More Willow, less Tauriel

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Netflix is the devil. I bet many of you have already jumped to that conclusion after wasting a weekend watching season after season of your favorite show, but I have come to this realization myself just know. How? By making the mistake to, once again, watch Buffy. After one episode, I was reminded of how much I love this show and before I knew, halfway through the first season.

You don’t even have to know much about the show in order to know that it features some strong female characters. After all, it’s named Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In fact, Buffy is filled with damsels who are not often in distress, and that is surely one of the reasons why it was such a big hit in the nineties and early 2000’s. My favorite of all these strong, independent women who don’t need saving every damn minute? Willow. Why? Because she’s the best example of how to do believable, yet strong female characters.

Next to being played by one of the most gorgeous women on the planet, Willow starts off as a quiet, bookish teenager who stumbles into this world of demons and vampires by pure accident. In the beginning, she’s the computer geek and naïve girl of the gang. While not kicking asses like Buffy, Willow supports the group in her own cool way while always having a smile for her friends. I like this because it shows the viewers that helpfulness and heroism comes in difference forms. Even the badass Slayer sometimes needs a friend who can hack the city hall servers or who just has kind words whenever they are needed.

However, what makes Willow (and many characters in the show) so great is her evolution. With every season of the show, she grows more from the insecure teenager to powerful witch, showing every aspect of this transformation. Some parts of change are great, like coming to terms with your sexuality or finding your place in the world. Others are frightening, like when you are consumed by dark magic to fuel your hatred for the world after the death of your loved one (not that I hope any of my readers can relate to this). Still, we must go through the good and the bad to become the person we are, and Willow portrays her journey with all the feelings someone would have when going through such turbulent times. She is not a strong female because a writer wanted to have a strong female, but she is one because she grew into it.

Why is this so important for female (heck, even male) characters? Well, because it seems that even in two-thousand-freaking-thirteen, we still can’t make many believable and cool female characters. Instead, we just shove someone with boobs into the fray, make her look badass in a few scenes, and claim we created a richer story by inserting a “strong, independent female character”. Exhibit A: Tauriel from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. God, does my loathing for this character know any bounds? Nope, it doesn’t. Tauriel is the incarnation of poorly written female characters. The only reasons for her existence are cheap eye-fucking scenes with a Dwarf and a marketeer’s need to attract the female target demographic (wasn’t Lee Pace enough for that?). Her absence wouldn’t even be noted, we could have gotten some more scenes to develop Legolas (don’t be shocked, I actually liked him in the movie) and we might have some more time with, y’know, the Hobbit himself!

It just angers me that writers from the 90’s were able to fill an entire TV show with diverse, interesting female characters, but contemporary screenplay authors still struggle with it. Are we so much focused on the need to include women in our stories that we forget the purpose of characters? Y’know, to tell and support the story? To contribute to it? To act as representations of our feelings, problems and fears? Are demographics more important to us then what it is actually about, namely the story?

Look, I’m all for more female characters in media. I’m all for strong women kicking ass. But please, let them carry the story, let me hear their tale. Show me more Willows, and less Tauriels.

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3 comments

  1. Are you sure you don`t just dislike Tauriel because she wasn`t in the original books?

    I actually loved Tauriel. I thought she was really kickass, and absolutely love her. I love Willow, too. Because Willow and Buffy and Tara and Dawn and everyone in Buffy are pretty darn awesome, but diminishing Tauriel because she might – gasp – like someone? Should we diminish Arwen because she fell in love with a mere human, therefore taking screentime away from Frodo & co? I mean, isn`t that the exact same argument? At least Tauriel killed a butload of Orcs while she was at it. From what I remember and looked up just now, Arwen was mostly there to serve as motivation for Aragorn. There`s crappy female writing for you, right there.

    One of the main reasons they even put Tauriel in, is because of the extreme lack of female characters in the Hobbit. Have you counted them? There`s like…Galadriel. A bit. I think that`s about it? Even if they didn`t execute Tauriel perfectly (and let`s face it, with the sheer amount of characters already in the movie it`s kind of hard to really flesh out any character fully), they made a pretty decent start, and I for one am quite happy with that. I saw her as a rolemodel, someone I want to be and look up to.

    What I love about Tauriel is that she`s willing to go against the set order. She defied direct orders, for what she believed is right. She`s originally from the lowest of Elves, and managed to climb her way up the ranks through sheer skill and determination, right up to serving the King himself. And when the King still denies her the one thing she wants – or at least what we/Thranduil assume she wants, since I don`t recall her saying a thing about it – she obviously goes “well then fuck this, I`m going to do what I damn well please”. She`s not some meek, complacent, elegant, frail thing, mostly there to look pretty for the men. She`s a warrior, threaten her and she will kill you. She saved several of the men in the movie and came out of all the battles with not even a single scratch, let alone having to be rescued like so often happens with these characters. Even Legolas got hurt more than she did, and you know how they were in all the battles together.

    She holds her own amongst all those men, and doesn`t only keep up with them, she`s actually ahead of them. She`s a leader and a fighter foremost, a woman second.

    If she was only there to be a thing with boobs, they`d have given her more sexy clothes (or specifically: less clothes), more sexy scenes. Instead, Thranduil is about 3749303% more sexualised than Tauriel, who spends a large part of her time killing Orcs and making her own kickass decisions. Whether or not YOU agree with those decisions doesn`t matter; SHE`s making the decisions, and she`s fighting for what she believes is right.

    And if all of this still doesn`t convince you that Tauriel is a really good character with history, depth, and meaning, then I don`t know what will.

    If we`re going to look at usefulness anyway, we might as well skip right over Thorin (who spends most of his time brooding in a corner and complaining), Legolas, that other wizard dude with the birds (who got WAY too much screentime in the first movie IMO), and roughly 10 of the dwarves (who seem to mostly be there for screenfilling and comic relief). Azog seems to mostly be hanging around a bit, letting a bunch of tiny dwarfs, a hobbit, and a very old wizard constantly escape from his group of orcs and whatever the hell it is they use for transport. His son is equally useless, to a point where I didn`t know it`s Azog`s son and not Azog who`s chasing the group in DoS until I looked it up just now.

    We have enough men in the film, and without Tauriel there would not have been a Kili way before the Orcs could shoot him as those spiders would have gotten him already. Without Tauriel they would not have caught an Orc for questioning, without Tauriel Legolas would still be at his father`s side, stuck inside Mirkwood instead of out there fighting Orcs.

    Without Tauriel the cast would be 100% male, and man does that get boring. Tauriel IS the representation of how little women are represented, of how we struggle to be accepted, of how we are belittled at every opportunity, and she is a representation of how we can fight back and do our thing anyway. So don`t go telling me she`s not important or that she doesn`t count.

    And if you didn`t see her story playing out right there, right in front of you, but you instead need someone to spell out every bit of their story spread out over 7 seasons, then I have no hope.

    1. First of all, thank you very much for this extensive reply. Time is such a rare commodity, and I feel honored whenever someone decides to invest some of it into such an elaborate contribution to a complicated discussion. Thank you 🙂

      With that being said, I can understand your view of Tauriel. Yes, she is not in the movie just for boobies or to be the damsel in distress (Kili fills the latter role just fine). Also, she portrays very strong characteristics: she is a born leader, has a mind of her own and is willing to put herself in grave danger to protect what she values. But that’s not my problem with her. My problem with her is that she is redundant, because all of that could have been portrayed by characters we already have.

      Tolkien’s works are filled with characters who are named in the books, and The Hobbit is no exception. I’m no fan of including Radagast either, but at least he’s a part of the established Tolkien cosmos. If you want to portray all those values portrayed by Tauriel, why not have them shown in already established characters? Why not grand us a scene where one of the Dwarves protects Legolas from a killing blow? It would leave the cocky Elf confused about his stance towards them, establishing a primer for later encounters during the War of the Ring. Also, it would show a strong trait in one of the Dwarves, namely that our origins don’t matter, but the beliefs we share and fight for. With thirteen Dwarves mostly left without personality, this would have given at least one of them more…content.

      Just including Tauriel to have another female also does not do her honor. If I include a character and make him of a certain gender just to establish gender balance, I have missed the point of making good characters. If, on the other hand, her gender would play a role for her personal story, would make it different. Does Tauriel’s gender play any role? Well, kinda. Assuming the writers don’t want too much sensitive stuff concerning homosexual love, Tauriel had to be a woman to make her feelings for Legolas work. However, way more interesting than her not-really elaborated love story with Goldilocks is her struggle against the social hierarchy of the Elves. The only reason why her love for Legolas has to go unrequited is because of her lower social standing. That is a conflict that would’ve been interesting to elaborate, seeing how it portrays the arrogance of the Elves even towards their own kind, but the movie kinda brushes past it. Shame.

      Oh, and about her and saving Kili? Well, in the book, Kili never gets poisoned. He gets his fair share of action though, but not until later. Another character had to suffer to give more credit to one that never existed in the Tolkienverse in the first place. That’s sad 😦

      So yeah, I do not like her because she was never mentioned in the books. However, that on itself is not reason enough to rant so madly about her. The reason for that is that all she portrayed could have been portrayed by an existing character, and putting her in just to have another female character is just too politically correct for me.

      But, and this is really important to me, this is the beauty of discussing these things. You see all these things she means to you, and that is beautiful. A role model is hard to find, and if you can draw your inspiration and positivity from her, this grognard and his grumpy overanalzying should not be in your way. It’s just that I can’t stand her, but I guess there’s many things I can’t stand while you bask in them.

      Like K-POP.

      Damn you, K-POP. You and your catchy tunes and lyrics I can’t understand one bit…

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