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Certainly, by now, most of us realize that lawsuits that stem from Hollywood movies or the production thereof is nothing new. Well, prepare yourselves, because the country of Turkey might have just beaten us at our own game. And, now, some Hollywood heavyweights are trying to come to the rescue.
Deadline is reporting that a Turkish doctor, Bilgin Ciftci, is looking at two years in prison for insulting a public figure very publicly. Ciftci took to Twitter with a meme of his country’s president, Recep Tayyip, shown beside Smeagol from The Lord of the Rings in comparison.
Here’s the problem, though. Kind, gentle Smeagol is almost indistinguishable from nasty, corrupt Gollum, so this is being seen as an insult, and since it’s illegal to bad mouth public figures in Turkey, the doctor is in some major trouble.
The case has gained a lot of attention in Turkey and around the world, considering that it’s kind of an insane reason to possibly go to prison. Because of the case’s odd nature, the judge has called in five experts on J.R.R. Tolkien and the movies his novels have inspired, to decide if the offending tweet was an actual insult. Well, it turns out that three additional Tolkien experts are weighing in from afar.
The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have tried to clear the issue up by releasing a statement in Bilgin Ciftci’s defense. The basics of their statement note that each shot from their film that was used by Ciftci, actually showed Smeagol and not, in fact, Gollum. In short, Jackson thinks this is stupid, too, but he’s too professional to show it.
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.
Everyone knows Gollum. He’s the creepy, "evil, conniving" and "malicious" (according to Fran Walsh’s part of the statement) deformed hobbit who’s been corrupted by his constant exposure to the One Ring. That contact caused the former "joyful, sweet" Smeagol to develop a split personality and go insane. Meaning, Smeagol is Gollum in a slightly better mood. And, unless you really know a lot about LOTR and every scene that Gollum/Smeagol is in, you’re not going to see any character other than Gollum when you look at a picture of him. Meaning, of course, that it would be easy to misinterpret Bilgin Ciftci’s tweet without the counsel of someone like Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh or Philippa Boyens.
I know that other countries can have some vastly different laws from the United States, but this is, well, it’s just ridiculous. The idea that someone can go to prison because they (possibly) made fun of a guy that a lot of people recognize, is crazy and shocking. It’s the kind of news that’s likely to make many of us realize how lucky we are that we can say whatever we want about our president or political candidates. Even, oh, I don’t know, Kim Kardashian, maybe?
I really hope this gets wrapped up soon. As I’ve said, no one should go to prison for talking bad about somebody. Especially if it turns out that that person wasn’t making fun of anyone at all.