Movie-A-Day: Legend of the Drunken Master (1994)

That movie with some guy named Jackie Chan

Cast: Jackie Chan as Fei Hung, and other people who I assume are famous in China

Premise: When a doctor’s son bumbles into an international crime conspiracy, he uses his controversial martial arts style to save the day.

As with most Americans, my image of Jackie Chan was shaped by films like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon. He’s the goofy Asian guy who we’re surprised to learn is a badass. But unlike in our dumb movies, in China he’s…the goofy Asian guy who we’re surprised to learn is a badass. That’s kind of his thing. The primary difference is that Chan’s chinese efforts allowed him almost total control over production. He was responsible for his stunts, choreography, and even editing. This allowed for his works to be a lot more distinct than his big budget Hollywood schlock. One example of those works is today’s film.

As someone whose never seen a Chinese Jackie Chan film, the first that struck me was how cartoonish he can be. In most American films, the humor is derived from how out of place he is in America (with one of the few exceptions being the god-awful The Tuxedo). In Drunken Master, it’s just because he’s a goofy son of a bitch. Since the premise of the film requires him to be drunk, it perfectly showcases Chan’s cheeky humor. Chan’s character Fei-hung is a gifted martial artist who becomes increasingly wacky-yet-deadly the more sloshed he gets. This leads to techniques such as “down the hatch” where he dodges attacks by chugging.

The cartoony nature of the film isn’t limited to Chan either. Probably the biggest star in the film besides him is the late Anita Mui who plays Chan’s stepmother, despite being 5 years YOUNGER than he is (eww).

This actress is one of the best physical comedians i’ve ever seen; particularly her facial expressions. Like Chan, she’s also pretty adept at combining comedy and kung fu. The cast of Drunken Master is pretty funny in general. For instance, the primary bad guys are all businessmen who are inexplicably good at kung fu, leading to scenes such as a new steel mill foreman keeping his workers in line by picking up a FLAMING STEEL BAR and fighting off his entire crew with it.

Despite the emphasis on drunken kung fu, most of the action is pretty straightforward. Chan’s drunken style is more like a “super mode” and most of the scenes have him using more conventional martial arts. Not to say this is boring; many of Chan’s signatures are present such as improvised weapons; one famous scene has him fighting off a gang of axe-wielders with a frayed bamboo shoot. In addition, every character has a unique and appropriate fighting style; the tall and lean bad guy has an aggressive kick-centric style to utilize his range, whereas Chan’s father has a very rigid style reflecting his stern demeanor. Touches like this are great because this film doesn’t have much in the way of true “acting”, so characterization comes from how these people fight (which thankfully everyone does).

If I had to say anything “bad” about the film, it’s that the film has one…uncomfortable…scene. After Chan’s first use of drunken  boxing, his dad beats him with a stick and then, for being complicit with his fighting, threatens to beat his mother too (which he only relents on doing because she’s pregnant and that of course makes it wrong). I imagine this might be a bit of values dissonance, though I don’t know much about what was considered appropriate in 90’s Chinese film.

Overall, this was a great movie. It’s hard to get across the quality of an action film in a text review, but trust me when I say this is one of the most distinct (and funny) martial arts films you’ll find on NetFlix.

If you want a more insightful critique of Chan’s skill as an action comic, check out Every Frame A Painting’s YouTube video on the topic.

My Rating: Two bottles up!

Stray Thoughts

  • Chan’s character creates several funny names for his moves (“maiden flirts with gentleman”, “corkscrew opens wine bottle”, etc). I assume this inspired Hak Foo from Jackie Chan Adventures.

  • The bad guy does a standing split in a suit. I can’t even find a job in one. Life is unfair.





You Only Live Once: The Deconstruction of James Bond


With 23 canon films under it’s belt, the James Bond franchise is a media juggernaut. It’s so popular that it’s imitators (Austin Powers, Mission: Impossible) are iconic themselves. Despite this, there’s an underlying reality that even the franchise’s producers can’t ignore: James Bond is fucking old. No matter how many reinventions, the character will continue to be a relic of a bygone era.

Author Ian Fleming, a British intelligence officer himself, created Bond in 1953 as an Imperialist fantasy. Ironically, Britain was steadily losing it’s imperial power as the series continued due to mass decolonization and political failures such as the Suez Crisis.  Journalist William Cook noted in the British magazine New Statesman that “Bond pandered to Britain’s inflated and increasingly insecure self-image, flattering us with the fantasy that Britannia could still punch above her weight. This insecurity took the form of an Anglo-Saxon ubermensch who always got the girl, got the villain, and got his wine identifications correct. To further emphasize Imperialist authority, most of his villains were effete and/or foreign.

Dr. No (1962)


The film series went in the same direction, but drifted toward political correctness as the times changed. Despite this, the writing was on the wall since the end of the 60’s: Bond was becoming a joke. Films like 1973’s Live And Let Die and 1979’s Moonraker, pandering to Blaxpoitation and Sci-Fi respectively, revealed a franchise struggling to keep up with popular trends.


Audiences’ suspension of disbelief was waning; Bond didn’t seem relevant. When yet another Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was cast in 1995’s GoldenEye, the only act left to do was self-examination.


GoldenEye took the first big step in the franchise’s reflection on itself. In-story, Bond was repeatedly cited as historically obscure. The topic is broached again in 2002’s Die Another Day and 2012’s Skyfall. Let’s take a look at how each film handles this idea.


Still from the title scene

Out of the three films, GoldenEye is the most rooted in history. The first scene showcases Bond infiltrating a Soviet base in 1988, a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The timing of the mission links it with the twilight of the Cold War, and thus the twilight of Bond’s golden years. The new ‘M’ (Judi Dench) directly asserts that Bond is “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War”. She goes on to note that she’d be fine sending him to die in the field, which is a recurring element of these three films. This is a pretty dark way to start the beginning of Brosnan’s tenor, but I would suspect it’s an attempt to lampshade how dated the character is. For the most part, GoldenEye is a very straightforward Bond film (gadgets, women, cars, etc). Bond’s emasculation serves to engender him to a modern audience who aren’t as accepting of the patriarchal tone of the series. Hence why the film’s other two women challenge him as well: orgasmic assassin Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) challenges him physically, whereas the computer expert/love interest challenges him emotionally by questioning Bond’s moral grayness.


The ultimate challenge to Bond’s identity is his own reflection: Agent 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). In the 1988 mission, Alec was Bond’s partner until he was “captured”. In actuality, Alec’s decade long gambit was to get revenge on Britain for the betrayal of his parents.


Turns out that Alec’s parents were not British at all but Russianspecifically World War 2 Soviet POWs who were sent back to Russia as part of an international treaty. This real-life act sent many to their death (or worse) at the hands of the Communists, which the British were aware of. Bond aptly remarks “not our finest moment. Alec’s background sheds light on the grim reality of the war Bond’s been fighting for years: there are no real heroes and villains. Alec is as much a “heroic Brit” as he is a “dirty commie”. The distinctions of the Cold War are shown to be as much of a fantasy as Bond is.


Despite it’s initial deconstruction, GoldenEye is ultimately a straightforward Bond film. Alec is still a standard villain, the love interest still falls for our hero, and Bond still saves the day without consequence. Questions of Bond’s relevance evaporate once he impales a man with a satellite dish.


If GoldenEye is the quarter-life crisis of Bond – a moody and inconclusive period of reflection – Die Another Day is his acid-dropping, motorcycle-riding, hooker-boning mid-life crisis. The film’s title scene sums up the tone perfectly: after being arrested for killing a North Korean general’s son, Bond is subject to various tortures (including hallucinogenic venom) demonstrated through an acid trip sequence combining his imagination and reality. Likewise, this film attempts to recreate the camp of Bond’s heyday, but ends up losing it’s grip on reality in the process. Remember that scene in Goldfinger (1964) where Bond is threatened by one laser?


Now there’s THREE of them!

Most of the film’s tone is due to the fact that it marked the 40th anniversary of the series. This made creators feel they had to shallowly reference EVERY Bond trope imaginable. The premise itself has several references: after Bond is liberated from North Korea, he finds that an evil diamond-based organization (Diamonds Are Forever) is attempting to build a solar weapon of mass destruction (The Man With The Golden Gun). Bond then has to team up with an attractive female agent (The Spy Who Loved Me, License To Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies) to take down their eccentric billionaire leader (pretty much every film).

Many fans consider this film the ‘shark-jumping’ moment of Brosnan’s run and possibly the franchise as a whole (and not just because it had Madonna in a cameo).  The series had reached the point of self-parody. Stunts such as an obviously CG’d Bond surfing on tidal wave with a makeshift sail suggested Bond was trying to prove he’s still ‘hip’.


Assuming he didn’t break his hip

Despite it’s silliness, the film still has historical roots.


As with GoldenEye, we have a return to Cold War elements, but with a more black and white conflict. The villain’s father, General Moon, actually desires to create a bridge between North Korea and the West. He regards his son’s – Colonel Moon’s – warmongering as disgusting. Colonel Moon’s admiration for Communist North Korean ideals is portrayed as an affectation rather than a legitimate political stance: in one scene he criticizes Western capitalism only to have Bond note his visible legion of luxury cars. Despite his claims, Colonel Moon is a mercenary more interested in impressing his father than anything else;  allowing for him to be an acceptable target for Bond.


Die Another Day once again has Bond face ‘himself’, albeit a version that is more pretender than worthy opponent. In order to gain support in Britain, Colonel Moon has a geneticist create a Caucasian visage for him. His new identity is a mockery of the 007: he’s disgustingly smug, unfailingly confident, and shallowly patriotic. His introduction succinctly establishes the character:

Moon/Graves ‘mixed’ cultural identity is similar to Alec Trevelyan, but Moon/Graves has significantly less historical justification for his actions. Colonel Moon’s North Korean patriotism is as shallow as his other identity’s British patriotism. He never considers that using the solar cannon to start a conflict with the West could embroil North Korea in a World War that they might not survive. When his legitimately patriotic father points this out, he proves his ‘nationalism’ by killing him. Moon justifies Bond’s relevancy by being a distorted cultural remnant of the Cold War; a rabid dog that has to be put down by good ol’ Britannia. Accordingly, the film is otherwise another standard romp where Bond gets his usual rewards.


Even though Die Another Day and GoldenEye both focus on the ‘end’ of Bond, Skyfall serves the most as a send-off. The title theme begins with a lifeless Bond sinking into the depths with Adele assuring us that this is the end. Unsurprisingly, this was not true. Just as Die Another Day marked the 40th anniversary with Bond’s death and rebirth, Skyfall marked the 50th anniversary with resurrection. Overall, Craig’s entire tenor is meant to be the rebirth of Bond. The death of the previous Bond isn’t so much commemorated as it’s mocked with gusto: in 2006’s Casino Royale, Bond responds to a request for his martini to be shaken with “who bloody cares? The series went out of it’s way to not look back on the camp of it’s predecessors. With such an acidic attitude towards the Bond of yesteryear, it’s only fitting that the in-universe decline of Craig’s Bond is the most bittersweet.

The premise: after suffering friendly fire during a mission and being thought dead, Bond returns home to thwart a government hacking scheme orchestrated by a disowned agent. Unlike in Die Another Day, Bond’s return is more akin to a rising zombie than a rising phoenix. He’s physically diminished and his superiors believe he would have been better off dead. He and M’s failure to succeed in his aforementioned mission ends up putting both of their relevance into question. Ironically, M, the woman who asserted the end of Cold War-era spy tactics is now their greatest champion. While detractors of the ‘old guard’ claim the world of secret intelligence is more transparent due to the information age, she believes that the world is more opaque than ever.


This opaqueness is represented by hacker antagonist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). As with Trevelyan and Moon/Graves, Silva is an enemy from within. Like Bond, he was a top agent allowed to die by M. After undergoing torture by enemy agents, he becomes convinced of MI-6’s (and Britain’s) triviality. His response is to destroy M and everything she represents. This film is as much about M as it is about Bond. Q’s allusion to an “old warship being hauled off for scrap pertains to both of them being considered obsolete “relics of the Cold War. As before, the film asserts that the two won’t go down without a fight. While explaining the relevance of MI-6 to a committee, M quotes Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

If you’re not aware, Ulysses is the Roman name of Odysseus: the protagonist of Homer’s Odyssey. The Greek tale chronicles his quest to sail home after the Trojan War. Several threats claim his crew and vessel. Stranded, he falls in with the goddess Calypso who offers him an island paradise, but Zeus declares he must return to his kingdom. This sounds familiar…


Parallel to Odysseus, Bond inevitably is compelled by the Nation (by virtue of his unbridled patriotism) to return home, despite being in his own personal paradise on a notably undisclosed island. M also parallels Odysseus as a “soldier-turned-king” of MI6. Tennyson’s Ulysses examines how the titular hero felt after regaining his throne. M’s quote expresses that Odysseus was “not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven”, just as Bond, in-universe and in franchise, lacks the power he once had. But she continues; “that which we are, we are”. Despite losing some of his resonance, Bond hasn’t lost his cultural identity. And more importantly he, M, and Britain are still “strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”. Skyfall marks the end of M’s reign, but not her spirit. Her replacement is shown to realize the merits of her and Bond’s tactics, thus allowing for their ideals to continue. Our film ends not with grief over what was lost, but an assurance that Bond and MI6 will continue to serve.

Tennyson’s poem postulates a Ulysses who, despite barely surviving the Trojan War, still has a warrior’s spirit for challenge. Likewise, despite outlasting the Cold War which defined it, the Bond franchise still has potential. It’s possible that the reason these three films couldn’t help reasserting Bond is because Bond should be reasserted. Looking past unsavory cultural attitudes, Bond represents patriotism, public service, determination, bravery, among many other virtues. Each film showcases that he acts for a good greater than politics. He’s not just a fictional character, he’s an international hero. While the trappings might change, Bond will always be a cultural standby. This is as true for the franchise as it is for Britain (and other major nations for that matter). The mercurial nature of politics makes tradition all the more important, even when it requires modification. Just as Bond continues to survive and adapt, so will all of us who grew up with the character.


For other posts on film franchises:

The Matrix: Reflections on Neo and Morpheus

Hail To The King: The Progression of Ash in Evil Dead

A Gullible Breed: What Men In Black Says About Humanity

The Fantasy Trichotomy of Humans, Elves, and Dwarves


Disclaimer: I have never read an entire book by J. R. R. Tolkien. I think I’m pretty knowledgeable enough to comment on fantasy inspired by him anyway. If you disagree, go fuck yourself.


With the release of The Hobbit ( 2012 ) comes a chance for the Dwarves to get their moment on the big screen. While Dwarves have always been stock fantasy humanoids in fantasy fiction, they’re rarely focused upon when compared to elves, who have cornered the market both in terms of action, magic, scholarship, and perverse sexual lust. In the original LOTR films, Gimli was the only Dwarf and he sucked so much that he couldn’t even ride a horse by himself. Meanwhile, Legolas could kill mammoths and drink like a frat guy. And of course, the human Aragorn became a king. Whether intentional or not, the dynamic between these characters’ races seem to establish a pecking order of sorts; specifically a hierarchy that goes Elf > Human > Dwarf.


A short, sturdy creature fond of drink and industry”-Dwarf Fortress

Dwarves diminutive role in the implied fantasy caste system is both figurative and literal. They are obviously “dwarven” in the scientific sense i.e. they’re midgets. In the Tolkien verse,their smallness isn’t as egregious considering the existence of hobbits and goblins, but it’s still touched upon occasionally in the films ( “I’d chop off your head, if it did not sit but a few feet from the ground”-Eomer to Gimli in The Two Towers [2002] ). As a man of 5″7, i’m all too aware of the lack of social status that comes with shortness (sob). In addition to their lack of height, they mostly portrayed as lacking the “pizazz” most fantasy being have. When’s the last time you’ve seen a Dwarven mage in fiction? A Dwarven druid, maybe? Probably never. Dwarves tend to be fairly anti-mystical and instead go in the exact opposite direction as master industrialists.


Character wearing Dwarven Armor next to a Dwarven automaton in The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

In the Elder Scrolls series, Dwarves build automatons and other machines using the trapped souls of elves ( Gimli would smile at the notion ). In World of Warcraftthe Dwarves were created by the Titans to craft the world,making them the first artisans.


Dwarf using “Stoneform” in World of Warcraft

In both interpretations, the Dwarves embody materiality: steel and stone, respectively. Their materiality is shown to be the bane of their civilization: in The Fellowship of the Ring ( 2001 ), the thirst for riches led the Dwarves to dig too deep and come upon the hellish Balrog. In The Hobbit, Dwarven King Thrain’s greed leads to an attack by the dragon Smaug and the loss of his homeland. Notably, both of these tragedies happen in subterranean strongholds, the usual home of Dwarves in fiction. In many cultures, the underground world is often thought to be a site of degradation, specifically of the soul. This could possibly be due to the sordid history of mining, which yielded both great riches and great fatalities. In Greek myth, Hades was both the god of finance and the dead. He lorded over both in a realm beneath the Earth. The Christians utilized this concept in the popular view of Hell. Satan is sometimes even considered to be the true ruler of the material realm, giving him dominion over all material wealth.

The Dwarves’ materiality and subterranean dwellings communicate a “baseness” that is not as prevalent in other two races. Rarely do we hear of Dwarven deities or mysticism, they instead focus on their treasure. While Tolkien based much of his tales on Norse mythology, the Dwarves are especially “pagan” visually ( Saxon features ) and culturally ( obsession with treasure, warlike nature ) in comparison. This casts them in a more primal light than the humans and elves, who have more progressive ideologies. The Dwarves are the anchors of fantasy humanoids; they maintain the old ways. In the bad sense, they serve as representatives of things humanity should move beyond ( war, greed ). In the good sense,they represent the “hardiness” that humans desire in themselves. Despite their follies, the Dwarves always manage to build. The Hobbit tells the tale of the Misty Mountain Dwarves crusade to reclaim their homeland, even without the help of most of the clan. Their campaign is meant to be reminiscent of the Jews ( according to Tolkien himself ) who suffered slavery and segregation in the first few centuries, yet still managed to propagate their religion and culture. In a way, Dwarves’ primordial nature is what makes them heroic. They have some of the worst vices of humanity, yet they continue to forge ahead (pun unintended). elves350_7162 “Everything you can do elves can do better, elves are much better at everything than you.” –Lords and Ladies ( Discworld series )

On the very opposite end of the racial spectrum are the Elves. If they could be summed up  in one word, it would be “better”. Elves are distilled awesome. Even though elves have been all over the map in terms of image (the Keebler elves, for instance), Tolkien has cemented the view of elves as the pinnacle of aesthetic. His elves are ethereal figures with long hair, lean bodies, and blemishless skin. They don’t even have facial hair, unless you’re counting those dark elves and their Evil Spock goatees. It’s noteworthy that the Elves, unlike the Dwarves, have no overt phenotypes that they’re modeled on. Out of the trifecta, they are the furthest away from humans visually. This is often because the Elves are the “high” counterpoint to Dwarves “low”. Everyone looks like a human, ugly people look like Dwarves, but you WISH you could look like an elf.

world of warcraft white tiger fantasy art elves artwork drawings elfen girl 2560x1600 wallpaper_wallpaperswa.com_47  blood_elf_world_of_warcraft-t2

Their foreignness is a way to set them apart in western fantasies; in World of Warcraft, anything related to Blood Elves is given a general “Oriental” aesthetic, whereas the Night Elves draw more from Native Americans visually. In Elder Scrolls, the “Dwarves”, who are actually a variation of elf, have weaponry and armor based on Mesopotamia. These cultures are very “unwestern”,and are often fetishised as well. Think of how many works use “magical Native Americans” ( Pocahontas [1995] ) or “wise Chinamen” ( The Karate Kid [1984] ) as mentors. In most narrative fiction, the proposed viewer will almost always be “white”, therefore that viewer would think of whites as being mundane ( and by extension, their knowledge ). While whiteness is awesome for day-to-day stuff ( like having a good credit score ), there will always be a few things that a whitey, no matter how mighty, can’t do. Hence, ethnic mentors!


How else is a guido going to learn how to use chopsticks!

Elves serve the same role as these stock racial figures by assisting humans, or at least giving them something to aspire to. This explains why Elves also tend to be more spiritual than their fellow humanoids. In Elder Scrolls, all of the Elves have an empathic connection to their deities, to the point that the devouring of Trinimac ( one of their gods ) caused a group of Elves to mutate into Elder Scrolls equivalent to Orcs. As part of their spirituality, they are often cast as guides. All of the Lord of the Rings films have an obligatory “meeting with the elves” which gives the protagonists guidance. In The Hobbit, Lord Elrond explains how to get to the Lonely Mountain’s secret door, which of course Thorin, the fucking prince of the dwarves, didn’t know about ( they really do suck ). tumblr_mhrvuvYiN91riplelo1_500 Not to mention that the three protagonists’ most effective weapons ( Gandalf’s Glamdring, Bilbo’s Sting, Thorin’s Orcrist ) are all Elven in design, despite the Dwarves supposed proficiency in industry.

Despite Elves being so awesome, they are rarely cast as protagonists. The primary reason is said awesomeness; most narrative conventions encourage striving for something lacking. Anthropologists like Joseph Campbell, who was one of the first to propose an all-encompassing “monomyth”, compared a hero’s journey to a boy learning how to be a man. This is why the hobbits are such compelling protagonists; they are completely out-of-place in a war, therefore they have to make significant gains in order to accomplish their goals. The Elves, on the other hand, are portrayed as being so accomplished that no feat is beyond their doing.

What keeps them on the borders of the action is lack of incentive. The Elves have never lost a stronghold or been attacked by a stronger enemy, so they have no need to fight. This could arguably be considered their “fatal flaw”. In the western world, neutrality is often considered a great sin. This is why ideas of “American Exceptionalism” often points to our interventionism as such a virtue. The Elves decision to not involve themselves at the Misty Mountains ( in The Hobbit ) is in stark contrast to the Dwarves’ valiant efforts to protect them. This scene is used to bolster the heroism of the Dwarves, who are heavily built up as the scrappy underdogs of Middle Earth as opposed to the aloof Elves. Ironically, the Elves’ role as mentors and aloof nature makes them appear impotent. Don’t forget that when Isildur decides to not destroy the One Ring, Lord Elrond responds by doing absolutely nothing to stop him.

Not going to do it? That's cool i guess.

Not going to do it? That’s cool i guess.

While some have explored why he wasn’t able to stop him in the literature, the film doesn’t suggest any possible explanation, leaving a viewer to assume that he just conceded to the King’s decision. Such impotence is often key to mentors in fiction. If the Campbellian model of narrative suggests that the protagonist is a boy becoming a man, the mentor is already a man. The only goal left for him is to perpetuate the process in another. The mentor has no personal growth potential left, which is why it’s okay, even beneficial, for him to die in order to force his ward to continue alone, such as in Star Wars ( 1977 ) or Django Unchained ( 2012 ). In real life, most parents’ mentoring is meant to shape children into themselves, preferably better versions. Hence why parents are culturally obligated to subordinate personal desires in favor of the child’s: it’s just more progressive.

In keeping with this, Elves are almost always cast as significantly older than humans and sometimes Dwarves, who are as mayflies to them. Their agelessness is a double-edged sword: it gives them wisdom, but also stagnates them. In The Fellowship of the RingLord Elrond’s argument to Arwen as to why she shouldn’t pursue a relationship with Aragorn is to remind her that he will die and she will live, thus causing her heartache. Elrond suggest that the life of an Elf is one of detachment; if everything will die before you, why become invested in it? This is in contrast to the Elves’ inferiors, who may not have the same capabilities, but at least have room to improve. Ffxi-hume “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”-Robert A. Heinlein

For obvious reasons, humans exist in between the two extremes of Dwarves and Elves. Humans are us, and because of that, they are the “standard” for fictional characters. Humans aren’t too strong, too religious, too anything ( those are reserved for the other races ), which is also why most video games make them the most statistically balanced race. As such, the relationships humans tend to have with their fantastic counterparts are ones that help them to define themselves. In Campbellian narrative, humans are the children who embark on a quest to become men, which often necessitates them to reconcile what’s lacking within them.


In Lord of the Rings, the rejuvenation of men is something which falls upon the shoulders of Aragorn, who at first chooses to forsake kingship. The power of Men is generally questionable in the series: Denethor is a paranoid idiot and Theoden is brainwashed for a part of the second film. Despite this, they are the only race that can truly lead Middle Earth into the future. The Dwarves are mostly dead, and the Elves are too transient to really care. The rejuvenation and continuation of the world is dependent on Men redeeming themselves, with Aragorn as the firebrand. In the trichotomy, Men are defined by their progression. While the other races assist, they lead.

One can’t help but see the “western-centricness” aspects of this relationship; Dwarves ( based on Irish, Scottish, and Russians ) and Elves ( based on Asians and Native Americans ) are clearly coded as “foreign”, so humans default into WASPs: White Anglo-Saxon Protestants ( sometimes without the protestantism ). This parallels how America and Britain often view other countries as often a nation of “sidekicks” to their divine journey of expansion. Whenever some shit goes down, they are the only ones that can save the day,especially if Steven Seagal is present. Western struggles aren’t plights, they are character defining challenges. It’s only when other nations struggle that they can be seen as just inherently deficient, with only the intervention of white men as a way to grow. As terrible as this sounds, Aragorn and Men in general are the “mighty whiteys” of Middle Earth. To elaborate, the trope of the “mighty whitey” originates in 18th and 19th century adventure fiction when European men were exploring uncharted areas and subsequently realizing that they can do anything better than anybody.

The Phantom by Lee Falk

"You better be,Kunta."

“You better be, Kunta.”

Aragorn, for what it’s worth, is one of the most benign versions of this trope. Despite eventually becoming their superior, the films always cast him as the calm medium between his companions. He has the martial ability of Gimli, the mysticism of Legolas, and even the humility of Frodo. His success is at least partially due to his acquaintanceship with them. Perhaps this is what makes Aragorn so important, he coheres the disparate natures of the three races, which allows him to unite all of Middle Earth. When Frodo decides to ferry the ring to Mordor, Aragorn is the first to agree to help him, with Gimli, Legolas, and the others following suit. Along the way, Gimli, a man with good reasons to hate Elves, forges a friendship with the particularly Elven Legolas. And in turn, Legolas, who at one point in The Two Towers is skeptical of the idea that the ordinary humans of Gondor could defend themselves, eventually stands among the many humans who bow down to the christened Aragorn. The trichotomy of Dwarves,Humans, and Elves creates a commentary on how disparate cultures can work together to achieve a progressive end.


For more insights into Dwarves,Elves, and Humans: