Open Reply to Tim Stanley re: New Zealand opening of “The Hobbit”

(ref article:

Given your purported educational background, I must admit that I am perplexed by your apparent inability to understand the recent fervor and enthusiasm that greeted the opening of the latest Tolkien classic rendered to film.

I will assume for the moment that the bleach from your carefully frosted tips is the culprit; unless of course, you happened to have inadvertently pulled your drawers tighter than expected the morning you decided to write this pitiful expression of selectively blind culturalism.

Could it be that your exposure to history is inferior to that which most Ph.D.s experience? Did you drop or fail literature? Have you been in a coma for the last fifty years (or longer)?

Could your pronounced generalizations, stereotypes, and inanity of your recent column possibly be attributed to a headache, a bad day, a hangover, or any number of face-saving excuses?

Anything that might serve as means by which to save face before the reality that you seem to have eagerly launched your polemic without any comprehension that it speaks far more pointedly to your own arrogance, ignorance, and intellectual myopia than any relevant or salient aspect of your apparent targets?

Allow me to educate you, as you seem to be lacking knowledge on the matter:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a Don of Oxford University, a master philologist, a professor of language and Anglo-Saxon, a linguistic and literary giant, and is generally agreed by all to have fathered both the return of the high epic as well as the launch of fantasy as a genre in western literature.

For this alone, one might expect those who find the genre fulfilling or who have an appreciation of the sheer amount and level of genius required to mange this be granted, at minimum, the respect of recognizing skill, mastery, and technique.

Beyond this, the works of Tolkien appeared and were popularized both across mainstream and “sub cultural” channels over decades; children grew up and introduced the works to their children, and their children did the same; that pattern continues, in part, with thanks to people like Peter Jackson and all the folk from manifold disciplines who have worked extraordinarily hard to bring these stories to the screen.

  • Perhaps you do not understand that it was commonly thought the books were impossible TO bring to the screen?
  • Perhaps you do not know that generations have passed hoping such a feat could be managed?
  • Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the genuine admiration and respect accorded to Tolkien himself and to all who have invested time, money, and their professional reputations to even attempt it?

How or why this might cause you such disdain is not understood here; the works are literary masterpieces, linguistic marvels, examples of a form that most today would be hard pressed to manage in ANY genre. They are replete with song, poetry, and thematic that are as timeless as the imagination in humanity; their enduring popularity, if anything, demonstrates the simple reality that this is so.

Rather than broaden your horizons to grasp these quintessentially rudimentary elements, it seems you prefer to take issue with the methods and manners in which some enjoy celebrating their engagement and delight with the works. Or to denigrate the activities and outcomes of people who, seeing an opportunity to do the impossible, actually did it – four-fold and eventually, seven times over.

Indeed, it seems you would very much like to assert that all who arrived to celebrate this happening are mindless idiots who either live unfulfilled, solitary, and utterly market-controlled lives.

I suppose that the notion of ever getting “caught up” in an event, indulging in masquerade to immerse yourself, or otherwise engaging in the act of living fully and without fear in the expression of one’s enjoyment is distasteful and/or meaningless to you?

Should it be inferred that you never dress up, for any reason? Or that such occurrence is not in manner and spirit of the event? Would you be the father or husband who demands silence at the dinner table, or that conversation be kept carefully on topics in which you find value (such as Pat Buchanan, I presume)?  Should one assume your inability to understand enthusiasm, to appreciate the enjoyments of masquerade, and to so willfully misconstrue jubilation means that the lights must be off and the position must be missionary for any indulgence of raw humanity in your household?

It is amusing, I admit, that a pimp of pulp writing and political pedagogy such as yourself can manage the hypocrisy of attempting to berate the celebrants of this event, or even Hollywood. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear the distinct tone of “sour grapes” flavors your piece; did you, perhaps, get overlooked for invitation? Is your curious fit of disdain and rancidness some warped expression of professional jealousy? Do you dream of hooking an audience on multiple sequels of your works? Is that tantalizing follow-up to Buchanan in rough draft even as I type?

Of course, most of this wondering is entirely aside from the point. To wit, that you seem incapable or unwilling to grant that those who enjoy this event, those who have made it possible, are engaging in activities that are universally lauded: Imagination and play.

Instead, you, with such tired, over-parroted stereotypes, choose to attempt the perpetuation as if chanting that mantra of cultural bias means anything more than you are abjectly biased. Tim, you did not write this column, you regurgitated it.

Allow me to refer you instead to several, salient facts that you seem to be lacking:

1. Imagination and play are and remain one of the most effective ways to enjoy a contented, happy life.
2. Humans engage in diverse and ever-expanding behaviors to enjoy their imaginations and to play.
3. This pattern of change is evident throughout humanity’s history (a fact that you, supposedly, should know).

(Aside: Please do let me know if you require academic citations for the above facts. I would be happy to feed them to you as slowly as you require for absorption. Though, candidly, I’m not sure how long I could manage not to forcefully shove them down your asinine, hypocritical, self-aggrandizing throat.)

You say that, “I’m interested not in what I think motivates a subject but what they think motivates them.”

Yet you managed not only to avoid speaking with a single person actually involved with the event, you took it upon yourself to say quite precisely just what “you think motivates them” in favor of finding out “what they think motivates them”.

You say that, “I like people who exist on the margins of politics and society – ideologues, mad hatters, prophets, and philosophers.”

Yet this particular instance finds you very clearly expressing precisely the opposite, using the most trite, over-used, and long-since debunked stereotypes available.

You say that, “I try to use their stories to draw a social history of politics.”

To be fair, you definitely have attempted to do so with this, albeit more a revisionist history shaped to your apparent preferential biases and pandering to your angst than to reflect it accurately or accord the appropriate credit, honor, and skill to the cinema makers or those who are giddily thankful for their efforts.

Of course, the kernel of revelation is found when you admit:

“I can’t stand the Tolkien movies. To me they are plodding and dull – largely centred on a handful of hairy dwarves on some inane quest to take something to somewhere else that will make something terribly important happen involving an old man with a beard who played Dracula in the Hammer Horror films. The dialogue is pretentious and often consists of lists that matter only to the initiated (“You must visit the Tree People of Thrag who will take you to the Well of Umdingo, which leads to the underground kingdom of the Trolls of Handbag Mountain” etc).”

Seemingly confusing books with movies (frankly, I do not think you ever actually read the books and I’d be surprised if you have seen the movies beyond their trailers) but, far more interestingly, the appearance of both typos and the sardonic; yes, we get it, Tim, you’re far more interested in perpetuating the culture wars and enforcing your preferred cultural boundaries than finding the story.

Good to know; as this was my first (and now last) investment in reading you. You see, you’re about twenty years behind the times, still trying to proclaim they cannot, do not, and should not change, and, while you’re occupying yourself with this, I and others like me are just going to merrily get on with doing what we do, enjoying what we enjoy, and pretty much not caring about your under-developed and over-written opinion.

Though, out of pity (and as you seem to have missed the memo), a small hint for you: Being a “geek” or a “fantasy nerd” or any other term is not only mainstream and culturally/socially acceptable now, the tables have actually turned. The geeks own this world, buddy. You must have missed it. Maybe you were busy in your basement?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *