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Star Wars Apologism

Gerry Canavan offers up a mixture of Lucas apologism and Bush-bashing that I'm hearing more and more lately regarding the chronology issue mentioned below:

I had this problem with the prequels at first, but the short, unhappy reign of Chimperor Bush has shown us that wholesale societal change can happen on a very compressed timeframe. We know this from history -- for extreme-but-similar-to-the-situation-in-Star-Wars examples, consider the Russian Revolution or the rise of Nazism -- but watching the drastic changes in my own country since 9/11/01 has certainly brought this lesson home. Twenty or so years is plenty of time for a small group of people to sieze control and completely change the way a society operates without anybody realizing what's going on until it's too late.
I don't think this will wash. Certainly a lot can change in twenty years. But as the current set of five films have things, while Anakin was a young men the Jedi are (a) recognizable by random winged-creatures on Tatooine, (b) commanding the Republic's armies during the Clone Wars, and (c) fighting the occassional pitched battle on the streets of Coruscant. Then, about twenty years later, people who would have been alive during the time frame of Episodes I and II don't believe that Jedi ever had any real powers. I think the best one can do to rationalize this is to speculate that the Emperor used some kind of large-scale Jedi mind trick to make everyone forget, but if he has such powers at his disposal, we haven't heard anything about it.

Some feel that this chronology problem was present in the original trilogy, but as Jacob Levy pointed out in comments there no indication in Episodes IV-VI that Anakin's turn to the dark side was coincidental with the fall of the Republic and Palpatine's assumption of the office of Emperor. The original trilogy would be consistent with the view that all this happened "a long time ago" and that the Jedi order persisted for some years as a basically underground resistance of which Anakin was a member and that the small band of surviving Jedi have been, like Obi-Wan and Yoda, in hiding, slowly getting killed off. What's more, Obi-Wan specifically says of Anakin in the original "I thought I could train him as well as Yoda. I was wrong." This is not a very good description of the events portrayed in Episodes I and II. As someone else noted in an earlier thread, the quality of the films seems to be inversely related (V, IV, VI, I, II from best to worst) to George Lucas' measure of control over the product.

October 4, 2004 | Permalink


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I subscribe to the Special Relativity/Slow Jedi Aging Hypothesis (and Uncle Owen being a stud) [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 4, 2004 4:44:32 PM

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There is a lot of moaning and criticism of the inconsistencies between Star Wars Episodes 1/2 and the more classic stuff-- A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi. (See Yglesias, Yglesias again, and Last (note that this... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 4, 2004 5:24:51 PM


This is a classic of the genre! It's not just that "Bush = Hitler", but also that "Bush = Hitler, Lenin, AND DARTH VADER"!


Posted by: Al | Oct 4, 2004 4:01:55 PM

Any Pynchon fans out here?

My take:

Cheney is Blicero

Posted by: Barry Freed | Oct 4, 2004 4:04:15 PM

Oh, come now, it's perfectly obvious:

The pregnant Queen Amydala fled from (whatever) on a ship with a disabled hyperspeed drive. It had no recourse but to take a two-hundred-light-year journey by travelling close to the speed of light. Two hundred years passes to those sitting on planets, while Queen Amydala only experiences a few days or months of subjective time, thanks to relativity.

Posted by: dm | Oct 4, 2004 4:09:38 PM

Time has always been strange in Star Wars. Luke meets Obi-Wan, takes what seems to be a short trip with him, then Obi-Wan dies. Apparently you can half-learn to be a Jedi on a weekend excursion, and develop an attachment to a master that lasts beyond death. (Yeah, I know he spent a few weeks with Yoda, but still...)

Posted by: Harrison | Oct 4, 2004 4:13:20 PM

I always want to read that as Queen Amygdala.

Posted by: Barry Freed | Oct 4, 2004 4:17:14 PM

Dude. The religion is dying because nobody can practice it but by the grace of the force, and the midichlorians have made it clear that they are funneling themselves through the offspring of a single guy (Anakin) as a sort of cleansing process. So, contemporaries of Vader are going to be poopy about it. Nobody ever says, "Bah, super powers. Never happened!" One dude complains that Vader's powers don't allow him to get anything useful done (find the stolen data tapes, or the rebel fort) so maybe he should shut the hell up. Vader then telechokes him, and the absence of absolute freaking out should tell you that, yes, people are aware that some pretty special things can be done by Jedi's. But, from their viewpoint, it's actually pretty true to consider them a dying breed (since almost all of them died).

Posted by: Dan | Oct 4, 2004 4:21:50 PM

I always want to read that as Queen Amygdala.

i always do.

give in to your wants.

Posted by: cleek | Oct 4, 2004 4:22:35 PM

Somewhat OT, but:

Why does Matthew care about Star Wars anyway? I mean, I doubt that he even saw VI in theaters (he would have been what, age 2?), much less IV...

Should he be going on and on about, I dunno, "Look Who's Talking" or something?

Posted by: Al | Oct 4, 2004 4:27:32 PM

Heh. Check out Al, being all protective of his movie.

Posted by: cleek | Oct 4, 2004 4:30:13 PM

Someone said that Lucas jumped the shark with Jar Jar, but personally, I think he lost it with "midichlorians". Did anybody really want a biological explanation of the force?

That being said, what we have is a timeline that is weakly defensible if you crowbar your brain enough, which fans might be willing to do (as they have for other films) if they actually had any affection for the pre-Trilogy, which they don't.

(I still think ep I was just a little worse than II, but people weren't as prepared to accept the awfulness of the first one as they were the second.)

Posted by: Royko | Oct 4, 2004 4:34:59 PM

I don't know about you guys, but I'm a pretty simple guy...I just wanted a bit of continuity between episodes.
Continuity seems to be Lucas's weak spot. I'll see the third, and if God is merciful, last one of Lucas's movies.
IMO, if he wants to improve his product he needs to fire the writer and the director, and hire competent replacements. Then things will pick up for him.

Posted by: sheerahkahn | Oct 4, 2004 4:35:43 PM

You do realizse that Lucas had complete control over IV right? And there is no way to rank II below I.

Posted by: Rob | Oct 4, 2004 4:36:30 PM

The "forgetting" of the Jedi as a religion is plausible. The purge of the Falun Gong in China among the elite Army leaders have basically forced large parts of China's intellectual elite to "forget" about it. That certainly happened within 20 years.

Plus, maybe Grand Moff Tarkin just aged really poorly, and he's actually 35.

Posted by: Shen1138 | Oct 4, 2004 4:39:01 PM

Royko -

I was also thinking that I was worse than II when I mentioned Lucas's control on the other post. But thinking back on what might be considered good in those two movies, the only really good part in either movie was the Maul-Obi-Anakin duel at the end of the first movie (and even that had a lame ending). I'd give the Yoda-Count Doodoo some props too, but it was too short (and also ended lamely). So I might have to come over to Matt's side and say that II was worse (though Natalie Portman was hotter).

Posted by: Ugh | Oct 4, 2004 4:39:11 PM

But Matt, how many citizens of distant planetary systems can be expected to have seen a Jedi? They're a pretty small group. So perception of the Jedi is based on spin, not firsthand observation -- and that goes double for their powers, since they avoid using them except when necessary.

A twenty year period following the destruction of the Jedi is certainly enough time for the myths surrounding the Jedi to be shifted radically toward the viewpoints advocated by the bad guys -- particularly in light of the fact that the Empire won. By the most obvious measure, the evidence indicates that those powers weren't so hot after all.

The officers' ignorance of Jedi badassery is harder to justify, but it could just be simple arrogance -- the death star *is* pretty rad.

Posted by: so very ashamed | Oct 4, 2004 4:41:02 PM

I believe that Orwell's dystopia in 1984 was only about forty years in the making.

Posted by: neil | Oct 4, 2004 4:41:27 PM

Someone said that Lucas jumped the shark with Jar Jar, but personally, I think he lost it with "midichlorians". Did anybody really want a biological explanation of the force?

Yeah, that was stupid. A Jedi blood test? What?

Posted by: Haggai | Oct 4, 2004 4:43:48 PM


Good point. I'll give you the Quigon-Maul fight. I wouldn't consider the Yoda-Dooku fight to be a positive - to me it was just lame, but to many people that really hate II, it was infuriating.

But you have to consider the weighty negatives of I as well as the positives.

I PRO - Quigon/Maul fight, Geisha Portman, Maul looked cool even if he had no personality.

II PRO - Uuuuum....Obi-wan/Django Reinhardt Fett fight, Torn-Spandex Portman.

I CON - Midichlorians, Jar Jar, annoying Gungan/Droid battle, Darth Vader built 3PO (because what his mom, the slave, really needed on a remote outpost was a protocol droid), five year old Anakin Skywalker: Pilot Extraordinaire (Gee willikers!)

II CON - No Anakin/Amydala chemistry, Superball Yoda, Anakin's slaughter seems more like a temper tantrum.

It's a toss up, and it may well come down to whether Geisha Portman does it for you more than Torn-Spandex Portman. And, at that point, we're strictly going on fetishes.

Posted by: Royko | Oct 4, 2004 4:55:25 PM

Someone said that Lucas jumped the shark with Jar Jar, but personally

The essence of "Jumping the Shark" is not when the entire thing (movie franchise, tv series, presidency) is immersed into absurdity, but rather the moment when the descent into absurdity becomes inevitable. Jumping the shark is thus something that's much more obvious in retrospect. I have to argue that the "Jump the Shark" moment was the introduction of the Ewoks. Specifically, it arrived somewhere between Princess Leia playing with Wickett and the time during the battle with the imperial on Endor when the first (and only) Ewok gets killed on-screen, leaving the camera to focus, forlornly, on this lost warrior in the hopes that the audience would cry, "awwww...." From this moment, Jar-Jar and the midichlorians was practically an inevitability.

Also, Lucas did have directorial and script control over IV, but his career was on the line, and thus would probably more willing to make "compromises" with his backers, creating the creative tension necessary to produce a decent film. This tension didn't exist in Episodes I and II, so I'd have to say that Lucas, at least in some sense, had more "control" over I and II that he didn't have in IV.

Without Episode III to see how Lucas handles the Fall of the Republic, I don't think it's fair to comment on the continuity issues. My suspicion is that you need to have 30-40 years of time to pass before Darth Vader is considered "a remnant of a dying faith," because people "in charge" during episode IV would have had to be children when the Jedi were wiped out-- so they'd have a vague memory of them and perhaps the tail-end of their existence, but no clear memories of when they were in their hey-day (contuinty problem: Grand Moff Tarkin). I suspect that EpIII will take place over the course of many years.

Posted by: Constantine | Oct 4, 2004 4:56:58 PM

I agree with Matthew, and am embarassed to have never thought about it myself. It has to be over 20 years, anyway, unless Obi Wan ages really awfully fast. He's probably 50 years older in Episode IV than in Episode II. Who knows when episode III will take place in reference to the other movies, but one thing is certain: the movie itself will only cover a very short time. For some reason, all of Lucas's movies seem to occur over the course of a couple of days. The only breaks seem to come between movies.

However, it's not completely inconceivable that over the course of 50 years people could come to believe that the Gunslinger type characters that they've heard about for a long time but possibly never actually seen...well, they could believe they don't exist anymore or never did in the first place. If it's one thing this administration has demonstrated, it's that if you repeat a lie enough--especially at a time when people know technology shows them things that they can't quite believe--enough people will come to believe it. I can only imagine that propaganda is much stronger in the Empire than in our Republic.

But you're right...mostly, it just seems to be that George Lucas is making it up as he goes, and he's not thinking anything through all that much.

Posted by: Stu | Oct 4, 2004 4:57:44 PM

I can't tolerate all this Yoda vs. Dooku Fight bashing. As a longtime pro-Yoda partisan, I was thrilled to get to see him fight. I think the scene was completely believable within the established context of the Star Wars universe. It was also necessary to finally quell all the "why is Yoda supposed to be so powerful?" talk that had been going on since about 1980. As a bonus, the fx in the scene were damn cool.

Posted by: Mark Golden | Oct 4, 2004 5:04:42 PM

common people decide that the jedi never had any real powers because if they had any real powers they never would have failed, they have 20 years to convince themselves of this.

reference: recovered memories (which tend to be faked memories), the ease with which people shift allegiance to the winning side and then convince themselves they were always on that side.

Posted by: bryan | Oct 4, 2004 5:05:40 PM

As I said elsewhere in the post on my blog, I think the propaganda factor is an important consideration here as well. We never really get much of a view of the media apparatus of the Star Wars Universe -- obviously, Lucas wasn't a blogger -- but twenty years of total information control and you could have people believing up is down and black is white, especially given that Jedi are very well-known but few people have ever actually seen one.

We also don't know yet what brings the house of cards finally crashing down, which could make a big difference. I'd put my money on something not entirely unlike the burning of the Reichstag, though.

I'm just embarrassed there was a spelling error in the post Matt picked up. It's like all those times I inwardly mocked Matt for his spelling have finally come home to roost. That the same word was spelt wrong twice in the post...gravy.

Posted by: GC | Oct 4, 2004 5:13:53 PM

Wow guys. Now I remember why -- being one of the smart kids myself -- I never hung out with the other smart kids in school.

Didn't get out much as kids, huh?

Posted by: eech | Oct 4, 2004 5:31:53 PM

I'll take torn spandex.

Superball Yoda, hadn't heard that before.

FWIW, there's an extended cut of Anakin's conversation with Padme after his sand people rampage on the AOTC DVD (which, despite the fact that it's a bad film, I bought anyway, not sure why), it's much better than what made it into the theatrical version.

I would have to say that EP I is worse, just from the fact that Jar Jar is in almost every scene.

And what is with Lucas' fascination with cutting arms off? In Star Wars 3PO loses an arm, and so does the guy in the cantina. In Empire we have Luke and the Wampa. In Jedi it's Vader, in AOTC its Anakin, and while there's no arm amputation in TPM, we do have Maul cut in half.

BTW, I hear that in 2007 Lucas will release another version of the films on DVD (HD DVD maybe), which will include more changes to the origingas and probably changes to EP I-III as well. When did Lucas become such a money grubbing ass?

Posted by: Ugh | Oct 4, 2004 5:38:38 PM

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