Yes, this is a (belated) reaction to Kathy Shaidle’s “Five Reasons Why Star Wars Actually Sucks,” from a couple weeks ago.
Shaidle admits to deliberately taking a nap during her first screening of Star Wars, and I’m guessing she never gave it another shot. That doesn’t actually disqualify her from having an opinion, but . . . . here’s a thumbnail version of Shaidle’s five reasons:
1) Star Wars was influenced by classic movies and cultural ideals. Also, Joseph Campbell.
2) George Lucas is kind of a douche.
3) Star Wars fans are worthless nerds – real men don’t have time for frivolous pastimes or hobbies of any sort.
4) A link to a wikipedia page about a William Shatner vanity project is better than one to a CS Monitor piece about holograms, bionics, and lasers.
5) Finally there’s a vague complaint about the cultural effects of the popularity of Star Wars. Vomit is involved.
To sum up, Shaidle hates Star Wars and anyone who doesn’t hate Star Wars. And those are her reasons why. But what’s missing from her list?
Think about it. I’ll wait.
Did you say “She didn’t actually say anything about the movies”? I bet you did.
Whining about the peripheral effects of a major popular-culture icon is like saying that Chris Christie’s shadow is “rotund”. So here, for your edification and delight, is my counter-list. Five reasons why Star Wars is actually awesome:
[I’ve got a bad feeling about this – Ed. Shaddap.]
1) If it wasn’t for the success and popularity of Star Wars, would we have gotten Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek TNG (and later incarnations), Babylon 5, Farscape, Firefly? maybe, maybe not. Not to mention The Matrix, the current fad for superhero movies, and insert your example here.
2) The special effects arms race. Before Star Wars, we had mechanical sharks and guys in rubber dinosaur suits. Now we get hobbits, terminators, and Na’vi. All because Star Wars made Hollywood realize that green screens are the color of money. And if Hollywood has gotten a little too fond of trilogies, summer blockbusters, and advertising tie-ins, it’s really a small price to pay.
3) Diversity! Remember the Mos Eisley bar scene? Of course you do. Bilateral symmetry is apparently quite common in that part of the galaxy, but otherwise no two patrons of that establishment were alike. Excepting the show’s protagonists, of course. Same for Jabba’s throneroom and the Jedi Council (almost). All speaking their own languages, too. In fact other than Admiral Ackbar, various Jedi masters, and that two-headed thing doing play-by-play for the podrace, every nonhuman spoke a language other than English. And everybody understood each other all the time.
4) Do, or do not. There is no try.
5) The Star Wars movies are endlessly fun to nitpick. Why can’t the Stormtroopers hit anything with those blasters? Was the Obi-wan/Darth Vader lightsaber duel shot in slow motion? Was the Death Star garbage smasher monster part of the crew, or what? EWOKS?? Does Jabba realize he’s that fat? Why don’t Jedi carry a spare lightsaber, since they seem to lose them so often? Why couldn’t Kenobi just force-push those buzzdroids off his ship? And for that matter how come he seemed so surprised when Anakin jumped back into the elevator car? Et cetera.
And was Jar-Jar really the most annoying thing about Phantom Menace?
Bottom line, if I want a movie with intelligent dialogue, three-dimensional characters, no space battles, and thoughtful well paced plotting, I can go see one. They’re out there, though they rarely inspire Lego sets.
6) [Did I say five? Well I have altered the deal. Pray I don’t alter…oh, forget it.] Vader’s breathing, Yoda’s syntax, the sound of lightsabers being swung, C3PO’s whining, and dozens of other little things have become instantly recognizable metaphors for every occasion. And speaking of little things, Leia’s bikini has taken on a life of it’s own at this point.
Shaidle is undoubtedly not alone in her distaste for the movies and their long, long shadow. But when something is so widely loved, you might as well admit that there might be something to love, there. This notion has helped me to accept the existence of karaoke machines, Survivor, and sparkly-vampire movies, it can do the same for Shaidle and her ilk. Because fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to ill-considered, poorly reasoned rants that live forever on the internet.
I will give her this, though: George Lucas is kind of a douche.