The Jedi of Minsk
by ALEX CARNEVALE
Some parts of the culture stay parts of the culture. Usually they relate to cultural icons, whose identities are so frequently personified in the art and Sovietesque reproduction of the image that it becomes currency in every aspect of the society.
Star Wars, on the other hand, is probably destined to inevitably disappear.
Mission-based programming like Star Trek and Stargate is about the vagaries of human exploration. That's not Star Wars. It's about fear of technology, and a movie about fear of technology is probably not going to age all that well in the age of technology. That's the age we're in.
Luke Skywalker is a poor boy on a distant planet. He is the main character in a fantasy. He is orphaned and this is not his real home world. We're going to hyperdrive said Han Solo, as if that were an actual thing. The problem is that you can't actually go faster than the speed of light.
This did not enter in George Lucas' thinking. As we found out during the execrable last three prequels in this vein, Lucas framed his investigations of interstellar incest into somewhat action packed rehashings of various SF clichés.
When Lucas was fourteen, he found out he couldn't bang his hot cousin, and what a terrific phenomenon resulted from that reproductive urge! I can give George all the credit in the world: this was a fantastic leap for the time, and even though his special effects look retarded now, they were one hell of step for mankind. (I particularly hate his robots.)
Dominion over the Galaxy, even in the long long ago, isn't really possible. You would need technological advances that likely can't exist based on our conceptions of physics. We may find out how to travel to other galaxies, but it will not be by slipping through space time. It will likely involve some changed conception of what being human is, or an AI that will work for us.
Instead George imagined the mindless Federation, first of all interstellar authorities, as least as kids in Wisconsin knew it. They weren't exactly getting the latest Robert Silverberg yarn mailed to their doorstep — they had to work for Wookies.
So George was their man, and you know the story. But really Star Wars isn't science fiction. There's little to no science in it. It's straight Shakespearean with a little Bible thrown in for Midwest America. It's a masterpiece of programming, and his casting was fabulous. Also give him credit for realizing that better directors could do the series a service. The Empire Strikes Back is one of the most mysterious fantasies ever created.
Many had imagined the possiblities of an ice planet, most notable Ursula K. LeGuin in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness. But these were irrecoverable moments and they were plotted quite nicely. I mean people were watching All in the Family on TV. Sorry I'm not a Norman Lear guy. I prefer interplanetary incest.
Speaking of which, this film aged its two protagonists quite gainfully, and even Natalie Portman, in her late devotion to the one known as Devendra, has suffered some from the Star Wars curse. Star Trek didn't do anyone's careers a favor, practically ruining Patrick Stewart's efforts to act in the next decade. Harrison Ford somehow jumped free of this damnable spell. Mark Hamill and Daniel Radcliffe may have to sauna together in the next fortnight or so.
Some people think George Lucas is a dick, others think his beard was "all right looking." It's somewhat unfortunate that he became such a megalomaniac, because if it had actually had to work for it we could have seen at least 14 feature films about space porn made to fund his divorces. Royalties forever limit the possibility of divorce.
Also, the end of Star Wars didn't really make rational sense, as about 5,000 parodies have taken the pains to point out. Seth McFarlane's was the best, with another pilot calling Luke out for being a dick once the rebellion got going.
Lucas also was brilliant at settings. He did really well with the abscence of nature — desert, forest — and he even made a great dense jungle. He also knows how not to fuck up a spaceport.
Later on, the message became more preachy. Whatever government Lucas' Intergalatic Senate satirized, I'm not that interested in learning about it between picnic lunches featuring Natalie Portman and Hayden Christiansen. The latter was absolutely horrible, and he also ruined Jumper.
It's easy to make fun of Star Wars, and it's probably been parodied more than anything else ever, but it's also sort of difficult to imitate. It's a family drama with a fairly simple origin story and deep dark Federation.
The Jedi are the magicians, but the whole thing doesn't really make sense. In real life the Jedi would be tortured and killed for being terrorists. Things were a lot more lax in Star Wars for the Jedi.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.
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