The New Zealand landscape hosts a parallel fantasy world: The Lord of the Rings' Middle Earth. (photo by Hannah Strom)
The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, arrives in theaters this week. If you’ve watched any Lord of the Rings (LOTR) installments you know the deal: a bunch of white heroes will travel on a noble quest, they will do battle with scary dark-skinned creatures, and maybe a white female character will grace the screen for a moment or two.
If you’re like me and you give the feminist-of-color side-eye to mainstream fantasy while also having a deeply geeky desire to escape and live forever in Middle Earth, you know that the race and gender politics of Lord of the Rings have been a pretty hot topic of conversation.
I've noticed a trend in the content attributed to and depicting the three male Harry Potter leads—Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, and Daniel Radcliffe—and the running joke that they might secretly be gay for one another. This idea isn't original to them, of course. The male leads of any science fiction or fantasy epic will be paired off in the minds of their fandom. For example, TBS ran a spot a few years ago advertising an airing of Lord of the Rings, with the spot focusing on the relationship between Frodo and Sam and "Secret Lovers" by Atlantic Starr as the background track. The narrative has been queered so severely that not admitting the likelihood of a Sam/Frodo pairing makes a person seem a little bit naïve.