Candour, I’m sure you’d agree, is a trait that we admire. It seems all the more precious and hence admirable – by virtue of its rarity – when it is displayed by members of the Government. I’m not talking about this Government in particular, but just the many and varied inhabitants of the hallowed honeycombed offices over the years.
Still, even with candour, there’s a time and a place, so it disappointed me to hear our Beloved Leader being widely quoted across the media a day or so ago talking about the upcoming premiere of the latest instalment of Lord of the Rings. “Helen Clark liked the books better!” they exclaimed, as I guess I am now too.
So the Prime Minister preferred reading the Tolkein trilogy back in 1967 to seeing Peter Jackson’s celluloid rendition in 2002. Fair enough. Can’t blame her, damn good books they are too. Nothing wrong with an honest opinion.
Nothing wrong that is, other than the fact that with New Zealand (or at least a small but very talented subset of New Zealanders) in the spotlight, an event almost as rare as Bill English giving a definitive policy statement, could her timing have perhaps been better? It’s not so much a case of “if you can’t say anything nice…” but “It's your job, so you'd better say something nice”. It seems hard to believe that anyone said to Clark "so which did you prefer, the book or the movie?" Or at least if they did, it wouldn’t have been a hard question to sidestep, surely, not with the (Christian) Cullen-like flair Clark has had to develop over the past term-and-a-bit at the helm. Clark unfortunately went on to sound even more grudging, stating she never went to see the film adaptation of books she had read, but would make an exception in this case because of its New Zealand connection. Doesn’t exactly paint a picture of someone sitting on the edge of their seat in anticipation, does it?
It might seem like a small point, and of course it is. Any smaller and you’d put it in a tiny patterned zip-lock bag and sell it for $100. It’s the ill-considered nature of Clark’s statement, its timing, and the fact that she must have known what coverage (of which I'm unfortunately now a part) was bound to ensue from anything less than full support for the Jackson trilogy. A trilogy which has, after all, provided untold employment, and influx of tourism and international kudos.
It's not like we're not into it as a nation either. We’ve got a Minister of the Lord of the Rings, we've got hobbit stamps, we’ve even bent over, touched our toes and temporarily changed our country’s name -- “New Zealand is Middle Earth!” for God’s Sake! What was the correct response? All Helen had to do was give the same line my partner always uses when I nag about her previous lovers.
So which was better, the book or the movie?
They were just different.