When you need help with something, you need to turn to the biggest expert you can find, probably a huge geek. That’s especially true in a case involving the foundation of modern geek culture, J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord Of The Rings.
See, it turns out that insulting a public figure is a crime in Turkey. We know this because Turkish doctor Bilgin Ciftci is, according to his lawyer Hicran Danisman, staring down up to two years in prison after sharing a meme that compares Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Smeagol, the aged hobbit from LOTR who grows corrupted and insane after years of exposure to the One Ring and forms a split personality called Gollum.
That’s an absurd thing to face jail over, and as such the case has become a minor cause célèbre, stoked by news today that the judge in Ciftic’s trial has summoned five experts on Tolkein’s masterpiece (and the films based on them) to determine if the meme in question does, in fact, constitute an insult. The situation is exacerbated however by the fact that the two characters are quite distinct, and the court overseeing the case mistakenly believes the image to portray Gollum, not Smeagol. Now three indisputable experts on the character who weren’t summoned to Turkey have weighed in on the matter – LOTR trilogy director Peter Jackson and his LOTR screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.
The three of them have issued a statement on the matter, clearing up the confusion. “If the images [in question] are in fact the ones forming the basis of this Turkish lawsuit, we can state categorically: None of them feature the character known as Gollum. All of them are images of the character called Smeagol.”
Walsh, who is responsible for most of the scenes involving the character, went further. “Smeagol is a joyful, sweet character. Smeagol does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others. He is not evil, conniving, or malicious — these personality traits belong to Gollum, who should never be confused with Smeagol,” she said. “Smeagol would never dream of wielding power over those weaker than himself. He is not a bully. In fact he’s very loveable. This is why audiences all over the world have warmed to his character.”
As the defense told the Associated Press, basing the defense on the fact that Smeagol is not a villainous character is being used because attempts to defend Ciftci on freedom of expression grounds went “nowhere.”