By Stephen Palmer
I’m old enough to remember 1977, and as a young 6 year old I got all caught up in the excitement of “Star Wars”. I had two copies of the 1978 annual. I read them avidly, cover to cover, multiple times. Because of how long it took for feature films to make it to British television, I’d actually see “The Empire Strikes Back” at the cinema before I ever saw the first film, but I knew the story forwards, backwards and sideways. I remember getting Alan Dean Foster’s ‘Splinter of the Mind’s Eye’ spin-off novel from our school library multiple times.
So this sounds like the origin story of someone who totally loves and adores “Star Wars” right? No. I hate “Star Wars”.
I hate the way every scene transition is a wipe transition (don’t believe me, watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGqAu9gj_F0), although later me would realise this was a homage to Akira Kurusawa.
I hate the way George Lucas is clearly just making it up as he goes along. Luke and Leia are suddenly siblings? Vader is his father? Han Solo has an off-camera epiphany?
“”Star Wars” isn’t a film. It’s a cult. It’s verging on being an organised religion. I’m not talking about those people who put down their religion as Jedi on the census forms.”
I hate the way it’s just so darn simplistic in terms of good guys versus bad guys, there’s no nuance, there’s no using the settings and situations and technology to provide any kind of socio-political commentary. And no. Midichlorians don’t count. Of course, every film doesn’t have to come with added baggage, be loaded with subtext and up for analysis through some retrospective viewpoint.
Except, “Star Wars” isn’t a film. It’s a cult. It’s verging on being an organised religion. I’m not talking about those people who put down their religion as Jedi on the census forms. What I am talking about is the way it long ceased being a rollicking Space Opera, but became something far more insidious.
Like the Bible, it’s a revisionist text, with those responsible for creating it constantly going back and amending it, changing the parts they wanted to suit their needs. Han shot first! So what? Doesn’t that make his redemption more powerful? And it’s a selective text. Go read about the Anagignoskomena, the Apocrypha of the Bible, about how certain texts were removed, shuffled about, omitted, ignored. Isn’t that just like the owners of “Star Wars” defining exactly what is canon? We are free to interpret and build upon other works of art, such as a painting by Monet, but “Star Wars”? Hell no.
And like an organised religion, all it’s about these days is making money. Terence Stamp realised that “The Phantom Menace” was just about selling action figures. George Lucas just wanted to resell his story multiple times, on multiple formats, at maximum profit.
Woe betides an Atheist Apostate like myself. The cult members will protect their deity with determination and hate and bile. There’s no discussion, no debate. Unbelievers and Infidels be damned.
Which is why on May 4th, I am not succumbing to this exclusionary faux-religious celebration. I’ll be watching Science-Fiction that matters and that resonates with me and the modern world. I’ll be in the 1970s, but enjoying and crying along with “Silent Running”.