Thursday, June 4, 2015

You're Not a Man

The indisputable grand marshal of the last Hobbit movie's cavalcade of sins against intellect would have to be Tauriel, warrior princess. Inserting Legolas as a major character into the Battle of Five Armies was bad enough, as he should more aptly have been re-named to Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Film, but at least ole Leg o' lamb and the White Council were actual Tolkien characters. Tauriel is inexcusable.
Inexcusable, not inexplicable.

Even ignoring Hollywood's perceived need for cheesy romantic sub-plots in every single movie, regardless of its topic, there was a more pressing revisionist agenda to fill. Regardless of the politics of Edwardian England, Tolkien knew enough about history to know that in any tribal conflict, it's always been the males who get thrown into the meat-grinder to protect the women who will in turn produce more meat for grinding next degeneration.
We like to ignore that reality these days.
Anything boys can do, girls can do better. Enter retconned warrior princesses into every re-hashing of old epics. Truth and perspective be damned.
Note, there's no problem with writing new stories featuring heroines in addition to or instead of heroes. Back in eighth grade, around the same time I was reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I also read Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, and found it fascinating despite wrinkling my nose a bit at Corlath being portrayed as a pig-headed male making a strategic blunder and having his kingdom saved by a female "chosen one."

However, writing their own stories is not enough for feminists. The Hobbit, as a whimsical children's or young adult adventure story, commits an utterly inexcusable crime against womankind. It allows its all-male cast to act without female supervision. Despite the lack of even the slightest derogatory comments against women, the book commits the deadly sin of portraying men acting on concerns which are not immediately tied into their role as protector/provider for a family/tribal unit. Peter Jackson's crew set about decisively correcting this problem of male freedom.

Here's the crux of the matter. We are rightfully proud of ourselves in Western society for setting about freeing women from their biological role as breeders, for allowing them freedom from the suffocating safe confines of the homestead. No individual should be so sentenced. We are, however, more comfortable than ever shaming, badgering and taunting men into performing their biologically determined role. Men are not individuals. They are extensions of the family unit, muscle unto death. At the same time as Tauriel tears Tolkien's writing to shreds to hammer home a completely anachronistic point, what do we get for the male half of that equation?

I would suggest adapting The Blue Sword to film, but the truth is that its relatively light eye-rolling at Corlath's masculinity is nowhere near feminist enough by today's standards. Today's women demand no less than utter humiliation. Glamorous Tauriel's counterpart is not Legolas but Alfrid the unibrowed, hunching, sniveling nebbish. Esgaroth's women are taken to safety, allowed to choose to save themselves. Naturally, since women are paragons of virtue, they turn and fight nonetheless. In the same scene, Alfrid the coward, who attempts to exercise that same choice, is berated by one of those heavenly matrons with "you're not a man" for attempting to dress as one of them to escape battle.

You're not a man if you don't sacrifice yourself in battle, if you don't play meat-shield for women. You're not a man. Let that sink in a moment.
Now, imagine the reverse. Imagine a scene in the same movie where a woman would become the reviled comic-relief straw-man for not performing her social role. Imagine a group of men in a scene in Esgaroth or Dale spitting insults at a woman because she refuses to marry and start bearing children as young as she can.
"You're not a woman!"
I say imagine that scene because you'll never see it. No big-name director or studio would dare append name and profit-margin to such despicable, dehumanizing reductionism... were it directed at women instead of men.

Anything boys can do, girls can do better. Anything girls can do, you're a sexist pig if you expect them to do it. Anything boys can do, you're a sexist pig if you don't shame them into doing it. Anything girls can do, boys have no right to claim for themselves. You sexist pig.
Get out there and die for your mate, who may or may not feel like performing her end of the bargain.
Otherwise, you're not a man.

Such is feminist equality and freedom of choice.

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