Beyond Words? The Return of the King & the pleasures of the text

Turnbull describes the Multiverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Group in a way that segregates them from the social norms an audience of whom are different. The fascinated tone that opens the piece outlines the peculiarity that fans of the Boxing Day screening of The Return of the King represents and presents a premise of discussion over the fan culture itself, and why there is such a level of involvement towards an imaginary world.

Interpreting the situation as a form of “play” makes it evident that reality takes a break and imagination takes precedence, however the emotional connection that is experienced among fans of the series extends beyond that of imagination. “There were cheering sobbing applause – a powerful sense of camaraderie. It felt like a huge fellowship.” it depicts a deeper connection that such an event is capable of.

Through Turnbull’s research, it outlined the emotive connection that members of the fan audience experienced, albeit emotion, among feelings of awe or physical expression in the way of crying. Whilst predominately female orientated the feelings and emotions were also experienced by male fans, oh which a likened the experience as one of awe and were even “moved to tears”.

Segregating the three themes obtained through the results is interesting in the sense that outline the consequences (not necessarily negative) or even the cause and effect of and on our senses – the associated sensory pleasure.

Affect to aesthetics outlines our visual perception of the content presented to fan audiences and how we may interpret or how it can leverage our overall experiences. In turn, this leads into the emotional or “felt” connection that the viewer can established, especially with preconceptions as a result of reading the novels. As Turnbull outlines with the cognitive criteria assessment that a viewer may unconsciously undergo, results in self questioning about “How do I think…judge…respond…to the movie” can all be interrelated to the already imagined situation through reading the novel, the aesthetic representation through film and CG  and how the two come together or even conflict during the viewing of the film. This is outlined when Turnbull states that 60 percent of respondents expectations were based on books.

The article provides an interesting view that even though the RotK fan culture come together for a common purpose, they still bring their own expectations which prep them for a critical analysis of the film. They all have a way in which they want to interpret and emotionally connect with the experience. Whether it is coming dressed in costume, ready to immerse themselves (pg. 182) or go it alone to absorb the experience (pg. 187) the experience is one in which is “lived through” but to what extent is dependent on the individual.


Sue Turnbull (2008) “Beyond Words?: The Return of the King and the pleasures of the text”, Watching Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s World Audiences, (eds) Martin Baker & Ernest Mathijs, New York: Peter Lang.

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