Trouble With Tauriel: Women are More than Lady Parts and Love Triangles
WARNING: This post will contain spoilers for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Last night, I sat down in a theater and watched The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final installment in Peter Jackson’s 6 movie jaunt through Middle Earth. I entered excited, but also a little worried that the final installment would fall flat or feel too bloated. I left knowing that my concerns upon entering were correct. The film stretched too little source material over too much movie, but what disappointed me the most can be summed up in a single word: Tauriel.
For those who don’t know, Tauriel is a character played by Evaneline Lily in the final two installments of the franchise, one of two female characters in the entire story (both added from outside the source material), and the only character that is a complete invention of the film universe. She is a Wood-Elf, master archer and warrior, and she dreams of a life outside the confines of her forest. And that is essentially where her characterization ends.
Early on in the second film, The Desolation of Smaug, Tauriel meets Kili, the youngest of the band of dwarves, and they near immediately fall in love with the IDEA of each other. Kili is intrigued by the exotic attraction inherent in meeting and essentially bewitching a beautiful Wood-Elf who can kick his ass. Tauriel, meanwhile, falls in love with Kili’s sense of adventure, and his tales of life beyond the trees.
That would be all well and good, I like a good love story framed in an adventure as much as the next girl, but it can’t be the only motivating factor in the choices a character makes. But that’s what happens with Tauriel. Kili has noble causes. He’s fighting to reclaim the land of his people, but Tauriel flees her people, is banished from her homeland, all because a dwarf who told her a pretty story is probably in trouble. Legolas follows her, of course, because everyone needs a love triangle these days, but even he gets more character development out of his love-motivated action. The film serving as a jumping off point for the character we would later meet in the LOtR films.
And that’s it. Every decision she makes, every action she takes, every Orc she kills, and every “selfless” thing she does is all in an effort to protect Kili.
Maybe this would annoy me less if there hadn’t been so much hype around her character. Maybe it wouldn’t grate so hard against my feminist ideals if she wasn’t a character essentially added to the story to create the guise of diversity in a cast made up almost entirely of white men (Galadriel is the other exception, but her storyline was also added, and was also mostly unnecessary). But the fact is, Tauriel was added in an effort to keep people (like myself) from pointing out that the story didn’t include any female characters. She was added entirely for her female-ness, and then they essentially just let her stab things so long as she had boobs while doing it.
People like myself who want, look for, and demand more representation in media may sound like all we want are better numbers, but we’re not idiots. You don’t get points just for dropping in women and minorities and LGBT characters as set pieces. Their diversity can’t be their character. If you want to keep the feminists and so-called SJWs from calling out your failures in diversity, then make an effort not just to add diverse characters, but to give those characters something to do.
Yes, I want you to include more women, but I also want to care about those women. If you’re just giving me boobs and a love interest, I’d rather you didn’t bother.