Right, before I begin this rant, I would just like to make a couple of things clear.
First, I have every confidence The Hobbit will be an entertaining fantasy movie and I am very much looking forward to seeing it. I'll be there on opening night with a tub of popcorn and a grin.
Second, I think Peter Jackson is a wildly talented filmmaker and his ventures into Middle Earth have been nothing short of remarkable. I think New Zealand should be proud of Jackson and what he has achieved. Also, he seems like a lovely chap.
So, having made that clear, does anyone else feel slightly uncomfortable with all the noise and nonsense following The Hobbit like seagulls behind a trawler?
You get on a flight and the safety film is full of elves and hobbits, the plane may have been painted with Hobbit characters and if you open a magazine you will see that the whole of New Zealand is being marketed to the world as 100% Middle Earth.
It makes me feel a bit queasy.
First, that safety film. Doesn't it cheapen The Hobbit somewhat? All those iconic and, yes, preciousss elements of Tolkien's world are paraded around in a short film telling you to adopt the brace position if the plane goes down. Considering how careful Tolkien's estate are with his creations, it seems amazing they allowed this flippant piece of corporate frippery.
Also, since when has it been cool to promote a film during a safety announcement? If you fly American Airlines is the safety film presented by Bruce Willis as he crawls through the air vents from Die Hard? Is the British Airways film presented by Daniel Craig as James Bond?
Yes, I understand that films are promoted through various tie-ins. A film like Iron Man 2 will appear on soft-drink cans and fast-food meals. But the difference here is that Iron Man sold sugar water and processed meat, but The Hobbit is being used to sell a nation.
Which brings me to my next point - manufactured nationalism.
As I mentioned, New Zealand is being marketed as a tourist destination with the slogan 100% Middle Earth. It shows a lack of confidence to sell your nation to the world by pretending to be somewhere else. Not only that, but a fictional place. It's like marketing America as 100% Barsoom. Or Tunisia as 100% Tatooine.
It feels as though New Zealand, as a nation, is going all in on The Hobbit. We're saying to the world this, and only this, is who we are.
That irks me. I live in New Zealand, not Middle Earth. And it's an awesome place to live.
So, yeah, rant over. But, just to reiterate, I can't wait to see The Hobbit. When I sit down in the auditorium all the nonsense will fade away and it will just be an audience and a work of art.
That's what this is supposed to be all about.
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