Sunday, January 25, 2015


I have never considered myself a particularly brave person.  I prefer avoiding conflict if I can.  There are people in this world of whom I am genuinely afraid.  And I do not consider myself to be an expert on how to deal with such fear.  So I would like to list a few people whose works and lives I admire, and whom I see as people who were or are truly- brave.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: "The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls."

Mahatma Gandhi: "Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:

- I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
- I shall fear only God.
- I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
- I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
- I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering."

Winston Churchill: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."

J.R.R. Tolkien: "Courage is found in unlikely places."

Martin Luther King Jr.: "Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles;
Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency ask the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular?

But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right."

J.K. Rowling: "'Harry - you're a great wizard, you know.'
'I'm not as good as you,' said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.
'Me!' said Hermione. 'Books! And cleverness! There are more important things - friendship and bravery and - oh Harry - be careful!'"

Christopher Paolini: "Without fear there cannot be courage."

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the drivers of the suffrage movement, and was instrumental in getting women the right to vote.
Mahatma Gandhi protested peacefully for the independence of Indians in British-ruled India.
Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of England during World War II. 
J.R.R. Tolkien fought in World War I and wrote several books that possessed at their core, truths about courage and honor, and doing good despite fear.
Martin Luther King Jr. struggled for civil rights for all people, armed with the dream that people should be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Christopher Paolini graduated from high school when he was fifteen, wrote his first book shortly after that, and was on the New York Times bestseller list when he was nineteen.
J.K. Rowling gave the world Harry Potter, and taught the world that no matter one's circumstances, one can always do what is right.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Hobbit Movies- My Review

I love The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I have since I was little.  I also love his trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.  I adored and drank in Peter Jackson's rendering of The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, and as I mentioned before on this blog, I looked forward to seeing The Hobbit translated onto the movie screen.  The following is my feeling on The Hobbit movies, now that the third movie is complete, and I've had a few weeks to think about my impression of the three movies.  Of course, I understand that the extended edition of the third movie is not out yet, and I am curious as to what it will have.
My essay on The Hobbit Movies:
When I first heard of her, I admit I was very wary of Tauriel’s inclusion in The Hobbit movies.  She isn’t a canon character, first and foremost, and what her inclusion meant, I didn’t know, which made me very nervous.  Additionally, her character came across as a little too perfect, and too constructed.  She’s only around 600, very young for an elf, and roughly the equivalent of about 20 in our years, yet she was the captain of the guard.  And that didn’t seem realistic, or natural. 

However, truth be known, had she simply been there as a balance to the male-heavy story, she wouldn’t have hurt anything.  In fact, Tauriel could have been a good non-canon female character; a strong, brave character to give females, including myself, someone to look up to, and root for. 

Instead, despite her potential, she immediately became defined by males around her by becoming a romantic interest in a very rushed cross-species relationship.  (Elves and humans are the first and second born of Ilúvatar; together they are able to produce fully viable offspring, and thus, are clearly the same species, or at least closely related.  Dwarves were fashioned by Aulë, and Tolkien never once endorsed the idea that dwarves and elves could be sexually compatible.)  Additionally, it began with a very disrespectful comment from the dwarf half of the relationship when he asked her to look down his pants.  Oddly, this seemed to be entirely negated by a short conversation about a rock Kili’s mom gave him, and how pretty the stars were.  With this, impressionable girls who could have learned a lot of powerful, positive ideas from Tauriel, instead get the false, and dangerous impressions that one- romance doesn't have to take time as long as you simply find the other person attractive, and two- if a man says suggestive, crude things to you, it must mean he really likes you.  (It wasn’t a terribly helpful message for boys, either.) 

In reality, real love always takes time, and it is always accompanied by regard and respect.   Without the time to truly get to know who someone really is, and without respect, it isn’t real.  Ever.  Certainly one can be attracted immediately to someone he or she doesn't know, and certainly a person can feel compassion for someone one doesn't know, but the ability to know someone soul deep enough to feel honest, real romantic love for that person takes time and is always accompanied by respect.  The idea that real love can be rushed was a very negative and destructive idea to give girls, along with the idea that all a woman is good for, is to be someone's romantic interest, since Tauriel becomes so immediately with her introduction into the story and is defined that way all through the story. 

Additionally, the dwarf on elf romance was not plausible or natural any more than a human on gorilla romance would be.  Different species as far apart as dwarves and elves simply would not be attracted to each other in real life, and the forced relationship between dwarf and elf made it obvious that those events were being choreographed by a force external to the characters rather than it being something that would have naturally occurred if the characters were real people. 

When one part of a story shows itself to be forced, it creates a cascade effect, and makes the entire story implausible.  If, for example, the way Tauriel interacts with her environment and with others shows itself to be a construct of the movie director’s choices rather than being something the characters would do on their own if they were real people, then that in turn, means that Bilbo and Thorin, Galadriel and Beorn, Gandalf and Legolas, and everything and everyone else in this universe is false and forced as well, no matter how well they act in their parts.  (And there was some great acting in the Hobbit movies.) 

All fiction is, of course, fiction.  It isn’t real.  But the storymakers of fiction have the obligation to create and sustain the illusion of reality.  If they are successful in doing that, then their audience is able to suspend its disbelief.  When they create relationships and situations that are not natural and organic, as with the situation with Tauriel and Kili, the illusion of reality is destroyed.

Tauriel could easily have been a great addition to the movies, giving girls a strong heroine to look up to, and emulate even though she isn’t canon.  She could have been a character who added to and complemented the story, helping from her position as a supporting character, to move the story of Bilbo along.  But that did not happen.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Conveying Romance Plausibly In A Story

How does a reader know when a character in a story is truly in love? Is it when the character notices the attractiveness of someone of the opposite sex, and gets all flitterpated? When it comes to romantic love, that's certainly a part of it. A big part of it. You can't have real romantic love without physical attraction going equally both ways. But attraction isn't the only part. If physical attraction is the only thing in a relationship, then the relationship is pretty shallow and petty, and is never going to go anywhere meaningful.

I think the biggest thing about love, any kind, really, is that one respects herself or himself first of all. You cannot love someone else unless you respect yourself first, and that is an unfixable part of the way the world works.  And along with that, you cannot love some whom you do not respect.

Also, real romantic love takes time.  I have a hard time believing stories where the characters have not known each other for long, but the creators of the story, whether it’s a book or movie, or what have you, seem to want the audience to believe that these characters truly and deeply love each other in a romantic way after having known each other for only a few days. In real life, people aren't really like that.  You can be attracted to someone immediately, or you can feel compassion for someone you barely know, but real, deep abiding love requires that you truly know someone.  And you cannot do that in just a few minutes, or even a few days. 

Additionally, in order to be capable of true and honest love, a person must first be honest and honorable. Not perfect, but making a sincere attempt to do good. Realistically, people do not permanently and sincerely change themselves, simply because someone else is attractive enough, or exciting enough.  If you can't change your life around for your own sake, you can't change it around for someone else's.

Another thing that shows true love between characters in romantic relationships, is that neither the man nor the woman is interested in the other for selfish reasons. They are not needy or clingy, but truly value the other person. Neediness is not love. 

To add to that, two people involved in a healthy romantic relationship have lives that are not completely tied up in each other. Constantly having to be around someone else isn't a sign of true love, but actually a sign of serious and unhealthy neediness. A good indicator of a healthy relationship, interestingly, is that the two people do not need to be around each other twenty-four hours a day. They enjoy their time together when they are, of course, but they have interests and projects that they enjoy on their own. They may miss each other when they are apart, but they are able to endure the time apart without becoming depressed and useless, because they are both well-adjusted people, capable of sincerely loving others.

Believable romances are tense with sexual attraction, and are also very full and rich, and healthy relationships between two people who genuinely value each other; people who are not only attracted to each other physically, but also are very, very good friends who know and accept each other, and who will be there for each other through everything that comes at them, and will still be in love even when they are old and not so physically attractive as they are when the story takes place.