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A Grown-Up Watches Star Wars For the First Time, Part One – The Prequels

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When was the last time you met an adult who had never watched a single Star Wars film? What if you could introduce them to the series, one film at a time, and ask them their thoughts as they went along? That’s exactly the situation I’ve found myself in, as my friend Kelsey just started watching the Star Wars films over the past few months and has become increasingly engrossed. After viewing Episodes I, II, and III, Kelsey agreed to be interviewed to satisfy my curiosity about her experience and reflections on the series so far. After all, most Star Wars fans who started with the prequels did so as children, and it’s a rare pleasure to be able to ask thoughtful questions of an adult fan with almost no prior knowledge of where the series is headed after Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Stay tuned for a follow-up interview with Kelsey in a few months after she finishes the series!

What were your favorite things about the prequels?

I really liked in Episode III all of the complications between Anakin and Padmé (I was able to get over the “weirdness factor” of their age difference!). And I saw there is something good and genuine in how they love each other, but somehow in the midst of all these good intentions, all these horrible things happened. But it wasn’t random or mysterious, it was that Anakin consistently made the wrong decisions; there was a twisting on his part. It wasn’t just a tragic love story—there’s no doubt there were some evil things that happened in Anakin that I think will set up the next couple movies. I’m intrigued about that. There was a lot of gray area: it’s not just black and white that you latch a story onto, the canvas is already gray.

I think there was also just a lot of cool worldbuilding. Especially in the middle of Episode II, I started figuring out how their society and universes generally work. In other words, I knew there was intergalactic diplomacy happening, but I didn’t understand it in [The Phantom Menace]. It wasn’t until [Attack of the Clones] that I felt I understood the universe enough that I felt if I wanted to, I could come up with another planet or species consistent with this galaxy’s rules. Plus as a biology major I enjoyed starting to see new kinds of animals in the second movie. » Read more..

Second Look: Star Wars and the Myth of Redemptive Violence

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Check in every day this week to see a new, ah, old piece back on the front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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Stories have power—and the narratives our societies choose to focus on will, for better or worse, begin to define our reality. The concept of Manifest Destiny helped usher in an age of colonization and imperialism that resulted in millions of deaths and the enslavement of millions more. The narrative of the “American Dream” fostered economic growth and productivity on a scale never seen before, though often at the cost of work-life balances and to the exclusion of those denied equal access to economic institutions. The 1980s conception of the “Welfare Queen” embedded itself into American consciousness and to this day inhibits anti-poverty efforts while encouraging racial animus.

Stories have power—and because of that, we must make sure we are not focusing on a narrative that may ultimately cause harm to others.  With that thought in mind, I worry: Does Star Wars promote the myth of redemptive violence (defined simply as “the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, and that might makes right”)?

Recently Roy Scranton, an American veteran of the second Iraq war, argued in the New York Times that in Star Wars, “the violence of war has a power that unifies and enlightens…It’s a story about how violence makes us good.” In essence, Scranton argued that Star Wars is simply another piece of America’s cultural myth of redemptive violence. This myth, he argues, is emblematic of the US addiction to war and ultimately helps prop up the same powers that even now wreak violence around the globe.

If his critique is true, then every fan of Star Wars is part and parcel of systemic evil that the myth of redemptive violence has brought upon the world. As a fan, the possibility that this critique might be true frightens me. But is it?

» Read more..

Star Wars and the Myth of Redemptive Violence: Continuing Thoughts

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“Don’t read the comments”—that’s what people are always telling you about the internet, right? That being the case, I have to say that I’m enormously proud of the comments we get here at Eleven-ThirtyEight; even when there are disagreements, they tend to resolve amicably, and input from our audience often results in a deeper understanding and appreciation of the topic in question for all involved.

A couple weeks back, we published a guest piece from Andrew Berg called Star Wars and the Myth of Redemptive Violence, which considered, put simply, whether Star Wars as a franchise was contributing to (or in opposition to) the Western cultural obsession with violence as a just solution. As the days after the piece went on, a discussion continued between Andrew and two longtime ETE commenters—Eric Brown, an occasional guest writer himself, and John Maurer. I find this topic fascinating my own self, and so robust and interesting was their exchange that I eventually sought, and was given, their approval to republish the whole thing as a new piece in its own right.

This piece will also function as a special extension of the conversation if anyone else wants to weigh in further; due to an issue we used to have with spambots, I had to disable comments on pieces older than two weeks, meaning that the original is now closed for good. Here’s to continuing this excellent line of discourse. – Mike, EIC » Read more..

Star Wars and the Myth of Redemptive Violence

geonosisplosions

Stories have power—and the narratives our societies choose to focus on will, for better or worse, begin to define our reality. The concept of Manifest Destiny helped usher in an age of colonization and imperialism that resulted in millions of deaths and the enslavement of millions more. The narrative of the “American Dream” fostered economic growth and productivity on a scale never seen before, though often at the cost of work-life balances and to the exclusion of those denied equal access to economic institutions. The 1980s conception of the “Welfare Queen” embedded itself into American consciousness and to this day inhibits anti-poverty efforts while encouraging racial animus.

Stories have power—and because of that, we must make sure we are not focusing on a narrative that may ultimately cause harm to others.  With that thought in mind, I worry: Does Star Wars promote the myth of redemptive violence (defined simply as “the belief that violence saves, that war brings peace, and that might makes right”)?

Recently Roy Scranton, an American veteran of the second Iraq war, argued in the New York Times that in Star Wars, “the violence of war has a power that unifies and enlightens…It’s a story about how violence makes us good.” In essence, Scranton argued that Star Wars is simply another piece of America’s cultural myth of redemptive violence. This myth, he argues, is emblematic of the US addiction to war and ultimately helps prop up the same powers that even now wreak violence around the globe.

If his critique is true, then every fan of Star Wars is part and parcel of systemic evil that the myth of redemptive violence has brought upon the world. As a fan, the possibility that this critique might be true frightens me. But is it? » Read more..

Can a Force User Ever Be “Gray?”

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The concept of a Gray Jedi—one who walks the line between both the light and the dark sides of the Force—is popular among many in the Star Wars fan community. And I don’t blame them! After seeing the dogmatic, stuck-up Jedi of the prequel trilogy, who wouldn’t want to add a bit more of the passionate flair characteristic of the dark side? And why shouldn’t Jedi be allowed to use some Force lightning on their foes every now and then? In our postmodern era, with anti-heroes like Batman and Deadpool, doesn’t it seem that a strict adherence to the light side is a bit…old fashioned?

Yet while at first glance the existence of a Gray Jedi seems possible, and maybe even admirable in theory, I will argue that the canonical Star Wars universe leads us to reject this possibility. A Force user who willfully attempts to use both sides of the Force over the long term cannot hope to maintain their internal moral compass—ultimately they will fall. » Read more..

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