OK--here's a quiz for you.
Which of the following doesn't belong with the others?
a) a Coors commercial featuring lots of shrieking electric guitars, extreme skateboarding, and blonde bikini-clad coeds
b) haulin' a load with a tough Ram-built Dodge truck, then relaxing with your buddies by dressing in camouflage, sticking a shotgun out of a blind, and bagging a couple of whitetails!
c) a series of novels published in the 1950s, written by an Oxford professor of philology (himself acclaimed as a world authority on linguistics, Norse mythology, etc.), that in many circles is regarded as the crowning literary achievement of the 20th century, or even of the second millennium (according to polls by Waterstones, Amazon, and others, as well as numerous independent reviews)
d) watching "The Best Damn Sports Show...Period!" while reclining in a Barcalounger with your undershirt barely covering your fat gut, a bag of pork rinds in one hand and the remote in the other, as you growl towards the kitchen, "Where's my damn beer??"
I'm just conjecturing here, but I'd guess most people would pick "c." Poor unenlightened saps. They obviously haven't read your January 2 column, "'Lord of the Rings' enthusiasts can start fan club without me." If they had, they'd recognize the above as a trick question, because all four choices are alike: they are all phenomena we can derisively dismiss as "guy things."
Melissa, I am a faithful reader of your column and agree with (or at least relate to) you in the great majority of instances. But I think I'm justified in saying you're way out of line here. You'll probably get a lot of e-mails, and I hope you do.
To your credit (I suppose), you begin with your "big, fat disclaimer": you haven't, well, actually, you know, like READ the books or anything. Hmmmm. May I suggest that fact might have given you a moment of hesitation? No, apparently your thinking went: Hey, they pay me to write this column, so I'll go ahead and smirkingly trash this phenomenon that, by my own admission, I know nothing of except what I just saw in a movie--instead of, oh, maybe choosing another topic to write about.
All right, so you have seen the first two installments of Peter Jackson's film version, which puts you slightly this side of total ignorance of Tolkien's work. Honestly, I think the films are very good, solid entertainment, with production values in line with Jackson's gargantuan budget. As any reader of Tolkien will tell you, however, the movies barely scratch the surface of Tolkien's literary genius. Yet in Jackson's defense, most of the major events from the trilogy are recounted in the films (there are exceptions and a few instances of rather ridiculous dialogue that disturb avid readers, but I won't belabor that point here). As I read your column, you didn't seem to distinguish much between the movies and the books (beyond allowing that you'd looked at the former but not the latter!)--attacks on one or the other seemed essentially interchangeable.
Let me respond, then, to remarks that regardless of your point of reference seemed inappropriate at best, and too often sank to the level of cheap shots.... Start with the title: "...start fan club without me"? Tolkien fan clubs have been thriving worldwide for decades. Doubtless, the release of the films will attract new admirers in great numbers. Many of these will actually read the books. You're welcome to join, I'm sure, or to pursue other enthusiasms, but your derision, I imagine, will have little effect on the level of admiration by those who have read Tolkien's work.
The enterprise is "icky" (?!). Paraphrasing what your 14-year-old son so wisely observed: medieval-era people in general, and in particular those involved in defending the world from relentless armies bent on destruction, would not likely count conditioning, tweezing, and exfoliating among their top priorities. Yet these people welcomed opportunities to cleanse and refresh themselves as much as you or I. And "those poor old Rohans" with "a medieval Handi-wipe"? Gee, you're all heart. Do you make similar comments when you see images of besieged Afghani villagers or starving children in Ethiopia?
Oh, and those silly characters that are constantly either in battle--or between battles, getting ready for the next one? Um, did you by chance catch the central plot here? A preternaturally evil lord with unspeakable power is out to destroy the universe. Such ends (sorry to break it to you) might be expected to be achieved by violence--battles, wars, that pesky stuff. Oh--and our heroes are (follow closely here) trying to save the universe by defying the evil force. There is a possibility (however slight) that the evil lord will not be pleased with this defiance and will direct particularly vigorous wrath and vengeance towards the defenders of good (one of whom, in a subtle plot point that may have snuck past, bears the evil lord's Ring of Power, which were it to come back into Sauron's possession, would unite and bind all the power and evil in the universe in his terrible grasp).
Now to your extended remarks about the absence of women. Is it an agenda? Selective blindness? Unwillingness to allow for (fictional) historical context? Simple ignorance? I'm inclined to conclude: healthy doses of each! It would be a simple argument to say: what about the Canterbury Tales? The King Arthur legends? These, like The Lord of the Rings, have medieval settings. They are universally accepted as masterpieces for the ages. Where are their women? Oh, they're in there, all right. Bawdy wenches. Nuns. And Guinevere, the beauteous queen, whom knights fight and die for because of her pedestal perfection. But not an action figure. OK, I said, I _could_ trot out the Canterbury/Arthur argument--it has some merit, I think. But it's not even necessary. The strong women are there in Tolkien, and it's a little amazing that one could misinterpret or not notice this. You dismiss Liv Tyler (the Elf Arwen) as one who "stare[s] weepingly at the camera." Admittedly, she is portrayed in the second film as doing little else, but do you remember her pivotal role in the first film, wherein she saves Aragorn and the hobbits with an awesome display of magical powers (creating a flood to thwart the Black Riders); her Elven powers of healing, which saved Frodo's life; and her horsemanship, outriding Sauron's steeds? Then you laugh at "the king's wispy niece." Ha, ha, ha. The laugh is on you. Her name is Eowyn, and don't you know what Eowyn does in the third book? Oh, yeah, you don't. You didn't read it. And sorry to have to remind you--there was that blonde lady in the Forest of Lorien in the first movie. Yes. Her name was Galadriel, an Elf-Queen. She was one of the most powerful beings in all of Middle-Earth. With her guidance, members of the fellowship could see visions of other places and times. She gave them tokens of her power, items that would later save them in times of peril. And then there's Elbereth (also known as Varda). You evidently didn't catch the significance of the Elvish chants, hymns, and prayers that opened with "A Elbereth gilthoniel!" What is "Elbereth"? Elbereth was the Vala (god) most beloved of the Elves. She--yes, SHE--brought light to the world. The Elves prayed to her to guide them in their lives. (Another female Vala, Yavanna, created the sun and moon and all that grows in the world.) "Where were the females?" indeed.
I doubt many other viewers found irony in the matter addressed in your vagina remark. The narrow oval figure (which was a projection of the Eye of Sauron, not Sauron himself), by its nature had about the same faint resemblance in shape to a human vaginal opening as any human eye (rotated 90 degrees) might have. You are free to assign deep significance to your "insight."
Ultimately, you conclude, it's the references to war and the use of males as "cannon fodder" that "bugs" you. Well, finally we have some common ground. I'm a pacifist, as I believe you are. It would be wonderful if there were no war. And if sacrifices must be made, why must it be young boys? All good points. But this story--Tolkien's book and Jackson's films--is no more guilty of inflicting the horrors of war than any other epic tale that happens to involve conflict, including great war movies such as "Saving Private Ryan" or "Schindler's List"--did you ridicule them and feel "bugged" by them? Tolkien incorporates his epic battles of good versus evil into a monumental tale of Biblical scope, with noble characters and beautiful language (of course, you miss most of the surpassingly gorgeous prose and poetry IF YOU DON'T READ THE BOOKS!).
If you're not a fan, nobody's forcing you. But why write a column about something about which you have neither enthusiasm nor more than a very superficial knowledge--and in the process ridicule those who have considerable quantities of both?
By the way, I liked "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding," too--quite a lot. Isn't it OK to like two (very) different films? Or at least to like one film and appreciate the qualities others may see in another? .... Or is it necessary not only to win, but to humiliate the opposition?! Hmm. That sounds kind of like a "guy thing."