‘The Hobbit’: A Totally Expected Bro-Fest

Written by Erin Fenner

Is there enough dude on this poster for you?
Bad Taste, 1987, was Peter Jackson’s first dip into epic nerd movies and his first film. While he may be best known for his specially affected J.R.R. Tolkien interpretations, I personally will always love Jackson for his exploding sheep and (literally) brain-snatchy/gory aliens in Bad Taste.  The film is about a group of investigators who discover that a town is being overrun by aliens who are harvesting humans for their fast food franchise. It was extremely low budget – less than $30,000 – and Jackson recruited his friends to play starring roles. Jackson, himself, actually plays two lead characters in the movie. The aesthetic is that of a film school project – rough and cleverly stupid. It’s gruesome; on of the heroes repeatedly squishes his brain back into his skull and keeps it in with a hat and belt.
Its cheeky absurdity fits snugly into a cult/b-movie-lover’s tastes.
But, it has no female characters. The only women in the film are extras – two extras in huge alien suits.
So, in 2012, one quarter-life-crisis after Jackson’s first feature-length film, we saw a pretty similar problem.
The Hobbit is well acted with predictably great special effects, humorous dialogue and a compelling arc.
But, there is only one female character with a speaking part and maybe a couple female hobbit extras who you see behind a frolicking Frodo (Elijah Wood) or Bilbo (Martin Freeman/Ian Holm).
Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) is the only woman with a speaking part in The Hobbit. And really, her role is little more than a cameo. While men are talking, Galadriel elegantly paces around the room – her gauzy dress seemingly slowing her down by the unnecessarily long train. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) steals a word with her to talk about his plan with Bilbo and the dwarves. She supports him and smiles slowly. While I like the unexpected sexual tension between Galadriel and Gandalf – it’s less than gratifying to see a woman plugged into a movie with no purpose other than to be a magical validator.
This lack of lady in the film has not gone unnoticedor uncontested. But, Alyssa Rosenburg with the XX Factorsaid in her piece, “We Don’t Need Women in the Hobbit” that women shouldn’t be included for the sake of equity. Rosenberg writes: 

“All-male spaces and social circles existed in the kind of medieval settings Tolkien was commenting on, they exist today, and stories that are set in those environments aren’t uninteresting to me because I’m a woman — in fact, just the reverse. My hope isn’t that they go away, but that intellectually curious men should be able to find stories about femininity, and female spaces, whether they’re fantastical or not, just as fascinating, even if there aren’t male characters in the mix.”

Unfortunately Rosenburg’s argument is just as indolent as Jackson’s move to include only one woman for less than a ten minute scene to balance the dudeness of The Hobbit, an almost three-hour-long movie.
If Jackson was really sticking to the details of Tolkien’s novel for accuracy’s sake then Bilbo would have been fatter and the dwarves all hairy and large-nosed. While Fili (Dean O’Gorman) and Kili (Aidan Turner) were adorable; their delicate five-o-clock shadows did not resemble anything dwarf-like. So, since Jackson Hollywooded this story up anyway, you think he could have included some women’s voices and stories instead of lazily inserting a suspiciously always-glowing Galadriel.
All male spaces exist, but that doesn’t mean that the surrounding non-male space shouldn’t be included – or that the story shouldn’t be updated to stay relevant. And the idea that women ought to expose themselves to more male-only spaces is giggleable. Since infancy girls are exposed to story books, movies and television shows that have few if any female characters. And hey, what about action movies, Westerns, superhero flicks and on and on. While women sneak a peek into these films here and there; they are usually a romantic interest or the object that can sexily swagger.
Women are a small percentage of the roles in Hollywood movies. In 2011 women made up only 33% of all movie characters of the top 100 domestic grossing films, and only 11% of protagonists were women. In the same year women only made up 18%of writers, directors, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers of the 250 domestic top grossing films.
We do need to include more women in stories that originally didn’t include women because if we’re not proactive about representing women it won’t happen.
So – even though Jackson’s tantalizing nerdy films are pleasing – more needs to be demanded from them. More women.



  • Posted January 4, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    What I had liked about Lord of the Rings, is that Walsh/Boyens/Jackson tried to increase the presence of women in the story. It wasn’t always perfect (Arwen sitting around weeping after such an amazing introduction, the love triangle with Eowyn); but I appreciate that they tried. Even just in small ways like the woman who sent her children off to safety while the wildmen were attacking her village, or the women in the cave at Helm’s Deep (but lets not even get started on the stupid ridiculousness that 11 year old boys would be better soldiers than grown peasant women who’ve been doing hard farm labor all their lives).
    Anyway, so I was disappointed in the Hobbit being so totally male. I don’t even remember there being any women in the Shire or dwarven city scenes. Surely there must have been a few, but not that I remember. Supposedly there were scenes of Bilbo’s mother that may be in the extended DVD version. And there is a non-canonical elven woman warrior who will show up somewhere in the next two films. But it’s still pretty small potatoes.

  • Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the trick is, not to shoehorn more female characters into films like ‘The Hobbit’ (which was NEVER going to have anything like gender parity) for the sake of having more female characters, but to support, and indeed create initiatives that encourage, more women to produce, write, star, direct, etc, their own movies.

  • Posted January 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I have noticed that when a book that lacks female characters is made into a movie and women are added, it’s usually as the obligatory shallow love interest of the hero. I would rather see an adaptation that’s true to the source that to see one that only adds women to conform to some need for romance or to halfheartedly meet some demographic.

  • Posted March 22, 2013 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    There IS a picture circulating Tumblr I believe that shows lady dwarves from the movie! With some epic beards even! Just a cool FYI.