The Lord of the Rings at 20: How the epic fantasy trilogy became the go-to comfort watch for millennial women

Caryn James asked whether women were “simply bored” by Peter Jackson’s films shortly after the release of the final installment of the Lord of the Rings.

“Any movie that is this popular has to appeal to people of all ages and genders,” James wrote. “However, both demographic and empirical evidence indicates that the trilogy remains largely a boy’s toy.”

It’s not for me to say whether these films, which began 20 years ago this month with The Fellowship of the Ring, fascinated or bored women at the time. But I do know that when I was 13, my 12-year-old sister and I were enthralled by the story of Sam and Frodo and their quest to destroy the One Ring. And we weren’t the only ones.

Karen Han, 29, a TV and film writer living in Los Angeles, said, “I was captivated with the DVDs. “I think it was pretty much every Christmas, I’d watch all three movies in one day and do a marathon, and I’d do that pretty much every year,” she says.

Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy serves the same purpose for millennial women as Star Wars did for those who grew up in the late 1970s and early 1980s: it has become a valued component of the comfort-watch genre for women in their late 20s and early 30s.

Rewatching the films felt like a ritual that only my sister and I observed in the years after they were released. (My parents saw them in theatres with us and then never saw them again.)
I met the rare Lord of the Rings girl throughout college — a few pals in graduate school and random strangers on wild nights out. There were also the memes and the accounts that accompanied them.

Lord of the Rings
Then, a few years ago, I started noticing pieces on The Cut and other publications.
“How about the Boromir Lady?”
“I’m always on the lookout for Sauron.”
“The Lord of the Rings Is the Best Christmas Film.” Gabriella Paiella, 32, a culture reporter for GQ and a former staff writer at The Cut, stated, “We all liked Lord of the Rings.”

“That heightened my awareness that there was a distinctly female interest in these movies that I hadn’t necessarily considered previously since I think the Lord of the Rings world is sort of thought of as a nerdy masculine interest.”

Lord of the Rings
While jokes and memes were still a great way for fans to connect, Paiella and other women who grew up during the Lord of the Rings era say their love for the films is far deeper and more personal.
It’s a bond that blossomed alongside the film’s most moving, Howard Shore-inspired moments:
“Do you have no idea who your Sam is?”
“I recognize your face,” says the narrator, “and I would have followed you, my brother, commander, and king.”

“The overall moral of this story is that victory or triumph is still attainable as long as you have love and hope in one other,” Han explained. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Arwen (Liv Tyler), the reluctant heir to Middle-kingdom earth’s and his half-Elven love interest, may represent the trilogy’s central romantic relationship.

Lord of the Rings
Paiella and Han, on the other hand, say that the bond between the two is no less emotional than Boromir’s (Sean Bean) heartbreaking death with Aragorn by his side after the first film, when he tries to steal the Ring out of desperation to rescue Middle-earth.

That tenderness — between Frodo and Sam, Legolas and Gimli, Merry and Pippin, Gandalf and Bilbo — became the focal subject of Lord of the Rings fan fiction in some corners of the internet, such as LiveJournal and Tumblr, and in certain corners of the internet, such as LiveJournal and Tumblr.

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