Okay: John Hillen yesterday made the case that Lord of the Rings is a conservative book/movie. He then went so far as to say that he couldn’t understand why liberals would even like LOTR. He then offered $100 to NRO if someone emailed him a persuasive case for what liberals would like about the movie. He also — without consulting me — declared I could be the judge.
I then posted something to the effect of “Damn you Hillen! Damn you to the fiery depths of Mount Doom!” This in turn elicited a response from at least one reader who found that this statement disqualified me as a judge because “true” Tolkien geeks call it Orodruin, not Mount Doom. Well just let that burn in the firery depths of a footnote.
Anyway, perhaps sensing my reluctance to be a judge from the whole “Damn you Hillen!” thing, he began posting more on the reader response himself. I think he summarizes all of the emails well enough and I see no reason to pick and choose between the different ones which pretty much all make the same point. What Hillen does with his money is his business. [You can scroll down to learn more about all of this]
But there is one answer I did get (Hillen forwarded me only some of the responses) which would have aroused great sympathy from me. In my mind, the #1 reason why liberals should like The Lord of the Rings is that it is a great damn book! (or movie). The rest is commentary.
The desire to strip out ideological points from works of non-political art vexes me. The Left, in my opinion, is much worse about this sort of thing than the Right. But the Right does this a lot too. Conservatives are supposed to believe that politics only describes a small slice of life. Much of the important stuff lives outside the realm of ideology. Woe-betide us all if bravery, courage, loyalty, decency, friendship, honor and sacrifice — the true themes of LOTR — become purely values, never mind virtues, of the Right, in our minds or in the Left’s.
Here’s a column on those who are determined to find racism and war propaganda in Lord of the Rings. I think it holds up pretty well and fleshes out these points a bit.