The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Jackson's The Hobbit will be released on December 14th. I don't intend to see it. I slept through the first two Lord of the Ring flicks and see no reason to pay $10 for another nap when I can sleep at home for free. These movies, and the books that inspired them, are practical jokes played on gullible youngsters by academic careerists, teachers, and parents, who kid them--and maybe themselves--into believing that a clip-on bow tie possesses the same quirky personality and genuineness of a self-tied tie.
In anticipation of a plethora of indignant howls, please know that I am not alone in thinking so. Harold Bloom, arguably the gatekeeper of Western Literature, called TLOR "inflated, over-written, tendentious, and moralistic in the extreme." Another critic was the feminist Germaine Geer, who wrote:
"Ever since I arrived at Cambridge as a student in 1964 and encountered a tribe of full-grown women wearing puffed sleeves, clutching teddies and babbling excitedly about the doings of hobbits, it has been my nightmare that Tolkien would turn out to be the most influential writer of the twentieth century. The bad dream has materialized."
I understand the broad, initial, appeal these books and films hold. I first read The Hobbit in the late 60s when I was at boot camp at Fort Knox in Kentucky, and followed it with TLOR during advanced training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. An unhappy draftee during an unpopular war, I saw that Gandalf's quest to destroy the powerful and corrupting Ring was a clear allusion to the hubris and tragedy of the military industrial complex. As a bit player in the unfolding tragedy of the Vietnam War, I appreciated any character, even fictional, who shared my judgment that the whole mess was a corrupt folly.
And I was not alone in finding relevance: environmentalists identified with the Ents, tree-creatures who rise to protect the forest of Fangorn from the wizard Saruman, a latter day Earl Butz who, with his "mind of metal and wheels, does not care for growing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment." Surely tree-huggers are trustworthy critics of literature and film, right?
The icing on the cake, though, was the hobbits' frequent enjoyment of mushrooms and pipe weed. Dope smokers were sure that Tolkien was endorsing pot smoking and peyote and, well, they could really relate, man. And perhaps it is this hobbit attribute that Grandpa and other refugees from the 60s and 70s recall as they doze, contentedly, through these Tolkien inspired films while their glassy-eyed grandchildren munch $7 popcorn and $5 milk duds.
This argument is not against anti-war activists or environmentalists, or even against euphoric recall of those halcyon days of recreational drug use; it is about mistaking politics and popular culture with literature, and fan pamphleteering with scholarship. The egregious mistake is the common mistake: calling the emperor's nakedness new clothes. The happy fix is to skip The Hobbit which, if it conforms to its predecessors, will be a boring, pseudo Gnostic opera, and go see the new James Bond flick instead.