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Long Ago, In A Movie Trope Far, Far Away…

April 14, 2014

Sorry for the no posty thing. I’m still sick as a dog, and posting requires that I actually be coherent. This next post may fail completely on that score.

So my wife and I were watching the three part mini-rant by Robert J. Sawyer about Star Wars [1][2][3]and its failure to address the issues of the day honestly, and I felt that he had deliberately missed the point.

DISCLAIMER
I was a Star Wars geek when I was a kid. I also geeked on Star Trek (and Doctor Who and Space 1999, actually), and I never fell into the trap of feeling bound to choose one over the other. I loved any representations of SciFi in television and movies, as long as they really tried to infect minds with great ideas. Probably why I still love SciFi and Spec Fic more than anything else going.

But I am not a slavish George Lucas fan. I’ve watched several of his movies, and I enjoy him as a filmmaker, but I don’t revere him by any stretch of the imagination, which he rarely does.

But what Robert J. Sawyer does is basically accuses George of dumbing down SF for future audiences, which I think is total bullshit. Oh, sure, there are so-called SF programs out there that do very little to test the boundaries of social commentary OR the old ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ concept of compare/contrast throughout history, which, yes, is or can be a form of social commentary in itself, but sometimes can just be a way of helping people distance themselves slightly from the social critique to accept the message behind it without putting up their guard at what might be offensive to them if it were more pointed or direct a message.

See, some filmmakers, and many writers as well, myself included, feel that social commentary can and perhaps should be sly and insidious, teaching us through repetition of simple truths carefully concealed in the subtext of the story, to learn to accept and respect the differences that make up our society. It’s not hat bold statements are invalid; it’s that they often miss the mark through their earnestness and determination to scold and deride. Honey, folks, is a better motivator than vinegar. I will win you over subconsciously, if I can’t see how brute force can achieve the objective more effectively. And fuck all that crap about the nobility of going head on versus gentle persuasion. I am not a coward. I know a losing battle when i see one, and I detect no nobility in a pyrrhic victory. If I’m in it, I’m in it to win.

So what does that say about George Lucas’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ intro, and how it affects the social commentary about Luke being a slaver and Obi Wan being a racist sympathizer? Well, nothing, unless you understand that what George did there was sleight of hand. It’s a double bluff. Of course he says ‘don’t worry, relax, I’m not talking about you, here. If you see anything disturbing in these tropes and images, don’t sweat it. It’s not a story about you; it’s a story about a bunch of aliens from a long, long rime ago. Dont’ worry your pretty little head’ *wink*. And that’s the thing. We don’t ever see the wink. It’s implied. you are meant to infer from the familiarity of it all that, ‘Hey, waitaminute, just what are you actually saying, George?’

I don’t credit George with much, these days. He may have revolutionised and brought sci fi filmmaking out of the ghetto, but he doesn’t get too many points for social commentary, at least from me. but what he did amazingly well was slides fastballs past you by making them look like foul balls. Great curve ball on the guy.

So that’s what I would say to Robert J., if I met him. George doesn’t deserve much in the way of accolades, but he gets points for putting in stuff that you have to challenge yourself to understand properly, before you feel the texture and grasp the bigger picture involved. No, these so-called heroes are not lily white. They are shades of grey, and they may be good folks or bad folks, or somewhere in between, but they still resonate and inspire, even if they’re not the sort of heroes we would celebrate in our modern era.

Over on the other side of the argument, there is the similar debate going on with another George, this time R. R. Martin, whose Game of Thrones TV adaptation is stirring a backlash (at last) over the inherent racism on display in the Khaleesi tale, amongst other things. The point is, yes, there is racism, and what kind of a story would it be if we didn’t deal with issues like that, even in days like these where we like to think we’ve somehow vanquished these old foes. The point is, it’s our assumption that slavery and racism are somehow in check that needs addressing, not GoT’s blatant use of slaves and ‘noble savages’.

I don’t condone or approve of glorifying any of these disgusting institutions or overused and antiquated tropes, but if you think GoT glorifies anything, you haven’t been paying attention. There is nothing glorious in GoT, up to and including the Starks, who just barely hit the bar of anti-hero, let alone Hero. Folks have got to get it into their heads that civil rights issues don’t go away just because no one around you talks about them. GoT, with it’s high ratings and visibility, is the perfect place to reignite discussions about race relations and rampant sexism and rape culture, because we actually think we’re talking about heroes, when in fact, they’re almost all enormously despicable people, depending on whose moral scorecard you subscribe to.

So that’s my post for today. Hope you got nothing painful from it. I’m going to be over here in the corner trying to convert and assemble sound files into plausible compositions without coughing up a lung or two. Thanks for reading.

Lee.

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