It has been announced over at Entertainment Weekly that Peter Jackson is introducing a new character. Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly of Lost, is the captain of the Elven Guards. Additionally, she is a Sylvan Elf, which means she is an elf of a lower status than Legolas, Elrond, Galadriel, etc.
Here’s my beef: if the explanation of Tauriel’s character had stopped where I ended it in the first paragraph, I would have (possibly) found a place in my purist heart for the lady. But no, the explanation continued, stating that she would be some sort of possible dwarf love interest. This is where I get angry. Saika put it thusly:
There’s nothing that says a strong female character can’t have romance but narratively it fucks with the canon.
When Saika said this, she was referring to the theory that her relationship might be with a dwarf, specifically with Kili. What she strongly disliked was that this undermined the novel-ness of the Legolas-Gimli relationship.
And that’s the heart of the issue. Although I’m going to disagree slightly with Saika on the first half of her statement.
There’s this idea (which has probably been pointed out in many places on this blog) that it’s okay for the male character to be single, but if there’s a lady she’s got to be hardcore crushing on some man. Or some man has to be hardcore crushing on her. They can’t just be friends; sex always comes into the equation in one form of another. What I would want for a female character in The Hobbit is for her to have a relationship with the men much like Joan Watson has with Sherlock in Elementary. The fact that Joan is a woman is hardly ever discussed because it’s a moot point: Sherlock doesn’t care and nobody else does either on a sexual level (they do acknowledge she’s a woman, but no one wants in her pants). That’s the kind of philosophy I feel a new Tolkien-universe female would need. By making her a love interest, that is taken away. Her pants become an issue.
Tauriel needs to be strong character in her own right. If she is written the right way, she can have a strong character, be kickass, and fall in love. A woman should be able to have it all. But most times the writing falls short. And even though we are dealing with the walking-Tolkien-encyclopedia Peter Jackson, I don’t know what he brings to the table exactly when creating his own characters. He did give Arwen that one scene in Fellowship of the Ring where she rides a horse like a boss, but I found the power of that scene over-ridden in the following movies by her portrayal with Aragorn, where she frequently (in my eyes) comes across as weaker.
Then there’s the timey-wimey messing with canon. Clearly Tauriel isn’t in the Lord of the Rings movies. So what happened to her? And not just her, but if she is supposed to have a relationship with some dwarf, how is the other man affected? If she’s with one of the dwarves of the party, we know he will be dead. But if that isn’t the case, what does that mean? Will the introduction of her character interrupt someone else’s time-stream (for lack of a better phrase) so that he wouldn’t necessarily have done the same things he did in the later movies? I guess Jackson can create Tauriel so that she doesn’t prevent characters from dying who are supposed to be dead in the end. But we’re potentially getting into Moffat-levels of tricky canon-rearranging over here, depending on who’s the love interest. And I’m not a fan.
Another point relates to the fact that I’m a purist. If you haven’t figured that out from some of my other posts and the fact that I’ve never written a Fanfiction Friday, now you know. So the idea that Jackson wanted to add an additional, completely new character to the story ticks me off. This is a movie, not your cousin’s fanfiction. But the addition of a (seemingly) kickass lady not only adds another character, but it violates the societal norms established by Tolkien. You know how in many historical fiction novels there are a lot of men on the battlefield and the women make babies? While it’s politically incorrect now, it was correct for the times. And while this isn’t historical fiction, the universe Tolkien created (unfortunately) follows many of the same rules. That same old-world concept is true in the Tolkien universe. And while Eowyn broke that norm in LotR, you can’t just go breaking societal norms willy-nilly.
There’s a small chance that Tauriel will be a badass, strongly-written character without norm-shattering or screwing around with canon. And I’m not going to hold out hope that it’s going to happen—I’m prepared for the worst.