Enough already with the Strong Female Lead

Doubtless some (if not most) of you have already seen The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug by now. I saw it a couple of nights ago. Judged in isolation, I suppose it was a decent enough movie- at least 30 minutes too long, somewhat pretentious, a bit too far up its own ass for total enjoyment, but still a fun experience. (The giant talking spiders notwithstanding. I f***ing hate spiders.)

In terms of a faithful representation and imagining of The Master's writing, however, it blew chunks.

Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens have done this repeatedly with The Master's canon when it comes to the film adaptations. Purists like Vox Day have long argued that their "improvements" to Tolkien's legendarium have actually harmed the final product, not helped it. This is one of the very very few areas in which I disagree, albeit very mildly, with Vox's opinion with regards to the way female characters were treated in The Lord of the Rings trilogy on film. For instance, I thought that the expansion of the character of Galadriel in those movies was actually a singular achievement of those movies, and would not have been possible without the ethereal, regal beauty of one Cate Blanchett. In that adaptation, the women were present, but they played secondary roles, just as they did in the books. And as Vox has taken great pains to point out, Peter Jackson in fact was for the most part scrupulously faithful to the original canon when he made the films. That is precisely why the LOTR trilogy stands as the monumental achievement in film-making that it is.

I have a very bad feeling, however, that the prequels will be remembered with that same sense of almost post-coital regret and shame that accompanied the release of the STAR WARS prequels, after the massive hype and incredible expectations ran headlong into the limp and unimpressive reality.

Some very interesting scenery... and a
pointy-eared woman blocking the view
There are several reasons why the movie wasn't very good- the ridiculous length, Smaug's annoying rambling, the pretty-boy-female-eye-candy Elves Thranduil and Legolas, and the producers' highly irritating insistence on trying to tie this trilogy into LOTR, which came out ten years ago and may not be familiar to an entire new generation of audiences.

However the biggest reason, by a country mile, was Tauriel.

I just didn't see the point of her character. She was introduced for... what purpose, exactly? To create a ridiculously risible love triangle between a short scruffy dwarf and a borderline gay Elf? To prove that she's just as big of a badass as Legolas is, despite the fact that the entire original story didn't even bother featuring a female Elf in combat? (Actually I can't think of a single example of an Elvess in combat in the entire legendarium, and that includes The Silmarillion.)

In short, her character was a complete failure on every level. Evangeline Lilly could have been completely written out of the movie and it would have been far better for it.

More generally, this endemic obsession within Hollywood for putting Strong Independent Women into stories where they have no business being, is getting out of control. Take the film version of Starship Troopers, for instance. The book is one of the greatest works of fiction ever produced by a human mind. The movie is not terrible, perhaps, but it's a rancid piece of crap next to the book. And this is in large part because Denise Richards and the Dina Meyers got so much screen time even though they were completely superfluous to the actual story (and the fact that Paul Verhoeven didn't bother reading the damn book).

Interestingly, one film franchise that didn't go down this route was also one of the most fun to watch (at least, it was for me). That's right, I'm talking about Michael Bay's Transformers trilogy. Now maybe I just have appalling taste (I'll grant you that), but the fact is that movies with big-ass explosions and giant robots beating the crap out of each other are right up my street.

Male-dominated sci-fi and fantasy universes are interesting because they are believable. There is very little that is believable about most Strong Female Leads in most Hollywood depictions and adaptations- the reason Disney keeps featuring so many SFL princesses in animated movies is because that's the only place where the audience can suspend disbelief long enough for them to get on with their frankly risible plots.

To be honest, I gave up watching movies in theatres, for the most part, years ago. I've just gotten sick of how sackless, stunted, and politically correct they've gotten. I think the only movie I actually watched in a theatre this year was the hysterically funny RED 2, and that's it. And if this trend in films continues, I'm pretty sure you can count me out of the 2014 season too.


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