Film

Tauriel: The Woman Who Defeated The Love Triangle

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Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy is two films in now, and it’s pretty clear that the trilogy as a whole is going to end up as exactly the kind of good-effort but ultimately disappointing enterprise everybody always thought it would be.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was no bastion of great female characters. Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler and Miranda Otto did great work with what they were given, but what they were given wasn’t much. A lot of this is down to the source material, and so it looked as if the even less sexually diverse cast of The Hobbit wouldn’t have any interesting or notable female characters at all.

Then along came Tauriel.

I don’t know exactly why Jackson and co. added her to the cast, but I can speculate. Maybe they wanted to include the Legolas-chasing-the-Orcs-chasing-the-Dwarves subplot but felt it needed a catalyst. Maybe they or the studio felt a romance was necessary. Maybe they really did just want a woman in there somewhere.

Evangeline Lilly is on record as stating she took on the role on the condition that there was no love triangle, and that alterations were made to various scenes after principal photography that added a love triangle into the story when it was too late for her to back out.

In the film, Evangeline’s original character Tauriel is a captain of the guard for the Elven kingdom of Mirkwood. While she is a personal favourite of the xenophobic King Thranduil, Evangeline herself is a much younger, more globally inclined Elf. She advocates for helping people and races beyond Mirkwood’s borders, arguing that what the world needs is unity rather than division against the growing evil in the land.

That, right there, is far more interesting than any love triangle. The juxtaposition of geo-political ideas divided along age boundaries immediately paints Tauriel as a young, optimistic, almost revolutionary figure among the Elves. It gives ample cause for her to chase after the Dwarf King trying to defeat a menacing evil power. Added in the fact that Evangeline Lilly seems to be a born action star and dramatic actress, it makes her a great and easily identifiable female character whose defining attributes don’t come from her relationship to a male character.

To be fair to the film, the love triangle isn’t too overbearing. Tauriel is aware that Legolas has a romantic interest in her, but she never returns the interest and instead tries to avoid the issue and get on with her more politically and professionally motivated actions. The scene where she and Kili bond over sharing details of their respective cultures is sweet, and Evangeline completely sells the scene. She made me think that Kili was always in the back of her mind. Not driving her quest, but perhaps giving her a little extra kick.

But it still frustrates me. Jackson, Boyens & Walsh had clearly gone out of their way to give Tauriel a motivation and characterisation that didn’t rely on a romance. Tauriel still has that same motivation and the depth it affords her, and I don’t begrudge Legolas’ crush on her as it serves to give him more personality beyond being a xenophobic prick and gives him a plausible motive to set out after the Dwarves. Nor do I begrudge Kili or Tauriel their crushes because frankly Kili and Tauriel are gorgeous and charming people, and both have bigger goals and motivations that occupy far more of their characterisation.

What I do begrudge is the fact that it was ever thought necessary. I begrudge that the trope is so prevalent that Evangeline Lilly felt it necessary to speak out against it even before accepting the role. I begrudge the mindset that female characters need some kind of romance or love triangle. Hermione Granger didn’t. Black Widow didn’t. Tauriel didn’t.

A good chap who frequently gets tea leaves stuck in his eyebrows.

7 Comments

  1. Victoria

    January 15, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    I think you mean Miranda Otto. Richardson was Umbridge, Otto was Eowyn.

    But I completely agree with you. Tauriel has a characterization that has no need for a love triangle. It’s lazy writing to use a love triangle as a plot device to move characters and it’s a shame Jackson felt that it was even needed.

    • Kelly

      January 15, 2014 at 2:40 PM

      I didn’t catch that in proof (oops) so I fixed it! Just so there’s no confusion.

      • Victoria

        January 15, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        My abilities as a “human IMDB” prove useful!

        • Kelly

          January 15, 2014 at 2:44 PM

          Yeah, and now maybe we won’t get 38953794 comments that consist of “OTTO.” Yes, the 15 people above you already said that.

    • THE AUTHOR (DUN DUN DUN)

      January 16, 2014 at 3:49 AM

      I don’t know why I always get those names mixed up. Blame Canada.

  2. Courtney Lang

    January 15, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    I agree with everything, so much. I walked out of the movie really happy and excited about Tauriel/Kili, but also super mad that 1) a romance was necessary, 2) a love triangle was necessary, and 3) a love triangle was forced upon Evangeline Lilly after she’d already spoken out about it.

  3. Christine Preimesberger

    January 18, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    I have to agree. As much as I loathe love triangles with a fiery passion greater than a thousand supernovas… the one in this movie was actually tolerable. That one scene with Kili and Taruiel talking was well acted and touching. It’s actually one of my favorite bits of the movies along with the scenes between Smaug and Bilbo as well as Bilbo’s One Ring-induced freakout.
    I still wish they just left out the love triangle. This movie had way too many sub-plots in the first place so this romance winds up feeling really rushed and unnecessary. I appreciate the fact the characters have pleasant positive interactions (one of the few tropes I loathe more than love triangles is the “constant bickering=love” trope). But the fact that the characters seemingly fall in love after one conversation really bugs me.

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