Sunday, July 21, 2013

one more Mythcon anecdote

I forgot to mention this one earlier, but I find it telling.

One of the great advantages of Mythcon as a forum for conversation is that we all eat meals in the cafeteria together, and much cross-pollination can occur depending on who happens to sit at which table.

I was seated one lunch with a party including M., a long-time Mythsoc stalwart who only occasionally gets to Mythcon these days, and a Tolkien fan but not a scholar, who asked a question relating to Peter Jackson's interpretation of Tolkien in the Hobbit movie. And M. prefaced it by apologizing to me for bringing it up; I might want to avert my ears, as a well-known Jackson-hater am I.

The thing is, the other people at the table that M. was primarily addressing the question to were a pair of Tolkien scholars as distinguished and renowned as they come. And they winced at the prospect of discussing Jackson's interpretation of Tolkien.

So I had to interject: "M.," I said, "you have to realize that I'm the moderate end of Jackson-dislike among Tolkien scholars, because I'm willing to talk about it." Many more prefer not to, they find the whole subject so distressing, and that includes most of the top names in the field.

A survey would be muddled now, first as there is now a large cadre of people sometimes counted as Tolkien scholars who, though knowledgeable enough about the books, are really more pop-culture scholars of Tolkien fandom, and most of them like the movies; and second, there are also now many major scholars whom I don't know personally, and I don't know their attitude towards the movies. But of the major Tolkien scholars I do know, only one is on public record as liking the movies with fewer reservations than appreciations, and I once toted up a list of the six most distinguished Tolkien scholars in existence (though it might need to be expanded now), all of whose views on the movies I do know, and only one of them, Tom Shippey, has a good word to say about the movies at all, and that's mostly a forlorn hope that it will lead readers to the book. The other five, including the two at that table, dislike the movies a lot more than I do.

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