Stupid Sexy Smeagol

15 Jun

I pitched this topic for Keycon and got zero interest in talking about it, so I’ll talk about it here.

There’s a lot going on about Amazon’s Middle Earth series in development, and I wanted to talk about adaptation of media and author intent, mostly by weighing in on the smut factor, or why some of us are upset that there’s an intimacy coordinator. I’ll eventually weigh in on fandom and promoting diversity, but this got long enough with just the sexy.

My relationship with smut is complicated.

On the one hand, I believe in freedom of speech and expression.  I think in order to criticize something, you need to be able to be free to talk about it.

On the other, I see a culture that talks a lot about sexual freedom and not about exploitation and sex addiction.

We don’t talk about sex addiction because I think it strikes different people in different ways; and I’ve studied anatomy for both art and healthcare related purposes, sometimes I forget how normies react to not only nudity, but trauma and things that are generally upsetting. I could go on about how desensitized I’ve become, but I noticed it even back in High School that some people reacted strongly to essentially body building magazines and classical art. One of my favourite animated films, Fire and Ice, is basically a study in anatomy in motion – rotoscoping, I highly recommend the film for artistic purposes.

My attitude is to be honest about what you’re trying to make. If you want to make adult material, make adult material. It’s not like there isn’t a need or a demand for it. No one complained about the sex scenes in Game of Thrones when they were warranted (and mercilessly ridiculed when they were not). In fact, there’s plenty in the history of fantasy that is thinly veiled fetishism. Sticking to material that is older than my father:

Conan, not going to call him The Original, but certainly a well known marauder and ravisher.

The characters in Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian series are naked except for jewellery.
Conan C

And there is so much bondage in the average Wonder Woman comic, I’m certain other people can step in and do a better job than me.

Thing is, I grew up reading about John Carter and Conan and think Frank Frazetta is an amazing artist to which I should aspire. I’m not saying any of this shouldn’t exist.

I’m saying making the sexy adventures of beautiful elves and humans and maybe the odd sexy dwarf smashing isn’t the purpose of Tolkien’s work. Tolkien was a staunch Catholic and while we could argue that story lines concerning Beren and Luthien and Turin and Neinor were suggestions of Classical Romancism (and in the latter’s case, tragedy), the point wasn’t voyeurism and the epitome of love was seldom eros. There’s plenty of works that aren’t as… let’s just say in depth as Tolkien. Let us nerds who like more complicated ideas have our variation of fun.

Most people generally adore the Peter Jackson trilogy, and I’m not a purist, so there’s talk about whether or not Tolkien or his estate would have liked the films. I had a prof in University bash the films, stating that they were altered for a modern audience and not true to the work. If I’m okay with that adaptation, what’s a little more alteration?

I get that there’s never going to be 100% faithful adaptation, because usually if the author intended for a specific actor, odd are even if everything goes super quickly to publication and then adaptation, the actor the writer envisioned will likely age out of that role. To be fair, some adaptation makes sense for the medium. I’m currently watching The Expanse. I’m less than half into the second book, and the first season introduced and regularly featured the character of Chrisjen Avasarala who I don’t think I’ve met in the books yet. There’s quite a few let’s just say… interesting choices that aren’t 100% faithful to the books, but make sense given that it’s a series of 40ish minute episodes, the story lines will be changed so that you have proper arcs within the show, so that we don’t have ‘the boring episode everyone skips’ or what have you – also I love it when actors take a character and make them their own. We saw that in TLotR films, where in the second movie we cycled through the story line to story line as opposed to keeping it like the book where we followed Aragorn and co. In the first half, then the second half was The Taming of Smeagol. I can only speak for my own experience, but I’ve found certain story telling techniques work better in visual form as opposed to written word and vice versa – and it’s learning to use them to their strengths (as well as artist strength) that is important. I think a director or whatever can be faithful to the spirit of the story and still make it their own interpretation of said story. At a certain point, the adaptation becomes its own thing, and isn’t a proper reflection of the work. And I’m saying this as someone who grew up with countless retellings of A Christmas Carol and not caring one iota.

I’m starting to think all that classic music I learned listening to these old cartoons was because it was in the public domain…

Do I expect future installments to stay stagnant? Yes and no – when a series becomes something it never was supposed to be, I notice, but stories are funny because they do change over time; even if we have them written down and have the original, you see authors taking ideas from Tolkien and running with them – I’m reading The Witcher series, the cast of elves, dwarves, gnomes is likely a reflection of Tolkien’s established universe. Warcraft has similar features. I could list the stories and games that are either subtle nods or more than borrow from him for pages and still miss something. Until we get to specific tales such as Gawain and the Green Knight, stories like Robin Hood and King Arthur have no definitive canon although there’s elements that most would agree upon, even though there’s reason to believe that characters such as Lancelot and Maid Marion were added centuries after the stories are already popular. It’s not a game of telephone; oratures and oral history have a tradition and can be taken very seriously, but occasionally people add into the story and it’s added to the canon. This happened to Harley Quinn to the DC universe, but we have Tolkien’s notes and letters. We know his intent. Basically what I’m saying, is can we not pick one of the many, many other inspired stories to interpret if we want smut? Because calling something Middle Earth and pretending it was always like that isn’t really fooling anyone.

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