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The Influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on Popular Culture
Hall, Michael A.
Honours Thesis, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Paper 287, May 1 (2005)
Western culture, to a large extent, is defined by materialism. If anything becomes popular, be it literature, music, or films, we tend to merchandise or make consumer goods based on what is popular because it will sell. This mass culture has been given the rather derogatory term called kitsch.’ For example, some people might consider Mozart high art and the Beatles kitsch. However, this contrast is necessarily done by the individual because some people might consider the Beatles to be high art. Another way to put it is that high art is art in its purest form without the influence o f capitalism, and materialism and kitsch is what happens after high art becomes popular and merchandised.2 Whether a person has seen the movies or not, it is safe to say that since the first Lord of the Rings film came out in December of2001 everyone has heard ofthe story and its famous author J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s work provides a very good example of this process, going from being art and little more,to becoming a popular culture phenomenon,and finally becoming a merchandising juggernaut.