Fan Fiction can be defined as the writer immersing herself in a world created by the television/movie studio (including writers, directors, editors, and actors) and then continuing the story outside the bounds of what was shown on-screen. Fan Fic writers are inspired by beautiful characterizations, exciting scenarios, dramatic tensions, and unresolved conflict – both external and internal. Sometimes the stories are written to right a perceived wrong, to insert a romantic relationship that does not exist on the screen, to widen the characters’ roles in the world (i.e., setting up home-lives, spouses, children, or back-stories), or to delve deeper into a particular storyline.
But here’s the important part: Fan Fiction writers are, first and foremost, fans. It’s not called Hater Fiction, or Criticism Fic, or Even Lousier Stories about Lousy Shows. There’s some respect here – some appreciation. Even if Fan Fic writers are critical of certain episodes, or of certain characterizations, or creative choices, the fans must LOVE the show in order to devote the kind of time and thought required to create the long, involved, beautifully constructed stories I’ve enjoyed reading.
It’s the unmentioned subtext of appreciation for Star Trek or Xena or Supernatural that draws readers to Fan Fiction stories. These stories offer fans more – more about their favorite show, their most beloved characters. More storylines that take place in these wonderful universes conceived of by others.
Okay, fine. Some of the Fan Fic I’ve read would definitely fall under the category of “I –Can-Do-This-Better” Fic. These stories are often conceived out of a sense of “what the heck??” or “I can’t believe they did that!” A character has done something so OOC (Out Of Character) or has said something so hurtful to a supposed friend that the fan and writer feels she must explain this further – make it work – put our favorite band of crime fighters/space cowboys/Stargate team/super heroes back together. Even so, these stories still contain a healthy dose of gratitude to those who put this show/movie on the air in the first place.
And here’s where Peter Jackson comes in.
Peter Jackson was wildly successful with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’d read the books in my teens, and many, many times since then, and I loved these movies. I was drawn in to the epic struggle for the One Ring, into Frodo’s horrific torture, into Aragorn’s journey towards Kingship, and Gandalf’s resurrection. The actors performed beautifully, the scenery was breath-taking, and the films were well edited, well-constructed, well-paced homages to the brilliant JRR Tolkien’s writing.
The films inspired epic Fan Fiction stories. People who had never read the books discovered a wealth of possibilities among the men and elves and dwarfs and hobbits of Middle Earth and of many other ages. Friendship stories of Sam and Frodo; brotherhood stories about Aragorn and Legolas; Gandalf’s journey through the spiritual realms after the Balrog battle – many well-written stories that inspired laughter or tears in readers around the world.
Putting aside all talk of oil-tankers full of money, or bazillions of dollars in box office intake for three, count them, three more movies, let us now discuss Peter Jackson’s foray into Fan Fiction called ‘The Hobbit.’
The Hobbit films are blatant, obvious, in-your-face-Tolkien, “I-Can-Do-It-Better” Fan Fiction. And not very well-written fiction, either. There is little to no respect for the original writer to be found here. In fact, except for the title, the characters’ names, and the frame story of seeking Lonely Mountain and the Dwarven Kingdom, there is little to no mention of the original story to be found here. This is a clear example of Jackson’s huge ego. The man who, when asked why he did not include the original chapter ‘The Scouring of the Shire’ in his epic Lord of the Rings movies answered with, “I never liked that part so I left it out.” I’m paraphrasing, but not by much.
That all tells me that Peter Jackson ‘knows better.’
He has taken a rather simple children’s story about courage, magic, and a dragon – that would have made a pretty good, mid-length movie – and turned it into a ridiculously long, overly involved bladder-buster that is mired in tales of revenge, ‘white orcs’, female elves enamored of the most ‘human looking’ dwarf (quelle surprise that she didn’t fall for Bombur), and buried under so many layers of unnecessary foreshadowing (for movies that have already been MADE, someone EXPLAIN THIS!) that we can barely find Bilbo’s Sting in the mud of it all. Yes yes, we know this is THE RING. We know the word PRECIOUS becomes important. We know elves and dwarfs don’t get along. We know Legolas is pretty. After all, we’ve seen the other movies! Why are you hitting us over the head with it all?
But I digress.
My opinion is not going to be popular. I know this. But I cannot help but long for the days of the nutty Rankin/Bass 1970s cartoon devoted to Bilbo and his magic ring. (Bilbo was voiced by Orson Bean, Smaug by Richard Boone. Get it. Watch it. A hilarious blast from the past!)
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit is Fan Fiction. It’s the universe created by Tolkien and twisted and lengthened and made to fit Jackson’s view of things. Not as a homage, but because he knows better.
As a Fan Fic writer, why am I objecting?
Because the man’s getting paid for this? Because he’s being touted as the most brilliant of brilliant directors, of visionaries, for taking a children’s story, cutting out what he didn’t like, adding a literal two tons of extraneous crap, and putting it in theaters for his ravenous fans to pay through the nose for the privilege of viewing?
Can’t blame the man for making a buck, or taking advantage of people lining up for the privilege.
I object to the ego. I object to the torturing of one of my favorite stories into something terrible. I object to the movie industry being seen as the royalty of this age that can do no wrong. And, mostly, I object to those who tell Fan Fic writers we are thieves and unimaginative idiots and then line up for The Hobbit in DROVES.
Just admit it, people. You’re paying all that money for Fan Fiction when you could get better stories centered in Tolkien’s universe for free on the internet. If you miss the visuals so much, just put a few screen caps of Legolas on your desktop so that you can stare into his (weird looking, no?) eyes after every few paragraphs.
He is pretty.
(But you know he wasn’t in the book, right?)