Damsels in Distress


I started on this post more than a year ago and have come back to it from time to time.  While I am up at Mount St. Francis, hiding in my cave and working on my paper for our Coredemption conference in July, I thought I would finally knock it out.  I shot a video on the same topic  a while back.


As one interested in helping to bring about a revival of Christian Chivalry, I have thought fondly of the image of the “damsel in distress” as being both iconic and inspiring of the chivalric ideals. I was horrified, then, to see such an honorable term being disparaged by those otherwise promoting the ideals of chivalry. Call me naive or nostalgic (or worse), but I cannot for the life of me see anything wrong with it.

I will admit, if we understand “damsel in distress” as it is caricatured, for example, by the film image of the pretty woman being tied screaming to the train tracks by Dastardly Dan and then being rescued by Agent Jim West, then there is much to be disparaged. The poor helpless thing is abused by one womanizer only to be rescued by another, and all the while is oblivious to everything but the attention she is getting. The ideals of chivalry have always been partially obscured by the cult of “courtly love.” There is nothing new under the sun.

Television and film have that curious ability of turning unalloyed gold into lead, and contrariwise, of cultivating a fondness for the most obvious absurdities. We have learned to despise feminine vulnerability and celebrate the wonders of the Bionic Woman.

So what is the “damsel in distress,” and why should her place in the venerable history of womanhood be preserved and honored? To answer this question we must first examine the contemporary feminist trend to idolize the Amazon.

Continue reading

Adam Tolkien on Peter Jackson’s Movies

Very CGI

Very CGI.

Q: What did you think of films?

Adam Tolkien: My point of view is completely personal: I am not a big fan of these Hollywood adaptations. I very much like Peter Jackson’s early movies, but, considering the immense size of his Lord of the Rings project, I think that he lost the breath and the poetry of Tolkien. The decorations are very beautiful, because they are real, but the special effects were not there yet. You could really see them…

Me, I would have liked to see another thing, an environment like that of The Seventh Seal, of Bergman. It would have been interesting to make a series, which would have made it possible to develop a movie adaptation, without losing the breath.

[This interview is a translation from the French. I think the translator meant to use the “breadth” not “breath” in both paragraphs.]

I am not surprised by this response of J.R.R.T.’s grandson. Someone being so close to the book and the author would, I think, want to see the depth, breadth and pace of the book reproduced in the films. I felt the same way, although I know that anyone who would want to tackle the story was going to need a lot of money and would have to convince a studio that the films were going to be blockbusters. I think this factor more than anything else necessitated the transformation of the story into a kind of adventure/thriller.

His suggestion that the environment should be more like The Seventh Seal, I find intriguing. I admit that I got tired of the ubiquitous cgi camera that flew through the orc tunnels under Orthanc like a video game, and the fighter pilot view of the Nazgul on their fell beasts over Gondor. Adam is right that the cgi was a bit too transparent, but for me, even were the cgi better, I think it was still too much. For example, the momentary glimpses of the Nazgul in the sky from the point of view of Frodo and Smeagol would have been much more effective, frightening and realistic. . . and cheaper . . . and more like the book.

In general, I would have liked to see much more subtlety, but of course, the series would have to have been much longer, perhaps like a cable series, instead of big screen films.

Here is an example of The Seventh Seal.

The Passion of Joan of Arc. . . Again


Well, good St. Joan was betrayed by the Burgundians, condemned by ecclesiastics who should have protected her, abandoned by the King she fought for and burned by the English. As a reward her story has been printed to celluloid I don’t know how many times now, and most of this waste of celluloid should be burned in the square of Rouen in reparation for the crimes of Hollywood against this great Virgin Warrior.

In spite of his flaws, I have a great deal of respect for Mel Gibson and wrote a little booklet, praising his Passion movie. Even so, I have been stopped in my tracks. Tabloid sites are claiming that he now plans to produce another Passion movie, this time a remake of the The Passion of Joan of Arc, a 1928 French silent movie that has been hailed as a landmark of cinema.

The gossipy part of the story (and I hope it is just gossip) is that he has asked Britney Spears to play the title role. The funny thing is, given Gibson’s quirkiness, he is just the man to do it and perhaps even to pull it off. Nevertheless, the yuck factor is a bit too much for me. I wish Miss Spears well, and hope she gets her life together; however, she would have to turn a miraculous performance to make me forget what she has stood for, which is diametrically opposed to the holiness and purity of the Maid of Orleans. I know. . . I know. . . This is what actors do. Their job is to pretend to be someone they are not. Even so . . .

I just hope this is not another crime that Hollywood will have to atone for. I will be the first to throw a fagot on the pyre. Continue reading