Several weeks ago I saw Return of the King, and it has led me to ponder many issues concerning contemporary society. I came away thinking of gay hobbits, environmentalism and war.
There has been much discussion of Frodo’s and Sam’s gayness. Honestly, when I was watching the film, I thought, “Yeah, they seem a little gay.” Especially, when Frodo is exhausted from their journey and Sam is holding him in his arms, encouraging him to hold on because they are so close to casting the cursed ring into Mount Doom. Perhaps there was some gay subtext going on in these scenes as they trudged towards Mount Doom. Really, I think this was nothing more than camaraderie in an intense time. Let’s face it, the majority of us have no idea what it would be like to be on the front line, fighting for your life and the lives of your fellow soldier. Tolkien himself served on the front line in World War I; he understood, first hand, the intensity of living your life in the thick of war.
In the film, you are overwhelmed by massive battle scenes. Exhausting scenes where you feel your guts all twisted up. Presently, our country is involved in battle in foreign lands. Soldiers are dying in Iraq, and we are killing people there. That’s the reality. However, we rarely see any images of these battles, as if we could not handle the reality of the death and destruction. Ironically, Return of the King is currently one of the most popular films showing, and many of us can sit through a three and a half-hour fictional tale with multitudes of death and destruction. Nevertheless, we cannot face the real devastation of combat.
Another major point of this trilogy was the destructive force of industrialization and the wasteland it created. Tolkien saw his own pastoral village consumed by factories and child labor. As Americans, we continue to over-consume and buy, buy, buy; methinks we have missed the message of the novels. Sure, we don’t employ child labor in our factories, but in our global economy we buy clothes and shoes that we all know are manufactured under sweatshop conditions in Third World countries. Furthermore, we have perverted agriculture and twisted it into factory farming. In order to serve our gluttonous needs, and produce more and more meat, we feed cows meat. Tolkien could never have imagined this herbivorous horror.
The popularity of this film and the books is paradoxical to our current state. Society is totally missing out that we are fighting a battle against the destructive force of ourselves. As we turn cows into carnivores, we may be turning ourselves into war-mongering, tree-killing Orcs.