February 10, 2015
To study culture is to study the linking motivations and behaviors of society, “The way of life of a group of people, including symbols, values, behaviors, artifacts, and other shared aspects, which continually evolves as people share messages” (Baldwin). If individuals are the varied indigents in a soup, culture is the stock that complements the different tastes and brings them into a cohesive recipe. As the definition states, culture is continuously evolving, but dramatic changes can be facilitated by catalysts such as the Lord of the Rings. Written by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, LOTR has transcended typical cultural boundaries of geographic location, race, and age through the collective love and admiration by hundreds of thousands from around the world. LOTR fans have created their own subculture “that has beliefs and behaviors that are different from the main groups within a culture” which have been active since the 1960’s and in recent times been revived by the massive success of the film adaptations. There’s inherent differences between the LOTR fandom of the 1960’s and the 2000’s but regardless the Ringers have influenced not only popular culture but also countries as a whole. Literature Review:
The 1960’s was a turbulent period in American culture, characterized by the many extremes of the era. The promise of the New Deal and an enlightened society raised the baby boomer generation on the belief that America was focused on eliminating social inequality and injustice, but rapid urbanization continued racism, and most importantly the Vietnam War, had created a stark contrast of the promises and reality of the time. If we apply Hofstede’s four cultural dimensions to 60’s there’d be two contrasting cultures which are almost mirror representations of each other. The majority culture was on the right characterized by older age, a high power distance, masculinity affinity, and uncertainty avoidance, and individualistic values. While the younger left were at the opposite side of the spectrum. The right wing desired structure, valued more male orientated emotional rules like competition and directness, valued social status and government control, and valued individualistic goals. The hippie left valued more female orientated emotional rules like cooperation and gender equality, were completely anti-establishment and government, and lived for community and harmony. This duality of culture and counter culture was how 60’s society was divided, and many of the trends that arised were aimed at catering to one of the social groups. Not LOTR. LOTR fandom was one of the few trends that was cable of overcoming social division in a time where choosing a side was a cultural norm. After the release of the first volume in 1959, “The Fellowship of the Ring” was created. Composed of literary scholars, The Fellowship was the very first community of LOTR super fans who looked at the scientific aspects of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Membership was based on the requirement that individuals publish research papers on aspects such as the elfish language and geography of Middle Earth, but those who didn’t directly contribute to scholarly discussions could purchase many of the group’s publications and be indirectly associated. This sub-community was relatively exclusive and respected the high culture aspects of being a LOTR fan “The activities and expressions that represented what people believed to be… intellectual refinement” (Baldwin), but Tolkien fandom would see a boom following the mass availability of the novels by mid 60’s. The hippie movement resonated with the books message of overcoming trials and tribulations by a force that’s intent on destroying anything natural. Sauron and his evil cohorts were the far overbearing hands of the government, and the hobbits of the Shire were the peace loving hippies who, through collaboration of the many races of Middle Earth, triumphed over evil’s...
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Hunnewell, Sumner Gary. Tolkien Fandom Review from Its Beginnings to 1964. Arnold, MO: New England Tolkien Society, 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.
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