Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Misogyny Accusations Require Second Look

 College Writing I: Essay #3                                                        Color coding: IC DC

Student: Gibson, John                                                                                        DC, IC

Professor: Michael Baron                                                                                  I, DC, C

University Of Massachusetts, Lowell, 

April 5, 2024

Misogyny Accusations Require Second Look

Popular media touting Peter Jackson’s film Lord Of The Rings as the “greatest film ever made” (Film & Music, 2005), Italian prime minister “Giorgia Meloni and the hard right are celebrating JRR Tolkien's saga” (Mackay, 2023), and yet Lord Of The Rings books and films are often criticized for blatant misogyny in the popular sphere (US Official News, 2015), seem to be paradoxical. The greatest film in the 2000s should have been through sexism scrutiny before earning the title. Is the modern global society still so patriarchal that not even children’s cultural activity can escape misogyny? This essay argues otherwise. Three prominent distinct commentaries on the misogyny of the book series and the film trilogy of The Lord Of The Rings have surfaced recently. The thesis of this essay is that closer examinations show a different light from the inescapable misogyny accusations. 

The first category of accusations centers on the gender distribution of film actors and characters in the storyline. For brevity, “LOTR” will be in place of the full name Lord Of The Rings in the following discussion paragraphs for both J. R. R. Tolkien’s original book series and director Peter Jackson’s same-name film trilogy adaptation as a whole. When referring specifically to the book series or the film trilogy, the following paragraphs will explicitly say “LOTR book” or “LOTR film,” respectively. In The Fellowship Of The Ring, the first installment of the book series and film trilogy, the nine people charged with the mission to destroy the mythical ring are all men. This point is made by Angela Collier, a physics professor at U. Of Colorado, Boulder, as she describes LOTR books as 

“Putting women into three categories, you have the Mary’s the homemakers like the lovely (Hobbit) wives, you have the (human and Elf) ladies with ambitions who need to tone it down and get married already, and then you have the men-eating (female) spiders who need to die, and that’s kind of it - that’s what women are in Lord Of The Rings. As a child, that bothered me a lot. I had trouble reading it...” (Collier, 2023).

However, the number count and the true power of characters among genders are worth investigating. For starters, Galadriel is famously powerful and a female character. The counter commentaries in Mariah Huehner’s essay “I Am No Man Doesn’t Cut It” highlight the true intent of Tolkien’s writing. Mariah Huehner argues that jabbing the mythical monster Orcs and Nazguls for equal credits between men and women does not fully describe the intricacy of the novel. In LOTR, Nazguls are men transformed to be the essence of terror by their former selves’ greed for power, and Eowyn kills the master Nazgul and announces that she is not a man. Tolkien’s original book series builds Eowyn’s character from the base of perseverance and cunning before winning the battle. In the book, Eowyn verbally threatens the master Nazgul with the mortality of Nazguls. The exact wording in Tolkien’s book is “Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him …” (Huehner, 2015). In the book, Eowyn gives the master Nazgul a chance to walk away and think about whether he is mortal or immortal when he assumes humans can not kill him by the mythical spell. “Not deathless” requires a person or a monster to utilize the double-negative logic to figure out that Eowyn says that Nazguls can die, like everyone else. In Huehner’s view, the Eowyn character outshines Aragorn when Huehner says, “Enter Aragorn, who in the books is a lot more Arrogant Lordly Dude and a lot less Scruffy Nice Guy Reluctant Hero” (Huehner, 2015). Think contemporary counterpart Jamaica Kincaid’s poem-like story “Girl” in Patterns For College Writing, where a mother uses a condescending tone to teach her daughter how to survive in a society of harrowing sexism by playing along the homemaker role where proper reproductive healthcare is absent. However, the mother teaches the young girl that women can persevere by saying, “This is how you bully a man,” right after, “This is how a man bullies you” (Kirszner, 2018). Tolkien prompted the finer points of female power from the beginning in the 1930s when he wrote the book series.

Before describing two other categories of commentators, it is worth noting that the mythical evil ring seduces its owner with the power and wealth the ring brings by invisibility superpower, similar to Gyge’s ring in book two of Plato’s Republic (The Internet Classics Archive). Like Plato’s conclusion in The Republic, power and wealth by means of tricks and endless pursuit actions would only harm a person’s health by overworking without proper rest. The wording for this point in the film’s script is “Great kings of Men. Then Sauron the Deceiver gave to them Nine Rings of Power. Blinded by their greed they took them without question, one by one falling into darkness” (Jackson et al., 2002). 

The second category of commentators focused on psychology in the misogyny discussion of LOTR does not shun LOTR even though they think equal rights between female and male characters solely for equal shares of actions are detrimental because the endless quest for power is part of the problem. An example in this category is Parisa Ghanbarian’s “Elven Chora,” a psychoanalytic essay published by the Czech Republic Masaryk University Press. The fellowship tasked with destroying the evil ring comprises one Elf from the kingdom Lothlorien, two humans from Gondor, four Hobbits from The Shire, and one Istari wizard. The commentators in this category actually praise J. R. R. Tolkien for his feminine imaging of the Elven kingdoms of Rivendell and Lothlorien and call out Gondor for “phallocentric cultures” (Ghanbarian, 2023). Parisa Ghanbarian’s psychoanalysis states that the ring object, when combined with water in the Ring of Water worn by Elven Lady Galadriel, is a feminine symbol. The Elves are human-like creatures who dress in feminine style, with long and thin braided hair with Elrond the king and overall thinner body shapes in their general population, and with life longevity beyond what humans can achieve. According to Ghanbarian, “But the Elves in the novel feel no shame in having a traditionally feminine appearance. In fact, the Elves in general are described as possessing feminine attributes of beauty and grace.“ Ghanbarian asserts that “healing, ‘a feminine virtue’, is the highest form of power from Tolkien’s point of view and is the power that saves Middle-earth.“ Ghanbarian promotes landscaping and architecture with waterfall and river elements when she says

“In both Lothlorien and Rivendell, the reader receives numerous descriptions of waterfalls and rivers that are streaming in these lands. Furthermore, there are Elven characters who are highly associated with water...”

 (Ghanbarian, 2023). This kind of feminism has contemporary counterparts. In the short film “Purl,” the office space had a strictly blue and gray tone while B.R.O. Capital is a male-only workspace with about a dozen workers (Pixar, 2019). When Purl first joined the team, she initially changed herself to wear a black suit to fit in, but, over time, she transformed the office space to have pink decorations of heart-shaped stickers on clipboards and yarn-shaped pencil erasers. B.R.O. Capital office thrives organically, expanding its workforce to more than 20 people in the scene near the film’s end. In this category of commentaries, aesthetics matter, and it praises LOTR culture, both the book series and the film trilogy.

This third category of commentary in Rebecca Jennings’s essay “In The Rings of Power, It’s Not Horrifying To Be A Woman,” implies that, even if some people see misogyny in certain parts of LOTR book series in the past, the modern rendition of LOTR is not like that. In her essay, Rebecca Jennings praises the LOTR film trilogy director Peter Jackson for “greatly expand the roles of Middle Earth’s most famous women,” where the most famous women refer to the forest Elven Lady Galadriel, Elven princess Arwen, and human Eowyn. This category of commentators simply pursues equal rights and representations between female and male characters and actors to match modern American society. This category of commentators is happy that the three female characters have more actions in the film trilogy in the 2000s than in the book series written in the 1930s. Jackson’s film correctly reflects the progress of women’s legal rights in the United States, plain and simple.

This preliminary essay concludes that children’s cultural activities draw sexism scrutiny, but appropriate interpretations reveal the true intent of literary and film works. For LOTR fans, the scrutiny enriches LOTR culture, including legal, political, and psychological aspects. The scrutinies are a welcome addition to the LOTR.

Works Cited

Baron, Michael, “Lecture Notes: Toxic Masculinity.” UMassOnline, Spring, 2024. Accessed Apr 7, 2024.

Bassham, Gregory, and Eric Bronson. The Hobbit and Philosophy: For when You've Lost Your Dwarves, Your Wizard, and Your Way. Vol. 10. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Collier, Angela. “The Scourge of the Shire.” YouTube, YouTube, 30 July 2023, 

Film & Music: Whats the greatest film ever made? The Guardian (London, England). December 2, 2005. Accessed April 5, 2024.

Ghanbarian, Parisa, et al. “Elven Chora: Feminine Space and Power in Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings.” Brno Studies in English, vol. 49, no. 1, Jan. 2023, pp. 129–45. EBSCOhost,

Huehner, Mariah. “I Am No Man Doesn’t Cut It Story of Eowyn Lord of the Rings.” The Mary Sue, 28 Jan. 2015, 

Jackson, P. (Director). (2002). The lord of the rings: The fellowship of the ring [Film]. USA: New Line Cinema.

Kazmin, Amy. “Meloni, Tolkien and Italy’s Fellowship of the Ring.” Financial Times, 28 Nov. 2023, 

Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader and Guide. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018. 

Mackay, Jamie. “How Did The Lord of the Rings Become a Secret Weapon in Italy’s Culture Wars? Giorgia Meloni and the Hard Right Are Celebrating JRR Tolkien’s Saga -- While Taking over Italy’s Key Cultural Institutions; Giorgia Meloni and the Hard Right Are Celebrating JRR Tolkien’s Saga -- While Taking over Italy’s Key Cultural Institutions.” The Guardian (London, England), 3 Nov. 2023. EBSCOhost,

Mastrodonato, Luigi. “Italy’s Far-Right Leader Giorgia Meloni Loves Lord of the Rings.” Italy’s Far-Right Leader Giorgia Meloni Loves Lord of the Rings, 20 Oct. 2022, 

Pixar. “Purl | Pixar Sparkshorts.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Feb. 2019, 

“The Internet Classics Archive: The Republic by Plato.” Trans. by Benjamin Jowett, The Internet Classics Archive | The Republic by Plato, Accessed 01 Feb. 2024. 

US Official News. 2015. “Put Down That ’Lord of the Rings’! Feminist Denounces ‘Patriarchy’ and ‘Misogyny’ in Science Fiction,” August 22.

No comments:

Post a Comment