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Queer readings of The Lord of the Rings are not accidents: Following breadcrumbs to find ourselves, in Tolkien’s history and his fiction

30 June 2021 | Polygon } Molly Ostertag

I was 12 in 2003, when The Return of the King was in theaters, and Frodo kissing Sam goodbye as he left Middle-earth made me sob like my heart was being ripped out, without understanding why. Outside of the safe darkness of the theater, in the Mordor-like wasteland of middle school, the movies were synonymous with the favored insult of the time — gay.”

Brokeback Mountain wouldn’t come out for two more years, and none of us had seen a movie on the big screen where men hold each other, comfort each other, kiss each other’s foreheads. Early-2000s preteen America was a time of gay jokes, of no homo,” of mocking voices and slurs, and secret, punitive violence enacted in the locker room against anyone who had a whiff of otherness. In that world, the Lord of the Rings trilogy stood out as deeply earnest, and therefore vulnerable.…

Travel there


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