A Parental Plea: Don’t Make Me See “Smaug”!

Is Peter Jackson trying to ruin Christmas for the rest of our lives?

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We spend a hell of a lot time in this great country of ours thinking about the children (indeed, there’s even a Wikipedia entry for “think of the children”). But shouldn’t we also think about the parents every once in a while?

I mean, I understand that we parents are pledged to do everything we can to give our precious little bundles of joy all the advantages we ourselves were denied while growing up. But even in the Christmas season, there’s got to be some limit to exactly what sacrifices we’re expected to make. Specifically: Exactly how many movies a year must we see not out of any small modicum of interest or anticipation or curiosity but out of pure parental duty?

The immediate cause of my question is the opening of the new film with the excessively punctuated and impossible-to-pronounce title The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which I’m guessing is either about a greedy, gold-hoarding dragon or a cautionary tale about the use of high-octane, fully leaded gasoline in J.R.R. Tolkien’s imaginary Middle Earth. I will be chaperoning somewhere between one and 100 friends of my 12-year-old son. As dispiriting a prospect as Smaug is on its own, it’s coming at the tail end of a year that has already birthed The Lone Ranger, The Croods, The Smurfs 2, One Direction: This is Us, Free Birds, Thor 2, and a dozen other kid-friendly, parent-annoying movies that adults have blissfully repressed from memory.

Now, I understand that billions— if not trillions—of people love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit both as novels and as movies, and I’m happy to admit that I am the problem here. Yet surely I’m not the only adult American who is sick and tired of living under the reign of terror foisted on us by Tolkien’s imagination lo these 40 years after his death. For too much of the 21st century, it seems that the year-end holidays exist only to provide space for yet another family reunion with the Bagginses of The Shire (why won’t they ever come to our house?). Director Peter Jackson ruined the holidays in 2001, 2002, and 2003 with his three Lord of the Rings movies and then just last year darkened the season anew with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first in a three-part sequence.

(MORE: The Hobbit: Why Are There No Women in Tolkien’s World?)

It’s worrisome that Jackson seems bent on making bigger and longer movie franchises out of Tolkien works. Think about it: With Lord of the Rings, Jackson did three movies out of three books. With The Hobbit, he’s doing three movies out of one book. May Sauron have mercy on us all if Jackson ever sets his sights on creating a franchise out The Silmarillion, which even most Tolkien enthusiasts grant is unreadable. It seems plausible that The Silmarillion might well comprise two dozen or more installments, thereby ruining Christmas for the rest of most of our lives.

The Desolation of Smaug clocks in at a soul-deadening 161 minutes, or somewhere between a vintage speech by Fidel Castro castigating the U.S. and a Ted Cruz filibuster about Obamacare. On the upside, the movie’s length is a full eight minutes shorter than the first Hobbit installment, and Smaug’s appearance does mean we are one giant step closer the end of the trilogy.

Over the years, I have devised various strategies for coping with this general situation and I’m not yet sure of which to employ come this weekend. When kids are younger, it’s easy enough to try and wait them out, especially with movies that are likely to leave the theaters almost as fast as they enter them. As they get older, it’s increasingly legitimate to drop them off at the theater or to draw straws among willing parents (and there comes a time – a blessed, happy time – when your kids finally tell you that you are not allowed to sit near them or even in the same theater as them).

And when no other strategy is available for whatever reason, there is also the classic stand-by of simply falling asleep almost as soon as the previews start rolling. As any parent will attest, taking care of children is tiring work, and keeping watch over other people’s kids is downright exhausting. So it’s never hard to nod off when the opportunity presents itself, especially in an age of space-age earplugs and comfortable theaters. Whatever embarassment parental sleeping causes for your child (and it needn’t be too much if you keep the snoring light) is more than outweighed by the gains of a nap, it seems to me.

And as I anticipate an evening showing of a fantasy film that about hobbits and dragons that is fully two hours and 41 minutes long, I can feel my eyes start to grow heavier than the burden good old Frodo Baggins felt in dealing with that one goddamn ring to rule them all.

31 comments
wjgcampbell
wjgcampbell

well i can understand what he meant by the Silmarillion is unreadable but its more like something you have to read more than once to truly grasp what Tolkien was getting at, in all honesty i don't know what hes blathering about true Jackson has gone overboard with the hobbit series the fact the second film is so far adapted to the book that i don't want to even bare to look at the next installment but to say that lord of the rings is a waste of time ? you must be either dead inside or spent most of your childhood in a box if you can not appreciate great work be it film edition or a book from Tolkien himself which may i add deserves not criticism from a shrude like yourself

WalangMagawa
WalangMagawa

And you decided to have kids because...?

Let them enjoy their youth as you did.



MarissaYork
MarissaYork

This article is unreal!!! You must despise your children! On top of having zero taste in movies whatsoever, you seem like legitimately the most selfish dad! I'm glad my dad had FUN taking us out to do things we wanted to do when we were kids! I hope you realize you're making memories with your kids NOW. Do you want them to remember how you hated being around them and couldn't wait for them to grow up and not want you around anymore?! This article is disgusting. Merry Christmas nickgellespie. I'm sure you will make it such fun for your kids.

ZacharyYost
ZacharyYost

I agree with you on so much, practically everything, but this has just crossed the line into heresy. One may legitimately critique the films but to say that the Silmarillion is unreadable is outrageous. As someone who has read the Silmarillion at least 5 times I am crushed by the sad and undoubtedly unenriched life you must be living to hold such a view of the greatest literary masterpiece of the past century, nay past millennia.

just4fun91
just4fun91

Quickly! Call the Waaaaambulance!   Nick Gillespie is having a hissy fit about feeling forced to see a movie!  

Seriously Nick. Grow up!

DennisKnapp
DennisKnapp

I don't know which is more incredible here with your rant; that a newspaper of some considerable reputation gave you an opportunity to air it or the belief that anyone would want to be privy to your ignornat point of view.  Seriously, what credentials does one have to have to be able to get a gig like this and then waste the opportunity whining about a popular cultural icon.  And you get paid for this too.....?  Incredible.

jsmccombs
jsmccombs

You are a complete moron.  Apparently you don't understand / appreciate the genius that is Tolkein.  He was a literary savant who created and entire world with its own language and history.  He also created an entire genre of literature.  Most 'authors' would love to have at least one book that people like, imagine how they would feel if their writings weren't just popular but endured for decades.  Considering your magazine included Miley Cyrus in your "Person of the Year" nominations I don't think you all have any room to talk about quality or wasting peoples time.

kinolurtz
kinolurtz

What a complete load of crap. Honestly. Is the writer genuinely incapable of pronouncing the title... how did you get this job?

BorisIII
BorisIII

I hate having to watch girly princess movies.  My brother gets stuck watching them with his daughter over and over and over thanks to DVD's.  Luckily for him she is getting older.  Glad to know there could be more Tolkein movies.

eot88571
eot88571

Dammit!  I, too, hate when my Christmas is *ruined* by having to spend 161 uninterrupted minutes with my kid!  I think you have forgotten one of the cornerstones of Christmas - being together.  There are parents out there whose children have died, and would give anything to go be bored at a movie with their kid.  Remember this when you have to bear the enormous, unfair burden of seeing your child (alive) and enjoying something that does not involve gangs or drugs.


So, from your article, we have this:

"As they get older, it’s increasingly legitimate to drop them off at the theater or to draw straws among willing parents (and there comes a time – a blessed, happy time – when your kids finally tell you that you are not allowed to sit near them or even in the same theater as them)."


In 30 years, this will be your kid's position (talking about taking care of his elderly dad):

"As he gets older, it’s increasingly legitimate to drop him off at the nursing home or to draw straws among willing siblings (and there comes a time – a blessed, happy time – when you finally tell your dad that he is not allowed to sit near them or even in the same room as them)."


The bed you make now is the one you have to sleep in later.

JamesR.Pannozzi
JamesR.Pannozzi

Typical Time magazine piece to distract attention from their pathetic editorial WIMP OUT by "playing safe" 

and not selecting 

EDWARD SNOWDEN AS PERSON OF THE YEAR.


Could Time become a children's magazine ?


Could Time's editors be that desperate ?


WHO CARES ?



shink67.jh
shink67.jh

Boy Am i glad my dad wasn't like you Mr.Gilespie! Every outing we went on was treated as a celebration, in other words WE HAD FUN! If my dad had a problem, we never knew it. You're kids are young only once sir, i suggest that you give up a couple oF hours and create some precious memories to be cherished. Or are you just the Grinch?

shink67.jh
shink67.jh

Boy am i glad my dad wasn't like yourself Mr. Gillespie! My parents lived every outing with us like ir was a celebration i.e. They ALWAYS had fun. I suggest your should do the same,. Apparently there is a lack of fun or adventure in your family life or maybe you're just the Grinch.

Btrain
Btrain

Haha. There are so many problems with your article (from a writer), but the biggest issues here are a) You are not taking your 12 year old son to a "kiddie" movie, as it is rated PG-13, b) You lumped One Direction and Thor in the same category, and c) The Hobbit is not just based on the Hobbit book itself but pulls ideas and pieces from the Silmarillion as well. An additional plea; (sorry for my overuse of punctuation as I see that the use of one colon puts you over the edge) please stop trying to over-embellish your writing. With a plethora unnecessary adjectives, bad jokes, and a yawn worthy opinion attempted to be jazzed with faulty research, can't writers just think of the readers once in a while? ;) Is that too  much to ask? (I apologize if this comment offends any other readers, but as this is an opinion piece, Nick is automatically asking for our opinions back).

jenpynes
jenpynes

I think that it is very sad that you think that its a blessing to have your child say they don't want to sit with you. From your tone in the article it sounds like your child is an obligation and not the joy of your life. There is no problem with the movie or any of the other titles that you listed that just came out. I for one enjoy taking my kids to the movie and then go out to eat afterwards and talk about their favorite parts of the movie and just see their faces light up with pure joy and excitement.

eric.weir.mail
eric.weir.mail

"[B]illions— if not trillions—of people love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit both as novels and as movies." I really don't see how this is possible.  If you liked the books, the movies are a disappointment due to the relentless Hollywoodization of the characters and the senseless changes in the plot.  If you liked the movies, you haven't read the books.

skgtheblij
skgtheblij

This guy:

I can't STAND that people would make movies my kids would want to watch! I have to spend TIME with my kids? 


Ugh. 

PeterFitzwell
PeterFitzwell

There is nothing worth a damn about these movies.

mystuffforme
mystuffforme

What a dumb article.  There are probably more adults that will be going to see the second installment of the Hobbit.  And Jackson does not have the rights to the Silmarillion anyhow.  What you should do is stay home and read the book to your children instead of writing cannon fodder.  It would be good for both parties.  

JosephCWren
JosephCWren

You think this is a kiddy movie?  

THAT'S the only sad thing about this article.

Sad.

Jodun
Jodun

So what I hear you saying is that in your relationship with your children it is your children that are in charge? They make demands, such as wanting to see this movie, that you do not have the ability or authority to deny? For that matter, you are unable to compromise (example: you can go see the movie with your friends, whose father/mother is also a fan of this movie)

Perhaps the problem is less about Mr. Jackson's filmmaking and more about your lack of ability to either say no to your children or come to a compromise. Sadly this is a very common problem with most parents these days, who apparently do not understand that they, not their children, are supposed to be the ones in charge of the relationship. The parents are supposed to make decisions as to what is appropriate entertainment, and when it is appropriate. The reason the parent is supposed to be in this role is not because of their age, but because they (again, sadly only in theory) have more experience.

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@eric.weir.mail Less true with the LotR trilogy, but decidedly true with the new Hobbit trilogy.  Seriously, who needs THREE movies for what's a youth story?  I could see two, if they wanted to include background from the Silmarillion, but three?  Why, to fill up that much extra time, they'd have to totally invent a bad guy and throw in a made-up elf-elf-dwarf love triangle.

...Oh, wait...  they DID.

*sigh*  I am not looking forward to this movie.  Going to go back and watch the old animated version from my childhood, which, while childish, was at least enjoyable and doesn't make me cringe.

ZachTaylor
ZachTaylor

@eric.weir.mail - Thats not really true. Read the appendages. So far almost every "change" they have made has actually come from the appendages Tolkien himself wrote. Do some research.

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@JosephCWren Well, actually, the book WAS written for children.  The movie SHOULD be a "kiddy" or at least "family" movie, if it's based off the book.

That's why the first Hobbit movie came out feeling so... off.  Because they tried to take a simple childrens' adventure story and make it gritty-feeling.  So you got big, bloody battle scenes, followed by a childish wizard on a sleigh pulled by animated rabbits.  They'd have done a lot better to pick one mode or the other, and not make it half-adult, half-childish.

FIAT_Poop_Shoot
FIAT_Poop_Shoot

Oh, so you must be the authoritarian styled parent. The parent who ammasses huge amounts of wood by directing and enforcing. I'll tell you one thing, that is exactly the problem with parents today. Parents in one sense or the other look for the easy avenues to get compliance from their children (i.e. spanking, enforcing, coercion, etc). Has it ever crossed your mind that children have needs, and not all can be taught to bounce a ball before they can throw it? The problem is parental convenience. Teaching children how to obey as opposed to thinking for themselves, hence why many adults this day and age complain about laws and politicians, yet cannot find it in them to unbind from watery mouth of servitude, obedience and fear of consequences for committing non-violent acts against the law. They now crave for others to tell them what to do, and if they do not, expect a smack from the state. I suggest you look at persuasion as opposed to coercion. Mutual agreements. I've had an amazing turnout with my daughter thus far, and our relationship is absolutely amazing. It takes extra work because I have to take off my ego backpack, explain the situation and how it benefits both of us in accomplishing a task or mutually agreed rule. I don't enforce, but I remind her of the mutually agreed upon rule.

rainnmichael
rainnmichael

@JenniferBonin @JosephCWren since when did a children's story have a massive battle with 5 armies? it's a bit off having a children's story marred by a massive war? The Hobbit isn't as childish as you think, the themes are very mature, thats why it can be enjoyed by all ages and thats why its welcome to introduce darker tones in the movies. 
Otherwise, we can have a simple children's story and pop a massive battle of the 5 armies at the end and go hey presto oops there's a war :3 

Shalini
Shalini

@FIAT_Poop_ShootSo, you totally didn't get the point of whatever Jodun said. Being a parent at some point you have to take charge and say no, no to the unnecessary demands made by the kids. I was in the Child Psychiatry Ward yesterday with my sister, her husband and their 7 year old boy. They never ever say a word to the boy. They agreed to whatever he asked for. And now, this boy became a problem child, got aggressive when he didn't get what he wanted, if asked to share something or even if another kid touched his stuff. And has a lot of other problems. The Doctor evaluated the family and said the boy has become manipulative and the parents haven't realized it yet. To say the least he is ill equipped to deal with the real life outside his home. It was even the professional opinion that the situation wouldn't have worsened this way if parents dealt with it differently from the beginning.


If the kids want to keep on playing games instead of going to bed at 9, I have to say no to it. Not because my ego is tripped, but because I know how miserable he would be from half sleep the day after. Being a parent it's my responsibility to ensure that. You can not shift your responsibility to kids by saying I'm teaching them to think for themselves. Unless you tell them what's wrong and why, they are not going to learn for a long time and maybe only after making some serious mistakes. There need not be any coercion involved, but as a parent it's your responsibility to know which direction the whole thing should go.

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@rainnmichael @JenniferBonin @JosephCWren If I recall, Bilbo (the main narrator) was unconscious for almost all of the actual battle.  So the BOOK was not in any way bloody.  Maybe you ought to try reading it, rather than believing that the movies portray it accurately.  They don't.

Also, when I say "children", I mean 10-year-olds, not 5-year-olds.  By the time I was 10, I was reading not only the Hobbit, but also books like "Over Sea Under Stone" and "The Dragonriders of Pern", both of which have occasional, non-descriptive fighting and bloodshed.  I also read a lot of books about WW2, told from kids' perspectives, but hardly innocent fairy tales.  It isn't a big deal.  The typical 10-year-old has no problem with this, nor do they get turned into violent psychopaths because of it.  Shoot, even the recent "Harry Potter" books have this level of plot-driven violence in them!  Mild, non-descriptive violence in books has existed for a long, long time.  Some kids LIKE "dark themes" and tragedies, you know.