Confusing Gollum with Smeagol is the sort of thing that you might get chewed out for on obscure Internet forums, but the distinction between the two personalities of Tolkien’s precious-obsessed creature is taking on great significance in a high-profile Turkish court case.
In Turkey, it’s currently a crime to insult a public figure, a crime that doctor Bilgin Ciftci is alleged to have committed when he shared the meme below, which the court believes compares Turkish President Recep Tayyip to the corrupt and murderous Gollum. While you might be inclined to laugh the photo off, it could net Ciftci up to two years in prison and has already cost him his job.
— A.Kadir Yildirim (@akyildirim) October 15, 2015
While comparing anyone to Gollum would undoubtedly be insulting, if you look at the meme closely, all three images on the left hand side appear to feature Smeagol, the good-natured, amiable Hobbit that fights Gollum for control over the body that they both inhabit. Ciftci’s lawyer Hicran Danisman believes that, if he can prove that President Tayyip is being compared to Smeagol in the photo, the prosecution can no longer allege that the meme is insulting. Considering that the freedom of expression argument has reportedly gotten the defense nowhere, this is a pretty brilliant tack to take.
According to Deadline Hollywood, the issue has received such attention that Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson and screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have issued the following statement in effort to clear up any confusion on the matter:
“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.”
Game, set and match … right?
Well, not so fast. The judge in Ciftic’s trial has called upon five LOTR lore experts to help clear the matter up, and because Jackson & Co. were not consulted for the trial, their statement may not hold water legally.
That said, you have to believe that these so-called experts should be able to explain the situation to the judge. We’ll have to wait and see, and in the meantime, if you’re reading this from a country that won’t jail you for poking fun at a public figure, you may want to take a second to count your blessings.