Thursday, September 28, 2017

don't get cocky

I am, legitimately, an expert on the movie Groundhog Day. Or at least I was a few years ago. I don't 100% have the script memorized anymore, I don't think about the film every day. But, during the first year of this blog (and a few times since) I have been contacted by strangers with questions about the movie. (I also, while IMDb still had its message board, actively joined multiple conversation threads about the film, effectively positioning myself as someone who knows the film).

Similarly, I should be considered an expert on Star Wars, or an ex-expert. When I was a kid, I watched the trilogy often. There was no box set then so each film was on a different VHS tape. (If memory serves, Star Wars was on the same tape as Adventures of the Wilderness Family, The Empire Strikes Back was on a tape with The Natural and The Last Starfighter, and Return of the Jedi was on a tape with Silverado.*)

* I don't just trust my memory. My sister recently sent me pictures of our old movie list and I doublechecked while Artoo and Threepio were getting into trouble on Tatooine and that one stormtrooper happened upon.. Was that a washer? How does a droid just drop a washer? And, in a galaxy as heavily populated and traveled as the one that contains Tatooine, wouldn't there be machine debris all over that desert? Hell, I'm not an expert in ecology but I'm guessing that debris from thousands of years worth of spaceships traveling from place to place, dumping their garbage into space (as the Star Destroyer Executor does in Empire), and being destroyed in space, would mean debris was everywhere. Much would be too small and would burn up on entry into any given atmosphere, I suppose, but maybe the presence of that debris would even be part of the very sand structure of a "desert planet" like Tatooine. But, again, I'm not an expert on ecology, or sand, or atmospheric entry.

But then, I get ahead of myself in recollecting the Endor Holocaust argument, and wonder just how one can presuppose the existence of such a galactic-wide population with regular travel routes (like the Kessel Run) and not allow for the serious ecological and environmental impacts such a thing would have on each system. Like, how is Coruscant not at least as polluted as those shots of downtown LA at the start of Adventures of the Wilderness Family if not worse? Did ancient Jedi use the force to simply push pollution out into space? If so, is that what that exogorth in Empire regularly feeds on? For that matter, is that why mynocks exist all over the Galaxy, because there is just so much detritus and debris to consume that once upon a time, maybe during the time of the Old Republic, or even before, humanoids promoted mynock population growth? The Star Wars wiki suggests their primary diet was passive radiation.

But then again, as soon as he could manage a cleaner look to his universe, Lucas made all the ships and buildings of the Star Wars galaxy (which, apparently, in the four decades of comics and novels and sourcebooks never got a proper name, just "the galaxy") nice and clean. Aside from the trash compactor scene in this film, the Millennium Falcon drifting along with the garbage in Empire, and Anakin's whining about sand in Attack of the Clones, the actual existence and impact of dirt and trash just doesn't matter in the Star Wars universe. (Well, there was a trash compactor scene in Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy of novels, as well, if I recall, but that was more an echo of this film, in being a way to escape capture.)

But this is the stuff that goes through my mind. Sure, I grew up on Star Wars as it was, but I also grew up with Star Wars as it was. As Wooderson might put it, "I get older, Star Wars stays the same age." It's like mythology or religion... but I repeat myself. Timeless in its fundament. And, each time you come back to it, it pulls you backward, and maybe you pull it forward, you find new ways to plug it into your brain, the nooks and crannies. While there were Star Wars comics in the 80s--

(as well as Droids and Ewoks cartoons which I have never actually managed to watch because my Star Wars obsession peaked long before they showed up on home video (i.e. DVD... Supposedly, there were some VHS copies earlier, but I never saw those)

--my experience with Star Wars up until the Thrawn trilogy (starting with Heir to the Empire in 1991) was three films, a lot of toys, and playing Star Wars with friends and/or my sister Brooke. After Zahn's trilogy of novels, I worked backward, bought old comics, bought sourcebooks, pored over Bill Slavicsek's A Guide to the Star Wars Universe, bought every new comic, every new novel, all the new action figures produced from Star Wars' newfound popularity, and even add my own stories to a Star Wars timeline I wrote on my old word processor. Alas, because it was on that old word processor, I no longer have it, but one notable detail (that should tell you something about me) was that I wrote Sodom and Gomorrah into Star Wars history as twin planets destroyed because of Jedi turned to the Dark Side. When new VHS versions of the trilogy came out on video, I bought them. When the special editions came out, I lined up to see them on the big screen and bought the tapes when they were released (even though some additions were silly). And, when the new trilogy was announced, I was excited. Hell, with the more recent The Force Awakens and Rogue One, even the Rebels cartoon, it's like I can be a little kid again while I watch. But also an adult. Star Wars remains Star Wars but my perspective widens and grows. I see how it influenced other films, how it influenced filmmaking, how it influenced marketing and merchandising, how imagery like Leia's side bun hairstyle or Leia's slave outfit in Jedi infused themselves into pop culture, how turning to the Dark Side became common nomenclature... And how many times have I quoted lines from these movies in four decades?

For that matter, how much of my understanding of masculinity was influenced by the dichotomy of Luke and Han? How much of my understanding of feminists came from Leia? How much of my curiosity for the world came from the notion that other planets and alien life forms might exist out there? One of the reasons Star Wars is not science fiction, of course, is that it never really delves into the exploration aspect, the real societal impacts of so many disparate cultures merging and warring constantly over thousands of years. Lucas wasn't interested in that aspect, of course, but rather used the setting for a simple (and mythologically evocative) adventure yarn. When he did expand his approach, he went with politics instead of culture. Every culture seems monolithic, every planet has one (or two) biomes; is it any wonder that a singular Empire could rule over such a galaxy? On a related note, was the obvious distinction between good and evil a piece of the Cold War? Lucas was too old really to fall in line with the counterculture but he was in college when college campuses were still the stage for revolution. He could play with rebellion as a concept but not really explore its every nuance, or weigh it's impacts accordingly. But, oh how he could fuel a child's imagination in the direction of said rebellion... Or not, of course. Because the rebellion is drawn in broad strokes, there is room for a kid to enjoy these films but not embrace a philosophy of rebellion. Because the empire is drawn in broad (evil) strokes, there is room for a more child of a more conservative bent to watch this and still see something worth (in the moment) rebelling against. But, really, any child growing up in the early 80s absolutely should have Star Wars as a fixture in their minds of... something. If not, I am sorry that your parents didn't let you do fun things like watch movies.

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