MORE POSTS 
 

Star Wars oil painting exhibit "Sandstorm" opens

Breakneck boredom: an old time Star Wars fan's thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness

They put me on the news to talk about Star Wars

More from Steve Sansweet on Star Wars and gay marriage

Carmine Infantio has died

I can die happy: I've been interviewed by Dungeons & Dragons

Star Wars Episode 7: All My Children?

What JJ Abrams needs to really succeed with Star Wars 7

Star Wars: The Old Republic is gay--on one planet at least

Tongal and Pringles bring us DYI desecration of Star Wars

Reminiscences about West End Games' Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Here's the biggest Star Wars news of 2012

Stephen Quinn interviews me about Star Wars on CBC Vancouver

Star Wars: modern myth or global franchise?

Parents turn child's 1st birthday into extended Lucasfilm/Hasbro advert

Me reading from A Long Time Ago

Highlights and lowlights of the upcoming Star Wars Celebration VI

Grown men (mostly) dressed up as Lando Calrissian

Beggar's Canyon Toys offer Star Wars toy "restoration" service

Blog's t-shirts banned by Zazzle

Will the real David Prowse please stand up?

LaserSaber: Unlicensed, dangerous and yours for only $99

Is this the future of Star Wars?

Is Star Wars link bait?

Dissent not tolerated at the Prequel Appreciation Society

TSOT discovers its nemesis

Comme des idiots: Star Wars teams up with poncy fashion house

US Christian activist attacks SWTOR for being gay

Yodaphone--the latest product pitch from Star Wars Inc.

Attention tortoise-fanciers: do you like Star Wars?

History of Star Wars as related by a bot

Is Star Wars a travesty of science fiction?

Luke Skywalker and company on the Muppet Show

Yoda now shilling instant soup in Japan

Commander who?

$6000 for a toy you can't even play with

Star Wars underwear

Retro Star Wars decor in my son's bedroom

Phantom Menace 3D: Now With Plot

Star Wars and disco: the forgotten love affair

Will Muschamp: What a guy!

Oi, fanboy: grow up! A reply to Darren Franich

 

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Entries in prequelitis (3)

Monday
Nov052012

A grown man learns to love the prequels

From Slate.com. It's a good read, but I'm not buying it. From the article:

George Lucas first disappointed Star Wars fans in 1999, when, giving in to demand, he produced the first of three prequels (Episodes I-III). Though successful at the box office and in terms of merchandising, the films were widely panned by adult fans on any number of grounds (from the quality of acting, to weak and possibly racist characters, to the use of CGI rather than the crude but beloved methods of animation available 20 or so years earlier).

I was one such critic. Born in 1977, the year Star Wars was released, I grew up on the original films and adored pretty much everything about the franchise. I (somehow) convinced my then-girlfriend (now wife) to see Episode I: The Phantom Menace the day it opened. I was appalled. Jar Jar Binks, a major character in the film, was embarrassingly silly and uncomfortably servile. The conflict underlying the film was a byzantine trade dispute that to this day I do not fully understand. The computer-generated animation of characters such as Watto (a small, flying creature with a tight fist and a vaguely Semitic nose) was not at all realistic, and the live-action actors sharing the screen with him looked every bit as though they were conversing with a character to be inserted later. I was so disgusted with Episode I that I didn’t bother to see Episodes II and III in the theater. I was in solidarity with my peers—Episodes I-III should never have been made.

Then, in January 2008, my son was born.  Though I had been put off by the prequels, my love of the original trilogy still burned bright, and I was eager to introduce my son to Luke, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Vader. By the age of 4 he had seen the original trilogy—the only trilogy that mattered—so many times that he longed for more. I reluctantly allowed him to watch Episodes I-III, and was surprised to discover that he liked them just as much as Episodes IV-VI, if not more so. As we further expanded our Star Wars Universe to include the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie (2008) and the animated TV series of the same name (currently airing on the Cartoon Network), it finally dawned on me that as a thirtysomething veteran of the original trilogy, I was no longer a member George Lucas’ target audience.

These movies are for children. Let me say that one more time: They are children’s movies, like Wreck It Ralph or Madagascar or Alvin and the Chipmunks. And George Lucas, to his great credit, speaks as well to children today as he did in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In fact, it is possible that he has gotten better

Slate: Don’t Give in to Hate: How a child of the original Star Wars trilogy learned to love the prequels—and why we should all look forward to Episode VII

Sunday
Feb122012

David Chen on the Phantom Menace's racial stereotypes

The racial stereotyping in the Phantom Menace is pretty obvious, I would have thought. The unpleasantness of this is likewise clear, to me at least. But sufferers from prequelitis often overlook or downplay this aspect of the film.

David Chen is understandably frustrated with this and has responded with a worthwhile blog post on the issue. He asks, "Can we please stop pretending that the clearly racist caricatures in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace were a) not racist caricatures, and b) acceptable to our society? Like, at all?" After a review of other commentators' views on the topic, including articles from the time of the film's first release, Chen concludes:

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace clearly invokes imagery and audio from racist ethnic stereotypes. The fact that the recipient of these stereotypical characteristics are non-human aliens does not change this fact (and yes, I realize that in Star Wars, technically ALL the characters are aliens, so no need to point that out). If you want to deny this, we can go back to the movies and do some scene-by-scene comparison. I quite frankly can't believe that I'm still having to even argue this point.

But to me, the question of whether Lucas has invoked these stereotypes (which I think he undeniably has) is much less interesting than the effect of his doing so. Does it make his movie "racist"? Does it lessen the film in any other substantive way? And what are its implications for how we talk about the film with children?

I'm going to try not to ascribe any intentionality to Lucas's actions. I doubt he's a racist at heart. In the above article, Stone suggests that these aliens came out of "suppressed stereotypes" from Lucas's psyche.  What I know is that most of the non-human-appearing aliens are presented as evil, devious, and/or scheming. Their accents and varying demeanors add to their "other-ness," and allow the audience to distance themselves, emotionally, from them.

It's not rocket science, this storytelling method that Lucas employs. There's a long cinematic history of using this type of imagery in this way. But I had hoped it was something that our culture tried to leave behind, not something that we still find defensible. Ultimately, The Phantom Menace is so artistically reviled that most people just throw the baby out with the bath water. Nonetheless, I feel a full accounting of the film's flaws must include this racial footnote.

Having spent a significant amount of time in the past two years studying media and its effect on children, I've learned that there aren't very many causal conclusions that can be drawn from whether or not violent imagery, sex, etc. actually have a concrete effect on child development. But one thing that I can confidently say is this: what we allow our children to watch matters. When they see The Phantom Menace, which features the triumph of (mostly) white characters over those people with the weird accents who talk, dress, and act differently than "us," what message does it send them?

I don't know the answer to that question. But I'm not going to pretend that it's not worth thinking about.

The Life and Times of David Chen: Racism and Ethnic Stereotypes in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace"

Monday
Nov142011

Prequelitis strikes Topless Robot writer

Dr Helmet diagnoses prequelitisChris Cummins has a serious case of prequelitis. This unfortunate condition afflicts a devastatingly large number of Star Wars fans, especially those under the age of 30, whose expectations of quality from the Star Wars franchise plummetted after watching the Phantom Menace and whatever the other two prequels were called. The result of exposure to these cinematic toxins is that anything that involves or refers to Star Wars becomes, in the victim's mind, an object of admiration, or at least toleration, no matter how objectively atrocious it is.

Mr Cummins' disorder manifests itself in an article on Topless Robot entitled, "8 Things About the Star Wars Holiday Special That Don't Completely Suck". The title itself reveals Mr Cummins as a victim of the disease. That diagnosis is confirmed by reading this sad, belaboured exercise in wishful thinking. The unfortunate Mr Cummins tries to persuade his readers (and himself) that Art Carney's performance was somehow valuable, that the occasional cutting-room-floor scraps of previously unseen Star Wars footage were worth seeing despite the opinions of Messrs Lucas, Kurtz and company that they were not, and (predictably) that the Boba Fett cartoon is "pure joy" instead of pure shit

Thankfully, Mr Cummins' editor, "Rob", has so far proved immune from the disease. He writes, entirely correctly, at the outset of Mr Cummins' post:

The Star Wars Holiday Special is an atrocity against god and man. You think it's going to be so bad it's good, but it's not -- it's so bad that nothing in life ever seems quite as good again. Despite what this list says, you still shouldn't watch it. It's not worth the suffering.

Topless Robot: 8 Things About the Star Wars Holiday Special That Don't Completely Suck