Miserable in Middle Earth


I’m about to reveal something I normally don’t dare to say outside the privacy of my own home.

I hate The Lord of the Rings.
Yes, that Lord of the Rings. The billion-dollar, Oscar-winning, superstar-filled Lord of the Rings movie franchise whose fans could fill San Diego Comic-Con about a hundred times over. The Lord of the Rings whose biggest fans included about 90 percent of my friends as an undergrad at UC Davis, who treated director Peter Jackson as a religious figure and his films as beyond criticism.
I tried to like those movies. I really did. As a freshman, I borrowed my friend’s director’s cut box set and watched all three for the first time. About ten minutes into The Fellowship of the Ring, I was lost. Bilbo Baggins was on some sort of quest to find a ring, and Sauron was going to help him. No, wait – it was Frodo on the quest, and that guy with the long white beard (who looked an awful lot like that other guy with the long white beard in Harry Potter) was going to help him. Legolas was an elf and Gimli was a dwarf? Then what exactly were hobbits, anyway? And what was the point of fighting a battle with flaming spears and giant horned creatures when they just did twenty minutes ago?
Oh, I managed to find a few things I liked. The music was pretty good, and Andy Serkis’s motion-capture work as Gollum was fascinating. But each film was the same to me. It was all CG monsters and sweeping New Zealand vistas, punctuated by men in armor speaking in antiquated English about plot points I could never follow and Elijah Wood scrambling around in the woods looking like he was about to be sick. And every time Sam called his best friend “Mr. Frodo” I wanted to stab the TV with Gandalf’s sword.
The Lord of the Rings would have been more bearable if everyone didn’t take it so seriously. Maybe the books have been around so long most people forgot, but they are actually make-believe. Not real. Completely the work of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination. Yet those movies are so solemn you’d think they recount the story of the Old Testament or the Civil War. When my friends discuss the finer points of the Council of Elrond, it’s all I can do not to burst out laughing. I can’t make myself care about wizards and magical rings and pits of fire just because Peter Jackson and some actors running around in front of a green screen tell me to.
Here’s something else I never talk about in the company of my friends, and even less so in front of myself: I hate The Lord of the Rings because I don’t get it and everyone else does. For someone who prides herself on knowing and loving everything there is to know and love about pop culture, that’s a tough pill to swallow. So whenever the conversation turns to The Lord of the Rings, I just smile, nod, and pretend I love it too.

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