So yesterday I posted an opinion piece on Evangeline Lilly’s character, Tauriel, in the Hobbit movie. To say that I got a visceral response would be an absolute understatement.
But I love that. Look, I tend to have unpopular opinions and I’m used to that. Just the other day, I pointed out that while I think John Green is a fantastic writer, I do think that he gets overrated a lot, and that there are tons of authors that are way better than him.
That didn’t go over too well.
So because of that, I feel like I’m more open to differing opinions than most because I’m usually the one with the different opinion. A dear friend of mine (one of my BEST friends though we’ve never met in person) and follower of this blog, Chloe, wrote her own response to what I wrote (which you can read here). She was so worried I’d be offended but honestly, I loved it. I could see the points she made, and while I still stick to my own opinion, I do love hearing others opinions, mostly when they back it up.
I’m posting Chloe’s response to my post today, because its fun, and its a different opinion than mine and I think that’s awesome. So enjoy!
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Ahh this is one of my favourite topics for discussion – females in fantasy, the concept of female hero versus heroine. I have no real firm opinion on the matter, but I do enjoy discussing it. I do see your point Sara, but I think there’s more to it than that. Tauriel as a created character, yes. One could easily see her as being a purely commercial creation, since she is involved in a love triangle and happens to be amazing eye-candy. However…
However, I find it equally annoying to have female characters who are basically men with long hair and female names. Captain of the Guard would usually be a male role – making the role female for no reason is not really doing anything for feminism, in my opinion. It’s just creating a token female to make a lazy attempt at avoiding being labelled sexist.
I’m not saying that female characters should not be able to have martial skills, but I think real feminist characters are ones that still have ‘feminine’ qualities that are represented as strengths, rather than weaknesses. Everyone knows women can be as physically skilled as men. That’s nothing new. But not every woman is physically strong, and that does not make her any less of a worthwhile human being than a strong man. I think what we need now are more female characters who use classically feminine qualities and traits as strengths.
For example Luthien, an Elvish woman featured in the Lay of Leithian (and mentioned in Lord of the Rings) escapes from a prison by weaving her long hair into a rope. Long hair and weaving are both female traits, but are here used as strengths. Bam! Awesome character.
If this was an original movie not based on a book then I would have no issue with it being populated with more female warriors. But it is a book, and Tauriel is a deviation from the original. Creating a character like this is a significant dramaturgical choice, and I am certain that the writers and Peter Jackson, being the wonderful storytellers that they are, were well aware of the fact. There has to be a reason for making this character a female other than commercial interests. Take away Tauriel’s love interest and she’s basically a male. She would add nothing to the story but a female who can kick-ass. Good, but it’s not enough. Tauriel is a warrior, but she is also a woman. She is a woman who allows herself to love (female trait) , and allows her love to overtake her pride (usually a male, warrior trait). Her femininity is a strength, as I will explain.
You said that Tauriel “knew what the right thing to do was, whatever her king said.”
Is letting giant spiders go off to multiply in other lands when Tauriel and her fighters have the skills to protect these other people really the ‘right’ thing?
Is letting a dwarf go off to die when Tauriel has the skills to save him really the ‘right’ think to do?
In this day and age people resist the idea that a monarch is absolutely correct in everything, and that anyone who does anything apart from displaying unquestioning, blind loyalty is a traitor. Thranduil is not a perfect king. That is made quite clear. He is calculating, cruel and interested only in protecting his own, yet feels happy to allow the dwarves to go off and risk waking a dragon if he can take a share in the treasure.
Tauriel uses her love – a trait usually presented as female and often as a weakness – to allow her to see and do (what I would consider to be ) the right thing.
I think it’s worth noting that Legolas goes through much the same thing as Tauriel. He only follows Tauriel because of his fondness for her, much as Tauriel follows the dwarves for her fondness for Kili. Is it a weakness in him? I would rather argue that Legolas’s love for Taurie and Tauriel’s love for Kili is what allows them both to see what the ‘right’ thing. Previously both Legolas and Tauriel had used their loyalty to their king as an excuse to hide away from the world that they could help, to take the coward’s way out. Here, love is presented as a positive quality. Legolas is given love, a female trait, and it makes him a better person.
This is also explored when Fili and Oin stay behind from their mission to try to help Kili. The love their share makes them forget their pride and their lust for wealth. They will gain nothing by staying behind, but they do because they love Kili.
Are these men’s actions, which are the product of love, weakness? Or is it nobility? Why then is a female allowing romantic love to drive her – as opposed to a male being driven by familial or romantic love – a weakness?
Selfishness is a large theme in this film – selfishness and a lust for wealth. The love-triangle is not an isolated, tacked on addition to the film. I see it as another aspect of the exploration of these themes.
Is Tauriel necessary to the story? Is her romance necessary to the story? No, not really. But then again since when have movies ever been about economic storytelling? This film is much more than a simple narrative, and Tauriel’s charcter, her sub-plot and her influence on other characters are all part of what makes it so rich and beautiful.
I’m sure some people with have issues with this discussion. I am NOT saying that love is feminine and pride is masculine, for one thing. I would just argue that this is often how they are presented in literature, especially sword and sorcery fantasy. I am also not saying that there is no other way that Tauriel could be an awesome strong character without having a love interest. I am simply saying that this is how I see her as working within the plot to provide a strong, female character, and that having a love interest is not intrinsically anti-feminist. I also hope that this post will make people realise that there is more to being a feminist and being a worthwhile woman than possessing physical strength.
Thanks for reading my discussion, and I’d love to hear some responses!