Lots of excellent comments on my post on Orson Scott Card's absurd Right Wing religious condemnation of Revenge of the Sith, and I hope you'll take some time to read them. Here are a couple of my favorites:
harry near indy wrote:
i try to do two things in my life.
one, i don't read, let alone follow, the political viewpoints of artists.
two, i don't read/see/hear the artistic products of politicians and government officials.
And N.H. followed up with:
Ah, the separation of Art and State! A wise division.
Even though I hear Churchill was a talented painter and at least one of Disraeli's novels was actually pretty good, these are sentiments I heartily endorse, and I would like to see liberals as well as Right Wing intellectual types take it to heart.
But a part of me is getting a real kick out of the Right Wing intellectual types like John Podhorertz and Orson Scott Card declaring Revenge of the Sith a counter-revolutionary film.
I am imagining a whole generation of high school age young conservative boys being told that they must choose between the Absolute Good represented by George Bush or the unmanly, elitist, peackenikky relativism of George Lucas.
You're either with us or against us, Podhorertz and the comintern declare. Pick. Us or them. Vader or Obi-wan. Sidious or Yoda. Subscribe to the National Review or go watch Episode III.
And a whole generation of potential Right Wingers is lost in the flash of a light saber.
Some nitwit is even calling for a boycott of the movie.
Oooooh. Lucas is so scared!
It's funny. Their arguments are silly, simplistic, and so easy to refute, it's almost not worth the trouble.
Just start with Podhorertz's expressed horror at Lucas' supposedly betraying the spirit of the originals by suddenly adopting an anti-war theme in the prequels.
You didn't know that the originals were pro-war, did you?
Of course they were. We're supposed to root for the Rebellion to defeat the Empire, root for Luke to blow up the Death Star, root for the Ewoks to give those mean old uncuddly Stormtroopers a whupping. The outcome of those battles is good, therefore the war in which those battles are fought is good. War in all the original Star Wars movies is a positive, manly, virtuous enterprise, worthy of celebration in story and song.
The flaw---well, one of the flaws, there are just so many, but the main flaw---is Podhorertz's failure to recognize that it is possible to hate a war and still want to win it and to celebrate victory when it's over.
There are a few examples from our own history.
All decent people hate war. They always have. The Iliad is an anti-war poem. The story of King Arthur as told by Mallory is an anti-war romance. (Mallory was writing in horror of the Wars of the Roses.) Washington hated his war. Lincoln hated his. Roosevelt hated his.
Being determined and courageous in the fighting of a war is not the same as being pro-war.
In Star Wars, the Emperor started the war by imposing his evil rule on the galaxy. The Rebels are fighting back. We want them to win because we want good to triumph over evil. It's that wish that makes us cheer when the Death Star explodes, not a collective glee at the beauties and glories of war itself.
The Rebellion is a war that should never have had to be fought. The littlest fans of the movies understand this intiutively. Depending on where you came in, the saga started with a great big Imperial cruiser attacking a tiny and nearly defenseless Rebel blockade runner and then, on the orders of Darth Vader, slaughtering its crew. or it starts with the minions of Darth Sidious blowing up an unarmed transport and its crew and attempting to murder Qui-gon Jinn and Obi-wan Kenobi, who are there on a mission of peace.
All wars should never have had to be fought. The Trojan War, the Wars of the Roses, the Civil War, World War II were all started by acts of stupidity and naked aggression by bad men.
Even the American Revolution should not have had to be fought. The Americans asked repeatedly for "a peaceful redress of grievences," and they meant it. The king and his ministers stupidly and aggressively rebuffed them and the shot heard round the world was fired by the British.
Bad guys start wars. Good guys, forced to fight back, finish them off as fast as they can.
Podhorertz almost certainly knows this in his heart of hearts, which I grant you is probably smaller than the Grinch's at the start of the story, but still a heart. Which is why his whining about Episode III is ridiculous and ought to be hardly worth discussing.
Except of course that Podhorertz is only using Episode III to advance an argument that is not ridiculous---or not ridiculous in the same childish, inconsequential way.
Podhorertz isn't arguing that war is good and that being against it is bad. He is arguing that a particular war is good and being against it is bad.
He is talking about the war Bush started in Iraq.
This is why he is trying to rewrite the original movies in his head and in the heads of other Right Wingers in such a way that the Rebels started their war.
Starting wars is always bad. George Bush started a war. George Bush is bad.
This is not a syllogism the Right can accept at the moment. They've put too much faith and trust in George Bush. Too much of their own intellectual vanity is at stake.
Again, this is so obvious and silly as to be almost not worth discussing.
Except. There's always an except.
The Right Wing's attempt to politicize the movies didn't begin with Revenge of the Sith and it's not going to end with it. It's been going on for a long time now.
Scott Lemieux spots the next big argument on the horizon. Cinderella Man.
As Roy Edroso has argued many times, the Right wants to manage art, the same as it wants to manage the news and manage academia. Despairing of take over from within---or too impatient to wait for their infiltrators to rise to positions of power---Right Wing intellectual types and politicans have been trying to browbeat journalists, college professors, and artists---particularly popular artists into censoring themselves.
The Right Wingers know, as do authoritarians of every stripe, that the free flow of ideas works against them and that art is particularly dangerous to them because it both passes along ideas and encourages the opening of people's imagination to the possibilities of alternative worlds, to inspire them to think "You mean it doesn't always have to be like this?" and then start dreaming up ways to bring about those alternatives.
This is of course more proof that the only students paying close attention to the po-mo Marxist/Feminist/Deconstructionist/ist-istish professors of the 80s and 90s were their most conservative students. It was the conservative kids who came out of college convinced that all art is and ought to be propaganda.
An amusing irony, as teratologist notes:
I'm just snickering at this because I seem to recall that a decade or so ago, there was one side of the 'culture wars' that reacted with shock and tongue-clicking dismay to this new-fangled notion of interpreting texts from 'evil' perspectives, and decried such interpretations as evidence of rampant and/or creeping moral relativism on the part of the other side.
And it would be funnier if the Right Wing intellectual types were just a bunch of quack college professors.
But they are part of a large-scale and well-financed and increasingly powerful authoritarian movement that wants to break down the walls between art and state, church and state, business and state, the military and state, and individuals and state in order to control all aspects of people's lives.
Just because a lot of Right Wing politicians, preachers, and intellectual types don't know they're fascists and can therefore express sincere outrage at being called fascists, that does't mean that their methods and goals aren't fascistic.
After all, one of the first teachings of fascist movements is that War is as beautiful and glorious as blowing up a Death Star.
Coming soon! Unbalanced. Episode III: The Liberal Menace!