Following is a cross-post from my personal journal, something I wrote today about some of my problems with the Lord of the Rings movie fandom, after listening to a few too many Frodo/Sam jokes over the weekend:
I've figured out why I hate all the merchandising and fan fiction and all that business that's come along with the Lord of the Rings movies. I hate it because it makes the story something it was never meant to be. My friends make jokes about it, apparently they think I have no sense of humour about it. I do enjoy some of the parodies, but jokes about the nature of Frodo and Sam's relationship I am very tired of.
I'm not complaining about the movies. I love the movies, despite all the changes they've made and the liberties they've taken with the original work. They at least stay true, for the most part, to the spirit of the work (there are exceptions... Gimli as comic relief springs immediately to mind). And I know that the movies get people interested in the books. I have encountered numerous people who have said that they went and read the entire thing after seeing the first movie, and I think that's great that more people are getting into it, because it's really a remarkable piece of literature, on many levels.
Peter Jackson did an amazing job intepreting Tolkien's work for the screen. The actors became their characters, and I have no complaints about them whatsoever. All the locations were perfect... Edoras and the Shire were exactly as I had pictured them. Howard Shore's beautiful music fit the movie as well as the book. I was very pleased that they were able to use Tolkien's languages. They got a few things wrong, but what they got right was perfect.
The things that annoy me are the incredibly inappropriate fan fiction stories, the fangirls who only like the movies because Orlando Bloom is the love of their life for the next ten minutes (these are the same girls who refer to Arwen as a fairy... one did this in my presence and because it was Thanksgiving I behaved and did not say anything), and the seemingly endless merchandising. I've seen Lord of the Rings valentines, an Argonath snow globe, and a Witch King of Angmar candle holder as some of the more ridiculous items. I have people who know of my obsession with Middle-Earth ask me if I've seen the T-shirts or the newest action figures, expecting me to be interested in such things. They ask me when the next Harry Potter book is coming out, having apparently confused that with Lord of the Rings, which is a thing I don't understand.
Legolas shouldn't be on a T-shirt. Treebeard action figures should not exist. In a way, I feel sorry for people who are discovering Tolkien now. It's so much more than special-edition DVDs or behind-the-scenes books (both of which I am actually very ok with). It's about reading the books with your own imagination, and seeing in your mind's eye Galadriel, the Lady of Light, the majesty of Edoras, the hopelessness of Mordor. It's about knowing a world that is subject to your own vision and interpretation, something beautiful to be treasured, not a movie rife with merchandising dollars just waiting to be made. People are taking Peter Jackson's amazing vision of Lord of the Rings and turning it into something that it never was and never should have been. What these people have created has nothing to do with Tolkien's Middle Earth.
I still have the books, though, and I can still go back and see it the way it was meant to be - full of wonder and unexplained vistas. I can travel to Rivendell with Strider and the hobbits and listen to the songs in the Hall of Fire. I can witness for myself the sorrow and beauty of Tolkien's elves. I can be touched by the kindness of Faramir, and I can weep with Sam as he reluctantly makes his Choice. I can admire the hobbits' bravery as they return and reclaim their Shire, and with Merry and Pippin and Sam, I can return silently home again after the ring bearers have gone West over sea. This is still my story, and no one can take it from me.