Last week, your author was charged with working up our most anticipated movies of 2012, and I must confess, it’s an assignment I was dreading. Not because there weren’t movies in the upcoming year worth anticipating (as we saw, there are many), or that it would be difficult to explain why they were worth looking forward to. No, it was because I knew I was going to have to deal with The Hobbit.
I anticipated it, even, noting in the call for comments that there would certainly be hoots and catcalls for the exclusion of Peter Jackson’s return to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. And there were, sure enough. But here’s the problem, as briefly noted when discussing the release of they eagerly-greeted-by-everyone-but-yours-truly trailer: I don’t like The Lord of the Rings. I just don’t. It’s one of my pop culture “cold spots.” We’ve all got them. Right?
To be clear, I’m not talking about the movies, music, television, and books that you’re simply out of the loop on — the pop culture “blind spots” we discussed a while back. For this writer, it’s not that I’ve got an active dislike for Twilight movies and Hunger Games books; that’s ignorance, in the dictionary-definition sense of the word. I don’t know anything about those things, because I’ve just never come in contact with them, so I don’t know enough to dislike them.
And I’m not talking about things that everyone’s okay with you dismissing either. I will cross heaven and earth to keep my eye-holes away from reality television — there’s nothing I’m less interested in doing than keeping up with those loathsome Kardashians. But there aren’t a lot of fierce defenders of reality TV; even those who gorge on it are willing to admit that it’s garbage, or at the very least junk food. They’ll laugh a little and say something about working hard all day and just wanting to turn off their brain, and that’s that.
No, I’m talking about pop culture phenomenon where you’ve simply missed the boat. Distaste for Middle Earth is not a popular point-of-view; I’ve spent the last decade discovering this, over and over again. People look at you like you’re missing an appendage. “How can you not like The Lord of the Rings?” they’ll ask, incredulously. “The books are brilliant! The movies are thrilling! What the hell is wrong with you?“
(I’m perhaps exaggerating that last part.)
But we like what we like. If pressed, I can offer up apologetic explanations: that I’ve never been much for elaborate fantasy worlds, that the people I knew in formative years who were into Tolkien were mostly intolerable Ren-Faire types, that Peter Jackson is a filmmaker I’m just not particularly in tune with. But the fact of the matter is this: Motivated by glowing reviews and water-cooler buzz, I went to the multiplex a couple of weeks after the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, sat down in my seat with an open mind and a willing heart, and was checking my watch by the twenty-minute mark.
Simply put, it wasn’t for me. For my money, TLOTR:TFOTR is a long, slow, endless drudge, a seemingly indefatigable barrage of nonsensical gibberish dialogue and monotonous beauty shots of its cast plodding through its picturesque but ultimately tiresome New Zealand locations. To call the pacing leisurely would be a kindness; if I ever found out I had three hours to live, I’d track down a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and put it on post-haste, because that three hours feels like a month.
As you can imagine, this is not a popular opinion to hold. And it made the years that followed — with the two equally-ballyhooed follow-ups, the Best Picture Oscar for The Return of the King, the eternal bombardment of DVD and Blu-ray “special editions” and “extended cuts” (OH GOODY) — problematic, to say the least. And now here’s The Hobbit, another round of Peter Jackson-helmed Tolkien (spread out over two films, of course; Jackson is not a filmmaker renowned for his brevity), to start it all over again.
It’s a forlorn feeling. But I can’t be the only one. So I ask you — what’s the esteemed phenomenon (in film, in music, in literature, in art, whatever) that it feels like everyone loves but you? Let it loose. Turn on the venom. Get it off your chest. This is a judgment-free zone. (I mean it. I met a guy last year who doesn’t like the Beatles. THE BEATLES. Yet I’d call him a friend! Hesitantly.) Unload it here. What is your pop-culture cold spot?