My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

The Hobbit – 2012

A couple days ago, I went to see the Hobbit.  I am not a Lord Of The Rings nerd at all – I haven’t read any of the books, and I’ve only seen 1 and a half of the movies (they’re really long!) – so I had no idea what the Hobbit was going to be about.  I realized early on that it was about a group of people (and when I say people, I really mean white men, which, I’m learning, can be assumed when you’re talking about almost any character in LOTR) fighting to reclaim their stolen native land from the dragon that stole it.

Now doesn’t that sound perfectly reasonable?  Aren’t you pissed off for them as you watch this monster steal their land?  Don’t you hurt for them when Bilbo says he’s fighting for them because they don’t have a home?  Doesn’t it make sense that this event that happened years ago would still be affecting this group?  That they would see themselves differently and have different challenges than groups whose homelands were never stolen?  I don’t think any viewer would argue that they no longer have any rights to their land, that they should just get over it and follow the dragon’s rules now.  They are the heroes of the story, we are supposed to be rooting for them, the happy ending would be them killing the dragon.

But it’s easy to root for them.  The dragon that stole their land is literally a monster, and we are not profiting from his theft.  I know how hard it can be to admit injustice when you are benefiting from it.  I’ve written about my struggles with Native issues before, and I don’t think it’s productive to pretend not to understand people’s racism.  When you have a stake in something it’s impossible to see it objectively.  So I like to use more objective examples to figure out how I really feel about something rather than how I am socialized to feel.  Use the Hobbit for this.  The dwarves’ fight is really not so different from what the First Nations peoples in Canada are going through now (except they don’t even want to kill the dragon, just get a meeting with him!).

I have found it difficult to really empathize with First Nations peoples because of the guilt that I thought I would have to accept if I accepted the injustice of what has happened to them.  It was always framed as something “we” as white Canadians did.  But I didn’t do anything!  I really think that type of white guilt is counterproductive.  I can’t change what happened, but I can change what I do now.  If I hold on to my racism and defensiveness then maybe I should be feeling guilty.  Learn from the Hobbit.  You can either be the dragon (or a descendent of the dragon) and sleep peacefully in stolen gold, or you can be Bilbo, humbly offering your support and allyship to the dwarves.

Now is a perfect time to learn about and get involved in Native issues with everything that’s been going on with Theresa Spence and Idle No More.  And again, I will recommend Jane Elliott because she is amazing, and it’s pretty hard to be racist after watching one of her videos.

(Also, I just have to comment on the fact that in the entire movie I believe there is one single female character, and although she’s powerful and kind of bad ass, she is primarily known for her beauty.  And it seems like everyone in Middle Earth is white.  I know the books were written a long time ago, but c’mon.)