How “Lord of the Rings” Became “Star Wars” for Millennial Women

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Shortly after the release of the final installment of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, film critic Caryn James wondered in these same pages whether women “were just bored” when it came to blockbuster movies. by Peter Jackson.

“Any movie this popular has to appeal to audiences of all ages and genders,” James wrote. “But both demographic and empirical evidence suggests the trilogy is still primarily a boy’s toy.”

Whether women of the day felt captivated or bored by these films, which began 20 years ago this month with “The Fellowship of the Ring,” is not for me to say. But I do know that I, then a 13 year old girl, and my 12 year old sister, loved the story of Sam and Frodo and their quest to destroy the One Ring. And we were not alone.

“I was obsessed with DVDs,” said Karen Han, 29, a Los Angeles-based television and film writer. “I think it was about every vacation, I watched all three movies a day and I did a marathon, and I would do that pretty much every year.”

For a certain subset of millennial women, the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy fills the same role that “Star Wars” might for those who grew up from the late ’70s to the’ 80s: it became a valuable part of the comfort-gender watch for women in their late twenties and thirties.

In the years since the films were released, seeing them again was a ritual that only my sister and I observed. (My parents saw them with us in theaters, and then never saw them again.) In college, I occasionally met the daughter of “Lord of the Rings” – a few friends in college and some strangers. during watered evenings. And, of course, there were the memes and the memes that came with them.

Then a few years ago I started noticing articles on The Cut and elsewhere. “What about the Boromir woman?” “I’m still excited for Sauron.” “The greatest Christmas movie is ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”

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“We all loved ‘The Lord of the Rings’,” said Gabriella Paiella, 32, cultural editor for GQ and former editor of The Cut. “It certainly reinforced my feeling that there was a specifically female interest in these movies that I hadn’t necessarily thought about before, as I think the world of ‘Lord of the Rings’ is sort of seen as a male interest. cheesy. “

Jokes and memes have remained a fantastic way for fans to bond, but Paiella and other women who came of age during the ‘Lord of the Rings’ era say their passion for movies runs much deeper and deeper. more emotional. It’s an attachment that developed alongside the movies’ most poignant moments, supported by Howard Shore: “Don’t you know your Sam?” “I know your face” and “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.”

“The general message of this story is that as long as you have love and hope for each other, victory or triumph is always possible,” Han said, explaining, “It is technically an epic fantasy adventure, but I don’t think it stems from the same kind of ideas of masculinity and power that a lot of these stories traditionally do.

The main romantic relationship of the trilogy may be between Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Arwen (Liv Tyler), the reluctant heir to the throne of Middle-earth and his half-Elven love interest. But Paiella and Han argue that the bond between the two is no less tender than the heartbreaking death of Boromir (Sean Bean) – whose desperation to save Middle-earth leads him to attempt to steal the Ring – with Aragorn. at his side, at the end of the first film.

It’s the kind of moment you don’t often find in male action movies, and in some corners of the internet, like LiveJournal and Tumblr, that tenderness – between Frodo and Sam, Legolas and Gimli, Merry and Pippin, Gandalf and Bilbo – has become the focal point of the fan-fiction “The Lord of the Rings”.

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“I was absolutely obsessed with reading gay hobbit erotica,” said Chelsea McCurdy, 35, who works for a Conway-based nonprofit, Ark. “And I think that was a huge deal for me in terms of my queer trip and love for these movies.

McCurdy, who is married to a transgender man and believes they watch at least one of the movies every two to three weeks, said her fascination went beyond being “a horny teenager,” adding: “Nothing seems dangerous because the good guys are actually all good.And there is no rape, there is nothing that makes you uncomfortable as a woman in the entire trilogy.

Indeed, the most toxic male characters in films often meet satisfying endings. They are stabbed in the back and impaled (Saruman), shot with arrows (Grima Wormtongue) or die after immolating themselves (Denethor).

Twenty years later, McCurdy remains particularly moved by the female characters – Arwen, Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Eowyn (Miranda Otto) – whose roles were enhanced in the screenplays by Fran Walsh, the longtime companion of Peter Jackson, and their writing collaborator Philippa Boyens.

“My favorite # 1 scene of all time is ‘I’m not a man,’” said McCurdy, referring to the pivotal scene in which Eowyn slays Sauron’s most terrifying servant, the Witch King of Angmar. “This whole scene gives me goosebumps, and little feminist Chelsea just ate that.”

Han, the TV screenwriter, agreed, although she was reluctant to use the term “strong female character”. She explained, “Whenever people try to do that in contemporary cinema, it always sounds like such a shallow and easy understanding, but ‘Lord of the Rings’ really got it out of the park.”

The fact that these female characters and many of their male counterparts are white (like most of the characters in the film) hasn’t lessened the resistance of the trilogy, even for those who now hold Hollywood to a much higher level. “It’s just beyond criticism for me because I think I consumed it so young and because I see it, even though the films have arrived recently, as such an old and unchanging work,” said said Sara David, 32, editor at Vice Media and Union Organizer. “I didn’t notice a missing gender or race analysis because this story is so old and generic good against bad, you know? “

For Han, it’s not the filmmakers’ handling of the action scenes that stand out, but their relationship management “and the very beautiful and ornate way they made the world, which I think doesn’t. not to say that it doesn’t appeal to men, but is certainly more open to more people from more backgrounds who find something to like about it.

Whether pre-teens will enjoy these movies today or develop an attachment to them like I did is up for debate. (Marvel movies don’t.) But all four women I spoke to agreed that if you want to embrace the nine hours of “The Lord of the Rings” saga, it’s easier to do it when you are young.

“It’s one of those things that you just have to tackle at the right time in your life,” Paiella said, adding, “Meeting him as an adult I think it won’t have the same effect. Your guard is just down at this age in a way that isn’t when you’re an adult.

The post How “The Lord of the Rings” became “Star Wars” for Millennial Women appeared first on The New York Times.

This article was originally published in UK time news:

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