Back in the First Age of TheOneRing.net when the interwebs were new and fansites were breaking ground on the way movies were covered, TORn used to consistantly swamp media or website polls that featured any “Lord of the Rings” characters. We would vote for J.R.R. Tolkien as the Author of the Century or something and chat about “what if Sean Connery is cast as Gandalf.” It was fun for a while but it actually got a little tiresome and the practice slowly faded away. There just wasn’t a need for Tolkien fandom to validate its place in the pantheon of fantasy or entertainment or popular culture. It was a nice memory or footnote in our online community’s culture.
Then, a couple of days ago, our staffer Justin, with the least Tolkien TORn handle of them all, started to hit the MTV movie awards category for “best hero,” by promoting the Twitter hashtag #votebilbo. He used our Twitter feed (@TheOneRingNet) to push the tag that tallies a vote for Bilbo as the best hero of 2012 every time somebody uses it on Twitter. Truthfully, I thought it was harmless but pretty useless (sorry Justin!) and a bit silly (sorry everybody!). Why take up the cause for fictional characters to fight it out in a meaningless contest that really only helps MTV? We have our own Middle-earth Madness for that kind of fun already. Plus, Snow White was leading the way and either kids liked that movie a whole lot more than the boxoffice showed or the votes were coming because “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart played the title role. She is big with the MTV market and any attempt to catch her would be futile. But, the community pushed Bilbo past Batman. About then, I gave Justin and his movement a second thought and support.
Joining in the Twitter voice, we redoubled our efforts and next thing you know, Iron Man was in the rear view mirror as well and Bilbo was in second place. A funny thing happened during the process: It became really fun on Twitter to #VoteBilbo! It is now something of a social media game to find clever ways to #VoteBilbo and we at TORn were able to re-tweet some of the better ideas, helping it all go viral. The group experience of the “old days” was back but in a much more interactive way. Fun with the community! Then, the hashtag started to trend in the UK and today in US as well. It has grown well beyond @TheOneRingNet and not long ago now the official Hobbit twitter account @TheHobbitMovie joined the cause. They promote the effort with dignity and restraint, something fans are not compelled to do.
So there are a lot of funny #vote Bilbo tweets out there now, a few shared in this story. It became a thing. Staffer personal twitter accounts like @SlaveBoyFilms, @MrLDC, @Quickbeam2000, @maegwen, @CruisingCathy and probably lots of others I haven’t seen (add them in the story staffers!), have joined the cause. And fellow fans have been funny and brilliant. At one point, #votebilbo took the lead but Stewart has stormed back. Its hard to imagine a Tolkien fanbase, less rooted in Twitter, having the numbers and frankly the passion to carry this to a win when voting ends April 14. I don’t know if we care enough, but it still is fun! As this is being written, less than 100 votes separate the two figures with over 40 thousand tweets cast. But, hey, this is kind of fun! Being clever and supporting a fictional character is pretty good entertainment. And, we have renamed the other character Snow WhiteTreeOfGondor since she carries a LOTR shield in her MTV photo.
Rumor has it that retweets don’t count unless the new tweet is a quote that includes a new one. And, only one tag per Tweet is counted. We don’t really know the rules exactly, but consider this a call to arms. Tweeters have been asking for help from the Sherlock crowd, Potter fans, Game of Thrones viewers (George R.R. Martin praises Tolkien at every opportunity) and anybody else they can think of really. In the meantime, be entertained and remember: #VoteBilbo! If you haven’t joined Twitter, you can follow TORn and its staff members for starters, where we usually tease our best content and even break news. We will Tweet live from the convention circuit including the Comic-Con in San Diego.