MTVVOTEBILBOThere once was a little hashtag looking for a cause. Over the past eleven days,  #VoteBilbo became a lightning rod of attention and excitement among Ringer fans the world over. In the words of another reporter: “it went beyond viral.” A resounding victory was pulled off by the unlikeliest fandom — an unorthodox lovefest — for an unexpected little hero. Here’s the story of how galvanized a remarkable fan audience to achieve a sweet victory!

It started when this year’s MTV Movie Awards announced their vote-in contest for the category “Best Hero” — allowing Instagram and Twitter users to employ hashtags like #VoteIronMan or #VoteHulk — and especially of interest to this phenomenon #VoteBilbo. A few days actually went by without us even noticing there was a contest. Over Easter weekend the staff of was working to deliver a great presentation before packed crowds (many hundreds in the standing-room-only hall) at WonderCon, happening right on the tail of a very successful April Fool’s Day prank — so no wonder we were looking elsewhere. first brought attention to the contest on April 3rd with this tweet:

226votesBilboWe saw that Kristen Stewart’s character Snow White (from that hunky HUNTSMAN movie) had a stunning 13,556 votes, far more than the other nominees… while poor Mr. Baggins was in very last place with only 226 votes.  A pathetic showing that would have me old Gaffer shaking his head in shame.

By using Twitter to muster our troops, within a mere 24 hours we saw a mighty surge of thousands of votes — yes THOUSANDS — and it kept going strong from there. We hit the Twitterverse so hard that #VoteBilbo started trending, everyone outside of our community actually picked up on it, K.Stew quickly lost her lead (causing her fanbase to respond), and thus “The Great Battle of the Fandoms” was in full swing.

We realized that TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN fans were supporting their chosen actress, *not* the character she portrayed, a bit of irony not lost on us.  The category “Best Hero” did not really mean “Best Actress You’re A Fan Of From Another Franchise Because You Didn’t Really Watch This Movie.” Their rigorous support for the actress rather than the character made the whole contest a bit of a sham, in that context. Rather unfair, in this Ent’s personal opinion, that a true statement of how we regard our heroes was being skewed so badly. Undoubtedly Twi-hards have been a huge segment of MTV’s target audience, and plenty of naysayers told us that we didn’t have a chance to tip the scales. We were glad to have a challenge: a task to show what genuine fan-love of a heroic character really looks like, with numbers not seen since the Muster of Rohan!

The meteoric trending of #VoteBilbo caught everyone’s attention. Warner Bros. Pictures officially supported the effort with this missive from their Twitter account ‘TheHobbitMovie’ on April 5th, which spurred tens of thousands of new votes:



The other nominees were floundering: Batman and Catwoman were left in the dust of a deserted Gotham City as Bilbo VS. Snow White became a runaway viral showdown. But the numbers were not quite right. Certain fake Twitter accounts (spam-style “bots”) were discovered processing blank-except-for-the-hashtag #VoteSnowWhite tweets, but they were reported and shut down.  Our support for Mr. Baggins was quite organic, and the funny thing was that votes were not coming from some hardcore group of Martin Freeman supporters, though they exist, but rather from Tolkien-lovers who really wanted to make a true statement about Bilbo Baggins.

April 6th proved to be a huge day! The media-watch group WHO TRENDED IT? posted this tweet on April 6th, giving TORn proper credit:


Then our friend Emil Johansson at the LOTRProject Blog gave us something masterful: he launched a special page to show statistics of the voting and how it changed in real-time. He tweeted this:


Within his wonderful vote-tracker page we could see exactly what was going on, relative to the timing of our announcements on (and our Facebook timeline and Twitter, of course). When there was doubt our votes were less than stellar, we rallied again!

ThorinVOTEBILBOStars from the LOTR Film Trilogy and even newer actors from THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY jumped on board! Their timing was perfect — and because these actors are actually paying attention to what fans are saying on Twitter, it felt like a genuine grassroots effort was brewing. We had tweets from Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc Brandybuck) and Dean O’Gorman (the dwarf Fili) on the same day Evangeline Lilly (upcoming new character Tauriel) retweeted our comments — pleased as we were to ultimately learn that retweets counted as full votes!):




Then Sean Astin (my favorite hobbit) joined the fray:



More ambitious creative folks within our Ringer ranks started posting videos designed to bring a smile to your face as well as playfully jab at Bella Swan  — and MTV reported on it, realizing that the race was getting quite aggressive between the two camps. ‘If you liked it then you shoulda put a Ring on it’ had a whole new meaning with Speigel Ei’s Vimeo clip:

single-bilboooo from Spiegel Ei on Vimeo.

“HOBBIT fans went straight for the gut of Team #VoteSnowWhite,
who have to watch as several of the characters from Middle-earth court
Kristen Stewart to their side over Edward Cullen,” declared the MTV blog, and we realized this was indeed a chance to show our resplendent fandom in a unique way. The fact that we have been in love with Tolkien’s HOBBIT characters for 75 years since the book was first published supported the sky-high numbers of votes.

PASSING1millionvotesHUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF VOTES POURED IN DAILY. When the final weekend of the Awards telecast began on April 13th, we broke 1 million votes. K.Stew voters were trying to keep up; sometimes we crossed above or below their high-end total. Fans started to create one-click Twitter vote buttons, and we supplied a host of #VOTEBILBO avatars and funny images to become viral memes. Fans started creating their own images (with familiar LOLcat fonts) and sharing them.

Our lovely lady friends Kili and Fili from our HAPPY HOBBIT video channel did a fun little P.S.A. style announcement asking Ringers to bring their votes to bear! We were really building momentum as a community. There was more spirited fun to be had with this contest than we first suspected!

Did we have crossover from other fantasy fans? You betcha! *wink* GAME OF THRONES featured our very own Sean Bean (Boromir) in the first season and of course it was appropriate for him to support his halfling friend.


We were not just sending empty or meaningless tweets with a hashtag in place — we wanted to make this relevant. In an effort to really bring our feelings and honest passion to the center stage, TORn decided to host a concentrated “Tweet Quest” on Sunday April 14th, the day of the MTV Movie Awards. During a tightly-concentrated 1-hour block, and then another encore 1-hour, we asked Ringers to declare why Bilbo should be named ‘Best Hero.’ So we put forward the call to arms.

Boy oh boy, did they respond with a flood of hobbity lovin’!

Fans declared things that mattered to us, that mattered to readers, and as lovers of Tolkien we could certainly relate:  “#VoteBilbo because he was the one person who willingly let the Ring go, when no one else could,” was my personal favorite sentiment. We have an audience that included older-generation folks who had never used Twitter, so we gave quick and easy instructions to help guide our friends toward their goal. We provided everything we could — and most importantly we gave this effort true SPIRIT.

It was a phenomenal success. In the end the final tally was:

#VoteBilbo: 1,637,179

#VoteSnowWhite: 1,532,571

See Emil’s final infographic here!

Giving our furry-footed reluctant adventurer a lead of well over 100,000 to claim the win! Although MTV broadcast the announcement of the winner as a throw-away commercial bumper for Axe body spray (indeed it was shown offstage, not really part of the “actual ceremony”), and although no cast member from THE HOBBIT film was present to receive the award, we here at were entirely thrilled to have succeeded with a kind of social networking wizardry that was fueled by you, dear readers.

Such a long way to go from only 226 votes! Such an outpouring of love!

One of our volunteer staffers, Magpie, had this to say: “It was like a flash mob. We did it for us (We defined as the greater Tolkien fan community with TORn functioning a major player in focusing that fan community). It was a community campaign that was an event in itself.”

Staffer Justin who produces our Live webcasts and our weekly show TORn TUESDAY had this to say: “Over 27,000 Bilbo pictures on
Instagram in one week! Take a look at all the comments and tweets we
got, there is something for everyone to run with. Thank you all for making #votebilbo happen. I received several messages at the beginning saying I was ‘crazy’ and it was ‘Folly against Twi-hards,’ ‘Who cares about MTV,’ and ‘What’s the point of a stupid teenage online popularity contest?’ But this is why fans love being fans. Achieving something together. To Prove Their Quality.”

And that, my friends, is indeed the feeling I have at the end of the day. That we have stood up with a flag of unity once again. That we have proven our quality of thinking creatively and acting with great energy! It feels like it was months in the making but it happened over such a very short length of time (making it the more surprising).

The love that brings us together is our love of J.R.R. Tolkien and his works are evergreen. No separation of older to younger generations or access to technology can slant that.  The truth will out!

Hulk sad.  Too bad.

Batman gave up the ghost. Because we are the most.

Iron Man clad in shame. Shoulda played his own game.

Catwoman felt an itchy pox. Put kitty back in her smelly box.

Snow White drifted. Twi-hards were sifted (out).

But #BilbotheHero wins the day! We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bilbo wins Best Hero 2013

Much too hasty,


Follow Cliff “Quickbeam” Broadway on Twitter: @quickbeam2000

Follow on Twitter: @theoneringnet