Towering stupidity

The campaign to rename the film of Tolkien's The Two Towers might be a joke, but this fan isn't laughing.

Sandy Starr

Topics Politics

It was bound to happen.

Following the success of the first Lord of the Rings film, there were concerns about the title of the second, The Two Towers, scheduled for release in December 2002.

But The Two Towers (1) is the second title in JRR Tolkien’s original trilogy of books, published in the 1950s. So why should the film be called anything different?

Ask the 3597 people who signed the ‘Rename The Two Towers to Something Less Offensive Petition’, before it was ‘suspended temporarily’ by the petition host. According to the petition’s authors – credited as ‘those affected by 11 September’ – ‘the title is clearly meant to refer to the attacks on the World Trade Centre. In this post-11 September world, it is unforgivable that this should be allowed to happen’ (2).

This farce was predicted by Mark Adnum, in a recent article on spiked. Noting how Hollywood currently shuns anything that might offend, or merely evoke, people’s memories of 11 September, Adnum asked: ‘What about the second chapter of The Lord of the Rings…will they rename that?’ (3)

That’s what is now being proposed. Or is it? It is possible – even likely – that the authors of this ridiculous petition meant it as a prank. The petition is most likely a whopper of a ‘troll’ (4) – a juvenile practice common in internet chatrooms and message boards, where somebody is egged on so as to expose them as gullible before a snobbish clique.

Indeed, the last person to date to sign the petition, signatory number 3597, wrote: ‘This poll is the greatest troll in the history of the internet and a fine specimen of human stupidity.’ Number 3526 wrote rather more wittily: ‘I’ve started another petition to Allah, to change the name of Islam because now all I think of is terrorists when I pray.’ (5)

Since 11 September, trolls that play on people’s sensitivities about the terrorist attacks have flourished – to the point where you can now troll not only by being insensitive, but by pretending to be oversensitive. Still, the fact that this petition has been taken seriously by some suggests that, somewhere out there, there is an irrational sensitivity to the title of Tolkien’s book.

Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has confessed that even he considered changing the second film’s title. ‘I’ve thought about what that title means now’, he said – explaining that he decided not to change it because ‘Tolkien fans would kill us’ (6).

Damn right we would. The title derives from the fact that the book’s narrative is divided into two separate quests, each of which revolves around a tower. As to which of the towers mentioned in the story the title refers to, even Tolkien was confused about that (7). But the point is, the title conveys the story’s structure – alternating between the main quest and a subsidiary quest – in a way that no other title could.

The Two Towers is a fantasy story, set in a mythical prehistory, written two decades before the World Trade Centre was even built. Any connection between Tolkien’s story and the World Trade Centre doesn’t exist – outside of a delusional mind.

Coming soon, to an inbox near you: a petition demanding that Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (8) be retitled, on the grounds that the two cities of New York and Washington DC were attacked on 11 September.

Read on:

WTC RIP, by Mark Adnum

A Tolkien fan talks, by Sandy Starr

spiked-issue: After 11 September

(1) Buy The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, by JRR Tolkien, from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)

(2) Rename The Two Towers to Something Less Offensive Petition

(3) WTC RIP, by Mark Adnum

(4) See the definition of a troll on the Jargon File website. Find out more about trolls in Michele Tepper’s essay ‘Usenet Communities and the Cultural Politics of Information’, in Internet Culture, edited by David Porter. Buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)

(5) See the signatures on the Rename The Two Towers to Something Less Offensive Petition

(6) Two Towers title concerns Rings director, Ananova, 27 December 2001

(7) See Which Two Towers are meant in the title of book two?, on the Scrolls of Orthanc website

(8) Buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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