Friday, March 22, 2013

Search Your Feelings

(Originally written for Jedi News)

I’ve been bullied most of my life.

Seeing as how I spent Elementary school at a Hebrew private school, I was thankfully never really bullied for being Jewish. However, due to behaviors and proclivities that I only now realize are heavily connected with Asperger’s Syndrome, I’ve still been bullied for just about everything else about me.

I’ve always been the weird kid with the long hair. The guy who would overreact when you got stuff wrong, so let’s do it on purpose to get a reaction. In college, I was too weird for the other theatre kids. Oh yeah, you read that right.

So naturally the three things that make me angrier than anything else are the following: Maliciousness, dishonesty, and hypocrisy. I hinted at all these as the reason I’m a Star Wars activist in my inaugural entry of this very column. But I feel I must further elaborate on why things like the cancellation of Clone Wars and the 3-D rereleases makes me so depressed and angry.

The Phantom Menace is my favorite film, we all know this. For those of you who have never been bullied, or forget what it was like, I want to take you down a little hypothetical.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are a fan of the Earth, everything about the planet, but most of all you love the sky. You just love looking at the sky. Then somebody comes up to you and says “The sky sucks.” “Oh really?” you say, “why is that?” “Well, for starters, it’s that ugly shade of puke-green. Everyone knows green is horrible.” You look up and say “But…it’s blue. And even if it weren’t, there’s nothing terribly wrong with green…” “Wow, you’re an idiot,” the guy says, “even monkeys can see it’s green, and that green is objectively bad. Plus, it’s got all these birds and bats flying around, mucking it up. Not like the ocean. The ocean is classic.” Now, you love the ocean too, but you have to speak up “But the ocean has tons of lifeforms in it. In fact, much much more than the sky. And, frankly, a little bit of green…” “That green wouldn’t be there if the guy in charge of the sky hadn’t put it there after I fell in love with it. At least water supports our life. The sky is useless.” “But the sky has air,” you say, “which is also essential…” “What the hell have you been smoking?!”

This goes on and on, the guy never realizing that he’s calling you an idiot for liking something that has the same things that the part he says he loves has.

Now imagine it wasn’t just one idiot, but the mainstream media. What if everyone who spoke about the Earth couldn’t go two paragraphs without saying something like “Everyone is indebted to the creator for the Earth, but nobody really cares for the puke-green sky.” Imagine having the same argument with nearly everyone you meet, nobody realizing that the sky is in fact blue, and becoming ostracized because of it. “We don’t care if you like the sky,” they say, “as long as you admit at the end of the day that it’s a horrible creation that should never have been.” And you know the sky has its flaws, it’s not perfect, but neither is any other part of the planet. And you know people, plenty of people, who like the sky too, but nobody talks about them. However, you can never bring up how much you adore the sky again without someone thinking you’re insane.

I know this is a huge exaggerated example, but feel free to substitute anything that makes sense to you. This is how it feels to me and to a lot of others when someone bashes I-III. It’s not that they don’t like it, people’s opinions are their own, but it’s the way they treat those opinions as absolute fact when most of the time they don’t even have the information correct. You can like Star Wars, love it, hate it, feel indifferent towards it, whatever. Hell, have your own order as to which ones you prefer. But the objective elements regarding how the movies are made and handled are exactly the same. If the objective criteria makes one good, it makes them all good. If the objective criteria makes one bad, it makes them all bad. You could debate over which one it is and I’d heartily respect your opinion either way. But realize when it comes down to a subjective disagreement and treat it accordingly.

This is how I’ve felt as part of the Star Wars fandom for the last decade or so. And this ties deeply into why Disney is losing the confidence of me and those within my circles.

I’m sure there are legitimate reasons why so many Star-Wars related projects are being cancelled at this time. I’m also sure that those reasons have nothing to do with what we’ve been told. As Jar Jar Binks once put it, “That smells stinkowith.” It has been said by many in my circle that George Lucas owes us nothing, and I stand by that. He can do what he wants with his art, regardless of how we feel. The trouble is, he’s not in complete control anymore. In fact he’s starting to relinquish it. So now we have a group that did not create this and therefore has a very real chance of “getting things wrong,” as the haters have had the audacity to accuse Lucas himself of on a number of occasions. With all this emphasis on IV-VI era stuff and the sweeping under the rug of projects that owe a lot to I-III era, this feels like the old chestnut of a lover leaving the one who was loyal and loving to try and court the ex that did nothing but abuse them and their memory.

But that’s being a little extreme. As I write this, it starts to sound too similar to the very thing I’ve been railing against for years. Perhaps I’ve fought so hard against the dark side that it has quickly joined me in the fight. As much as they shouldn’t cater to the haters, there’s no reason they should cater to me or my friends either. They should cater to who Star Wars has always catered to: the 7-12-year-olds who appreciate the stories and get lost in them so that they grow up to be us.

So I will not demand, as the haters do, that things go my way. I will not be that presumptuous. And as long as George is still involved even slightly, I will not espouse conspiracy theories about malicious brutality against my own nostalgia. I will not go into Episode VII expecting to hate it, and even if I end up disliking it the last thing I will do is perpetuate the cycle of bullying.

What I will do is ask, as humbly as I possibly can: Disney, please don’t alienate the fans of all ages who love the Saga just as it is now. Please do the best you can to highlight all the films equally, I-VI and beyond. Every time you authorize a piece of Boba Fett or Han Solo merchandise, please at least consider throwing in a Jar Jar Binks or Sebulba in the line too. If that’s a lot to ask, I understand. Whatever happens, may the Force be with you. Always.

Addendum 3/22: I actually won't understand. I'll never truly understand why so many people are so venomous against I-III. But I won't get in your face about it. I'll just most likely stop buying merchandise that's not I-III related which, aside from the occasional action figure I need, is pretty much what I'm doing now anyway.


  1. "But the objective elements regarding how the movies are made and handled are exactly the same."

    Look, the argument against the prequels is not based on subjectivity- that quote is what people who dislike them dispute. You can't reduce everyone's argument down to 'personal opinion' and then claim something like this- it ignores any potentially valid points people may have concerning the films and reduces anyone's argument to "oh, well, you're just blinkered in your love for the original films" which to me seems just a bit...insulting, perhaps?

    I hate to pull such a small line out of a well-written essay, but this is a train of thought that's been bugging me for a while. I can totally get the animosity prequel fans have towards being flamed wholly for their opinions, and while I do acknowledge the existence of some really venomous detractors that have really hurt a lot of supporters, it's still crucial to remember that the extremists *do not represent everyone that has problems with the films*. We are not all like that, and just as I and others won't criticize you guys for liking or having valid things to say in support of the prequels, you guys should also *not* make presumptions about everyone who dislikes the films.

    1. A) I never said everyone who dislikes them is an extremist. In fact that's my point.

      B) That line had nothing to do with your point. I'm simply stating the fact that, while tone varies slightly amongst the episodes, on the whole they have the same kinds of filmmaking. One can prefer one set over the other. One cannot seriously claim that one set is objectively gold and the other is objectively garbage because what you love about one is all over the other and vice versa.

    2. C) There are valid points to be made against I-III, but the exact same points can be made against IV-VI. Stuff like Jar Jar and other elements are subjective.

      Bigger example. Objectively, Jar Jar represents a technological breakthrough and he's inspired by Chaplin and Keaton. The argument over whether the breakthrough succeeded or whether his personality is endearing or unbearable is a matter of opinion.

    3. No, my point is that there *are* objective differences between the films. They are not all exactly the same objectively, just as the Toy Story movies aren't exactly the same objectively, or the Harry Potter films, or any other long-running franchise.

      Arguing that they're objectively all the same is really stretching it, even if you like all the movies.

    4. They have the same filmmaking style, the same writing style, and the same performing style. Everything else depends on what YOU are subjectively looking for in your entertainment.

    5. I think at *least* two of those are demonstrably untrue- in particular the "same filmmaking style", when there is a noticeable change in the direction for the prequels.

    6. No, there really isn't. I mean, Empire and Jedi might have subtle differences due to actually having different directors, but otherwise it's cohesive.

    7. Just compare the dialogue scenes in Attack of the Clones and Empire Strikes Back- one of them is extremely varied in shot composition and set-up, while the other's are almost all shot and filmed in very similar or the exact same setups.

      Additionally, the use of greenscreen for many of the shots in the prequels hampered the types of shots Lucas tended to do- I'm not a CGI-basher by any means, but there's a tangible difference in how you approach shooting actors in a real and physical space and how you shoot them in a single room with little to no sets or props. We don't even have to compare the trilogies for examples of this- just compare how the scenes on Naboo (which are shot on location in Spain) look versus how scenes in the Jedi Council or some other location look. There's a palpable difference in the composition of shots that results from how Lucas utilized CGI in the prequels.

    8. There's plenty of variations in all the shots. I compared them, and they're just as varied.

      This is of course ignoring the fact that shot variety does not objectively make a film good or bad.

      And also, totally beside the point of this article. Good night, sir.

    9. I'm not trying to say "good or bad" at this point, just pointing out that there is a difference between the two.

      And if you could actually highlight those differences it'd help me, since for the most part all the ones I've seen are composed almost precisely the same.

    10. Most of what I've seen in all six films consist of a few wide shots showing the conversations, then mostly shot-reverse shot with some subtle angle variations throughout, then occasionally back to wide.

      There are scenes that don't do this, but a lot of them do. And it works.

    11. In another conversation I'd do a more indepth analysis- so if you ever want to write a post on direction, be my guest! ;)

  2. On topic to the article as a whole, though:

    I think there's a bit of an problem in how you're approaching this issue in general, which is that you're totally willing to give Lucas the benefit of the doubt when it comes to Star Wars, but not anyone else in control. I've seen this crop up before (I think in your (excellent) article on Grievous you said something to the likes of "if the parallelism was by Lucas it was brilliant, if it was by other people it was likely just trying to make the next Vader", which confused me a bit), and really the best thing I have to say about it is that Lucas is not the only person that can do great things with Star Wars. He's done some fantastic things with it, to be sure, but let's not forget that there have been other writers and creative people that have been involved either directly with the films or indirectly with other shows or EU stuff.

    To relate specifically here, Disney, while an awfully corporate entity that's been known to make some major foul-ups in the past, even with their own properties, also has some very good creative people in their staff and know business well enough to realize that the prequels are profitable and marketing 6 (or, in the future, 9) movies is always going to be more lucrative than 3.

    What's more important to think about, though, is the fact Lucas sold the company in the first place. Let's realize that he was in absolutely no obligation to at all- he still had a firm control of the company and is enormously financially successful. He didn't have to sell, but he did. If we want to look at this as anything more than a business transaction, then I think the thing to pull from this is that Lucas likely is starting to let go of Star Wars- passing the reigns on to another batch of film makers and businessmen. And if he's ready to let go, perhaps we should be as well. I don't mean that in the sense of "stop watching the films and move on from Star Wars" (goodness no), but in the sense of realizing that the old films still exist, they haven't changed (well...anyways) and nothing in the future will stop the memories you have of watching and enjoying them. And in the end, as long as the films you love are still there, does it really matter what Disney does in the future?

    I mean, I totally get what you’re saying about feeling “bullied” regarding your opinion of the film, and can totally understand the resentment- I tend to go through similar things a lot because of my love of the Burton Batman films, or my dislike of some really popular films (people will seriously flame you when you tell them you don’t like some of the Disney Renaissance films, it’s not even funny). But I think it’s important to realize that people like that are *always* going to exist and sooner or later you’re *always* going to run into them regardless of your own opinion- I’ve met several really hateful people that defend the prequels (this one guy on a forum I know outright insults and flames people who say anything less that ebullient about them) and of course hateful people that attack the films. The important thing to do is realize that they can’t affect how you look at a piece of art, and in the end it’s really only your own thoughts and feelings that matter when it comes to subjective art. As long as you enjoy it, screw everyone else and just enjoy it.

    That was a bit rambly and I apologize if it veered off a bit- my end point is just basically, don’t worry, be happy. Disney can’t do anything to ‘erase’ the older films even if they tried, and regardless of how others may perceive you for liking certain films, as long as you enjoy them it’s all that really matters.

    1. I know. That's kind of the point.

      I was having this knee-jerk reaction, but I was scared at how it made me sound, so I took a step back and evaluated it. I was explaining why I felt this way while at the same time saying that I shouldn't let it take me so far off the deep end.

      Though, as a creator myself, I will always give the original creator or team more benefit of the doubt than a completely new one. And even if they disappoint, I give them more leeway than if someone else got the rights and mucked around with it.

      A good example: I love the original two seasons of Ren & Stimpy. Once John K. left, the show went downhill fast, even though most of the rest of the team stayed on. So I got excited years later when the Adult Party Cartoon was announced. John was back. But while it did feel more like R&S than the Games episodes did, it was too much for me. It went in directions I couldn't enjoy. But at least that was John K. doing what he thought was best with his own creations, so I respect that much more even if I don't like the result.

    2. Also, I admit it could work the other way. I was agonizing over Batman Begins when it came out. Everything I saw told me I was going to hate it. But when I saw it I was blown away. So, even though I had reservations going into the other two, the team had earned my trust enough for me to give them benefit of the doubt (for the record, though I feel the DKT is a better retelling of the Batman mythos, I'll always prefer the Burton films aesthetically. Also, the original Timm-Dini animated series is still the definitive Batman to me).

      In Lucas' case, you're right. He didn't have to sell, and he did always say he eventually wanted to see where others would take the mythos. But those of us who are Saga and I-III fans will always have a sinking feeling that the "Lucas raped my childhood" people who harassed him constantly and even verbally attacked his kids on their Twitters might have had something to do with it. And then there's the feeling of "if only we fans could have done more," whether it's true or not.

    3. Part of why I love being a Doctor Who fan is the fact that it's one of the few shows that does not have a definitive "creator" or "creative team" in the vein that something like Star Trek does with Gene Roddenberry or Star Wars with Lucas, or Firefly with Joss Whedon. There's a certain amount of freedom there that's really nice to have in a fanbase, and it helps prevent the fear that inevitably happens when the creator or team leaves the property.

      Though I totally understand your fears as is- I'm going through a similar thing right now with Community, as Dan Harmon (the show's creator) left last season and the new season has really been going downhill on account of his absence. So yeah, I can get that.

      And it's a shame that there *is* an element that the vocal detractors convinced him to retire (there was that interview a while back, if I'm not mistaken). But I think what's important there is just that no matter what the detractors say, we are actually in a minority, all things considered. The films are still large successes and extremely profitable, and Lucas (and now Disney) are aware enough of that not to let a few internet critics sway their views on how to run a multi-million dollar franchise.

  3. StinkoWHIFF! Come on dude! (As in whiff/smell).
    But anyway I hope you can enjoy a thing without some other guy's reaction entering into it. Peace.

    1. You know what? That makes a lot of sense. I guess I just always heard a "th" sound.

  4. I know that feeling, disrespectful hypocritical "fans."

    Like for example, I had a friend who tried to shove MLP down her non-brony friend and when her friend got understandably annoyed with her, she would claim he was being "hostile" and flaming MLP fans even though she was flaming non MLP fans as well. Thankfully she's changed from this, but YEESH. -_-

    And then those people who claim to respect your opinion but then go on to bash a show you like in a bitchy and pretentious tone. It's even worse when you're with a group of friends and you all knowingly tell each other to list guilty pleasures. When my turn comes around, I say "The Total Drama Series" and one bitch goes "ugh." It's a wonder why Total Drama was a guilty pleasure, I couldn't even discuss it without my own alledged FRIENDS mocking me.

    Case in point-Flaming interests sucks when it comes from two faced, hypocritical fans who say they respect opinions but don't. But it's even worse when said nimrods are your "friends."