Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tuesday was ...

It was the 150th anniversary of Sibelius's birth.

It was the 35th anniversary of Lennon's death.

It was a day I spent much of in the dentist's chair, having a crown prepared.

It was also a day I discovered that someone has read my criticism of Colbert's mischaracterization of Smeagol as hinting that he is Not A Real Tolkien Fan.

How could anyone who knows me even slightly misread me so badly? I have not the slightest interest in handing out inalienable certificates of trufannishness. (If I were, wouldn't calling Colbert "quite the Tolkien trivia master" qualify as an endorsement?) I am interested in one thing and one thing only when I judge statements in this category: are they true or not? (I'm not discussing here evaluations whose truth value is indeterminate or irrelevant; but ones like these. Either Smeagol was demonically possessed by the Ring and turned into an entirely different persona, or else Gollum was a development and degradation of Smeagol's own baser instincts under the growing influence of the Ring, one or the other. They're too different to be both true.)

If what you say is false, I will criticize it. If what you say on some other topic the next day is true, I will praise it. I don't hand out certificates of True Tolkienist or False Tolkienist that hold no matter what you say. I've criticized John Rateliff, Verlyn Flieger, even Tom Shippey when I thought they got things wrong, and their credentials are all better than mine. They're also great scholars who are almost always right. But they're imperfect, and they got something wrong. So have I, on occasion. So has Colbert, on this occasion.

I made the same point in another context here.

Someone else said that I scorn anyone who likes the Jackson movies. Not so. I've said this many times before, but apparently I have to say it again. It doesn't bother me at all if someone likes the movies, even though I don't. What bothers me is when they confuse or conflate the movies with Tolkien. I'm death on that - especially when a movie-only reading appears in a scholarly paper that's supposed to be just about Tolkien - but it should bother the real Jackson fans even more than it bothers me. For what is it that the Jackson fans always say to defend the movies from complaints that they distort the book? "Movies are different from books." That raises a whole host of questions it's intended to dismiss, but if we take it at face value, then fine: if the movie is different from the book, then don't confuse or conflate them with each other. See? Easy!

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