Postmodernism

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power puts Galadriel and other women center stage

The first question I received after watching the first two episodes of Amazon’s short story the Lord of the Rings prequel series power rings was, “Is it like game of thronesThat’s a good question; in the age of streaming services, high fantasy has been practically synonymous with the epic HBO franchise, which now has its own prequel, Dragon House. But according to my friends who asked me the question, I knew exactly what they meant: “Is this version of Middle-earth going to be one where women are regularly assaulted, degraded and objectified? ?

The Lord of the Rings, without ever being as freely graphic as Obtained, has always had a complicated relationship with his wives. In a 1969 essay for Columbia University Press, feminist scholar Catharine Stimpson published a scathing critique of JRR Tolkien’s Women. The Lord of the Rings. “The most banal of stereotypes”, she described them. “They’re either beautiful and aloof, or just aloof, or just simple.”

Still, for his sake, I hope Stimpson watched the Peter Jackson adaptations., which, while it focuses primarily on male characters, much like the source material does, greatly expands the roles of Middle-earth’s most famous women. This is largely thanks to Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, the two screenwriters who, alongside Jackson, wrote the screenplays for all three films. Beyond crafting Galadriel’s features, Arwen and Éowyn, Walsh and Boyens were also responsible for the trilogy’s most poignant moments, adding emotional depth to characters who appear flat or one-note in the text.

All this to say that despite The Lord of the Rings The books’ reputation as a coming-of-age series for boys, when released in the early years of the millennium, the films found a huge fanbase among young women. “It’s technically an epic fantasy adventure, but I don’t think it fits the same kind of ideas of masculinity and power that a lot of these stories traditionally do,” writer Karen Han told The New York Times for an article on LOTRmillennial female fans. In fact, it is the stereotypical male vices of greed and power that are the main enemies of Tolkien’s works, while the lowly Hobbits and the unspoilt countryside and forests of Middle-earth are the heroes.

The hobbit-like Harfoots, including Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), center.
Amazon

For women like me who grew up loving LOTR, the news that Amazon was producing a prequel was both exciting and slightly ominous. Had game of thrones cast such a shadow over the entertainment world that a high fantasy series without sex or gore was considered unprofitable? (For the context of what happens to women in Obtainedin the first two episodes of Dragon House, there’s a brutally graphic childbirth scene in which mother and child die, and in the second, a grown man nearly marries a 12-year-old girl.)

Co-showrunner Patrick McKay has previously publicly stated that power rings will avoid graphic violence and sex scenes and is suitable “for children aged 11, 12 and 13”, although concerns have been widespread enough that more than 50,000 fans have signed a Change.org petition to ban nudity in series. Anonymous sources told The One Ring fan blog that while there is some nudity in the show, it will be “sparse and non-sexualized”.

To respond to the question: power rings Is not like game of thrones, at least not this way. In short, it explores the Second Age of Middle-earth, which takes place thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and is not based on any of Tolkien’s novels, but rather information gleaned from their appendices. We know roughly what happens during the Second Age; much of its main plot is depicted in the opening flashback of The Fellowship of the Ring: TThe evil lord Sauron distributes the Rings of Power to humans, elves, and dwarves, keeping the almighty secret One Ring to himself, which Isildur eventually takes by severing Sauron’s finger in battle.

But because Tolkien never dedicated a book to the Second Age, showrunners McKay and JD Payne took creative liberties with the characters that fill out the story. Luckily, many of the most prominent are female: Amazon’s series centers on a young Galadriel, played by Morfydd Clark (Cate Blanchett in the films), an elven warrior princess bent on avenging her brother’s death by Sauron. Although we don’t see any dwarf women in LOTR, power rings features Disa (Sophia Nomvete), the wife of the dwarf prince Durin IV, who appears to wield significant power in Khazad-dûm. Among the hobbit-like Harfoots we see the brave young Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), and in the world of men there is the healer and single mother Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), who strikes up a romance with a warrior elf Round (Ismael Cruz Córdova). None of these characters other than Galadriel were created by Tolkien himself, which, again, might be exciting, but might as well end up falling into the stereotypical tropes of high fantasy women written by men. . The truth is, we just haven’t seen enough of these characters yet to be sure (it passes the Bechdel test though).

However The rings of power, at least in its first episodes, does not seem to take pleasure in the suffering of its characters as game of thrones tends to, I remain skeptical of other ways it mirrors the HBO series — namely, in its story structure. Like many shows in the era of prestige television, The rings of power regularly leaves its audience with mysterious cliffhangers as we jump from scene to scene. It’s action-packed and beautiful to watch, but rather than relying on one strong storyline, we’re chained to several that remain frustratingly unfocused. And just as I often felt nervous watching game of thrones if he had a cohesive endpoint in mind as he weaved his way through Westeros, I’m afraid power rings will be stuffed with too many made-up subplots and side characters that ultimately have nothing to do with the story besides adding more runtime. (The entire series will consist of 50 hours of television over five seasons, which is four times the length of the three LOTR extended editions.)

Despite the complexity of its language, geography and plot, LOTR is basically a fairly simple story, a story in which there is good and bad. We don’t get many of those kinds of stories anymore: As Polygon’s Susana Polo wrote of the two decades since the film’s premiere, “the hit movie didn’t embrace the sincerity of the the Lord of the Rings films – the way they elevated deep, pure emotions to the level of an adult epic – in the same way. Instead, we’ve grown accustomed to the cynical, self-deprecating heroes and antiheroes of our big-budget franchises. This hasn’t always been a bad thing; action and fantasy films embracing the nuances of morality and subverting the logic of cinema have led to some of the best films of the 21st century. But LOTR does not seek to play with the expectations of its public; it’s not necessary. His themes are timeless.

My hope for the rest of the show is that it resists the urge to inject that kind of postmodernism into Middle-earth and stays relatively evasive, not just so viewers don’t have to think about current events watching her, but so that the women in the watching audience LOTR for comfort consumption can get respite by seeing our oppression reflected on us. I don’t need Jeff Bezos’ billion dollar vanity project to show me why being an elf sucks.