Today, after fretting about it for a month or two, I cancelled my Premiere Membership to TORc. It was far more emotional for me than I had anticipated, even as the diehard fan I have been. I felt as though I had experienced a death.
~ Frodo as Chatterton by Henry Wallis, c. 1856. I had made this manip picturing the scene of Frodo lying in a swoon on his bed at the home of Farmer Cotton, longing, in his delirium, for the Ring.
(Here follows a long re-telling of my experience in LotR fandom. Some of you already know all this stuff. Warning: Whinges ahead.)
I entered LotR fandom (the only fandom in which I have ever participated) through a couple of Tolkien messageboards. I registered first at Tolkien Online.com (TORc), just before the release of The Two Towers. But I didn’t find it newsy enough -- and I hadn’t a CLUE as to how messageboards or threads worked. So, I did all my news-gathering at The One Ring.net (TORn). That was in November of 2002.
But then came The Return of the King. Seeing that film (over and over) during the winter of 2003-04 so overwhelmed me, I was seized by the need to discuss it with others, who were similarly overwhelmed. I tried peeking again into the actual threads at TORn, but the ones I chanced upon were all lightweight and chatty. Then I opened threads in the Film Forum of TORc. There I happened upon some dynamite discussion threads, right off the bat, and soon was spewing my opinions and gushing with love for Tolkien (book and films) all over the place. That was in December of 2003.
The next month, in January of 2004, I not only found myself even more immersed in enthusiasm for all things Tolkien, I also had fallen into mad, passionate love with film Frodo. Before that time, I had loved book Frodo, but in a platonic way. And, although I had greatly appreciated Elijah Wood’s performance as Frodo, both for his fine acting and for the sublime beauty of his face on screen in the first two films, I wasn't enamoured of him. It wasn’t until I had suffered with (and for) Frodo in RotK (over and over), that I became thoroughly and utterly besotted with film Frodo.
Soon I became too swoony and gushy to post in the regular threads at TORc (a very intellectually rigorous place in those days). A kind TORcer (who became the “lead” beta for my fic) suggested I seek out TORc’s little swoon thread for Elijah/Frodo. The swoon thread at TORc resides in a little cubby in the [generally dismissed] Fandom Forum. I was a little embarrassed to show up there at first, knowing what a “low” place it was considered. (“Ugh! Faaaaandom!” real film forum posters would say -- after all, I was supposed to be an intellectual, not some fan girl.) But, soon I was gushing away, snorting and laughing over racy jokes, or waxing eloquent over the beauties and virtues of Frodo, those of the body and those of character. The TORc swoon thread developed into a very hospitable, swoony, but thoughtful little place to go. And, while we did talk about EW the actor, the primary focus was on Frodo, which suited me to a T.
All that winter I was deeply involved in the messageboards, in the regular LotR film forum, and, in the fan thread. That spring I read my first fanfiction. I entered into a friendly e-debate with a writer of quality S/F slash and, subsequently, decided I wanted to write my own fanfiction. I did, but I became so involved in it, my posting in the film forum threads dropped off to nearly nothing. I only made time to stay a “regular” in the swoon thread, with the exception of the gorgeous, “M00bies reads the b00ks”.
It was in that way that I failed to notice the way that posting throughout the LotR film forum at TORc had dropped off, even before the Board 77 debacle. I just wasn’t there enough to notice. Not only was I writing fanfic, but I had become involved over at the K-D messageboard (Khazad-dum) in their Frodo swoon thread, “Frodo’s Harem,” and in the Elijah Wood-as-actor thread, “The Faculty Lounge”. In those places I have had a great time and met many truly wonderful fans and people.
When I did notice the degree to which fans were folding their tents and going home, I thought, “Well, surely there still will be a little circle of fans left who still want to watch the films and pore over Tolkien’s books, and talk about the wonders they have seen (and still see), and tell how their hearts have been moved!” More experienced fans continued to warn me that it would not be so.
I have been terribly sad to see the Frodo threads winding down, especially the TORc one, which has meant so much to me. I have tried hard to keep posting in it: writing little essays, making jokes, dragging in reviews and clips and links from all over the Elijah Wood internet-focussed world -- anything to fend off "the inevitable." But it just hasn’t been enough. The only “regulars” who post there are people like me: fans who already read and post in the far more active EW sites elsewhere. When we post in the TORc swoon thread, we tend merely to duplicate what we already have said in other places. What is the point in that?
This past week or two, while The Faculty and the LJ’s have been fairly buzzing and humming with the Edinburgh festival and the GSH premiere, it has been dead as a doornail at TORc. In spite of the efforts of some of us to drag stuff about these events from everywhere else over to the TORc thread -- in links and pics and quotes -- it has generated almost no response there. There have been days (and weeks, it seemed) when I and one of my TORc swoon thread friends both made our obligatory daily post, putting on our “happy faces” for the thread as we did so. But privately we were emailing each other, crying on each other’s shoulders about how the thread had surely reached its nadir. “Oh, why do we keep flogging a dead horse?” we asked ourselves. A discussion community simply cannot work if there are not enough active participants.
Yes, I have hated to let the TORc swoon thread go. I wring my hands, too, over the likely demise of the other Frodo thread where I hang out. How I have loved them both! But it seems they are fallen into decay – only a few dried leaves are left to tell of the glory and growth that once was there. No matter how many little skits or mini-essays we try to pump into them, it just seems to be inevitable. I wish I were more accepting -- especially since that is part of the message of LotR.
It is silly, I know, but most of all I have hated the way the demise of the threads seems to reflect on Frodo, himself, as a character whom I love. I hate that “his” threads have turned into ghost towns. If he were to visit them, he would be reminded of verses from The Sea-bell. I shudder to think of it.
I know, I know. He’s fictional, and I am being childish. But it seems to be part of my nature, not just childishness. As the wise-cracking Anthony Blanche said of himself to Charles Ryder, in Brideshead Revisited (in a rare serious moment), “I am a faithful old body, I am afraid, Charles.” I just have a heck of a time letting go when I have loved something.
So, anyway…. In a fit of pique over my latest failure to drum up some conversation in the TORc thread, I opened the Membership Info. window at TORc, stared at the, “Cancel My Premiere Membership” button (something I have looked at before this summer), moved my mouse over it and clicked it. “Your Premiere Membership has been cancelled.”
This does not mean I can no longer post at TORc, of course. (Having a “PM” entitles one to have a sig pic but not much else.) But maintaining a PM was a way of showing my commitment to the site and to LotR fandom. To have a PM was a public thing, and meant contributing money on a regular basis. To cancel my membership was an act of almost ritual significance, like striking my name from a baptismal register. Or, it was as if I were Gary Cooper in High Noon taking off my tin star and putting it on the dusty jail counter, and telling the unappreciative town leaders, “I’m not going to be your marshal anymore. Get yourself somebody else.” It felt very odd. But it did not make me feel free. It made me feel faithless.
When I got to work immediately afterwards, I walked through the still empty library to my work space and started weeping. Not loudly; someone might hear as they came in for the day. But silently my shoulders shook as I picked up a stack of graphic novels and other “juvenile fiction,” and began to sort it, not even seeing the covers. It was as if I had cancelled my fandom, somehow. All the great threads I had loved at TORc came to mind, as well as the people who wrote the great posts in them. Although I had met none of these people in real life, their thoughts and feelings lived for me from the pages displayed on a monitor. How much I had learned! And how happily I had wallowed in a tub of love and ideas and soaring enthusiasm!
Well, it is the night, now, and I am feeling much better. I have thought about it a great deal and feel far more prepared to do without it.
I am prepared, now, to go back to separating my enthusiasms. In order to keep in touch with fellow swooners, I am hoping LJ-land will be the place to do that. Also, I have email addresses for my friends at TORc. And, happily, I like EW very much – much more than I did starting out – for it seems that I will be able to find many Frodo fans gathered at his various shrines or cheering on his latest film projects. As for serious discussion, another poster told me all about going to the recent Tolkien Society convention. Her excellent little report on the presentations there made me think there was hope yet for a place to read and discuss Tolkien’s work and world in a thoughtful, engaged way. They must have a website.
And that’s my plan.
I am sorry this has been so long (if any of you are still reading it). I just can’t dump all this on the TORc thread. Some of the posters who drop by there are just nice people who want to stop in every now and then and say how much they like Frodo or Elijah Wood. Why should I make them feel bad with all my, “peeing and moaning” (an expression of my English mother's)?
So, nighty-night, and thanks for whatever ear you have given me,
Some of the RotK scenes in which Frodo “got me”….