On Being a Star Wars Snob

comic_book_guy_by_wagnerf

Art by Wagner. See his Deviant Art gallery on the blogroll or on the link at the end of this article.

Hi. My name is Geoff. I’m a Star Wars snob.

The congregants [in unison]: …Hi, Geoff.

But I’m happy to say I’m a recovering Star Wars snob. I’ve been sober of my snobbery since about two summers ago.

It started for me, like it did for so many of us, in 1999, with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Almost two decades before, I had shared the Star Wars experience with my dad, and he had taught about the hypothetical six episodes that were supposed to bookend these phenomenal movies.  Perhaps this was apocryphal, but that didn’t matter A few years removed from high school, I couldn’t have been more excited about the “prequel” trailers when they first started running. The thought that the saga might actually be “completed” was very exciting. And let’s be honest: the trailers were fracking awesome.

jar_jar_binks_silhouette_target_by_tudiestudio-d72dy4aThen I watched the movie. And then I watched two more movies. Here’s what we were subjected to:

  • Jar Jar Binks
  • An even wider range of sambo alien species with more fully pronounced racist characteristics than ever before
  • The claim that Lord Vader, one of the most powerful and menacing forces the Dark Side would ever see, was once a happy-go-lucky, obnoxious little snot from a corny Christmas movie
  • Pukey sports commentators totally killing the buzz on what could have been the best chariot race since Ben Hur
  • An outlandish battle scene where happy-slappy Anakin outshoots and outmaneuvers a trained military fighting squadron… …entirely by accident!
  • Jar Jar Binks
  • Goofy robots (“roger, roger”) and juvenile character names (Dooku)—both of which are nestled in enough CGI to declare these “films” to actually be “cartoons”
  • An older Anakin, now not nearly as happy-go-lucky but infinitely more obnoxious and whiny
  • The blessed voice of James Earl Jones gratingly speaking the name “Padmé,” an experience worsened only by the vaudevillian cry, “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
  • Jar Jar Binks

This is to say nothing of the sacrilegious alterations made to the original films, with subsequent re-releases ad nauseum:

  • Guido shooting first
  • Han Solo stepping on and over a decidedly smaller and poorly animated Jabba the Hut
  • A “restored” Muppet Show in the first act of Return of the Jedi
  • Hayden Christensen superimposed where Sebastian Shaw should have been

Of course Darth Maul was awesome, but he got cut in half. And Ewan McGregor was a good casting choice for a young Sir Alec Guinness, so that was awesome. And the pod race was awesome, overall, despite the stupid two-headed cartoon commentator. But that’s kinda where the awesomeness ended. We suffered through three installments of this—that was six years of our lives we waited for redemption, holding out hope that the next film, and then the next, would live up to the legacy we remembered. Alas: the only hope for redemption seemed to be the New Hope that had been there all along.

But therein lies the fault in our premise, and this is what I have come to realize. I—and many like me—became Star Wars snobs because the “prequels” did not live up to the legacy we remembered. Unfortunately, that’s the very definition—and problem—with legacy. When we look closely enough, we find that it’s never actually as good as we remember it, or as we’ve made it out to be.

Two summers ago, with my son now showing an interest, we sat together and watched all six Star Wars movies up to that point. We did it over the course of several weeks, two or three sessions per movie, and in linear order by plot progression, not by release date. This sequence, and the breaks between viewings for re-cap discussion, made the story easier for my son to follow. What surprised me most, however, was not what he discovered from these viewings, but what I did. Here’s a few of those discoveries:

  • C-3PO and R2-D2 are the O.G. goofy robots.
  • Luke Skywalker is totally obnoxious and whiny, especially in Episode IV. I mean way whiny—even more than Anakin was in Episode II.
  • There are Muppets everywhere.  It’s not just a cameo in Return of the Jedi; it’s the whole movie. They’re called “Ewoks.” And now that I think of it, there were legions of Star Wars snobs hating on Ewoks all the way back in 1983. And not only this, but…
  • …in 1983, we were supposed to accept an outlandish battle scene where these primitive, tribal creatures used guerrilla tactics to stave off a direct assault from the most sophisticated, industrialized battalion in the known galaxy.

In short, I realized the “prequels” weren’t as far off the mark as I had led myself to believe. They were, in fact, fairly well consistent with the tone and tropes of the original Star Wars trilogy. Seeing them in this light set me on my path to recovery.

Now two years sober, I can accept a few things that I was too proud to admit before. First and foremost, Star Wars is important. Whether you like it or not, Star Wars is a permanent and iconic piece of American culture. I haven’t done the research, and I’m not trying to start a Star Trek v. Star Wars debate, but I propose that there’s nothing in the history of the sci-fi genre that is more universally recognized than a light saber. Further: more significant than the saga’s importance to society is its importance to my family, specifically to my shared experience with my son. Viewing all six movies with him was awesome. We had great fun, and he became a Star Wars fan for life. Now we share the same experience and excitement for the coming films as I did with my father for the originals.

What has made Star Wars great in our collective memory is not that the films were flawless, but rather the shared experience in our homes and in our culture that they’ve given us. And in that light, I will be happily riding the wagon back to the theater this December.

The front piece used in this article was done by wagner.
Check out his work at Deviant Art.

light saber

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What did I miss in my gripe list above? Which Star Wars addenda and alterations have upset you the most? Let it out, brothers and sisters. Purge it. It’s therapeutic. And then you can start to love again.

11 thoughts on “On Being a Star Wars Snob

    • Thanks for the link, Randim Axis. There’s definitely a rich conversation to be had on the level of “quality cinema.” But I enjoyed the “inferior” ones nonetheless, especially as a bonding experience with the boy.

      Like

    • Yes—another friend pointed that out to me, and truth be told: I didn’t realize I was making a mistake at the time. However, I assert that this was a Freudian slip, and one more testament to the inherent and blatant racism in Star Wars! Sambo aliens FTW!

      Like

  1. pdowen3 says:

    Episode I re-defined the Force in terms of “metaclorians” that could be measured from a blood sample, rather than the pantheistic metaphysical presence that Obiwan and Yoda taught and that even Darth Vader defended. That bugged me a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’m not sure why they did that. Another one of possibly 10,000 unnecessary alterations. Here’s one way we can maybe feel better about it, if you’re interested:

      The concept of “the Force” has very much in common with the Dao of Chinese Daoism, and the Jedi Order has much in common with Buddhist monasticism (especially the Japanese brand). Both Daoism and Buddhism describe phenomena and mindstates with pantheistic and metaphysical vocabulary. Modern sciences have redefined these phenomena and mindstates using different, technical terms. However, the new vocabulary/labeling does not change the fact that the phenomena and/or mindstates are in fact present. Even when science points to something like “receptors in the brain” as being responsible for “Zen experiences,” we can still remind the scientists that those receptors had to be created by SOMETHING.

      So it is with the metaclorians and the Force. At least this is how I like to look at it. 🙂

      Like

  2. Brian Wright says:

    Hey Geoff couldn’t agree with you more about the prequels. Darth Maul was top notch and the pod race was phenomenal. Apparently the prequel movies were to attract a new and younger fan base than the original 4-6 episodes.

    Like

    • That definitely seems to be the case, but if you look back to Return of the Jedi, you could make an argument for the “paradigm shift” happening all the way back then. I think that the original Star Wars film was simply a young film-maker’s contribution to the sci-fi genre, but once it took off, the whole project began to move away from the “art of film-making” and became the “business of product marketing.”

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  3. Nash86 says:

    Admittedly i was always more into star trek , alien ( the first 3 ( I don’t mind Alien3)), or highlander. but i can enjoy star wars especially the first one (1977) i felt it was a good homage to 1930s or 1940s sy fi serials which it was. Not to say empire or jedi were bad but the charm of the original was that it had a b movie tone which was lost. I can say a lot about tmp flaws but I will give it credit im that it had the closest tone to 1977 than the others.

    Liked by 1 person

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