Picking on Sam (How I’m Not the Only One)

By Colin Doberstein

In my first post, you may remember that I poked fun at one Samwise Gamgee for being essentially useless, except as moral support for Frodo. As far as the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring goes, I maintain that this characterization is true (don’t worry Merry and Pippin, you two are also mostly useless. I haven’t forgotten you). In the book, however, Sam’s character is more than just part of a hobbit comic relief trio. For those of us who use Sam’s feckless portrayal in the LOTR movies as a running joke in their blogs (don’t all jump at once), it is just a bit disappointing to read Tolkien’s text and see that Sam is capable of both acting and thinking independently from Frodo.

 

In the Green Dragon scene from the movie, Sam’s role is to make eyes at the fetching female bartender while the older hobbits around him discuss the troubling events outside of the Shire. As he leaves (with Frodo, of course) Sam forlornly watches a drunken hobbit flirt with his crush (not Frodo, the bartender girl). Frodo reassures Sam that she “knows and idiot when she sees one”, which leaves poor, simple Sam even more confused one he realizes that Frodo could just as easily be mocking him as comforting him.

 

In the book’s version of events, Frodo does not even make an appearance in the action of the scene. Instead, Sam debates Ted Sandyman on the swirling rumors of the increasingly unstable outside world. Even though most of the hobbits present disregard Sam’s position as fairy tales, the reader is presented with a thoughtful side of Sam, who, we are told on page 56: “had a good deal to think about.” From looking at these two visions of this scene, it becomes clear that the movie is setting Sam up to be the butt of most of its jokes, while the book wants him to be something of a contributor to the party. Have no fear though, Haters of Samwise, as long as there is life in my fingers, I swear to you that I will still attempt to mock everyone’s second favorite hobbit of questionable sexuality at every opportunity. That is my promise (that, and something about a white city. But that one seems less important).    

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We Need Spenser in Fable Form

I think what struck me most about Faerie Queene is the unique way in which Spenser decided to portray chastity. The idea that a spear, a phallic object, could be enchanted with the power of chastity tickled me I must say. I suppose just the divergence from the normalcy of chastity as a stalwart shield made it seem extremely clever, and the gender bending added some humor.

Spenser’s chastity is very different from the generally written about chastity partly because doesn’t stop at enchanting a spear. It also allows Britomart to stride through a wall of flame completely unscathed, a wall that stopped Scudamare dead in his tracks. Both offense and defense are covered by chastity. What interests me about this is that Britomart’s chastity doesn’t make her better at only healing or orating or fighting, it makes her AWESOME in all dimensions. I find this interesting because Spenser seems to be saying that Chastity isn’t simply a virtue, it’s the virtue. Possessing it improves one as a person in almost every way (a little naivety aside of course).

Not only does such a virtue provide the bearer with much more power than generally is recognized, but it is also a very different creature than normal. In most texts, it seems chastity is a close synonym to abstinence, but Spenser makes it so much more. Britomart is courageous and strong. She doesn’t run from lust and gluttony, but rather walks into its midst and emerges unphased. She quests after a love (orange zone in abstinence class!), but only the best kind (Arthegall seems pretty perfect) and with the best of intentions. Some might say it is her inward purity that gives her these abilities, but I would say that Spenser sees these things as prerequisites for chastity. To him, chastity is not something that is simply there or that can be easily taken from someone. Chastity is the epitome of greatness, and it is something that must be striven after with all ones might.

This greatness was not at all marred by castle joyous. Indulgence is alright once and a while as long as Britomart keeps her head straight and kept her true goals intact. She holds true love and honor above all else and does not begrudge a few mishaps and adventures as long as they are handled responsibly.

I’d say such an ideal beats the hell out of “slow and steady wins the race.”

-PChis (Melocotones)

Sometimes I See Bad Movies on the Weekend

It was just this past weekend that my R.A. came into my room and said something I’ll never forget…or at least that I haven’t forgotten yet.

He said, “You wanna go see Resident Evil 3?”

My answer was of course yes. So we grabbed some money and another guy from my hall and embarked on a twenty-minute odyssey to the movie theater. The movie was of course a horrible action movie. It has always surprised me how movies that can do so much with their settings just throw it all away in the name of pointless action. The t-virus with its strange mutations, including Alice’s psionic powers and how they affect her, the mobs of zombies themselves, and the umbrella corporation’s unlimited power are all rich places for a little social critique and a lot of character development. But I suppose when Resident Evil 2 was rated PG-13 for non-stop violence (I kid you not), the lack of most of these things was to be expected.

What I didn’t expect was zombie crows being demolished with a flamethrower: pretty bamf if you ask me.
But a lot of action movies have possibly interesting expositions that just turn into shells for pointless violence, so what? I expected it to be a pointless action movie, and you, reader…whoever you are, probably should have to. But something hit me the other day when Professor Clayton gave us our blog topic that hadn’t really struck me before, and that is that the Resident Evil games provide all these things the movies should provide. That is, they provide a lot more character development, plot, and identification with the characters than the movies do, which is really not something I have come to expect from video games. I’m not quite sure if it’s the games’ victory or the movies’ defeat that provides this juxtaposition, but I’m gonna go ahead and guess that it’s a lotta bit of both. We’ve already covered how the movie is just an action filled empty-husk made with a little bit of exposition and a little bit of character development, but what of the games.

I’ve played a few different games in the series, and they all share the creepy noises and jump-out-at-you moments that the movies love to use, but the only game I have truly perused in its entirety is Resident Evil 4 for the Nintendo Gamecube. The game, as opposed to the movie, limits its number of characters and provides a much longer time for the player to become accustomed to them (as any video game worth its salt will take longer than 2 hours to finish). Granted, most of the time there isn’t much character development when you’re running around as Leon owning zombies with the “Red 9,” but just experiencing the terror he is experiencing makes lets the player identify with Leon.

In addition to simple exposure difference, Resident Evil 4 has a number of movie clips that provide dialog, character development, and plot advancement. Not only do these clips provide do this, but they are also interactive. At the beginning, when I was taking a break from the game and put my controller down and was subsequently beheaded by a zombie with a giant ax when I wasn’t ready to press A, this interactiveness was really annoying, but in retrospect it made me identify more with Leon. It’s not exactly me being there, but it’s much closer to being with Leon than just sitting back and watching a movie.

But interactivity is really what video games are all about, so back to dialog, development, advancement. There was probably zero meaningful dialog in Resident Evil 3. They speak a little bit to strange “t-virus mutations” whereas the video game slowly reveals the strange cult los illuminados and the evil las plagas that they worship. As one plays through the game, they find out where the plagas come from and how they’re connected to the umbrella corporation and what they intend to do. During this time they meet dethroned lords of an ancient family and remorseful scientists who aided the evil cause and the president’s daughter. The characters have desires, goals, and feelings.

In the movie, the only real desire is to survive and destroy the umbrella corporation at all costs.

Without going into detail, let’s just say I find this to be the truth with most of the video games vs. movies made from video games comparisons. Most games are not quite so developed perhaps, but almost all the movies do just as bad a job as the Resident Evil movies. It doesn’t have to be this way. Especially with Resident Evil I feel that the setting can be opened up into, if not meaningful, extremely good movies, but as of now, that hasn’t happened. For now, it seems to me that movies should leave video games to themselves, as they do a better job of things generally better done in movies (you don’t expect as much dynamic character development in a video game as you do in a movie) than the movies that copy them do.

-PChis (Melocotones)

Baroomgadoomablloommfooomasheyrrrraaakiiifzzzhhxxyydafmmenaaaaaaaaaaaa means tree in my language.

When I read “Write about some aspect of Tolkien or his fiction,” I thought about the one aspect of Tolkien most unique to him. Aspect is about as broad a word as you can get, but when I thought about it I think there is one thing that stands out beyond all others in Tolkien’s fiction, and it’s not his symbolism, well constructed prose, descriptive and fleshed out settings, or romantic structure. These are all wonderful aspects, but it is Tolkien’s world that takes the trophy. His world is no empty shell crafted simply to provide The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy a setting with which to occur. Tolkien’s world is a a separate entity in which to two stories Just happen to occur. The appendixes at the end of Return of the King and the Silmarillion articulate quite a few more, but each story hints at thousand more stories yet unknown. Tolkien has fleshed out histories for the second and third ages, filled with highly detailed family trees and maps. What exactly Sauron, the wizards, and Bombadill is, their kin, and those more powerful than them, how the races were created and what is special about each: all of these questions have answers.

Tolkien has even created the languages of all the races. Mordor, the dwarves, the elves, the ents, each race has a unique language that can be learned and spoken. I have a few friends who have learned to speak elvish, and frequently (or used to anyways) post on forums and talk in chat rooms where elvish is the only language used. Tolkien could have made up some gibberish for the few poems and songs he put in the book. He could have, but he didn’t, and that makes all the difference.

Where ever you look, Tolkien has fleshed out the history of almost anything somewhere. Sometimes, in the midst of a heated scene (Merry and Eowyn’s battle with the Witch King comes to mind), Tolkien will go on a tangent about the history of something or other (using the same example: there is quite a long story about how the sword Merry picked up from the Barrow Downs is actually a sword specifically crafted to destroy the Witch King). Sometimes this history can be a little long-winded and take away from the drama or action in the story and becomes almost a little text bookish, I feel, but for this cost Tolkien’s world become almost as real as our own. It’s defined races, history, and languages provide a precedent through which the characters Tolkien’s tales act and feel through.

I have read very few other stories that provided such a cosmology. A few have succeeded, such as Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. He has detailed histories and maps (with a good deal more political intrigue than Tolkien) as well as a consistent language called the “old tongue,” but one language is not four, and the non-legendary known history only goes back a few hundred years, as opposed to a Tolkien’s which goes back a few thousand (what can we say, the elves live a pretty long time, and the wizard’s live even longer). Most fantasy series try to imitate with maps and a few references to historical battles or other significant events, but it seems like the history was only created to help move the plot along. Tolkien’s seems to have almost the opposite thought in mind. He writes the plots to help relay the history in an interesting and meaningful way. It is this idea that the fantasy world should be a world and not a plot scheme that truly sets Tolkien’s fictions aside from those of other writers.

-PChis (Yto)