>At 05:06 PM 9/3/2007 -0700, John D Rateliff wrote:
>On Sep 3, 2007, at 8:03 AM, David Bratman wrote:
>> Jackson's distinctive sin wasn't that he made some films. His
>> distinctive sin is that his films were BAD, and could have been
>This argument fails, since the films are GOOD at the bare minimum,
>SUPERB at their best.
Even you don't really think that. I've read your reviews of the films, and
your criticisms of films 2 & 3 are far stronger than compatible with such a
But now I see why you were so anxious to pass off the idea that Jackson
critics are a small anomalous minority of Tolkien fans. The fact that
strong criticism of Jackson is widespread in Tolkien circles, far beyond
this list and other odd corners; the fact that you are, with all your
critiques, by far the most pro-Jackson of all Tolkien scholars of the first
rank, and one of the very few such to be more favorable than un-; the fact
that five out of six of the greatest living Tolkien scholars object to the
films far more strongly than I do; these put the lie to your claim that the
films are unambiguously good.
>> The badness of his films is not what brought readers to the books.
>Irrelevant, since the films are GOOD, not bad. Hence one must
>conclude that their excellence is what inspires viewers to become
I believe that what brings the readers is the goodness of Tolkien that
Jackson cannot entirely erase, despite his strenuous efforts to do so.
That's the "felix peccatum" that Mike Foster was looking for: it's like
Saruman inadvertently bringing the hobbits to Fangorn.
>> Better films would have brought more readers
>I'm unaware of any proof for that. I can't even think of any way TO
Absolute proof, no, but it's a very easy logical hypothesis to support. As
I wrote to Mike, was not Bakshi's film worse than Jackson's? Did it not
bring in fewer readers? Did you not just argue that the excellence of
Jackson's film brought readers to the book? Why wouldn't greater
excellence have brought even more readers?
>> I am quite certain that, had I never read LOTR,
>That, of course, would have been a great loss. But surely the same
>thing happened to millions over the years who were put off by the
>Remington, or Hildebrandt, or Sweet covers and calendars and posters,
>the "Frodo Lives" buttons, Led Zeppelin songs, and all the rest?
Yes, it surely did. And so has ignorant criticism of Tolkien, from the
Edmund Wilsons and Catharine Stimpsons of the world. Isn't that the whole
reason that we Tolkienists have complained and warned against bad
interpretations and discussions of Tolkien, and praised good ones? It's
because the bad ones do harm, according to the limits of their power, to
Tolkien's image among non-readers, and among readers who know little else
of him, and the good ones are beneficial.
I've written dozens of reviews of scholarly works studying, and artistic
works inspired by, Tolkien over the years. Why would I bother developing
this expertise, and take the time to write all these reviews, if I didn't
think I could help spread a better understanding of Tolkien's work among my
>to mention the problem of deciding what books you're going to read by
>whether or not you liked the movies based upon them, and not reading
>a book if the movie didn't appeal to you, is a strange way to compile
>a to-read list;
This is totally disingenuous.
As your own phrasing acknowledges, if it's strange to decide not to read
the book because you didn't like the movie, it's equally strange to decide
_to_ read the book because you _did_ like the movie. Yet above you write
that the films' "excellence is what inspires viewers to become readers."
Now you call that "a strange way to compile a to-read list."
Here's the thing about _any_ decision to read, or not read, a book you've
not yet read: it has to be made on the basis of something other than
reading the book, because once you've read the book, you've already made
the decision. And time is not infinite, nor tastes universally broad: you
have to make your choices on the basis of _something_.
This is it, as bluntly as possible: Had I never read Tolkien's LOTR, but I
had seen one or more of Jackson's films, and if I then read an accredited
Tolkien expert, like John D. Rateliff, Ph.D., author of _The History of The
Hobbit_, write that "these films are good at their bare minimum, superb at
their best," my reaction would have been that Tolkien would not be for me.
Had that happened, it would have been tragic, at least for me. And it is
happening right now, and we will never know, because these people will
never read Tolkien. Whereas they might have read him had they not been
misled by Jackson as to the nature of Tolkien's work. Only continued and
vehement warnings that the spirit of Jackson (whether praiseworthy in
itself or not) is unlike the spirit of Tolkien will prevent this. That is
one of my responsibilities to the younger generation: to keep people like
me from being driven away from Tolkien by Jackson. Or by the wretched
Tolclone novels. This responsibility didn't begin with Jackson: it began
with Terry Brooks in 1977, and I'd already been at it for over twenty years
before I ever heard of Peter Jackson.
>It's thus disingenuous, and a
>misuse of the analogy, to focus both on the so-called sinfulness of
>the original act (Jackson's temerity in making the movie) AND claim
>that the end result wasn't desirable or caused by the act anyway.
I'm not exactly sure what you mean here, but I don't believe I'm making
either half of this argument. I have repeatedly told Mike Foster that the
sin I'm discussing here is not the making of the films, but the making of
bad films (or, if you refuse to accept that adjective, of films that could
easily have been far less flawed). If the second half means that "it's bad
that readers have come to Tolkien through Jackson" or that "no readers are
coming to Tolkien through Jackson," I'm certainly not saying that either.
>Jackson's films, being superb works of art, don't need the excuse
>that "out of this evil, at least some good came". They're self-
>evidently a positive good in themselves.
I want to see you stand up in front of your Tolkienist peers, and you know
exactly which ones I'm thinking of, and utter this complete nonsense to
them. They're not even great films on their own merits, divorced from
judging them as Tolkien adaptations. In that capacity they're merely
pretty good, but nowhere in the category of "superb works of art" as films
go. What is superb is Jackson's technical and administrative achievement
in large-scale film-making, which is unprecedented on its scale, but that's
not the same thing.
>Although on the whole I think the latest round of posts provides
>yet more evidence for my theory that discussion of this topic on this
>list is an essentially pointless exercise.
If you think this discussion is pointless, why are you participating in it?