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SullyWatch

Podhoretz should go back and watch his DVDs of the earlier trilogy. "War not make one great," says Yoda, when Luke tells him he's looking for a great warrior.

All the same, we think Podhoretz — and many other conservatives — are adopting this view because they are pro-war as a matter of principle (Remember, the first movie took some criticism from peace activists because it makes warfare look like too much fun. That Podhoretz views it that way even today tends to prove that point). Recall how they said the vaguely Orwellian phrase "War without end" over and over to themselves as a mantra in the days leading up to the Iraq war.

They like war, not entirely because they haven't lived in the middle of or fought one. They like it because they crave the supposed moral clarity it offers them: one side versus another. You're one one or you're on the other. You have to make a choice.

Nance

I haven't paid attention to idealogues' opinions of art since two early formative experience. As they say on "Crossfire," on the left....

Alexander Cockburn describes the scene in "The Untouchables" where Eliot Ness throws Frank Nitti off the roof -- after Nitti taunts him about the murder of Sean Connery -- as Ness "throwing an unarmed murder suspect to his death." Unarmed murder suspect. Yes.

And on the right, I think it was a critic in the American Spectator who spent much time complaining about the "immoral" behavior of Melanie Griffith's character in "Something Wild," because in one scene she drinks and drives.

OK, enough for me.

Lance

Sully, I sort of remember those complaints about the original Star Wars coming from the type of people who tsk tsk whenever they see little kids playing shoot em up. But I think it's still a legitimate criticism of Lucas that up until Qui-gon Jinn died in Episode I the victims of violence in the Star Wars movies were all anonymous, faceless, and not truly human.

I hate the whole concept of battle droids because there's no moral risk in fighting them. Busting them up just looks like fun.

Storm troopers and clone troopers aren't much better.

Nance, don't forget she also appeared naked---full frontal. The hussy.

Shapeshifter

Here's the thing that most people forget--probably because we don't live in that world--about the droid troopers: they're not mindless robots. Robots, yes--but they have wills and maybe even hopes and dreams of their own. Slaughtering them certainly isn't any better than slaughtering animals--and if you put it in that perspective, war fought with droid troopers isn't "bloodless" but rather: the sci-fi equivalent of cock/dog fights on an interplanetary scale. The droids get thrown into war and fight because they have no alternative. Of course, in that light the comical bumbling victory of Jar Jar Binks and friends in Episode 1 was even more distorted and bizarre. The fates of the clone troopers are a little better--but not much. They're semi-autonomous human beings, but they seem to have no lives beyond killing--and more realistically, getting killed in hordes by Jedis. To springboard off this and another comment above: war provides not "moral clarity", but rather numbness. Perhaps it is a sign of our times that we confuse the two.

I liked General Greivous (i liked him more before i saw the show, anyway) and hoped that he would be some sort of leader for a droid rebellion, but it turned out he was just another cyborg with no character at all. Except for a cough and cowardice. (At least, if you call running from a bunch of Jedi killing machines cowardice; something i have a bit of trouble with myself.)

Of course, that's not to say i'm one of those who thinks Star Wars is double-plus ungood. I just wish it would have explored the ethical and philosophical problems facing the characters in the stories. But i guess what it comes down to is that Star Wars is really about us and about our time and not ultimately self-contained.

harry near indy

thanks for the props, lance. i appreciate it.

i'll be skipping this star wars, as i did the two before it.

the first one, back in '77, was very good. the sequels all right, but i don't want to see them again.

with that said, i have nothing to add about the political subtext (supposedly) in the latest movie.

i realized this week that, for the right wingnuts, if your side is doing terribly, dump heavily and hard on the other side. that's probably why they're going apeshit about a damn sci-fi movie.

Stephen Preston

As someone whose current political views are essentially pacifist in nature, I think the Star Wars saga has always been against war. Even in the very first movie, the wise character is Obi-Wan, who sacrifices himself to help others. (Lance seems to have forgotten this.) And though Luke and his friends think they've solved all the problems by blowing up the Death Star, in reality things only get worse in the next movie.

From there, there's the above-mentioned anti-war Yoda quote, as well as the repeated message that all aggression ultimately leads to evil, even if it accomplishes some short-term gain. This is really hammered home in Return of the Jedi, where Luke's throwing away his lightsaber at the end is an absolutely pivotal moment in my own belief system. (Of course, people learn this kind of thing from lots of different sources, but Star Wars is mine.)

And then many people STILL didn't get it, which was the whole reason for the prequel trilogy. In the end, after all that setup, all the Jedi try fighting and screw things up even worse by doing it (Mace Windu helps turn Anakin by threatening to kill Palpatine, Yoda loses to Palpatine and is forced into exile, Obi-Wan tries to kill Anakin and cements his turn to the Dark Side, etc.). To me, the message couldn't be clearer, as it's repeated again and again.

Sure the space battles and lightsaber stuff is exciting and what helps to draw kids into it (so that they'll appreciate the message, moreso than if they tried to watch "Gandhi"). But not only are the wars really unnecessary (as you say), they're basically side-stories. I'm not sure this is what Lucas originally intended with his first movie (which has the least moral complexity), but I think it's clear that's where he decided to go already in Empire Strikes Back.

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