STAR WARS: the New Republican

July 20, 2017



I saw the movie ‘Star Wars’ in the theater in late June of 1977. Even at that young age, I was usually unimpressed by hype, and frankly the lines to get tickets even several weeks after its opening were still way too long. So I didn’t much mind that I was one of the few kids who had not seen it. But I had spent the night at a friend’s house that weekend, and both he and his mother raved about what a great movie it was. They were half-incredulous, half-mortified that I had not seen it. So that day, we drove 20 miles from Alexandria, Virginia to the Uptown Theater in Washington DC to see it. It had one of the biggest movie screens anywhere and a state of the art sound system. And I was completely blown away by the experience. I saw it twice more in theaters that summer. I didn’t care that Han Solo didn’t know what a ‘parsec’ was, or that a farm boy from a desert planet had Batman’s utility belt complete with grappling hook, or that they blew up a starbase by shooting it in the tailpipe. I only knew that the battle scenes in space were so technologically advanced that for all intents and purposes they had been produced by magic, that I had been introduced to a whole new way to think about religion and that Han shot first. And that it was the first space/”science fiction” movie I had ever seen that didn’t bore me to tears with its ponderous pace.


So when “Empire Strikes Back” came out, I made sure I saw it the very first week. And even though some of my friends had seen it opening night and had divulged some spoilers, I still was amazed by it. Darth Vader was a major movie villain and his boss, whom we barely saw, was the only guy in the universe who made Vader tremble. Whoa! But that wasn’t even the best part. Bobba Fett was the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, complete with cool looking gear and a spaceship to match. To top it all off was the first movie I had ever seen that had the courage to show the bad guys winning in the end, even though there was still a glimmer of hope that the good guys might eventually make a comeback. Oh, and when Han Solo didn’t say “I love you” back… that was such a cool play. He changed romance in western culture forever with two words: “I know”. Just awesome!


This was all so mind-blowing I became a Star Wars devotee. Those next few years waiting for the third installment, I learned everything there was to know about the Star Wars universe. I still have the published sketchbooks and encyclopedias to prove it.


But then came “Return of the Jedi”. I sat outside the theater for eight hours waiting for the very first showing and was the tenth person in line at a theater in what was then rural Fairfax. The theater was renowned for two things: its massive 90 foot by 60 foot screen, and being basically the only sign of civilization in a county that at the time was almost entirely forest and horse farms. I can not adequately express how disappointed I was when I left. Really? Teddy bears defeating the most fearsome blaster-toting army in the universe with stone clubs and logs? Blowing up yet another Death Star that had essentially the same weakness? The only redeeming thing about that day was seeing Carrie Fisher in a bikini. And the coup de grace: the most fearsome bounty hunter in the galaxy disabled by a broom stick hit to his rocket pack. I have friends who are rocket scientists – real and actual rocket scientists who work for NASA – and I asked them once if I could launch a Saturn V rocket (or any rocket really) by hitting it – anywhere - with a broom stick. They laughed. I took that as a “no”.


Later I learned that George Lucas had originally planned for Endor to be populated with Wookies, not Ewoks, but they simply couldn’t find enough really tall extras to make it work so they opted to go in the other direction. That didn’t justify the plot, but at least with Wookies it was plausible that a race of beings capable of ripping people’s arms out of their sockets could at least put up a decent fight. Still later I learned that Lucas had originally written that Han Solo would die in “Jedi” but reneged on the idea because he realized he would not be able to sell as many toys if Solo - by far the most compelling character in the series - had died.


Little did I know then this was the first clear evidence that the Empire had won.


Then came the re-releases which Lucas claimed were his original vision. I have to honestly tell you that the only times I have ever left a movie theater thankful for the existence of studio execs who insist that certain parts be cut (for whatever reason) was after those three releases.


And then came Episodes 1-3. Each time I waited in line on opening day and each time I came away more disappointed. Not only was the dialogue mind-numbingly remedial, the acting wooden and the plot unintelligible, but the portrayals of the contending peoples were overtly racist. And midichlorians? Seriously? What were you thinking, George? Or more probably, what were you drinking/smoking? Oh, and spoiler alert, something big blows up about ten minutes from the end. So let me get this straight: Anakin is “the Chosen One” as acknowledged by Qui Gon, Obi Wan, Yoda and the entire council. Still, they never let kids his age enter training because it is too dangerous. But Yoda is going to let Obi Wan train him because Obi promised Qui Gon that he would. Y’know, Qui Gon, the guy Yoda stated wasn’t a very good jedi in the first place because he’s a maverick and doesn’t always follow the Jedi code. He’s like the samurai who cheats at cards and lives in a tool shed. So the one guy in the universe who can save the Jedi religion… you’re letting him learn about the most complex thing in the universe from the Jedi equivalent of a high school junior who just learned algebra from Morris Buttermaker. You’re letting him be the kid’s sole tutor… the savior of the universe... his… not from the wisest and most learned Jedi in history? Or any of the other guys on the council, who I don’t know, are actual Jedis. Gee, Yoda, what next – let him drink a keg of Dagoban swamp water before operating heavy machinery? The rest of the plot “twists” that follow are beyond absurd. Suffice it to say that Episodes 1-3 turned me off the saga so much that I have yet to see Episode 7. Still. Wait, let me guess, something blows up in the last ten minutes of the movie? Yeah I figured. I also heard that the bad guy whines about not knowing whether to be bad or not. So we’ve gone from one of the most fearsome villains in movie history to an emo teen with Jedi acne. Well-played, Disney!


Then a friend of mine convinced me to see Rogue One, which had garnered very positive reviews. I should have known better. So the guy who is forced to design the Death Star against his will has secretly put a weakness in it so that it can be exploited and destroyed. Yes, we know that shooting things in the tail pipe doesn’t actually work, but go on… And he sends a message to rebel spies that he has put this weakness into the Death Star via a very elaborate 3-D holographic projection. Ok… I’m still listening... But then he doesn’t include the plans that display the weakness. What, did he run out of memory space? You can build a planet-destroying space station the size of a moon but can’t build a hard drive big enough to handle a .gif? I mean, he didn’t even have to add text at the bottom to make it a full meme. Instead, our plucky heroes have to travel to a secret research/prison planet and he will tell them the secret in person. They do, only to find out that the plans are actually on another planet. Sorry, but why didn’t you just say that the plans are on that planet in the first place? So they go to that planet and find them in the Imperial Library. The most technologically advanced and secure library in the galaxy… yet still uses cassettes to store memory. OK, public libraries on Earth in third world countries are more advanced than that, but a civilization capable of producing holograms, planet-sized death machines and faster than light travel still stores its most valuable knowledge on cassettes? I would more likely believe they could store the entirety of human knowledge on a watch than buy that.  More disappointingly, these cassettes have to be manually accessed using robotic arms. You mean I can’t just type in a search request and get a print-out? Or download the file to a thumb drive? Or even a blank cassette? Or I don’t know, send it via an attachment in an email? Based on the technology we’re talking about I’m sure there’s a Radio Shack still open in that neighborhood. And then you have to literally climb the dish tower to plug it in to the outlet at the top of the tower to broadcast it? Do they have to do that with every file? If so, they probably need to clone Alex Honnold to be all of the librarians. I’m sorry but at what point must one say, ‘ok, this is ridiculous. I’m done.’ 


It was here I came to the stark realization that Star Wars – all of it – is not science fiction. At all. Because there is really no science in any of it and what sciency things there are is bad science. Really bad science. It turns out the entire saga is just a marketing scheme posing as a religion in order to sell toys and to make a bunch of rich guys much richer. And it was then that it dawned on me, the biggest, most soul-shaking realization of all:

Who else is really bad at understanding science? Who else says one thing that is kinda dumb, then comes back later and says “this is what I really meant” and that turns out to be even dumber? Who else race baits? Who else takes a cool thing like religion and not only misunderstands it, but tries to explain the unexplainable aspects about it in scientific terms? Who else spins narratives that not only conflict with reality but are nonsensical even in the fundamental details? And who else sells out time and again for the cash grab at the expense of a gullible public that never bothers to think about what they’re consuming? I’ll give you a hint: their name sounds a lot like the good guys in Star Wars… you know, the people who yearn for the old “republic”. I think you know, but in case it’s not clear I suggest you read the latest political news. And in case it was also not clear, when the next installment of the “saga” is released, I implore you to resist.