Caryn James, a film critic, wondered whether women were “just bored” by Peter Jackson’s blockbuster films shortly after the publication of the final episode of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“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 primarily a boy’s toy.”
It’s not for me to say whether women at the time were thrilled or bored by these films, which began 20 years ago this month with The Fellowship of the Ring. 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 obsessed with the DVDs.” “I think it was pretty much every holiday, I’d watch all three movies in one day and do a marathon, and I’d do that pretty much every year,” she says.
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’s 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 theaters with us and then never saw them again.) I encountered the occasional “Lord of the Rings” female throughout college — a few pals in graduate school and random strangers on drunken nights out. There were also the memes and the accounts that accompanied them.
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.”
I Gabriella Paiella, 32, a culture reporter for GQ and a former staff writer at The Cut, stated, “We all loved ‘Lord of the Rings.'” “That definitely increased my sense that there was a specifically female interest in these films that I hadn’t necessarily considered before because I think the world of ‘Lord of the Rings’ is sort of thought of as a nerdy male interest.”
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. “Don’t you know your Sam?” “I know your face,” and “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king,” are just a few of the film’s most devastating, Howard Shore-backed moments.