On choosing poorly

Dystopic has little good to say about Star Wars after the original trilogy (Episodes 4 through 6):

Yes, we all know the prequels were generally atrocious, and what little was interesting was contained only in the last installment. The new Star Wars movies were at least a little more entertaining, but even they were shallow, ephemeral things. They were strictly popcorn-and-soda flicks.

So what did the original trilogy have that the successors lacked?

In this writer’s opinion, it was an enduring mythos, a sort of cultural memory embedded within it. A farm boy took to the stars and became a warrior, trained by what amounts to a religious monk of an ancient, dying order. A princess was trying to save her world, and an evil wizard hunted them all in the name of Imperial power. You could have stripped the story of high technology, and set the whole thing in the middle ages, and it still would have made sense. Yes, even the all-powerful superweapon. Replace the Death Star with Urban’s great cannon, throwing its weight against the walls of Constantinople, or something.

Now try that with the other stories, and you will find that they are utter disasters. They don’t operate on their own anymore. Now it’s a franchise cashing in on nostalgia more than anything.

And this was one major-league mythos, too:

Of all the cultural myths, the farm boy who became something greater may have been the most powerful. Ye gods, we once practically worshiped this idea. It was one of the enduring features of American culture, as distinct from the various European cultures that spawned it. You see, if our farmers and fishermen could throw out the British, of all people, was there anything truly beyond us? We didn’t need noblemen, you see. We had farmers. We didn’t need warriors, we had soldiers. There was no need for great nobles, or learned men of haute culture. We could bootstrap it all ourselves.

The farm boy might become a great philosopher, or an astronaut, or a general. He might become a President or a Congressman. Perhaps he would be the next great scientist or engineer. He didn’t need the pedigree of an aristocrat, or the brand name of some noble house. He didn’t need to go to the grandest of colleges, or know all the right people. He didn’t need to have the correct political opinions if, indeed, he even bothered much with politics at all. If you could do the job, you could do anything, and it didn’t much matter what dusty mid-western farm you crawled out of.

Entropy being the irresistible force that it is, the legends would eventually be displaced by the losers:

Heaping disdain upon the peasants of the flyover states and the South is all the rage among our supposedly-learned castes. There can be no more Luke Skywalkers in Star Wars, that is to say no more farm boys who ascend to the highest levels. If Star Wars was written by today’s establishment, Luke would have to be a girl who suffered oppression by the bigoted farm boys, then escaped to the Empire (which was, of course, politically correct and ruled by wise, learned Socialist oligarchs) to wield its military might against the hicks and unlearned morons of Planet Redneck.

Who knew that the enduring role model of Star Wars would turn out to be Palpatine?

7 comments

  1. jsallison »

    2 May 2017 · 6:48 pm

    I knew it was lost when the new Sith Lord was revealed and was NOT JarJar. That was the only way his survival could ever make sense. Otherwise he should have died a loud, messy, embarrassing death.

  2. fillyjonk »

    2 May 2017 · 7:16 pm

    The problem I had with the “prequels” was that they seemed to make everything small – The Force was now less something that could be headcanoned as being akin to The Spirit of God and more some kind of weird symbiosis. And I remember leaning over to my brother during episode 1 and saying “They filmed a freakin’ UN meeting and we paid $10 to watch it!”

    I will say Episode 7, which I saw on dvd a few months back, was much much better than 1-3.

  3. Roy »

    2 May 2017 · 7:53 pm

    “The farm boy might become a great philosopher, or an astronaut, or a general. He might become a President or a Congressman. …He didn’t need the pedigree of an aristocrat, or the brand name of some noble house. He didn’t need to go to the grandest of colleges, or know all the right people. He didn’t need to have the correct political opinions if, indeed, he even bothered much with politics at all. If you could do the job, you could do anything, and it didn’t much matter what dusty mid-western farm you crawled out of. ”

    Wow, You have pretty much described Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

  4. Roy »

    2 May 2017 · 7:59 pm

    …also. I really liked the latest episode: “Rogue One”. (Episode 3 1/2?)

    While I agree, it wouldn’t have made much sense as a stand-alone film, knowing the backstory, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  5. McG »

    2 May 2017 · 9:38 pm

    The Rogue One DVD should be on its way to my house from Netflix by now.

  6. Holly H »

    3 May 2017 · 12:19 pm

    “Socialist Oligarchs”? I could buy “Corporate Oligarchs”, or “Plutocratic Oligarchs” since both of those are defined as being ‘selfish’…. One can criticize the practicality and efficiency of Socialism, but I argue that it’s not primarily about selfish greed. People tend to conflate Socialism with Communism. To me they are radically different.

  7. McG »

    3 May 2017 · 1:28 pm

    The greedy in socialism may be the daughter of the caudillo, or they may be the have-nots who believe they have a moral claim on the fruits of others’ labor.

    But greed is there. Any system that seeks to upend the natural flow of resources based on moral arguments will appeal to greedy people who see opportunity in them. No system of economics can erase human nature, which means only one that grows naturally from it can succeed.

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