When I saw The Two Towers movie in the theater fifteen years ago, I was beyond aggravated at how the writers portrayed the character of Faramir. I came out of the theater grumbling, huffing and speechless. Do you know what it takes to make a Sicilian girl speechless? (and I don’t mean “keep her hands still”; although that works, too…) It takes a lot. I mean, there are some changes that need to be made for the sake of time, or flow, or whatever, but if you’re going to change someone’s life’s work, it should have legitimate purpose and add to what you’re doing. I could see no benefit to this defamation.
I re-watched the movie recently and wondered if I would react the same as I did all those years ago. I mean, after all, it was a long time ago and back then I was a new mom with wacky hormones, sleep deprived figuring out who I was in my new situation—there were a million reasons for me to over-react to something inconsequential. No. It was every bit as bad as the first time. Not the whole movie, mind you—they did change more than I’d like, but it was still a great movie; very well done. And, I persist that the changes they made to him were consequential.
In the book, Faramir was kind, gentle, and un-tempted by the Ring. Unlike his brother, he didn’t want any part in trying to take it and use it against his enemy. He understood that it was beyond his grasp and had the humility to know his limitations in the face of something more powerful. He acted bravely within the realm in which he could be effective, but wasn’t interested in engaging what didn’t belong to him. He was what a lot of people would call “holy”. He and his men were in constant conflict trying to stave off the evil that was building all around them. Things looked rather hopeless. That would wear on anyone; but he required a high standard of behavior for his men—even to the point that they were not to harm any animal without purpose.
In the movie, however, he encouraged cruelty toward Gollum, tortured and abused him, and took the Ring by force to Rohan. Sure…we know that in the end he made the right decision, but first he was a total jerk. We’re shown in flashback that made us understand that he did it to please his unpleasable father, to avenge his beloved dead brother and to save attempt to Middle-earth. But, that’s not what Faramir was about. He was not selfish enough to risk the fate of the world to make someone love him.
The rationale of the writers to assassinate one of Tolkien’s best creations was to make Faramir “more relatable”. The writers felt that to accomplish it, they would need to make him more like us. The writers felt that we could not relate to someone who makes good decisions even in hard times and expects the people in his service to do the same. They felt that we can’t relate to someone who is kind in the face of terror. That we can’t relate to someone who is not tempted by horrendous evil. Apparently, we are too small to connect with someone who sees the right way to do things, and even if it brings risk of personal failure, holds to it.
This brings up a social reality that I think demands consideration. It’s a cultural truth that in order for us to feel like we can relate to someone, we need to bring them down to our level. We need to find fault, find scandal, find ugliness so that we can see ourselves in them. That’s unfortunate. People even did that to Mother Teresa; there were campaigns to try and discredit and disgrace the one person on earth that almost every human being could agree was truly good.
Here’s a thought…instead of bringing people down to our level, why not stretch ourselves to try and identify with something higher? Something more beautiful, pure and good? That’s what Christianity is all about; it’s what is required of us—that we look to beauty and truth and aspire to them. We look to the perfection of Jesus and aspire to be like him.
This is why Faramir as Tolkien wrote him is both important and relatable. We’re made in the image and likeness of God. Our intended destiny is to be like Faramir—humble enough to accept our limitations, to know our gifts and use them for the benefit and comfort of others even in the face of ugliness, and to be disciplined enough to not be tempted by what would do us and others harm. And, all of us could, and some of us do get to that point without a lot of drama and diversions. The Lord of the Rings movies gave us dozens of characters to whom we could relate that were flawed, broken, weak and ultimately good. Why not give humanity a little credit and let us keep a character who inspires us to be better right from the start?