Let Me Entertain You | Men Aren’t the Only Ones in Middle Earth

I hope everyone had a lovely break! I myself joined two new fandoms and spent the entire month on my couch watching television. What else is vacation for?

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I am a huge Lord of the Rings geek. I break out the extended editions at least twice a year for a thirteen-hour marathon, and I am able to quote most scenes alongside the characters. I’m no Stephen Colbert, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m a tad obsessive over J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical Middle Earth.

I always enjoyed the book The Hobbit. It was simple and sweet, with the bumbling Bilbo Baggins serving as a sufficient protagonist. But when I heard that director Peter Jackson was going back for seconds and splitting the small book into three ginormous movies, I was a bit skeptical. Really? Three? The first Hobbit movie, An Unexpected Journey, was pretty disappointing. It was too long, and almost entirely CGI. I didn’t have high hopes for the second film, but I knew I was going to be spending the $12.50 to see it in theaters anyway.

I was surprised by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It flew by at a much brisker pace than the first film, and featured the love of my life, Legolas. But the real reason I enjoyed the second film was because of the new elf that Jackson added to the movie, Tauriel. The best character in the movie was a creation of the director, never mentioned in Tolkien’s canon? Say it ain’t so!

But here’s why: in the book The Hobbit, there is not one female character. There are no women off to have a glorious adventure. We never read about the female dwarves desperate to reclaim their homeland; they stay at home. We learn nothing of a woman’s place in hobbit society. Female elves aren’t even considered. But in the movie, Peter Jackson added Tauriel, played with strength and dignity by Evangeline Lilly.

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Tauriel showing off her mad archery skills. Photo courtesy of EW/James Fisher.

Tauriel is quite simply the best character in the newest Hobbit film. She’s a great warrior, she’s compassionate, and she’s a healer. The movie intimates at a love triangle involving Tauriel, but she’s too busy saving Middle Earth for that crap. What’s most important to her is helping her people and others. In short, she’s the strong female character that The Hobbit always needed. And now, young girls and boys will watch these films and see her as a role model. I know I do.

This holiday season was a pretty good one for strong female characters in movies. In American Hustle, men are seemingly running the scams, but it’s the women who are really in control. From Jennifer Lawrence’s boozy, vindictive wife to Amy Adams’s calculating con artist, the women in this film are not afraid to take what they want. Disney also created some powerful women this season in the animated Frozen and the live-action Saving Mr. Banks.

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Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams are so much more than their crazy hair in American Hustle. Photo courtesy of E! Online/Sony Pictures.

It’s important to understand that a “strong female character” doesn’t need to be some warrior who’s better than all the men combined and singlehandedly saves the day, although that’s great too. If a female character makes her own decisions without the supervision or influence of a man, she’s strong. That’s it. That’s all you need. She can be insane, she can be destructive, she can be weak and desperate. All that matters is that she’s in control of her own life.

Of course, 99% of The Hobbit’s cast is white males. In fact, most of the cast of any movie is white males. We’ve still got a long way to go in terms of representative equality in film. Tauriel and her kind give me hope that the system is finally changing, albeit slowly. Someday female characters won’t be the outliers, they’ll be the norm. But it is not this day.

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