lobelia S-B on the maleness of hobbits

[Warning: some adult content in quoted materials]

~ Film-Frodo looking bookishly, "kick-ass," at Cirith Ungol.

Oh, EXCRETA! Two more great essays!

One by Aratlithiel and another by Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. Many of you have no doubt read these, but for us relative newbies, I just want to give a little ‘heads up’….

1. In my “Swordplay” entry, Aratlithiel (aka Abby_normal) mentioned having written a “weeping and flailing” essay on the injuries done to Frodo’s character in the films.

I just read it and it is a must-must-must, unless you are a film-Frodo fan who cannot bear to see the films (and Frodo in them) given the old, one-two. You might really hate this, if so. But if you share some semblance of Aratlithiel’s love/hate relationship with the LotR films, you will love reading this. Does she loathe the films entirely? Scroll down to the bottom to see Aratlithiel confessing that she loves the stinking things, ANYWAY, even if she gripes the whole time.

I am sure many of you will “resonate” (such a tame, New Age term for such a slash-and-burn essay) with Aratlithiel’s observations. If you have not read this essay, and can bear some ranting, you are in for a treat. From the content, it was written after the EE of The Two Towers came out, but before The Return of the King was released.

P.S., she takes pains to state that this is her statement on the subject, not an invitation to debate. She has finished arguing about it. Just so you’ll know, in case you are planning to send her a challenge.

On the Films, by Aratlithiel:

Here’s an excerpt:

OK, so there are money constraints, time constraints, reasons why certain scenes that work in the book would not work on film. But I have not seen one single diversion from canon that made more sense than the original material. And most of it seems pointless and frivolous to me. Why is Eowyn being a bad cook a more important scene than the Frodo and Faramir debate? Why is Theodred’s funeral more important than…well, any of the Frodo scenes left out? Didn’t PJ tell us that this story is about Frodo? So why are all of the scenes involving Frodo dominated by Sam? Why are these movies elevating Sam to hero status and dragging Frodo down to Victim?

In the more concise and intelligent defenses of the films, one of the more common complaints about canon is that it’s unrealistic. Frodo couldn’t have stood up to the Ringwraiths at the Ford with that Morgul shard stuck in his shoulder; he couldn’t possibly run with the orcs after his ordeal in the Tower and besides the orcs would spot him anyway; wanting to fork over the Ring to Aragorn and then a Nazgul is human and demonstrates his pain so well.

OK. Those are certainly valid opinions and anyone who shares them is entitled to them. I get no happiness out of seeing those changes, but would certainly not begrudge anyone theirs. But, you see, I wasn’t looking for reality. This is a fantasy novel we’re talking about and I had no interest whatsoever in seeing it made more realistic. If I want realistic, I watch the news. I don’t want my hobbits humanized; I want them to be hobbits. Yes, Frodo could have stood up to the Ringwraiths, because Frodo did. Frodo could have drawn his sword and taken a swing at the Witch King because he did. He also survived longer with the shard in his shoulder than any living being before him, nearly got impaled in Moria and survived, stood up to and even challenged Galadriel, outwitted and outmaneuvered the heir to the Stewardship of Gondor, debated a Captain of Gondor and won, tamed a creature who had been filled with hate and spite for 500 years and put him on the road to redemption only to have his work and kindnesses undone by Sam, carried the Ring at Its height of power without succumbing to it until he stood at Its center of power, survived a sting by Shelob, captivity by orcs, thirst, starvation and the slow, steady erosion of his mind, body and spirit.

And what’s Peter Jackson’s interpretation of this character? “I can’t do this, Sam”…?!

W… T... F…? Are you seriously trying to tell me that that’s Frodo? That may well be Peter Jackson’s Frodo, but it certainly isn’t Tolkien’s. And I’m sorry, but Tolkien’s is the one I’ve admired, Tolkien’s is the one I wanted to see come to life, Tolkien’s is the one who could have made it to Mordor. Wait, I take that back - I'm not sorry. Jackson’s Frodo – although Sam will, indeed drag him to Mordor – is not emotionally, spiritually or intellectually equipped to do so and the fact that he will go to Mordor and (from the spoiler pics we’ve seen) will crawl up Mt. Doom…that, my friends, in terms of this movie and its characterization of Frodo, is unrealistic. Now, if Sam is behind him the whole way, saying, ‘You can do it Mr. Frodo! You have to go on!’ then I suppose I can see the determined climb in the context of this movie. And that just makes me sad.

Not realistic. Bah.

Oh, Aratlithiel, reading your third paragraph me weep with pleasure. Ah, for such a Frodo! If only PJ and the screenwriters could have seen their way to dramatizing that Frodo. Ah, well, I still am going to watch the films, probably until the day I die. And probably griping with my last breath, while pleading that when the angel of death comes, he will look just like film-Frodo. *sigh*

2. While I was browsing her essay page (these are from Aratlithiel’s web site, “A Light in Dark Places”), I could not refrain from clicking open another essay with a very leading title. It was….

Why Can’t a Hobbit Be More Like A Man?, by Lobelia-Sackville Baggins:

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins is another author of Frodo fanfic of whom I have always heard, but never read. I have had her fic on my “to read” list for over a year. But, as was the case after reading Mary Borsellino’s essay, I may have to goose it up a little.

In this essay, Lobelia S.-B. tackles an issue that has always bothered me about slash, the feminization of its male hobbit characters, Frodo in particular. Related to that, is what she calls the “infantilization” of the hobbits, Pippin in particular. With scathing humour, she says for me many things I have thought since I began reading slash fanfics.

Here’s a spicy excerpt:

When Frodo in a given fic has no male characteristics at all beyond what's between his legs, and even that issue is sometimes skirted with varying degrees of tact, it makes me look a bit askance. He ought not to be a macho jerk, please let's not make him one, but what's so bad about him being a GMC [grown male character]? I'm all about Frodo being a total bottom too, but why is it bad for him to occasionally back Sam into a corner and say "Look, I've had blue balls all day and I'm dying, you are now going to put down the damn clippers, come to bed, and fuck me right through the mattress, and no, foreplay is not required right now, just grab the lube and come on"? I can't imagine that Sam would object overmuch to that particular variety of manhandling. You could argue that it's OOC for Frodo, but Frodo, in any canon, is physiologically male; and physiological masculinity does bring along with it certain imperatives. If you're going to make him sexual at all, it seems to me, you're going to have to deal with those imperatives. Frodo is not a woman; he's a man, and male sexual response is different from female sexual response, and while some fudging of that issue is usually necessary, there's only so far that you can ignore the fact without tipping over into unrealistic characterization.

However, it's not only sexually that Frodo is so often feminized; he's also often feminized emotionally (and Sam is too, but mostly it's Frodo so I'll frame the discussion in those terms). Hobbits in canon are damned emotional little creatures. They burst into tears at the slightest provocation, they respond to new things with an unabashed "Oooo!", they follow their feelings and trip headfirst into a big-ass vat of trouble and then don't understand what happened. But while they do diverge that far from our current cultural standards of masculinity, they're still recognizably male. Book!Frodo is the type who under normal (non-Quest) circumstances wouldn't stop and ask directions on a car trip if it meant the firing squad; he'd keep insisting that he was just fine with the map, thank you, and had everything under control, and the fact that he'd passed the same tree four times did not at all mean that he didn't know where he was. Sam, presaging Sean Astin's on-set behavior, has built a huge part of his identity around being the provider, the protector, and generally the person who could move the world if given a place to stand and a big enough roll of duct tape. Merry fantasizes about charging to Pippin's rescue and leaving slaughtered orcs littered in his wake. Pippin's first act on meeting Denethor is to offer not his wit or his tales or even his pipeweed but his sword.

Remember when they're leaving Rivendell and Frodo forgets a bunch of stuff? Does Sam say outright, "Hey, Mr. Frodo, you forgot some things"? No. He sticks them in his own pack, so that when Frodo goes "Ack, what a flake I am, I left Item X in Rivendell" Sam can pull Item X out of his pack and go "Looking for this?" This, O my sisters, is a Guy Thing.

All this made me snort my drink, but I knew just what she was talking about.

Although, unlike Lobelia S-B, I do get tired of Frodo always being on the receiving end of his sexual encounters with Sam. If for nothing else, I think I appreciated Hare and Hounds the way I do because Bill the Pony reversed this scenario. Although she put her Frodo in virtual drag in order to lure straight-guy Sam to pursue him, in the end, the feminized guise came off and dominant-male Frodo was revealed. Sam could barely say, “Guh” before Frodo had seized him, mounted him, and, well, reversed the usual order of things. Perhaps having watched Sean Astin’s Sam dominate film-Frodo so much, I am impatient with the usual sexual set-up. I want to yell, “Get up, Frodo! Pick up your damned sword and let that hobbit have it!”

Heck, reading those essays got me all excited.

I’m going to have to go and read me a fanfic!

~ Mechtild
Tags: essays, fanfic, slash

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