Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Star Wars: A Thoughtful Consideration Then What I Really Think

With all of the commercials, product placement, toys and other such garish hype, I have finally been forced to consider where I stand vis-a-vis the Star Wars industry; this is not just the latest incarnation, but the entire span that, in fact, goes back to the year I was born. I have come to two positions, derived from different parts of my psyche that often fight with each other.

First, my background in academics (in particular social and cultural history). It seems to me that Star Wars speaks to a large segment of the population in their search for belonging and meaning in a postmodern condition where image is divorced from reality and that which goes on on-screen can be just as real for people as interpersonal relationships (sad, but seems increasingly true). What makes people like these movies with such fervor? I believe that it can be attributed to a couple of factors: the savvy of the advertisers in selling a bill of goods, a need on the part of the "fan" to belong to an ego mass that has a particular purpose and shares peculiar (in more sense than one) histories and contours and the combination of techno "gee-whizzery" and a clear moral/ethical message with out the necessary complications that seems reflective of American popular culture. This movie brings people together in a way similar to religion or ideology. It gives the fan a common history and set of values. They also live in the same worlds with the same characters and same conflicts. In an often morally bankrupt world, these true believers seek out meaning and depth where it may be found. If that happens to be in a high-budget commercial enterprise about spacemen, then so be it.

Is this an unfair characterization of the average person who will see these movies? Yes, in many ways it is. For most, it will most likely be a completely forgettable piece of computer-generated sounds and images that will provide temporary entertainment before retuning to more important pursuits. It will be another one of the useless bits of flotsam on the seas of modern American commerical film. For the dedicated, however, this can prove to be an important determinant in their group ethos. I seem to remember when the first of the second group of movies came out a few years back, these people were disappointed, really disappointed. In any event, if this enterprise brings them joy and they don't harm me or my property in the process, let them have as much of it as they can take.

Now, what I really think. I think that this is just another piece of quasi-religious sputum designed to give the hopeless something to buy and consume in hopes of gaining some insight into their lives and their place in the cosmos. Want to understand the moral universe of Star Wars? Watch some old westerns and read some mythology followed by The Hero With One Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. That should about do it. This film is no different from any other piece of crap that is made today. It is made to generate revenue not so much from the film as from the merchandising deals, product placement, books and all of the other attendant crap that will be on clearance by Christmas. It is designed to separate dorks from their money. This is a great market because these people usually don't recreate in adult ways (booze, porn, electoral politics) and they have an amazing amount of disposable income. Couple this with the fact that their raison d'etre is a merchandising/media concept designed to sell product, and what you have is a merchandiser's dream.

So, let the line up and let the spending begin! All for a movie about stuff that never happened to spacemen and creatures in other worlds. Why not create a few worlds of your own? These are whatever you make them, take on many forms and they are completely free.

Have your own vision, or at least try to take it back.

Quit being a brainless shill for some bastard who doesn't need any more money than he had in 1983.

Or, if you must, watch it, forget it and move on.

No comments: