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Re: [mythsoc] bogus consensus

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  • David Bratman
    ... That s a pretty funny statement, considering that you just quoted yourself ... There you are backing up your own opinion by claiming that it s widespread
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 9, 2005
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      At 03:48 PM 3/9/2005 -0800, John Rateliff wrote:

      > First, I don't submit my critical judgments to majority vote.

      That's a pretty funny statement, considering that you just quoted yourself
      defending your own opinion in the words:

      > Finally, I think there's a consensus (everywhere except on this list)
      >that Jackson's films aren't "excretions" and they're far more than merely
      >tolerable: they're great works as well as successful adaptations.

      There you are backing up your own opinion by claiming that it's widespread
      and mine isn't.

      > Second, your statement is so oddly phrased that I really don't know what
      >it's supposed to mean. That the films are not perfect and could have been
      >better? Peter Jackson himself no doubt would agree. That I think they
      >represent the best possible film adaptation? Obviously you haven't read my
      >reviews. That they represent the best-ever adaptation of Tolkien? Wrong
      >again; the Mind's Eye Theater's performance of The Hobbit get my vote there.

      None of those things. They are, as I've been saying constantly for three
      years, much worse than they could easily have been, and unnecessarily so.

      > Most importantly, if you mean to imply that I'm the only Tolkien scholar
      >who does not share your remarkable antipathy for the films ("excretions"),

      No, I said "primary" which does not mean "only," and I said "singular"
      which refers to the strength of your defense of the films. You have
      certainly not claimed they were unflawed, but I know of no other Tolkien
      scholar whom I respect who has been as forthrightly pro-Jackson as yourself.

      >then the statement is flagrantly false, as you well know.

      Since it's not what I said, it isn't false.


      >You yourself, in
      >your TOLKIEN ON FILM essay, take Shippey to task for not being sufficiently
      >anti-Jackson.

      That is not what I took him to task for. I took him to task for making
      weak arguments. My point was that if he couldn't come up with strong
      arguments in favor of Jackson, nobody could. And I concluded that
      paragraph by noting that even he finishes despairingly with the hope that
      the film will send readers to the book.


      >Brian Sibley, whose work as an adapter of Tolkien you praise
      >in your essay, not only wrote two books in connection with the Jackson films

      which are very neutral and descriptive, as I recall. I can discuss Jackson
      neutrally and descriptively too, if I have to, and I have: just not much here.


      >Other Tolkien
      >scholars who have either praised the films or been willing to associate
      >themselves with them include Richard West, Bill Weldon, John Garth, Kristin
      >Thompson, David Salo, Colin Duriez, and Patrick Curry,

      This list includes no fewer than three people whose credentials as Tolkien
      scholars I don't take very seriously.

      It also includes one person who was willing to associate himself with the
      films until he saw them, and since then has maintained a discreet silence
      which I happen to know covers a severe disappointment. (There are things
      about the films he does like, but then there are things about the films
      that I like too.)

      The people I have talked to in the category you describe are mostly
      "resignedly acceptive." They accept the film's not going away, they
      acknowledge its good points, they hope some greater acceptance and
      understanding of Tolkien can come of it. In short, they hope to turn the
      Ring of Power to useful ends. I think they're foolish, not ignorant or evil.

      Note the entire absence from your pro-film list of such obscure and
      unimportant persons as Douglas A. Anderson, Wayne G. Hammond, Christina
      Scull, Verlyn Flieger, Carl F. Hostetter, Patrick H. Wynne, Arden R. Smith,
      Janet Brennan Croft, Jane Chance, Paula DiSante, and one Christopher
      Tolkien, none of whom is on record as praising the film any more than I
      have, some of whom dislike it much much more than I do, and many of whom
      have likewise maintained a discreet silence which I have not, because 1) I
      am much more willing to affiliate socially and intellectually with Jackson
      fans than they are, 2) I am more willing to bear the slings and arrows of
      outrageous fortune on the subject. And 3), as I said before, I actually
      enjoyed the films. What's more, this camp also includes a huge mass of
      serious Tolkien readers who are not scholars.

      >That's an extremely diverse group to dismiss
      >out of hand

      Not as diverse as the group you dismissed out of hand with your "consensus
      (everywhere except on this list)" which is flatly untrue.

      >or to target with ad hominem attacks (e.g., your equating
      >disagreement with you as "ignorance");

      What I said was a sign of ignorance was a belief that Jackson's work has
      Tolkien's greatness. I doubt that all the people on your list would say
      that. I'm not even sure you would say that. But show me a person, however
      eminent, who considers Jackson's work as great as Tolkien's as a
      myth/fantasy tale (I'm not talking about "as a pure filmmaking achievement"
      here, nor am I talking about merely chalking up numbers of
      readers/viewers), and yes, I will tell that person to his face that he is
      ignorant of where Tolkien's greatness lies.


      >for one thing, you'd have to extend
      >it to include roughly half of your fellow contributors to TOLKIEN ON FILM.

      Actually, I was surprised at how muted the praise of Jackson in the
      supposedly pro-Jackson essays in the book has been.


      > No, we don't have "ample evidence", we just have some anecdotal examples
      >of your being on a bad panel at a con, of a journalist getting a fact wrong
      >(gasp), of a freshman asking a stupid question, and the like. Same old same
      >old we've seen for twenty years (and some for forty).

      It's just started, and it's already more widespread than its predecessors.


      >Besides, in a post
      >last week you ruled out the use of any anecdotal evidence that might
      >disprove your thesis, so it's only fair that you accept a similar
      >restriction against using selective anecdotes as evidence for that thesis.

      Sorry, I can't find where I said any such thing. But if I did, I'm sure it
      was to say that no number of anecdotes that something does not exist can
      disprove its existence. But it only takes a few anecdotes that something
      does exist to prove that it does. The situations are not commutative.

      > You yourself said people couldn't understand the different between a book
      >with "Brian Herbert" on the cover and one that said "Frank Herbert".

      I said no such thing, so there's no point in discussing your
      disingenuousness any further.


      >> We've already been over the "harm of the original work" question, and amply
      >> proven that it does harm readerly understanding of the original work
      >>
      > No, we've had no proof of that point. Repeated assertions of strongly
      >held opinions is not "proof".

      Yes, we have. That's what all those anecdotes prove. It's argument not by
      assertion, but by example.


      >(unless you consider all the essays in
      >TOLKIEN ON FILM to be "Jackson scholarship", in which case you're now a
      >leading Jackson scholar).

      Yes they are, and yes I am. I deeply regret that I was forced into the
      position where I had to become one.


      >I don't think that generation, looking at the web-sites
      >set up in the last few years by people who discovered Tolkien's works
      >because they'd seen and liked the films and wanted to know more, can
      >altogether appreciate that the same phenomenon is at work and is likely to
      >lead, eventually, to similar results.

      I agree that some people will be led to the book from the film - people
      have been led to Tolkien from Bakshi, yea even from Rankin-Bass - and I've
      been saying that all along. I've also been saying that the MythSoc should
      welcome such people. What I fear is that many of them will inadvertently
      bring the film along with them. I haven't seen Henry Gee's book, but if it
      claims to be about Tolkien I shall examine it closely for traces of being
      inadvertently about Jackson instead.

      David Bratman
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