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This Christmas, spare a thought for the goblinese

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Christmas brings with it plenty of weird and sad shit that should be different but is not. When is it harder to avoid the failure of our most cherished ideals? If Christmas doesn’t get you, New Years will definitely involve that quiet reflective moment. Perhaps that is why everyone makes such an effort, to try to beat down the niggle. Weird and sad shit can visit us in many ways, most often via our loved ones, but we might spray it onto whoever happens to be standing there. *Some* succeed in having an actual good time, while others go watch The Hobbit. Sweeping crap under the carpet is just not the Dysatisfunctional way, so here’s a bit of Yuletide social media justice to stuff in your empty sacks.

Not dissimilar to Christmas, Peter Jackson delivered all the familiar tropes: too many heavy-handed knowing looks by Gandalf, too many crash-zoom hero shots for Aragorn, sorry Thorin, the giant eagles an ever-reliable Deus Ex Machina to solve any strategic miscalculation by our heroes, er, writers, and BAAAAD physical comedy; all ignoring the law of diminishing returns. But some wins, too, like Gollum just so grotesquely lovable, capable of bringing the best out in Bilbo (and Martin Freeman). Other weird shit of course, like waaaay too many introductions into the story (seriously it starts four times). Dwarves still aren’t taken seriously, but at least they’re not the relentless butt of jokes like poor Gimli from the first trilogy. The fat one in the fat suit sums up the utter fat resilience of the filmmakers to any fat sense of fat filmic immersion. But one thing galled me more than anything, and said much about our options around Christmas:

Those poor goblinese. I really felt sorry for them all. They just get massacred in their homes and they’re so crap it just takes one shot to smash them off a ledge even though most of Thorin’s company are not warriors, including Gandalf (an old man) and Bilbo (a much physically weaker man, with an avowedly timid character). Pathetic little fuckers. Off they go, flung this way and that in scores, by figures much the same size, if not smaller.


Seriously, how did thousands of these fuckers, led by big daddybags, fail to stop thirteen guys who mostly can’t fight for shit?

By the end of the dwarven company’s daring and statistically improbable escape, the goblinese losses must number in the thousands, while none of Thorin’s kill-team suffer so much as a broken limb. In short, thirteen little fuckers conduct a mini-genocide, flung into action by Gandalf who demonstrates a profound technological assymmetry he clearly does not respect (enchanted shock and awe). First year anthropology would waken old man river the fuck up. Such a defeat will cripple that community for generations. I wanted to trek into the Goblin realm with some Red Cross nation-building resources. These guys now need trauma counselling, education programs including  some karate lessons, and heck maybe even a few Anthony Robbins motivational CDs to share around.

Sure their king threatened to sell Thorin’s team out to the orcs, but the captives are too high-minded to even venture a counteroffer, and so suffer from their own limited wit. And they are the intruders! Where’s the inter-cultural respect?

Transformers getting it right, way back in '86. "Don't worry, they'll reciprocate!"

Transformers getting it right, way back in ’86. “Don’t worry, they’ll reciprocate!”

The goblinese are in their homes, getting by with their weird domestic economy and social rituals, probably some kind of tiered society I can only guess built out of their massive variaton in physical size, strength and intelligence, combined with the pure cavernous verticality of their civic space. They don’t gel with the outside world and they know it, so naturally they have formed a trading relationship with those outsiders most ethnically similar to them: the surface orcs. Whatever the orc tribes’ failings, it seems they at least implicitly respect the territorial rights of the goblinese! Meanwhile, these Aryan muthafuckers need a lesson in basic natural jurisprudence and intergalactic conflict avoidance.

If the elves, dwarves and humans had bothered over the centuries, they could probably have rendered their goblin foe at least a more neutral party. Hell, their leader totally speaks the King’s English, seems a bookish type and someone who would be amenable to flattery, fine culture, extravagant gifts and hence much capacity to be brought into the surface Aryan fold. With his dulcet baritone, I can’t help thinking if someone invented a telephone they’d all get along great. Except for one thing: big daddybags is really, really, ugly. And fat. Super fucking fat. Just because Jackson himself has slimmed down so that now his old clothes can be strung up as Yurts for the whole crew, he doesn’t have to get all evangelical about it. (“Ex-smokers are the WORST” as they say).


What’s the problem with Christmas here exactly? Perhaps, as well as convenient movie release timing, Jackson’s film demonstrates how we can be doing some pretty bad shit, right when we think we’re being so bloody good. So who did you treat like goblinese this Christmas? Maybe a store clerk, maybe your waiter, maybe your cab driver. After all, you were busy. Your Christmas, I’m sure, was very important. And yes, it *is* a stressful time. WTF do we do it for again? making your world a bit less c*nty.


To be fair, the film shows a wider obsession with what videogame nerds refer to as the “One hit kill“. The film’s wargs–massive, fast, powerful beasts, go down one after another from the tiniest flick of an axe, or one measly arrow. I’m pretty sure one just gets tripped! Someone like Peter Singer might say it extends the racism of The Hobbit’s goblinese to speciesism, where the wargs’ feral intelligence is completely devalued. If they can’t catch little bipeds, WTF are they good for?

The one hit kill breaks games by upsetting the balance of risk/reward, and in pure narrative media it does the same, in many ways similar to the aforementioned Deus Ex Machina, which is essentially an author’s easy solution to a narrative problem, that often leaves the viewer/reader/gamer feeling cheated out of the ‘rules’ established by the story. Here is a great example by Bro Team Pill that combines the problem of giant eagles with the problem of one hit kills, and is also fucking hilarious: