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Old 09-05-2022, 07:52 PM   #1
Bęthberry
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Boots How We Read Rings of Power

If folks have learnt nothing over the last forty years or so of literary study and reading, it is that how we approach a book or movie is what contributes as much to our interpretation or enjoyment of the text as the text itself. Readers don't come to a book as a blank slate,ready to be written on by the book itself. Tolkien revolutionised study of Beowulf by bringing to it expectations of poetic or narrative assumptions, rather than assumption then current that it was simply a text with which to learn a language. Toni Morrison changed that expectation when she disagreed with Tolkien over the monster, when she brought her thoughts about marginalisation to the reading.

Nowhere is this importance of how we approach a text (or movie) more true than in Tolkien fandom where the "purists" who brought deep and profound knowledge of Tolkien's texts soundly routed Peter Jackson's movies, but whose victory nevertheless failed to convince those who loved the movies. These viewers did not seem at all bothered by the fact that Jackson did not produce, as he claimed his did, a faithful rendition of Tolkien.Not knowing the beautiful and subtle intricacies of Tolkien's writing they were free to appreciate what was there on the screen and in the audio projection before them; they were a kind of tabula rasa. Some even ended up--surprise-- reading the original texts themselves and loving them. This split is being reproduced with the appearance of Amazon's TV serial The Rings of Power, where the learned loremasters of The Silmarillion and Tolkien's many epitexts are crying foul about the new video adaptation. And others unimpressed by current cultural norms (or values) are equally complaining about violations of the sanctity of Tolkien's texts and characters.

So how are readers/viewers expected to approach the series if they have any hope of enjoying it? The problem is acerbated by the fact that the showrunners and writers can use only limited material from Tolkien, not the Silm or even LotR itself, only the appendices. One approach is to think of RoP as not directly telling a story written by Tolkien but instead as adapting the history of Middle Earth and creating a new narrative around it. This won't of course satisfy the loremasters of the Silm but it might provide a way into appreciating RoP as something in its own right and not as something beholding to a previous text. Another approach is to think of RoP simply as fanfic, but fanfic usually depends upon readers' knowledge of the original in order to make its claims to success.

One of the more interesting ways to resolve this hermeneutical dilemma is instead to read The Rings of Power as alternative fiction. Here I will withdraw my own words and quote something I found on the Tolkien Society's page on Facebook by Robert Berry.

Quote:
The conversation to be having about RINGS OF POWER is not one about fanfic (for this is a licensed property) but altfic. Without the rights to THE SILMARILLION the [writers] cannot have storylines that come from that property. Finrod’s death, the silmarils, even the greater history of Numenor cannot resolve themselves as that last posthumous book established them or the writers would be infringing on copyright.
Altfic comes from a point of view where history, fictional or otherwise, turns aside from its established path. To watch this show and understand what the writers are trying to accomplish under the laws of copyright we must pretend that THE SILMARILLION never existed and that all we know of the history of Middle-earth is what we know from the appendix of LoTR. But we also need to go one step further and recognize the obligation of the writers, working under copyright law, to provide us with stories that cannot be seen as similar to what is in THE SILMARILLION.
That’s a tough task for a writer; abandoning and willfully changing much of what you love from a work to keep the other, often sketchier parts you have the rights to. If [you] look at ... the show this way I think you’ll [see] just how good it is. They were given the best toys in the box but with very strict instructions on how to use them.
PS. And just to remind some who may have forgotten, I was no fan of the Jackson movies. But I am intrigued by what readers bring with them to a text, which might in fact hinder their enjoyment.
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Old 09-05-2022, 10:45 PM   #2
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Good to hear from you, Bb! It's been a while.

I am very much in agreement with the general idea of both points. We very much do bring along baggage of expectations to any adaptation, and it can't not colour our opinion of it to some extent. And the idea of treating the show like a fanfic has been circulated around for quite some time. For myself, this has been my philosophy to which I turn for consolation and to preserve my sanity whenever some hair-pulling article would pop up. Bit there are two buts which still won't let me rest in peace even with this more forgiving outlook.

Firstly, fanfic and even altfic is fine... but there is such a thing as bad fanfic. Perhaps I am spoiled, in the last few years I have encountered some remarkably good fan/altfic including some from the Tolkien universe, and perhaps I have high expectations even for such productions as a result. But while the degree of canonical faithfulness can be somewhat flexible, good storytelling is still good storytelling, and there has been enough to make the storytelling of ROP very questionable.

The other aspect of it that really gets my goat is the pretense of being the real thing. "The book Tolkien never wrote", true to the letter of the lore, etc. No. If you are an adaptation, especially one that so clearly exists around the published texts rather than depicting the text itself, and one which simultaneously presents itself as a new and improved and modernized version - don't pretend to be the real thing. Just admit that you're an adaptation loosely based on an existing fantasy world, and acknowledge that world respectfully. You don't see other fanfics or altfics parading as true depictions. And on some level I think I would feel a lot more kindly towards the show if it presented itself with more humility and with more respect towards the source material - not even in the on-screen choices, but at least in their PR campaign. But you can't simultaneously claim to be connected and faithful to source material and be so alt; you can't tap into a fanbase by deliberately advertising on the franchise name, and not expect to be criticized by said fans when you fail to deliver the standards set by the franchise. At the very least, much can be forgjven when an adaptation is clearly made with love, even of it differs drastically from the origonal; but they have implicitely maligned the source material and the author numerous times, because the originals were not done in the same style as the alt fic. It is not made with love, it is made with money-making schemes in mind. And yet ROP demands universal respect - if you do not like it, you must be one of those horrible narrow minded people [of which enough is said elsewhere that I won't reiterate here]! It just can't have it both ways - be forgiven for the liberties and storytelling imperfections of a humble fanfic, but also present itself as the greatest thing since sliced bread. That stuff gets under my skin.


I think I'll wait for the thirs episode to air before I start watching, based on the reviews posted on this forum, and then perhaps I can give a better response to the first and main point of your thread - what baggage seems to weigh most heavily in this endeavour.
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Old 09-06-2022, 03:30 AM   #3
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The other aspect of it that really gets my goat is the pretense of being the real thing. "The book Tolkien never wrote", true to the letter of the lore, etc. No. If you are an adaptation, especially one that so clearly exists around the published texts rather than depicting the text itself, and one which simultaneously presents itself as a new and improved and modernized version - don't pretend to be the real thing. Just admit that you're an adaptation loosely based on an existing fantasy world, and acknowledge that world respectfully.
I have been saying this months, just be honest. Instead it has been repeated gaslighting and lies from the showrunners and producers (just watch the softball Q&A with Colbert at SDCC ('we looked deep into the books and felt what Tolkien wanted')), as well as self styled Tolkien 'experts' and Tolkien 'Professors'.
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Old 09-06-2022, 05:18 AM   #4
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You don't see other fanfics or altfics parading as true depictions.
Well, one sees it all the time, with historical fiction. Shakespeare made his living doing it. Of course, Shakespeare was good. The writers of Showtime's The Tudors, not so much. (Or even more directly, the Bard's Henry V alongside Netflix' wretched The King). And the ROP gang, the same.

Is it possible to make an altfic adaptation and still wind up with something rather different but equally good? Well, yes, occasionally: Lawrence of Arabia has many historical infelicities but is a brilliant film nonetheless. Moving back to literary adaptations, The Shining fared awfully well-- but it took a Kubrick.
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Old 09-06-2022, 05:52 AM   #5
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I, for one, have watched it and enjoyed it. No, it is not Tolkien, but it has enough of a Middle-Earth "feel" to make it familiar. Others I know feel the same. Also, people who have not read Tolkien will watch it, enjoy it, and perhaps come here for information or background. Shouldn't they be made to feel welcome?
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Old 09-06-2022, 09:43 AM   #6
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Hey Bb, good to see you over here!


Part of me feels for the constricted writers. But they still need to tell a good story with interesting characters.


I'm not beholden to canon; my wife's never read the Books. Her opinion is that 'ROP is all over the place.' Don't think that she was referring to the map.
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Old 09-06-2022, 10:11 AM   #7
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I am very much in agreement with the general idea of both points. We very much do bring along baggage of expectations to any adaptation, and it can't not colour our opinion of it to some extent.
It is far more than mere "baggage". It is one's philosophical predispositions, which can often operate seemingly unconsciously but not necessarily so, that predetermine how one reads a text. Edward Said's examination of "Orientalism" is a prominent example of the conceptual framework I am referring to but the problem is not limited to post colonial studies. See Toni Morrison's playing in the dark: whiteness and the literary imagination. Other examples come easily to mind where attitudes towards the changing depiction of women really underlay the negative opinions about Galadriel in RoP--the complaints about Galadriel say more about those who speak them than they do about the depiction of the character, especially when spoken as an alleged gatekeeper of the Tolkien universe. Or when attitudes about Hollywood lead those gatekeepers to assume they know the erroneous minds of writers who all suffer from the same mindset. Its an essentialism that operates prejudicially or blindly. Another example: Professor Drout has acknowledged in his FB posts about RoP that he really cannot come to terms with film--"I am not a film person". In other words, he doesn't appreciate how the medium works; he even admits he fastforwards a great deal (but he does not tell us what triggers this fastforwarding). That means, for him--and this is my interpretation of his statement--that the standard for him is always set by the conditions of literary text rather than by how the story can be constructed by the visual/oral text. And I say this with a great deal of respect for Professor Drout's work on Tolkien.

Quote:
For myself, this has been my philosophy [ie, fanfic] to which I turn for consolation and to preserve my sanity whenever some hair-pulling article would pop up. Bit there are two buts which still won't let me rest in peace even with this more forgiving outlook....I think I'll wait for the thirs episode to air before I start watching, based on the reviews posted on this forum, and then perhaps I can give a better response to the first and main point of your thread
Oh my, you are quite angsty aren't you? Will you be calling down a fatwa on the showrunners and writers even before you view any of the series? Because really you are not here talking knowledgeably about the actual TV series itself but about the epitexts which preceded it. I guess this is your statement about what you will bring to viewing the series, but it really does not tell us anything about the series itself.
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Old 09-06-2022, 10:20 AM   #8
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Hey Bb, good to see you over here!


Part of me feels for the constricted writers. But they still need to tell a good story with interesting characters.


I'm not beholden to canon; my wife's never read the Books. Her opinion is that 'ROP is all over the place.' Don't think that she was referring to the map.
Son says something similar but with less confusion. He thinks they are setting up several/multiple narrative streams which will ultimately meet in confluence. And he's already making a few guesses about that. So, not enthusiastic but intrigued by possibilities.

And, hey, I'm not saying I am wildly enthusiastic about the series. I am more interested in finding a place (posts) where new members can feel their enjoyment will not be slammed by oh so officially hounding loremasters of the Silm. One can make criticisms without making it seem there is no home for alternate or happy opinions.
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Old 09-06-2022, 10:26 AM   #9
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I am more interested in finding a place (posts) where new members can feel their enjoyment will not be slammed by oh so officially hounding loremasters of the Silm. One can make criticisms without making it seem there is no home for alternate or happy opinions.
Agreed. We have active and enthusiastic members that were first attracted to JRRT by Jackson's movies. Let's allow the same to happen here.
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Old 09-06-2022, 10:33 AM   #10
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Son says something similar but with less confusion. He thinks they are setting up several/multiple narrative streams which will ultimately meet in confluence. And he's already making a few guesses about that. So, not enthusiastic but intrigued by possibilities.

And, hey, I'm not saying I am wildly enthusiastic about the series. I am more interested in finding a place (posts) where new members can feel their enjoyment will not be slammed by oh so officially hounding loremasters of the Silm. One can make criticisms without making it seem there is no home for alternate or happy opinions.
I'd decided let science reign, and judge the show on the evidence and not by what I was seeing/hearing/reading from others.


And have I ever had a happy opinion?
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Old 09-06-2022, 01:15 PM   #11
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Alatar, good to see you. The sentiment is appreciated.
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Old 09-06-2022, 01:31 PM   #12
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Alatar, good to see you. The sentiment is appreciated.
Good to be back.


I'd learned much when discussing PJ's LotR with others, like just when you think that your POV is the only logical/reasonable POV, you see otherwise.
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Old 09-06-2022, 03:55 PM   #13
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More so than in the more spoilery Episode thread, this seems the best place to put my overall impressions after watching the first episode, not least because my "review" as such probably does work out to an untangling of hermeneutic as much as anything else.

I didn't hate it. That might have been something noteworthy, circa 2002, when I was willing to be the fiercest defender of canon and was willing to write off The Fellowship over Arwen's curved sword, but I was able to watch the middle Hobbit movie and enjoy myself, so the ship has sailed on my need to hate anything that I can demolish with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the source material.

That said, I'm not sure my enjoyment was at all the sort of enjoyment Rings of Power was made to provoke: the whole thing is a puzzle and I want nothing more than to pull on the loose threads and unravel it: why differ from the canon here? Why portray that there? Why, why, why? It is entertaining me, to filter the Tolkien from the not-Tolkien, the gap-filling from the rewriting, and the extremely amateur part of me that has tried to be a writer is enjoying calling things nonsense in a way analogous to the fun of finding a typo in a professionally-published book.

It is somewhat illuminating too: the changes to the plot really don't bother me at all. Changes to nomenclature, mood, word-use, setting--these DO bother me. And, looking back, that's kind of how it was in the beginning: I hated Arwen's curved sword ever so much more than her turning up on Asfaloth, stealing Glorfindel's existence.

[Missed opportunity there! Just think if PJ had given us Glorfindel: he'd be so useful in this story! We're overworking Galadriel just to give us a familiar character.]

The real big takeaway for me, though, is that--besides gently enjoying myself and being ready to go on tomorrow to doing it again--is just how forgettable I think it's going to be. Nothing here is going to change the landscape of Tolkien studies or Tolkien fandom or Tolkien culture the way the Jackson movies did. I don't think it's even going to affect 16 year old fangeeks with a Tumblr the way Jackson's Hobbit movies did. We'll see if I feel that way after another episode or after the whole series, but this far in its... eh, it's not really that worth getting worked over. If you think you're a serious Tolkien scholar, this shouldn't make you mad. That'd be like Shakespeare having to worry about Colley Cibber's pantomime.
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Old 09-06-2022, 05:03 PM   #14
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Great idea for a thread, Bethberry.

I had read Book I of Fellowship of the Ring, before seeing it in theaters (my dad told me I should start the book to have an idea about the movie). I went to theaters, loved the movie. Then proceeded to finish reading Lord of the Rings before The Two Towers came out next year. To this day I credit the movies (and my dad) for my Tolkien passion taking off. I think Fellowship of the Ring is the best movie Jackson did. Since it was a great film, it made me want to finish reading the books. After finishing them prior to The Two Towers coming out in theaters, I found I liked the books better than the movies. The rest is history.

With the Rings of Power series I stopped paying attention to the news and rumors of it around the time the teaser posters came out. I had very low expectations this is (or will be) "the story Tolkien never wrote." My feelings have always been if I wanted a Tolkien story I would just read the books. So, I'm not bothered by the liberties, and lack of lore in the series. I've been watching the series with a group of 5 others, they're all baby LOTR nerds. Some of them have read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and they all know I've read the Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales..etc etc. So, it's kind of neat watching it with people who are so far enjoying it and building up their interest to read the books.

I've had an Amazon Prime account for years (the free shipping for having a prime account pays for itself). I'm going to keep my account regardless of whether I continue watching the series or not (again, the free shipping more than makes up the account fees). So, in my head, the series is like a free bonus. I'm not paying anything extra for it. Maybe that's why I've been more open to the series?
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Old 09-06-2022, 05:34 PM   #15
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It's a very, very long time since I expected book adaptations to be pitch perfect copies of the text. Even if they are, they're often a little bit staid - looking here at Watchmen and Dune, which don't really excite me to watch again. Sometimes, an adaptation takes the source material, screws it up into a ball, throws it in the bin and gold is found - Children Of Men.

So I never had that expectation. And the makers of this said *from the start* they only had access to limited source material. I was therefore sceptical right from the start. I knew it was going to be like very expensive fan fiction.

That's what I went in to expect. My main objection was paying Jeff Bezos, who could spend Ł28m a day and never run dry, any money. But davem paid for it, so ..😂

I will admittedly hoover up any fantasy TV - but it gets switched off if it leaves me cold (Barbarians, Outlander after it stopped being Scottish, that thing about Crusaders). This didn't. I even enjoyed the bits that annoyed me, feeling self righteous grumps at Finrod being wronged (his real death is so much more...), and laughing at Galadriel's Michael Phelps stint.

During this scene Alfie started going "durrr-der, durrr-der" like the Jaws theme. Me: "If you don't be quiet you can go to your bedroom!" while secretly laughing.

Having a diverse cast? Meh, it's no problem. Lenny Henry is *superb*, he's notoriously Brummie in a TV series based on a Brummie's appendices, absolutely spot on. You can't go wrong with him. All shows swap or change things up - GoT did this in the extreme and it was absolutely fine to change Daenerys from a bald 13 year old into a woman who inspired hair goals, and to not have Peter Dinklage without a nose, or have an old Eddard which meant we got Sean Bean. It's fine in Sandman too, Death was cool, goths don't all have white Manic Panic on their faces.

A slashy Galadriel? Let's see. It looked good, a bit weird and Wagnerian, but I tend to think she got her power from her ring anyway going by what the Osanwe Kenta says. She's a bit po faced just now, but it may change. She plays 'sad' very well.

Let's see how it pans out.
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Old 09-06-2022, 07:09 PM   #16
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Nothing here is going to change the landscape of Tolkien studies or Tolkien fandom or Tolkien culture the way the Jackson movies did.
Or did it?


Haven't posted here in forever (at least an age or two). Suddenly I get the urge, feel the 'call' as it were, and when I get here, seems like everyone is popping back in as well.


As we sure that The Barrow-Wight isn't Bezos? And RoP isn't just an elaborate scheme to get us all back?


Just saying...
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Old 09-06-2022, 08:10 PM   #17
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Silmaril

I liked it.
Okay, I Loved it.
We got over squashed timelines before. And wympy Treebeard, and waffling Strider. So I can forgive Squashed timeline… and mangled Faramir-I-mean-Finrod. And short-haired elves. It’s a fanfic, streaming once a week.

Looking back over PJ’s movies, I have favorite sections and I have scenes I skip. (Same with the soundtrack.) This will be no different. I just get to take several years to decide what parts are keepers and what parts are skippers.

Did you know they are offering the soundtrack for each episode?
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Old 09-07-2022, 04:04 AM   #18
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Viewing Film versus Reading Text

I truly appreciate Bęthberry's thread-opening post entitled How We Read Rings of Power although I think the word "View" would more accurately distinguish film-watching from book-reading: two very different mental and emotional -- if not sensory -- activities.

The post begins with two quoted observations.

(1) Originally Posted by Galadriel55: "I am very much in agreement with the general idea of both points. We very much do bring along baggage of expectations to any adaptation, and it can't not colour our opinion of it to some extent."

(2) Bęthberry's response: "It is far more than mere "baggage". It is one's philosophical predispositions, which can often operate seemingly unconsciously but not necessarily so, that predetermine how one reads a text."

Again, to stress the nature of reading, we have this famous observation:

Quote:
“Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakenly meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Then, with respect to watching or just looking, this from the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, generally considered the best Star Trek movie:

Quote:
"All the traditional artistic venues -- literature, music, painting – they exercise a good deal of their impact by virtue of what they leave out. A painting does not move. Music has no image. In each case, it is the willing and unskilled participation of the imagination on the part of the viewing listener that completes the work of art. The painting moves when it meets your eye, and so forth. Only movies, the twentieth century art medium has the hideous capacity to do it all for you. And in doing so, it tends to render the audience passive [emphasis added]. The great commercial directors who make movies are taught to put everything in. And the result is that sometimes I find myself sitting at these movies which are visually stunning. Every image is perfect. There is no distinction in priority between what is an important image and what is an unimportant image. It's all perfect. Everything is in it [emphasis added]. And, as a director, I'm always looking to leave things out." ― Nicholas Meyer
Now, I have not read any text -- which I assume would mean the script -- of The Rings of Power television series, so I have nothing to work with there. Nor have I sat passively in front of a television display letting visual images and sound wash over me, manipulating my senses and emotions -- over which I would rather keep control if at all possible. But I do read the text written by those here who have voluntarily subjected themselves to viewing all the sounds and images, whether passively and uncritically -- as the studio and advertisers no doubt hope -- or more actively, maintaining an intellectual and emotional distance from the intended manipulation. My thanks to those who have viewed the television series so that I can read what they have to report about the experience.
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Old 09-07-2022, 06:06 AM   #19
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Silmaril The light: it's pretty.

I've been in two minds for some time about whether or not to watch this, not because woe it's going to suck and sully Tolkien's memory forevah but because I've become a bit detached from genre fantasy in general over the years - but that hasn't kept me from watching and enjoying GoT and The Witcher, and we have Prime anyway, so why not. So I've now watched the first two episodes and found them far from my new favourite thing, but entertaining and *gasp* in some parts even enjoyable.

I think part of my approach to this is distinguishing between
a) Tolkien's writings, born from his very personal creative vision and love of language, which I'm convinced have now deservedly attained their place in the canon of 20th century literature, and
b) the multimedia franchise that has grown around them, which is ruled by capitalist market forces. Some may regret that b) ever came into existence, but that ship sailed long ago (with the release of MERP at the very latest).
No matter which antics b) gets up to, I'm confident that a) will endure and continue to enchant readers long after Peter Jackson, Jeff Bezos and all participants in this discussion are dead and dust, and if some of these readers sought out the books after watching some movie or series and discover that they have much more to give than they were led to expect, so much the better.

So I never expected RoP to be anything but Mr Bezos's personal Tolkien fanfic and was therefore willing to be pleasantly surprised. (I think Bęthberry's distinction between fan fic and alt fic is useful, but I'm afraid I can't really be bothered to go into this.)

And pleasantly surprised I was! I mean, I could get my knickers in a twist nitpicking any number of details they got wrong (starting with Finrod calling his sister Galadriel), and 10 or 20 years ago I probably would have, but I've become much less obsessive-compulsive about Tolkien's worldbuilding than I was, and honestly, at 60 time is too preciousss for that. I'm not too happy with some of the names (Elanor Brandyfoot? Bronwyn? Theo?) and some casting choices (Gil-galad and Celebrimbor looking older than Galadriel?), but that's no big matter. (Actually I think Theo is defendable - it's probably short for Théodwurst or some such, like Tolkien used other RL names and retconned an alternative etymology for them, whereas Bronwyn is not only out of place but also bad Welsh.) Not too happy with Scottish Dwarves stuffing themselves with salted pork and malt beer, but very happy with Dísa, although some more facial hair wouldn't have hurt.

I can forgive the makers for making things up to fill in the gaps between the scraps of material they have the rights to, and also for some canon-violating temporal condensation. Would I rather they'd made a 100 season series faithfully covering both the First and Second Ages? Well of course, but since that's unlikely to happen in our lifetimes...

I can live with RoP's Galadriel, although she reminds me more of Avatar Korra than of Tolkien's White Lady of Lórien, but if we see her maturing from her present self into the Sorceress of Dwimordene in the course of the series I'll be happy. (Actually, come to think of it, Morfydd Clark would make a stellar Éowyn IMO.) I'm fine with her being a swordswoman - I mean, yes, there are other ways of portraying a strong female protagonist than making her an armed fighter and a rebel against authority, but they've got that covered with Nori and Bronwyn, and if someone must needs be the action girl young Nerwen Artanis is not a bad choice. (Of course she should be beyond that stage at this point in her life, but since we can't have Melian, oh well.) I do hope that we'll still see Celeborn though - maybe even Celebrian? She is mentioned in LotR after all.

Does the whole plot around Galadriel, Gil-galad and Elrond make a lot of sense? Not really. Is the dialogue sometimes cringy and overly expository ŕ la "As you know, Elrond..."? Quite.

The Harfeet, like many others have said, are the big heartwarmer and major forte of the series so far, and yeah, the Stranger is probably Olórin, who obviously has no business being there, but if they limit his role to protecting the proto-Hobbits without meddling in the larger affair of the Rings directly it'll be fine. If the makers are messing with us and he turns out to be Sauron I'll be seriously grumpy. Or he could be Catweazle marooned not just in the wrong time but wrong continuum too. We'll see.

The plot around Arondir and Bronwyn could go interesting places, giving us a close glimpse of Sauron's rise to power in the South-east. Yes I know, there have only ever been three unions between Elves and Men... that we know of. (What about Mithrellas?) Good choice making it an Elven man and mortal woman for a change, we haven't seen that since Andreth and Aegnor.

One thing they've got resoundingly right so far is the visuals. The glory of light and colour in the scenes set in Valinor, and to a slightly lesser degree in Lindon and Eregion, captures the essence of Elvishness better for me than anything in Peter Jackson's movies. You get an impression of the Light the Elves wish to restore and conserve, the Light that is spiritual, not just physical. The scene where the ship sails to Valinor conveys that this is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one for the Elves, that the Blessed Realm is more than just another shore, and even if Valinor was at this point still part of the physical plane(t) I'd rather have that notion in the wrong place than not at all.


That's probably quite enough for now. Let's see what happens on Friday.
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Old 09-07-2022, 09:56 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Murry View Post
I truly appreciate Bęthberry's thread-opening post entitled How We Read Rings of Power although I think the word "View" would more accurately distinguish film-watching from book-reading: two very different mental and emotional -- if not sensory -- activities.

The post begins with two quoted observations.

(1) Originally Posted by Galadriel55: "I am very much in agreement with the general idea of both points. We very much do bring along baggage of expectations to any adaptation, and it can't not colour our opinion of it to some extent."

(2) Bęthberry's response: "It is far more than mere "baggage". It is one's philosophical predispositions, which can often operate seemingly unconsciously but not necessarily so, that predetermine how one reads a text."

Again, to stress the nature of reading, we have this famous observation:



Then, with respect to watching or just looking, this from the director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, generally considered the best Star Trek movie:



Now, I have not read any text -- which I assume would mean the script -- of The Rings of Power television series, so I have nothing to work with there. Nor have I sat passively in front of a television display letting visual images and sound wash over me, manipulating my senses and emotions -- over which I would rather keep control if at all possible. But I do read the text written by those here who have voluntarily subjected themselves to viewing all the sounds and images, whether passively and uncritically -- as the studio and advertisers no doubt hope -- or more actively, maintaining an intellectual and emotional distance from the intended manipulation. My thanks to those who have viewed the television series so that I can read what they have to report about the experience.
Where to begin? Well, with literary and cinematic theory, which use "text" as a metaphor for anything which is conceptualised as conveying meaning. These meanings are then interpreted. This is a relatively recent (well, in the last fifty years or so) meaning of the word "text" so perhaps you can be forgiven if you aren't aware of it, especially if you don't know much critical theory.

Oxford Reference:
Quote:
film text (text)

The internal structure and organization of any one film; or simply a film wherever it is conceptualized as a system of meanings. In literary theory, the use of the term ‘text’ (whose original meaning is tissue, or weave) in relation to, say, a novel signals that the work is being treated as a constellation of meanings rather than as an imitation of reality—as construction ....
Open Oregon Educational Resources, "What is a text?"
Quote:
In academic terms, a text is anything that conveys a set of meanings to the person who examines it. You might have thought that texts were limited to written materials, such as books, magazines, newspapers, and ‘zines (an informal term for magazine that refers especially to fanzines and webzines). Those items are indeed texts—but so are movies, paintings, television shows, songs, political cartoons, online materials, advertisements, maps, works of art, and even rooms full of people. If we can look at something, explore it, find layers of meaning in it, and draw information and conclusions from it, we’re looking at a text.
Gary Gillard in Film as Text:
Quote:
The notion of 'film as text' is a metaphor drawn from the idea of reading a book. It suggests that in many ways reading a book is like watching a film, and that we might take some of the things we know about the one and apply them to the other....

Our metaphor (film as text) means that in both cases, book and film, we can 'read' the story, both in the sense of taking it in as it goes along and in that of being able to hold 'all' of it in our minds, after taking it in, for evaluation, analysis and enjoyment. The various chapters in this book are about these last activities, considering films after we've 'read' them, and talking about our 'readings' of them.

The word 'text' comes from Latin and has to do with weaving. The idea is that there are several stories and ideas in a given book or film, usually associated with several people, and that these cross over each other and join to create something (in our minds) a bit like a weaving. The different strands seem to combine to make a 'whole' novel or movie, although we can still see and make out the different strands if we wish (without pulling the weaving apart).
I could go on, but I think you'd get the picture from these.
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Old 09-07-2022, 11:40 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
I even enjoyed the bits that annoyed me, feeling self righteous grumps at Finrod being wronged (his real death is so much more...), and laughing at Galadriel's Michael Phelps stint.

During this scene Alfie started going "durrr-der, durrr-der" like the Jaws theme.
Good to know that there are more people who did this. Great minds think alike, as they say. You can tell him that "Uncle" Legate sends regards.

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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
A slashy Galadriel? Let's see. It looked good, a bit weird and Wagnerian, but I tend to think she got her power from her ring anyway going by what the Osanwe Kenta says. She's a bit po faced just now, but it may change. She plays 'sad' very well.
I agree especially with the last sentence. I was not sure what to expect, but overall the acting in the series is pretty good. (A pity the script hasn't been so far as good as the acting.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mark12_30 View Post
We got over squashed timelines before. And wympy Treebeard, and waffling Strider. So I can forgive Squashed timeline… and mangled Faramir-I-mean-Finrod. And short-haired elves. It’s a fanfic, streaming once a week.
Basically this. I was able to accept bearded Strider, so...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
I think part of my approach to this is distinguishing between
a) Tolkien's writings, born from his very personal creative vision and love of language, which I'm convinced have now deservedly attained their place in the canon of 20th century literature, and
b) the multimedia franchise that has grown around them, which is ruled by capitalist market forces. Some may regret that b) ever came into existence, but that ship sailed long ago (with the release of MERP at the very latest).
No matter which antics b) gets up to, I'm confident that a) will endure and continue to enchant readers long after Peter Jackson, Jeff Bezos and all participants in this discussion are dead and dust, and if some of these readers sought out the books after watching some movie or series and discover that they have much more to give than they were led to expect, so much the better.
Hear, hear!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
(Gil-galad and Celebrimbor looking older than Galadriel?), but that's no big matter.
Others have mentioned it but I feel like underlining it because it is one of the things that bothers me the most - there should be some consistency, a relative one at least, if not absolute. If it was a casting choice to redefine Celebrimbor as old mad scientist-type, then perhaps I am willing to forgive that, but Gil-Galad and Galadriel could have easily swapped places. Obviously the culprit is the still-present thinking "we need to make the lady young and attractive, while nobody cares if the men are older". Once again - I am against the "cult of youthfulness" that still seems to exist to this day, but there would have been a justified opportunity to do that here and have a cool young Gil-Galad and co.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitch
Actually I think Theo is defendable - it's probably short for Théodwurst or some such
You, sir, are amazing as always.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitch
The Harfeet, like many others have said, are the big heartwarmer and major forte of the series so far, and yeah, the Stranger is probably Olórin, who obviously has no business being there, but if they limit his role to protecting the proto-Hobbits without meddling in the larger affair of the Rings directly it'll be fine. If the makers are messing with us and he turns out to be Sauron I'll be seriously grumpy.
I find it increasingly less likely. If he is not Mothrandir Himself, he may be Radagast. Or Pallando. I personally would cheer for the plot twist that he is the Balrog. You know, a shadow of a man-like figure surrounded in flames... quite easy to transform into that from here. Obviously, his wings burned away during the flight. Lo! How to satisfy both parties of pro-wingers and anti-wingers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitch
The plot around Arondir and Bronwyn could go interesting places, giving us a close glimpse of Sauron's rise to power in the South-east. Yes I know, there have only ever been three unions between Elves and Men... that we know of. (What about Mithrellas?) Good choice making it an Elven man and mortal woman for a change, we haven't seen that since Andreth and Aegnor.
I think showing Sauron's rise among the folk of Middle-Earth (which is not really described in detail in any of Tolkien's stories) is just the opportunity and the niche this show could fill. I hope they will, and that they will do it well.

As for any half-elven dalliances... I am not giving them high chances, but hey, why not. And obviously all the Dol Amroth people need to come from somewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitch
One thing they've got resoundingly right so far is the visuals. The glory of light and colour in the scenes set in Valinor, and to a slightly lesser degree in Lindon and Eregion, captures the essence of Elvishness better for me than anything in Peter Jackson's movies. You get an impression of the Light the Elves wish to restore and conserve, the Light that is spiritual, not just physical. The scene where the ship sails to Valinor conveys that this is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one for the Elves, that the Blessed Realm is more than just another shore, and even if Valinor was at this point still part of the physical plane(t) I'd rather have that notion in the wrong place than not at all.
If there comes in any way anything more "spiritual" in the broad sense, or "deeper", if you wish, I'd be very happy. I can't remember when I have last watched a fantasy or somesuch that dared to go "under the surface" with such topics. (And by this I do not mean "show physically what Blessed Realms look like", or, Eru forbid, "show Valar" - that is the very opposite of what I mean - but exactly exploring what the light means, what is its significance, some more of the "fundamental truths of the universe" etc.)
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Old 09-07-2022, 02:35 PM   #22
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First and foremost:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate
I personally would cheer for the plot twist that he is the Balrog.
++Legate for script writer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bb
Oh my, you are quite angsty aren't you? Will you be calling down a fatwa on the showrunners and writers even before you view any of the series? Because really you are not here talking knowledgeably about the actual TV series itself but about the epitexts which preceded it. I guess this is your statement about what you will bring to viewing the series, but it really does not tell us anything about the series itself.
Indeed. It's well and good to say you'll be starting to read/watch something without any expectations, but the truth is, you always bring some expectations, even if you think you know nothing about what you're about to see. Not judging books by their covers is not really a thing; best you can do is give it a chance in spite of the cover. But "covers" are also created with the knowledge that they will be the first impression, they set the tone that determines the audience (perhaps based on the audiences' pre-existing preconceptions) and creates the audience's expectations. It is quite possible that the cover is not representative, but, on the whole, covers are meant to be judged: that is, in fact, their purpose. The show's "cover" has been the various trailers, but also the PR campaign they've been doing these past few months. And while I had mixed thoughts on the trailers and have been able to reconcile the negative knee-jerk emotions, I had largely negative reactions to their PR position which just sunk me into deeper disappointment. I started out with a pretty positive outlook of how this could be a good semi-Tolkien fanfic-y fantasy show, which has gradually deteriorated the more they talked about it. So their "cover" has effectively filtered me into a subset of the population who would not be particularly lured by the product, and who does not expect to find the product much to their liking. What am I going to do about it? Since I wouldn't be paying any more or less money either way, I will still watch it to give it that try. I will be ranting about all the things that bug me most before I watch the show, to get it out of my system and come in with as little of a negative bias as possible. I am purposefully spoiling the first two episodes and reading people's commentary here so that I would be prepared for the bad elements and look forward to the good ones, so that I would be prepared to look past things like awful haircut choices to try and appreciate the larger story. And then I will see how I feel about it after the (unspoiled) third episode, by which point I expect the story to start unfolding sufficiently to be past the obligatory "intro stage" and start evolving into a more concrete form. Then after that I plan to post my impressions on the corresponding threads, and loop back here with more of a self-reflection on what "expectation baggage" might have been behind which reaction and how that changed from reading the comments and then seeing the show itself.
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Old 09-08-2022, 03:21 AM   #23
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All I've ever wanted was for it to not be crap. I think it's still too early, after only two episodes, to form any kind of judgement in that regard, and I'm happy to stick with it to the end of the first season at least.

As for it's status as fanfic - well, what did people actually expect? Did people even know what the source material was actually like? Did people even read Tolkien? Put it this way - even if Amazon had full unrestricted access to all of the Second Age material, a show constrained to only what Tolkien wrote would be a 1-hour history documentary. Of course there was going to be a lot of filling in the gaps, and not having full access just makes those gaps bigger.

That brings us down to good fanfic or bad fanfic, and as I said, I think it's far too early to make that judgement. How they handle Númenor is going to be very telling. Celebrimbor's motives are going to be very telling. But this is the kind of thing we only ever get full clarity on when looking back at a finished work. I'm at least willing to give it a chance.

If nothing else, it should get a few more people reading the Silmarillion, and that has to count for something.
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Old 09-11-2022, 10:49 AM   #24
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I'd decided let science reign, and judge the show on the evidence and not by what I was seeing/hearing/reading from others.


And have I ever had a happy opinion?
Science? We could use your DNA expertise to tell us something about orcs or half-elven.
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Old 09-11-2022, 11:45 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
First and foremost:

Indeed. It's well and good to say you'll be starting to read/watch something without any expectations, but the truth is, you always bring some expectations, even if you think you know nothing about what you're about to see. Not judging books by their covers is not really a thing; best you can do is give it a chance in spite of the cover. But "covers" are also created with the knowledge that they will be the first impression, they set the tone that determines the audience (perhaps based on the audiences' pre-existing preconceptions) and creates the audience's expectations. It is quite possible that the cover is not representative, but, on the whole, covers are meant to be judged: that is, in fact, their purpose. The show's "cover" has been the various trailers, but also the PR campaign they've been doing these past few months. And while I had mixed thoughts on the trailers and have been able to reconcile the negative knee-jerk emotions, I had largely negative reactions to their PR position which just sunk me into deeper disappointment. I started out with a pretty positive outlook of how this could be a good semi-Tolkien fanfic-y fantasy show, which has gradually deteriorated the more they talked about it. So their "cover" has effectively filtered me into a subset of the population who would not be particularly lured by the product, and who does not expect to find the product much to their liking. What am I going to do about it? Since I wouldn't be paying any more or less money either way, I will still watch it to give it that try. I will be ranting about all the things that bug me most before I watch the show, to get it out of my system and come in with as little of a negative bias as possible. I am purposefully spoiling the first two episodes and reading people's commentary here so that I would be prepared for the bad elements and look forward to the good ones, so that I would be prepared to look past things like awful haircut choices to try and appreciate the larger story. And then I will see how I feel about it after the (unspoiled) third episode, by which point I expect the story to start unfolding sufficiently to be past the obligatory "intro stage" and start evolving into a more concrete form. Then after that I plan to post my impressions on the corresponding threads, and loop back here with more of a self-reflection on what "expectation baggage" might have been behind which reaction and how that changed from reading the comments and then seeing the show itself.
My apologies for a tardy reply but events in RL have kept me away from the internet and not given me time to make a thoughtful reply.

I will go back to a comment I made to Michael Murray, to put things in context: >>>"It is far more than mere "baggage". It is one's philosophical predispositions, which can often operate seemingly unconsciously but not necessarily so, that predetermine how one reads a text.".<<<

I will limit my comments specifically to the complaints about Galadriel to explain what I mean, which is not that one can come to a text without "aforethought". It is about how readers or critics construct, invent, or fabricate a conception about a character. Most of these critics, who are largely but not exclusively, male, claim to be restoring Tolkien's depiction of Galadriel. They aren't because what they are doing is presenting a construction of her that prioritises their own political ideology or imposes it on Tolkien's depiction.

The complaints about "acshun girl" and sword Gal use a terminology and point of view that has nothing to do with Tolkien but belong to current or contemporary thought that objects to new imaginative readings. These thoughts post date Tolkien's death, so they involve events he could not have commented on. We can of course make suppositions about what he might have thought, but they remain suppositions.

The complaints about sword Gal construct a contemporary reading of the character and do not return us to or salvage a pure historical reading. To demonstrate how these complaints are enmeshed with the readers/viewers own thoughts--objections to new imaginative depictions of women--I will ask why there are no objections to another aspect of the Galadriel in RoP that does not appear in Tolkien's writing, either his fiction or his prose comments, the scene where she creates an origami swan ship. (At least I haven't heard of any and that silence or paucity speaks for itself.)

Why is sword Gal so objectionable but not origami Gal?

Origami Gal is not so directly or obviously related to contemporary visions of women's agency. It is creative play and as such not as threatening as warrior action and can more easily be accommodated into the anti-woman ideology of the complainants. Yet it is wise to recall that her first name, given by her mother, was "Nerwen", that is, "man-maiden" and in her athletic feats she matched those of other athletes, who presumably were male. The hair thing is a later name related symbolically to the colours of the two trees.

It is this act of ideological construction I was referring to when I rejected the claim of "baggage". It is much more than the biases we pick up from the epitexts or pretexts (I use these terms from their use in literary theory); it is a prophylactic action rather than historical recovery. It does not bring us back to what Tolkien intended but mires us in current culture wars.
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Old 09-11-2022, 02:54 PM   #26
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Bęthberry, hat is very much the impression I got as well, and many of the objections against warrior-Galadriel remind me a lot of the irate protests when the BBC cast Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor a few years ago. It's the same discussion still going on.

However, I feel bound to play devil's advocate for a bit and point out that if the question is women's agency, then putting a weapon in a character's hand is just one way of showing agency, and not even a particularly imaginative one. For example, Lúthien is as active and self-determined a character as they come and certainly did more to ensure the success of the quest for the silmaril than Beren accomplished himself, but she managed all that without using a physical weapon. It seems to me many critics of warrior-Galadriel (certainly those I've seen posting on the Downs) would have been fine with a more Lúthien-like Galadriel using magic instead of a sword - which would also have been truer to what we read about her in LotR and the Silmarillion.


So what's the problem? It seems it's fine for a woman to be badass as long as she does it within the parameters of traditional gender roles where it's men who are tough, physical, aggressive, whereas women are sensitive, spiritual, caring (and let's not forget sexy! The Lay of Leithian has some downright creepy verses in the passage where Lúthien stands before Morgoth). The problem with 'ackshun gurls' is that they're perceived to be usurping a role and behaviour previously reserved for men (similar to how Jodie Whittaker was perceived to usurp the hitherto male role of the Doctor) - so if you're a guy and have hitherto defined yourself all your life by conforming (or at least trying to conform) to the male gender role described above, but now all of a sudden women do all that too, what have you got left? That is the part that hurts, the part where you lash out.



To be clear, I don't think presenting Galadriel as a swordswoman was a stellar decision on the makers' part - it's a rather lazy visual shorthand for agency, and it seems like they felt they needed to have their own Brienne to keep up with Game of Thrones; but it doesn't bother me, and I think there are worse problems with RoP's writing of Galadriel - like, what in the name of diplomacy did she think she was going to accomplish by being all haughty and lick my boots (oh wait I'm barefoot) with Míriel? Shouldn't Finrod's sister have been a little more sympathetic towards mortals?
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Old 09-11-2022, 04:43 PM   #27
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I think Galadriel is especially a cipher for Tolkien fans coming to the RoP. Quite beyond the hot-button issue of "Gender Roles at the Intersection of Politics and Wokeism," Tolkien simultaneously wrote too much and not enough about her.

Too much: the LotR, its drafts and ephemera (including the Appendices and the 2nd Edition), her insertion into the Silm and its associated texts, to say nothing of the various texts that were intended to specifically fill in her history.

Too little: well... we still really only have an outline--and a contradictory one--of her movements and actions through the better part of three ages. Insofar as Celeborn should be considered her narrative appendage, it's unclear when they meet, where, and how/if he's her kin.

It is kind of funny that Galadriel in particular should give rise to complaints about "a woman holding a sword," since she's explicitly named "Nerwen" in what was is not a peripheral text, and fairly well delineated as being about to compete in physical masculine activities with the male Elves. Whether this continues past her encounter with Melian (which does seem to have been a revelation of sorts to Galadriel about another, even better, kind of power she could exercise) is an open question, and I think it's probably right to look in askance at her being made a general in the 2nd Age when her role seems to already be queenly (and in the mode of Melian). But to complain that RoP is smushing various parts of timelines into a smudged whole is different from saying "Tolkien believed women should never fight with swords!"

Although, I think there is an argument to be made that Tolkien made Galadriel more and more powerful, even Virgin Marian, as he aged and that, consequently, the best canonical complaint is that RoP makes Galadriel way too underpowered.

There certainly were complaints about Arwen wielding a sword in the LotR, and I think that--as far as being an interpretation of Tolkien's text goes, that's actually MORE valid, since Arwen's role is deliberately more passive and her likeness is specifically to Lúthien (though Tolkien's a bit coy there--Lúthien is very much not a passive heroine: the likeness is visual and dynastic more than narrative).

So, as I said, Galadriel makes a particularly good cipher because there's both so much known about her and so much unknown about her: to form a strong complaint (or, for that matter, a strong preference) for her usage in RoP--and through three episodes, at that!--really shows to what extent the particular reader has formed their own opinions about the conflicting information Tolkien left.

The absence of Celeborn and Círdan, now, is a tragedy! Sindarin erasure, I tell you.
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Old 09-11-2022, 05:11 PM   #28
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Having caught up to the show, I am looping back here, as promised. First, a general reflection, and then some specific responses.

I don't think there was ever a time when I didn't esteem fellow Downers' opinions highly, but I think this watch goes to show it. I was ever so much more excited about things I liked that I knew other people here liked too, and felt a somewhat disproportionate disappointment about things which have been praised highly here but did not quite meet my vision - disproportionate because they are still goon elements, IMO, just not bullseye. And that is discernably not anything to do with the show itself, but part of my own expectations for it. I feel like on a subconscious level the fact that certain elements were praised by Downers somehow led me to believe that they will be reflective of my vision of what it should look like - a grievous error, perhaps, since I was trying hard to psych myself up to not fall into that trap. It does point out an interesting aspect though that my mind associates "what Downers think" to be representative for "what I would think". I'm certainly happy to have found a community where though we might disagree on this or that we still end up respecting each other's opinions to such a degree. You sociology experts can keep working away at the deeper meanings of this observation, my own self-psychoanalysis will stop here.

Now, in answer to the last couple posts. I wasn't going to bring up Galadriel, because there has been much chaffing about her that's left a sore spot on everybody, I think - and no less on myself, as I find myself arguing with both of the extreme camps. But that box is open now, so might as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitch
To be clear, I don't think presenting Galadriel as a swordswoman was a stellar decision on the makers' part - it's a rather lazy visual shorthand for agency, and it seems like they felt they needed to have their own Brienne to keep up with Game of Thrones; but it doesn't bother me, and I think there are worse problems with RoP's writing of Galadriel - like, what in the name of diplomacy did she think she was going to accomplish by being all haughty and lick my boots (oh wait I'm barefoot) with Míriel? Shouldn't Finrod's sister have been a little more sympathetic towards mortals?
This. The armour is the least ridiculous thing about that character, and I am saying this having now watched the episodes and not just speaking from the promo material. I don't have much against the armour itself, but it is done in a way that cheapens Galadriel as a character. She literally says herself in the show that all she is is a sword. All she is, is a sword. And a loud mouth, and zero patience and negative scores on wisdom. Even Brienne was more than just a sword. Galadriel's raison d'etre seems to be to be as outrageous as possible - but because we the audience know that she's supposed to be right in the end, we're supposed to... cheer for her?

...Sorry, I'm starting to rant again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bethberry
Why is sword Gal so objectionable but not origami Gal?
It's interesting you ask. Because I did have a minor objection to the origami - not because it's origami, but because Galadriel didn't seem to ever be much of a builder, or much of a shipwright, and I thought that if you had to pick an activity that would be representative of her, this was an odd choice. However, I then immediately rebutted my own objection by arguing that she may have done any number of things in her youth, just did not develop enough of an inclination to pursue them further, and this may be her exploring her Telerin heritage. And when she punched the kid who sunk her origami boat, my reaction was "this is perfect Nerwen".

So what issue do I have with the concept of shieldmaiden-Galadriel? For one thing, in my mind she was so much more than that. For another, that the chronology of her character development is all wrong. She is Nerwen in Valinor. I can well see a young Galadriel getting all hot-headed and rushing off on a vengeful quest or even leading an army in the Valinor days, or at Alqualonde, or Helcaraxe, or perhaps shortly after. In Beleriand I can see her donning armour to stand guard with other soldiers and/or generals during the wars of her kingdom(s). Perhaps she might even have marched up to Morgoth's gate with Fingolfin's host, or done a tour of the Leaguer. She might certainly still do whatever masculine sports Nerwen might have enjoyed - but as sports, not as raison d'etre. And had there been reason for them to be more than sports, I think she would have used her skills accordingly. But I think she would have respected Doriathrin politics of minimal interference in the Noldor messes, standing by her husband's house in that, and by the time Thingol and Melian died she and Celeborn were no longer there, or else the Dwarves and Cel&Cur might have found more resistance. Then, as time goes by, she devotes less care to swinging the sword, and more care to building a kingdom - after all, that was her ambition in coming to Middle-earth in the first place, and it is a natural progression from soldier to general, from hot-tempered youth to wisdom. Her energy is directed less into brute force and more into other forms of power. Her power grows not in martial prowess but in her "magic" and in her position in the world. Does she still have the martial prowess? Sure. Is that what she values most about herself? No. Does she wear armour as she marches on Dol Guldur? Probably. In the end, is it her sword-bouncing skills that take it down? No. The progression is from Nerwen to Galadriel, not the other way around.

What we see in the show is a Galadriel who seemed a little bit of an outcast as a kid, and had a bit of a temper - which was actually still tempered by none other than Finrod. She then spends the glimpses of the First Age in presumably a more docile role - she comes to the battlefield to bury the fallen, not to fight. And then she decides it's time for her to get all fiery and start swinging the sword. She goes from a generic bereaved female to Nerwen, in a backwards progression - the bereavement is one of the things that's supposed to temper her manners, not fuel them.

So I dislike that, and I would argue that the Nerwen argument loses its weight here - not because of the physical presence of sword and armour but because of the timing and development of what she does with them. It's not her holding the sword so much as that this seems to be her character's only positive attribute so far. An attribute that is made ridiculous by cheap fight scenes like that troll. She's not the only one to suffer from ridiculous fight choreography, but the troll scene so far stands out from the rest by virtue of highlighting the alleged skills of one person against a bunch of failures and breaks all semblance of realism and suspense. But that's another rant altogether, more to do with fight sequences in general - so far they do not make their heroes stand out more positively, but on the contrary.

All this to say, I suppose what it tells about me is that I do have some subconscious expectation for parallels with canon in terms of at least the broad strokes of character development for characters whose progression and story we actually know. It can be achieved by alt-fic means, but you still have to get there and hit certain milestones. It hurts me a lot more to see a beloved character's milestones mangled up. It makes me angry when I think about all the times the promos claimed to have made this storyline an improvement on what was, a more modern view, etc. The idea of a woman wielding a sword is not modern, nor is it in itself anti-Tolkien; but this woman does so little for which to be respected that I don't know what favour they think they are doing her or women in general with that depiction. I know the attitude that you are referring to in your post, and I agree that the preconceptions at play may reach quite broadly. For myself though, I feel that I would be much less angry in this case about "a generic character" taking this role, and much more angry about "this particular known character" taking this role.

All of these thoughts have made me wonder about alt-fics in general, and what we find acceptible or otherwise, and why. But I think I will put those ponderings in a separate thread, probably over in N&N as it is not necessarily specific to the movies.


Edit: X-ed with Form. It's a rare day when this happens outside of a WW game!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Form
the best canonical complaint is that RoP makes Galadriel way too underpowered.
Yes!!! But not underpowered in the "how many backflips you can do while swinging your sword", but rather all the other power she's supposed to be emanating even at this point already. Becoming more queenly, like you said - being the charismatic leader, playing the political game, exerting her spiritual power Melian-style... That doesn't mean she can't swing a sword - but right now ALL she can do is swing a sword. Where is her charisma? Where is her leadership? At the very least her bit of common sense and tact???
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Old 09-11-2022, 06:34 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Yes!!! But not underpowered in the "how many backflips you can do while swinging your sword", but rather all the other power she's supposed to be emanating even at this point already. Becoming more queenly, like you said - being the charismatic leader, playing the political game, exerting her spiritual power Melian-style... That doesn't mean she can't swing a sword - but right now ALL she can do is swing a sword. Where is her charisma? Where is her leadership? At the very least her bit of common sense and tact???
I do believe that is the path her story will eventually lead to. In any dramatic adaptation, your main characters need development. As much as people griped about Aragorn shouldn't be waffly, and should have accepted his right to the throne of Gondor as soon as he meets the hobbits in Bree. The truth is (at least in my opinion) your main characters have to grow and change. It's a difficult task. In an adaptation that relies primarily on visual the story has to be told differently. We need to see how Aragorn changes, not hear about it.

One of the complaints about Galadriel I saw after the first episode is how "she's just oh so awesome and always right, because she's Galadriel." I really didn't get that one, because I had the complete opposite reactions. She is very flawed at the moment. Her independence and willfulness makes her a poor commander. Which is I think how we are supposed to perceive her at the moment. A skilled warrior (Isildur even called her the "scourge of the Orcs"), but someone who is constantly ending up alone because of her independence, making her a poor leader. My criticism would be, I think they're being really heavy-handed with it. It's ok for your main characters to have flaws. For example, someone like Thorin (I thought Richard Armitage's performance was one of the slightly better things about The Hobbit). He played the flawed hero well, but it was still someone you had sympathy for and could react to sadly when he died. You can't hate your main hero. She can have flaws and weaknesses, but we also need to feel sympathy and hope that she grows into her leadership role.

It's sort of the same reason I had a bigger problem with Alfrid than with Tauriel. They obviously tried to make Alfrid the comic relief, but you can't make someone the audience is seriously annoyed by be the comic relief.
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Old 09-11-2022, 07:14 PM   #30
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As a separate thought, that came to me reading Bethberry's response:

Quote:
"It is far more than mere "baggage". It is one's philosophical predispositions, which can often operate seemingly unconsciously but not necessarily so, that predetermine how one reads a text.".
Please correct me if this is wrong, because I did not study literary criticism, and don't know the lingo. One point you seem to be making is Tolkien was a product of his time. I don't mean that as a negative, but he was still a 20th century author. Yes, he was inspired by historical literary works, classics and mythologies. But to me, he was also clearly a 20th century writer, and also incorporated modern ideas of his time.

Quote:
An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex, and attempts to define the process are at best guesses from evidence that is inadequate and ambigious.~Foreward to Lord of the Rings
Tolkien definitely deals with modern topics such as industrialism, the destruction of nature, colonialism, the horrors of war (Frodo's post traumatic stress). Again this isn't a criticism, but it's the product of being a 20th century author. You can't remain wholly unaffected by the period you're writing in. It's not surprising to me that Rings of Power is distinctly a product of 21st century writers. I agree that it is more than baggage.
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Old 09-11-2022, 08:43 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Boromir88 View Post
Please correct me if this is wrong, because I did not study literary criticism, and don't know the lingo. One point you seem to be making is Tolkien was a product of his time. I don't mean that as a negative, but he was still a 20th century author. Yes, he was inspired by historical literary works, classics and mythologies. But to me, he was also clearly a 20th century writer, and also incorporated modern ideas of his time.

Tolkien definitely deals with modern topics such as industrialism, the destruction of nature, colonialism, the horrors of war (Frodo's post traumatic stress). Again this isn't a criticism, but it's the product of being a 20th century author. You can't remain wholly unaffected by the period you're writing in. It's not surprising to me that Rings of Power is distinctly a product of 21st century writers. I agree that it is more than baggage.
Oh, no, sorry Boro for being unclear but I was not in any way referring to Tolkien. I was referring to critics, fans, and readers of him and of the various media that derive from his work.

Talking about writers is far more complex than talking about critics. At heart I was taking issue with loremasters who believe they can unreservedly and transparently speak directly about what Tolkien thought and intended, to the detriment of any other possible interpretations by other fans, specifically about RoP.

You are of course correct that Tolkien was a 20th Century writer. There's lots of material about that I can add to your list but that's a topic for another thread. And sorry about the linguistic theory lingo. I was directing my thoughts towards loremasters here who I anticipated would be familiar with it and not general readers. I'll aim to be less opaque in future posts.
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Old 09-12-2022, 06:35 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
Bęthberry,
I feel bound to play devil's advocate for a bit and point out that if the question is women's agency, then putting a weapon in a character's hand is just one way of showing agency, and not even a particularly imaginative one. For example, Lúthien is as active and self-determined a character as they come and certainly did more to ensure the success of the quest for the silmaril than Beren accomplished himself, but she managed all that without using a physical weapon. It seems to me many critics of warrior-Galadriel (certainly those I've seen posting on the Downs) would have been fine with a more Lúthien-like Galadriel using magic instead of a sword - which would also have been truer to what we read about her in LotR and the Silmarillion.
Thanks for chiming in, Pitch. And I agree that a sword is just one way of showing agency. But ...

First, in the interests of full disclosure, let me say I am not particularly a fan of the elves. I didn't like their condescending assumption of their superiority or privilege in LotR, as if there were a hierarchy of peoples and they were/are at the top. And while I like the hobbits, I'm not especially keen on their parochialism or fearfulness of what's outside The Shire (except for our intrepid four). It was the dwarves in LotR who gained my sympathy, perhaps because I tend to look towards those who are marginalised in some way. So I'm not one to have really great admiration for Galadriel. And reading in HoMe or the Silm does not do much to improve my view of elves. They had their chance and essentially blew it and were/are as culpable of error and mistakes as any other of the peoples of the Legendarium.

That said (and take away my Lembas if you want and send me to the corner), I think there is a lot of room to show how a younger Galadriel behaved or misbehaved before she found some equanimity or serene wisdom. I think Tolkien too was conflicted about how to write Galadriel into the Silm after LotR. So I don't object to seeing swordsmanship being used to demonstrate her physical prowess and expect to see growth in her character. I also recall Tolkien's effort to explain away magic and try to explain the special effects of the elves as some kind of art which we readers cannot appreciate or yet see. I also see her in this Age as something equivalent to an angsty adolescent who isn't sure how to express herself in anything other than a rebellious attitude or stubborn self-will. So I am expecting to see her "grow out of" relying on kung fu fighting. Maybe I have greater expectations than I should of this series or maybe I am just too willing not have too strong expectations of what I want to see in her. And I remember Jael and Sisera in the Bible or Judith and Holofernes as well. We do see the woman healer beheading an orc.


Quote:
To be clear, I don't think presenting Galadriel as a swordswoman was a stellar decision on the makers' part - it's a rather lazy visual shorthand for agency, and it seems like they felt they needed to have their own Brienne to keep up with Game of Thrones; but it doesn't bother me, and I think there are worse problems with RoP's writing of Galadriel - like, what in the name of diplomacy did she think she was going to accomplish by being all haughty and lick my boots (oh wait I'm barefoot) with Míriel? Shouldn't Finrod's sister have been a little more sympathetic towards mortals?
Another disclosure: I haven't watched Game of Thrones nor read Martin's books either. I just couldn't get past the third chapter of the first book, so I'm missing that context. And I agree her behaviour with Miriel seems wrong, seems destined to lead to trouble. But then, that could just be the arrogant elf aspect of her character and something she will learn is inappropriate. On the other hand, it could just be bad characterisation, bad writing.

I guess I am just willing to sit back and see what plays out rather than have any high expectations of the character. But I do object to people mixing up their ideology with Tolkien's art and calling that Tolkien's canonical statement, which you have neatly sidestepped.
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Old 09-12-2022, 09:58 PM   #33
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I finally found a way to watch and listen to this Amazon television thing without having to pay Jeff Bezos any of my few and hard-earned pennies. I tuned in to the DELETED BY ADMIN channel and found several uploaded episodes. The ones in English are marked "restricted," as expected. However, I discovered some dubbed in other languages, like Hindi. I took a few courses in Sanskrit in graduate school but I never followed up on that, and I don't speak Hindi, but "Galadriel" appears to sound the same in many languages. So I got the gist of the opening scene in Episode One without the need for any written subtitles which would have required of me an ability to read. Now a complete illiterate (like millions of television gawkers worldwide) I just look at moving visual images and listen to musical accompaniment and wait for something that makes sense to happen in my brain.

With the above in mind, I picked up on the following observation from our thread commentary:

Quote:
Bęthberry: "I think there is a lot of room to show how a younger Galadriel behaved or misbehaved before she found some equanimity or serene wisdom."
The opening scene of Episode 1 showed a young blond girl having problems with other kids who threw rocks at, and eventually sank, her origami boat floating downstream, whereupon she attacked the responsible culprit and proceeded to punch him out until some apparently male figure with very short hair appeared on scene. "He" called her name -- the only word I could understand -- and interrupted the beating.

I hit the "pause" button and stopped viewing at this time because something recognizable happened in my brain. I found that the opening of this video:

[DELETED BY ADMIN]

Reminded me of the opening scene of another movie I have seen many times over the years:

[DELETED BY ADMIN]

I then skipped ahead to the end of this first episode because others had mentioned a streaking meteor flashing overhead, with a curly haired, furry footed (apparently) female character checking out the crash site and seeing a semi-naked figure curled up in the fetal position at the bottom of a flaming hole. Someone else said that this reminded them of "Starman," and I agree. However I also thought of "Superman," and "The Blob," among other movies that have exploited this trope.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for the "spoilers." These will help me to select scenes and put names to the figures I see "doing stuff" while the background music plays and they utter inchoate noises at each other. Whether that helps me make sense of these broadcasts remains presently unclear . . .
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Old 09-13-2022, 02:25 PM   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bęthberry View Post
First, in the interests of full disclosure, let me say I am not particularly a fan of the elves. I didn't like their condescending assumption of their superiority or privilege in LotR, as if there were a hierarchy of peoples and they were/are at the top. And while I like the hobbits, I'm not especially keen on their parochialism or fearfulness of what's outside The Shire (except for our intrepid four). It was the dwarves in LotR who gained my sympathy, perhaps because I tend to look towards those who are marginalised in some way. So I'm not one to have really great admiration for Galadriel. And reading in HoMe or the Silm does not do much to improve my view of elves. They had their chance and essentially blew it and were/are as culpable of error and mistakes as any other of the peoples of the Legendarium.
Quite right on all accounts (and they passed that racial superiority complex down to the Númenóreans as well). But if there's one elf in LotR who showed sympathy and understanding to other peoples (especially Dwarves!) from the first moment we met her it's Galadriel:

Quote:
Originally Posted by LotR Book Two, The Mirror of Galadriel
'Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dűm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone.' She looked upon Gimli, who sat glowering and sad, and smiled. And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding.
It would be nice if RoP showed us how she arrived at this.

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That said (and take away my Lembas if you want and send me to the corner), I think there is a lot of room to show how a younger Galadriel behaved or misbehaved before she found some equanimity or serene wisdom. I think Tolkien too was conflicted about how to write Galadriel into the Silm after LotR. So I don't object to seeing swordsmanship being used to demonstrate her physical prowess and expect to see growth in her character. I also recall Tolkien's effort to explain away magic and try to explain the special effects of the elves as some kind of art which we readers cannot appreciate or yet see. I also see her in this Age as something equivalent to an angsty adolescent who isn't sure how to express herself in anything other than a rebellious attitude or stubborn self-will. So I am expecting to see her "grow out of" relying on kung fu fighting. Maybe I have greater expectations than I should of this series or maybe I am just too willing not have too strong expectations of what I want to see in her. And I remember Jael and Sisera in the Bible or Judith and Holofernes as well. We do see the woman healer beheading an orc.
Far be it from me to begrudge you your lembas! No doubt Galadriel had her rebellious adolescent phase like everybody else - back in the First Age, which RoP can't show, so under the dictate that characters need to have arcs, start somewhere and end up somewhere else I get why they're doing this. I'm not quite sure why a person of such volatile temper would be made Commander of the Northern Armies, but I suppose nobility will do that for you.
That Galadriel had the physical prowess to wield a sword and be good at it anytime is, I think, undisputable. I said I don't think it was a stellar decision, not that it was an abysmal one, and I'm for now I'm content to watch what they do with her. It certainly doesn't mean I have any principal objections against women with swords. (Since you brought up Bronwyn [whom I keep wanting to call Bronwen, which would not only be good Welsh but also remotely plausible Sindarin] beheading the Orc, it's interesting that none of warrior-Galadriel's detractors have objected to that, isn't it? Probably because she was acting as Momma Bear protecting her young = conforming to maternal gender role.)

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I guess I am just willing to sit back and see what plays out rather than have any high expectations of the character. But I do object to people mixing up their ideology with Tolkien's art and calling that Tolkien's canonical statement, which you have neatly sidestepped.
Have I? I thought I agreed with you and tried to make a guess about the psychology behind the ideology.

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So what issue do I have with the concept of shieldmaiden-Galadriel? For one thing, in my mind she was so much more than that. For another, that the chronology of her character development is all wrong. She is Nerwen in Valinor. I can well see a young Galadriel getting all hot-headed and rushing off on a vengeful quest or even leading an army in the Valinor days, or at Alqualonde, or Helcaraxe, or perhaps shortly after. In Beleriand I can see her donning armour to stand guard with other soldiers and/or generals during the wars of her kingdom(s). Perhaps she might even have marched up to Morgoth's gate with Fingolfin's host, or done a tour of the Leaguer. She might certainly still do whatever masculine sports Nerwen might have enjoyed - but as sports, not as raison d'etre. And had there been reason for them to be more than sports, I think she would have used her skills accordingly. But I think she would have respected Doriathrin politics of minimal interference in the Noldor messes, standing by her husband's house in that, and by the time Thingol and Melian died she and Celeborn were no longer there, or else the Dwarves and Cel&Cur might have found more resistance. Then, as time goes by, she devotes less care to swinging the sword, and more care to building a kingdom - after all, that was her ambition in coming to Middle-earth in the first place, and it is a natural progression from soldier to general, from hot-tempered youth to wisdom. Her energy is directed less into brute force and more into other forms of power. Her power grows not in martial prowess but in her "magic" and in her position in the world. Does she still have the martial prowess? Sure. Is that what she values most about herself? No. Does she wear armour as she marches on Dol Guldur? Probably. In the end, is it her sword-bouncing skills that take it down? No. The progression is from Nerwen to Galadriel, not the other way around.
I really hope we'll see this yet, just pushed into the future by an Age or so.
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Old 09-13-2022, 03:23 PM   #35
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Understood.

But since I refuse to spend precious pennies watching this Amazon-ROP drek, I really have no basis upon which to form an opinion other than second-hand reports from others who say that they have. This conversation, then, obviously must exclude me. Fair enough.

And if Jeff Bezos and Amazon don't qualify as pirates, then the word has really lost all applicability to real life.

Sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused anyone and Best Wishes to all who can afford to bother themselves with this sort of "entertainment."
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Old 09-14-2022, 12:45 PM   #36
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If folks have learnt nothing over the last forty years or so of literary study and reading, it is that how we approach a book or movie is what contributes as much to our interpretation or enjoyment of the text as the text itself. Readers don't come to a book as a blank slate,ready to be written on by the book itself. Tolkien revolutionised study of Beowulf by bringing to it expectations of poetic or narrative assumptions, rather than assumption then current that it was simply a text with which to learn a language. Toni Morrison changed that expectation when she disagreed with Tolkien over the monster, when she brought her thoughts about marginalisation to the reading.

Nowhere is this importance of how we approach a text (or movie) more true than in Tolkien fandom where the "purists" who brought deep and profound knowledge of Tolkien's texts soundly routed Peter Jackson's movies, but whose victory nevertheless failed to convince those who loved the movies. These viewers did not seem at all bothered by the fact that Jackson did not produce, as he claimed his did, a faithful rendition of Tolkien.Not knowing the beautiful and subtle intricacies of Tolkien's writing they were free to appreciate what was there on the screen and in the audio projection before them; they were a kind of tabula rasa. Some even ended up--surprise-- reading the original texts themselves and loving them. This split is being reproduced with the appearance of Amazon's TV serial The Rings of Power, where the learned loremasters of The Silmarillion and Tolkien's many epitexts are crying foul about the new video adaptation. And others unimpressed by current cultural norms (or values) are equally complaining about violations of the sanctity of Tolkien's texts and characters.

So how are readers/viewers expected to approach the series if they have any hope of enjoying it? The problem is acerbated by the fact that the showrunners and writers can use only limited material from Tolkien, not the Silm or even LotR itself, only the appendices. One approach is to think of RoP as not directly telling a story written by Tolkien but instead as adapting the history of Middle Earth and creating a new narrative around it. This won't of course satisfy the loremasters of the Silm but it might provide a way into appreciating RoP as something in its own right and not as something beholding to a previous text. Another approach is to think of RoP simply as fanfic, but fanfic usually depends upon readers' knowledge of the original in order to make its claims to success.

One of the more interesting ways to resolve this hermeneutical dilemma is instead to read The Rings of Power as alternative fiction. Here I will withdraw my own words and quote something I found on the Tolkien Society's page on Facebook by Robert Berry.



PS. And just to remind some who may have forgotten, I was no fan of the Jackson movies. But I am intrigued by what readers bring with them to a text, which might in fact hinder their enjoyment.
It's taken me a while to respond to this, because it's very well thought out and deserves a considered response. But I can't let it pass unexamined. Setting aside its invocation of Said,* it is a post in the main about subjective response; but what, really, is it saying? It's far too facile simply to say that every reader takes away something different from every text; that's trivially true, but tells us nothing - and it's not I think accurate to universalize the proposition to the point that every text is simply a Rorschach blot of no inherent meaning. A text- at least, any worthwhile one - has inherent meaning, that created by and intended, and, yes, sometimes unintended, by the author (and, no, the author is not dead, even when buried in 1973).

Inherent meaning, especially in evaluating whether it has survived translation into a different medium, of course operates at a more substantive level than geekish trivia, something beyond beards or melanin levels or even whether Faramir took Frodo to Osgiliath (although I think a critical mass of erroneous trivialities can be indicative of not perceiving the substantive either). I don't think that really there is any way rigorously, even loosely, of defining it; "Tolkienian" is a sort of ding an sich, never directly perceivable or describable, which may have to fall back on Justice Stewart's definition of pornography.** I think the best we can do is to view it as a gestalt. Nonetheless, it is indirectly perceptible, if only by a sort of aestheto-intellectual osmosis - rather like the surprisingly effective language learning technique of simply playing a podcast or radio programme in the background, or as one falls asleep, and subconsciously absorbing the tongue's distinctive rhythm and music. And for this reason we do need to pay attention to the - not "gatekeepers," that's an unnecessarily pejorative term - but those for whom there is valid evidence of having undergone that sort of osmosis. This would certainly include Professor Drout, as well as any of a number of well-regarded, published Tolkien scholars or "experts," but also includes those with no publishing history or paper creds but nonetheless have demonstrated even in the context of forums like this one the sort of deep familiarity which serves as an inchoate sine qua non. Simply put, there are fans, and then there are cognoscenti, 'those who know:' a term which includes most of those here.

And cognoscenti can sense quickly enough when something is simply wrong, even before we get to bringing up specific matters of lore or trivia or page refences in Letters. It's like having a friend who one day starts acting very strangely and out of character- say, like our good friend Faramir started doing in the movies. We immediately clue into the fact that he's either become mentally ill, or replaced by an imposter, Filmamir, but something is definitely wrong: "he isn't himself." And this applies to Amazon's Galadriel, its Elrond, its entire world; it's simply wrong. We can all feel it.

It is to get caught up in only a few brambles in a vast thicket of infelicities to focus on ethnic impossibilities*** or Galadriel's "gender role." To address Bethberry more directly for a moment, no I don't think it's because male geek culture is somehow "threatened" by a woman daring to tread on male territory- these after all are the same geeks who loved Princess Leia, Captain Janeway, Sarah Connor and Lara Croft. I think that lighting upon sexism**** as an explanation is little more than a rationalization, the sort which of course Amazon's cynical marketing department has been exploiting. No, the problem is that Amazonriel is not the character we know. She acts and speaks and thinks nothing like the genuine Lady of Lorien: she's an impostress. And it is made even worse because what Amazonriel does act and speak and think like is every cliched crap-fantasy Heroine we've ever seen (now with added physics-defying CGI moves!(tm))

The same goes more broadly for the entire production. It just doesn't feel like Tolkien. At all. This doesn't require a deep dive, or really any specifics at all, any more than it takes to realize that a Cardi B song is not Mozart. This has nothing at all to do with "baggage" or predisposition, but rather that odd paradox, the objective differentiation of the qualitative.
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** "I know it when I see it."

*** Does Tolkien's Arda include POC? Of course, absolutely. The Haradrim very clearly are. What cannot be the case is Amazon's multi-ethnic communities: something which at the technological and commercial level depicted simply would not have been possible (and that's even before getting to a queen of the House of Elros....)

****The word people actually mean these days when they inaccurately use "misogyny"
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Old 09-14-2022, 02:10 PM   #37
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*** Does Tolkien's Arda include POC? Of course, absolutely. The Haradrim very clearly are. What cannot be the case is Amazon's multi-ethnic communities: something which at the technological and commercial level depicted simply would not have been possible (and that's even before getting to a queen of the House of Elros....)
Just a brief reply to this: I don't think that by casting POC as Elves, Dwarves or Númenóreans the makers of RoP are trying to say anything about the 'actual' ethnic make-up of these communities. They're casting actors to play people, regardless of what colour they're supposed to be. Sadoc Burrows is obviously meant to be a member of the same ethnic group as the other Harfoots (many of which are probably his relatives), never mind that he's played by a black actor and the others aren't. It's no different from an Afro-American or Asian actor playing Hamlet, or Kenneth Branagh casting Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves as brothers in Much Ado About Nothing.
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Old 09-14-2022, 03:16 PM   #38
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Just a brief reply to this: I don't think that by casting POC as Elves, Dwarves or Númenóreans the makers of RoP are trying to say anything about the 'actual' ethnic make-up of these communities. They're casting actors to play people, regardless of what colour they're supposed to be. Sadoc Burrows is obviously meant to be a member of the same ethnic group as the other Harfoots (many of which are probably his relatives), never mind that he's played by a black actor and the others aren't. It's no different from an Afro-American or Asian actor playing Hamlet, or Kenneth Branagh casting Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves as brothers in Much Ado About Nothing.
There I would have to disagree. Besides Shakespeare having been staged myriad times over half a millennium and directors therefore trying to outdo each other in bizarre productions so as to be "fresh" (e.g. Branagh's 30s musical Love's Labour's Lost and especially his Mikado-cum-As You Like It), not just his particular Much Ado but also Will's original are really set in a fantastical no-place that happens to use Italian nomenclature, and his mix of skin tones and accents is no more disturbing than the casting of boys as Beatrice and Hero would have been to his original audience.

But establishing a Secondary World requires verisimilitude. If this were as abstracted as an austere 60s Bayreuth production, which demands the viewer to fill in the blanks from next to nothing. it would be one thing, but Amazon have lavished money all over weapons and other props, some armor (not Elendil's), and limitless terabytes of CGI all intended to turn Numenor and Middle-earth into real places.

And if the intention was simply to provide employment opportunities to non-European actors, they could easily have cast all the Southrons as BIPOC, as a coherent ethnic group rather than the multiracial (and multilinguistic) jumble they are.

(I also don't think it was an accident that they cast the notoriously outspoken Lenny Henry as Sadoc, either. I believe fan-baiting was a conscious strategy).
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Old 09-14-2022, 04:34 PM   #39
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Firstly - WCH, that is an excellent analysis of the situation, well-reasoned and well-put and I think with more than a grain of truth to it. I would rep you but apparently I have been too stingy with rep-giving of late and need to rep more people first.

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Just a brief reply to this: I don't think that by casting POC as Elves, Dwarves or Númenóreans the makers of RoP are trying to say anything about the 'actual' ethnic make-up of these communities. They're casting actors to play people, regardless of what colour they're supposed to be. Sadoc Burrows is obviously meant to be a member of the same ethnic group as the other Harfoots (many of which are probably his relatives), never mind that he's played by a black actor and the others aren't. It's no different from an Afro-American or Asian actor playing Hamlet, or Kenneth Branagh casting Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves as brothers in Much Ado About Nothing.
So I actually disagree very much with this viewpoint. For one thing, the film industry is a visual medium, and there is expectation that what is shown is what is meant to be shown, not "we show you A but you really know it's B". Some films consciously deviate from the way people "should" look, and that is acceptable if it is done with self-awareness and audience's awareness of the film's self-awareness; sometimes it is done for budget/limited casting/costume reasons (and then you play along and make belief), or purposefully for stylistic reasons (and then it is almost like a fanfic - and I want to refer to Hui's post in the Fanfic thread because that is another one I want to rep but can't, it presents the explanation for agreeable deviation so eloquently). But in this case it is not the former, RoP not being some homemade production, nor the latter - as I don't get the sense they are doing this for stylistic reasons so much as for political correctness reasons. Casting people to play people is all well and good, but in a visual medium you're also casting people to look like people; you could cast Karen Gillan to play Bilbo Baggins, and she might even do a decent impression, being a decent actress and all, but as there is nothing remotely Bilbo-esque about her appearance it would probably be a little ridiculous. Again - it would be ok for a film that is doing this knowingly in full knowledge and intent of the effect it would cause; it would look ridiculous if it was done in Jackson's films. So where does it stop? Where is the magic line of what we're going to pretend not to notice? And how do you defend that line? Furthermore, people's appearance is part not only of their individual characters, but the setting. I have always been a proponent of logical diversity - it has to make sense within the context of the setting, and then it enhances the setting. In the context of a medieval society, in a busy trade port/town, more is more. In a reclusive village which probably hasn't seen any new addition to its gene pool for several generations, less is more. Diversity that is inappropriate or disproportionate to the setting (in either direction, mind! both too much or too little of it!) diminishes the impact of that setting, unless there is in-story explanation for why that is so: what happened to get this unexpectedly different or unusually similar group of people? Sadoc's appearance stands out as an anomaly among his community. So either make the community match (so he's not the only one), or explain his presence there (maybe he was actually from another tribe but married a girl from this one and changed camps? It could be as simple as that, a line of dialogue). If the argument becomes that it's not fair for actors who are otherwise perfect for the job to be passed over because of their appearance, and a disproportionate number of roles of a certain type within the industry are given to actors with a certain background - then the challenge is to write scripts where the setting and backstory allows for logical diversity to happen, not to smear it across the script without rhyme or reason. This is not a criticism of any of the actors, but of the show-makers. But, most importantly, I strongly believe that ignoring a physical trait in an attempt at equality is creating the opposite effect; when you're not allowed to notice something, it suddenly becomes the elephant in the room. Inequity does not come from noticing physical characteristics, but from reacting to them. Teaching and promoting acceptance and equality should be about recognizing that people are different - but not letting those differences be the foundation of your judgement, or your actions. The corollary of your position that we ignore the differences that we see, even though we clearly see them, is that at best you get the awkward elephant-in-the-room situation, and at worst the conclusion that when we see a dark-skinned individual we should pretend that he is white (and that, I think, is cultural sensitivity gone wrong big time).

So, with no offense to any of the actors touched by this argument - including the aforementioned Sadoc, who I think acts the part very well - it is different. I am unfamiliar with the specific examples you give so cannot compare and contrast directly, but I've seen enough examples myself to argue the general point, I think. The film has to be cognizant of what its casting choice is achieving, and that purpose is different in every film. RoP tries to establish its settings and populations. And just like it wouldn't make sense for Moria to look all flimsy and artsy like Rivendell, or for Rivendell to be stout and stubby like the Southland villages - it also doesn't make sense for the populations to look out of place for their setting and story. So far there have been three cultures where one member stands out against the rest. My argument: either normalize that appearance, or else explain why this individual stands out. Why is this not necessarily an issue with all the other films and plays? Because establishing the setting is not one of the primary consequences of cast selection.

This is actually one of the things I was very willing to wait on before outright criticising though, because I can well believe that we will see both more characters and more backstory before the show is done, so there is some potential for this to be resolved in later episodes - and in the scheme of things it's not something that bothered me a great deal to begin with, other than one more dissonant note to add to the rest. But I take issue with the argument. If RoP is not trying to show us the "actual" ethnic makeup of these communities, then it should, and this is on the show-makers. If its expectation is that people would just pretend to see homogenous crowds when they are not so - then that is so much more disrespectful, and not the right message at all.

But, now that it's brought up and I managed to get sucked into this discussion - this is another hot topic on the subject of the subconscious preconceptions influencing the reactions to the show and/or promo material. Some of the characters do not match the descriptions people traditionally associate with Tolkien's characters of this type, and that's also caused a bit of a stir. And you can rationalize what is actually said or not said in the canon about skin colour and hair colour and all that jazz, in the end it's the fact that the appearance does not match the expectation, the mental image. And you can argue about whether it is the Tolkien schema or the broader racial differences schema that is playing into people's reactions or both - but before it could really be argued and reasoned, you get the other side implying that any criticism of this sort smells of racism, and thus no discussion is allowed on fear of evoking the R word. And I don't think that's right. I think there are more reasons to criticize a cast for disproportionate diversity than racism. In a film that tries to portray its world as vividly as possible, you can't just say "oh but this doesn't count" - because it does. In a film about ancient China, I expect to see a lot of Asian people, and there better be an explanation for any non-Asian people around. In a film set in an ancient Saxon village, I expect lots of blonds, and if there is an Asian person there - I expect an explanation. Normalizing diversity is not the same as pretending differences don't exist. So - on the one hand, perhaps we need to self-reflect on what exactly bothers us on these points, but on the other - waving away all criticism as prejudice also gets us nowhere.



Also, returning to an earlier conversation:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitch
I really hope we'll see this yet, just pushed into the future by an Age or so.
Thanks again to Hui's posts on other threads, I think I now realize why that explanation doesn't seem to satisfy me or pacify my anger at the situation. I can roll my eyes at Elrond and Gil-galad, but Galadriel makes me most angry. And that's because in the show Gil-galad and Elrond don't yet have well-established stories, so as fan-fiction it is allowed to alter them to a degree so long as it then sticks by those alterations and nothing else. But they include Galadriel's backstory, they acknowledge it - that she is already an Age old, that she saw the death of the Trees and many battles and hardships that the "young" Elves can't imagine - they establish that she is of the older generation. And yet in character development they transpose her from an Age ago. It's inconsistent. You can't both have the canonical Galadriel timeline of events, and the fan-fic compressed timeline of her character. That either makes it seem like she was effectively in a time capsule for the First Age, because it's just not logical for her present character and behaviour to follow from her backstory.

And this is one reason I love these discussions - I feel like there are many overlapping threads at once, it's like one giant discussion being carried over on multiple threads and 3 sub-forums, and one helps better understand the other.


EDIT: Xed with WCH, who made a very similar point much more succinctly and eloquently.
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Old 09-14-2022, 04:52 PM   #40
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Firstly - WCH, that is an excellent analysis of the situation, well-reasoned and well-put and I think with more than a grain of truth to it.
All arguments, disagreements and diverging perspectives aside, I concur with this.


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]And this is one reason I love these discussions - I feel like there are many overlapping threads at once, it's like one giant discussion being carried over on multiple threads and 3 sub-forums, and one helps better understand the other.
Same!
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