The Fellowship of the Ring of Free Trade (2002 United States, the Stolen Collective) simply takes footage from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and adds subtitles, relabeling the characters (Sauron is “The WTO”, Saruman “Big Oil”, Gandalf “Noam Chomsky”, Aragorn (“Anarchist”, etc.). It’s meant in fun, I know. But this is an interesting film to me for two reasons:
First, I was/am apprehensive about The Lord of the Rings trilogy because I think it lends itself far too easily to an Us vs. Them mentality. I worry that its battle-of-Good-versus-Evil theme dovetails too neatly with certain divisive, simplistic ideas prevalent in contemporary American media culture: The War on Terror, Red States v. Blue States, and Culture Wars. I fear that The Lord of the Rings trilogy reinforces the basic idea that all of these share in common, that life is as simple as black and white. The Fellowship of the Ring of Free Trade validates my fears by showing just how easy it is to read these films in a contemporary context. In the process of re-appropriating The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, this short film convincingly suggests to me that it was originally appropriated by audiences in much the same way that I thought it would be.
Second, The Fellowship of the Ring of Trade shows an unfortunate tendency that some activists have to cast their story in this same Good vs. Evil, Us vs. Them mold. Note how the Seattle WTO protests are labeled in this film as “The Battle of Seattle.” I do not personally think that this is a productive way to view this history. If we really hope for a new world, perhaps it’s time we abandoned these old models of storytelling.