Archive for Not A Committee

Carrie Fisher: 1956 – 2016

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Mike: Well, the most obvious thing to do is talk about how beloved and inspirational Carrie Fisher was. The second most obvious thing to do is talk about how obvious it is to talk about how beloved and inspirational she was. So I’m gonna do what Carrie herself would probably do, and speak immodestly about my brain for a minute.

I’m unhappy about her passing on an intellectual level—it’s unfortunate and unfair and I recognize how it could drive one to despair. But on an emotional level, I don’t really feel it. I rarely feel death emotionally; it’s inevitable, so why be sad over something you can’t control? Again, I understand that this isn’t typical, but it’s just how my mind works. I cry at the end of Apollo 13, and I shed tears six times during my first viewing of The Force Awakens, but now? Nothing.

Over time I’ve come to understand that I just don’t connect with other humans that way—I can feel enormously passionate about people on a demographic level, but not as individuals. It’s possible that I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of Asperger syndrome—especially when I think back to myself as a child—but I’ve never had any interest in a diagnosis; I’ve led a pretty normal and comfortable life so it would feel presumptuous to seek out the banner of mental illness for something that has never really harmed me beyond a reputation for being aloof. After all, it could be that I’m just an asshole.

After a youth and adolescence of scrambling to figure out how I was “supposed” to connect with my peers, and wondering if it was worth the trouble, I eventually discovered that you can say anything you want if it’s funny enough. Where I didn’t have the skill set for a polite lie, I found that the truth was okay as long as it made people laugh, so that became my means of making a direct impression on people. It was the next best thing to a sincere connection: say something appalling that people laugh at in spite of themselves. » Read more..

Is the Empire a “White Supremacist” Organization? Should It Be?

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Mike: Many, many moons ago, before The Force Awakens and before the Expanded Universe reboot, our own Jay Shah wrote a piece entitled Senseless Sexism in the Galactic Empire. His premise, in short, was a) that the Star Wars setting offered no logical explanation for an Empire that actively discriminates against female officers, and b) that in practice the EU’s attempts to engage with the issue had been flawed to the point that it would have been better left out altogether.

Jay was reacting to the simple fact that because Imperials are the bad guys—and more importantly, stand-ins for real-life oppressive governments—many are quick to ascribe any and all bad qualities to them. Surely there’s an anti-alien contingent, as witnessed in A New Hope and further supported by the prequel trilogy, but does the Empire actually discriminate against women, or people of color, as well? It’s easy to get that impression when every Imperial in the original trilogy is a white man (though the Rebels in ANH and The Empire Strikes Back aren’t much more diverse), but looking at their successors in the First Order complicates the issue—as do prominent non-film characters like Rae Sloane, who has largely been met with joy from fans for making the overall setting more inclusive, and demonstrating that anyone can be, well, “the bad guy”.

With all this serving as prelude, in the aftermath of last week’s heated US presidential election, Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta, two writers attached to Rogue One, tweeted the following:

Chris Weitz @chrisweitz
Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization

Gary Whitta @garywhitta
Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.

While nothing tossed off on Twitter (and since deleted) should be taken as canon, and it certainly can’t undo the existence of the powerful, serious black woman who becomes the nominal leader of the Imperial military after Palpatine’s death, I thought Weitz and Whitta’s comments (and let’s be real, the current events that prompted them) merited a revisiting of this topic. So I’ll put the question to all of you: as a separate matter from the “reality” of gender and race discrimination within the GFFA, which can never really have a definitive answer, is there value in explicitly, rather than allegorically, linking the Empire to misogyny and white supremacy? Can there be a sliding scale of interaction with real hate, or is it all or nothing? » Read more..

Rogue Discussions: The Story Trailers of Rogue One

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A while back, we did a discussion article on the initial teaser trailer for Rogue One. Now with the full story trailers unveiled, it’s time for a sequel as we adjust to two trailers, combining to be about five minutes, packed full of awesome imagery.

Part 1: The Death of Imperial Cool?

Ben: One thing that occurred to me watching the trailers is that this could well be the first real depiction of what the original trilogy only hinted at – life under Imperial rule. It might be said Rebels got a bit closer to that in its first series when Tarkin turned up, but by its target audience, it could only go so far. This film can go much further. The sense I get from the story trailers is the Empire slowly crushing the life out of the galaxy. It is quite simply dominating it into submission and the ultimate tool of that is the Death Star.

One thing the new material appears to have aimed at from the start is rendering the Empire both as more seductive, but also more brutal and far more irredeemable than its Legends counterpart. At the same time, Star Wars has always had a tendency to give its villains the best toys. Sure, the Rebels have their X-wings and the Falcon, but the Empire gets the Star Destroyers, TIEs and walkers. Divorced from what it is actually about, the Imperial aesthetic is designed to be both cool and intimidating – it sends an attractive message: Join us and you get to wear this and use these things.

What I wonder is if Rogue One will blow a large hole in this aesthetic of Imperial Cool by showing in far greater detail what the Empire is really about. Nowhere is that more emphasized in the trailer than in the way it goes about depicting the Death Star: so massive that just its laser dish eclipses Star Destroyers, while the thing itself can blot out the sun. There’s no explanation or justification for the Death Star, it is a form of technological malice without restraint. So in the wake of that, is the Empire still cool? Or are all its tricks to sucker people in revealed as the work of an insatiable predator? » Read more..

How Much Technology in Star Wars is Too Much?

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With the recent return of Star Wars Rebels, we’ve finally been exploring the aftermath of Kanan Jarrus’s blinding last season. Kanan’s existing doubts and fears were only amplified by his handicap, and he spent months in apparent isolation before finally learning from Bendu how to use his Force senses in place of the real one he lost.

“Warrior learns how to see without seeing” is a time-honored trope that was all but made for Star Wars, and I loved seeing Rebels‘ take on it—I see the value in telling that story, not just for its own sake, but as a means of growing Kanan as a character and opening his mind to new paths. But at the same time, I admit I have a little suspension-of-disbelief issue with it: couldn’t the guy just get new eyes? Forget the ample prosthetic limb technology that we already know exists; if they can clone an entire army of dudes and age them at double their natural rate, surely they could clone him new biological eyes?

Well, maybe, but maybe not. Post-reboot, there are far fewer examples of cyborgs in Star Wars than there used to be, and the ones that we do see often are often portrayed as faulty or not quite optimal–so it’s unclear whether a robotic eye, or a cloned one, is actually possible, as counter-intuitive as that might be. The reality is, Kanan doesn’t have new eyes because that story wouldn’t be as interesting—just like Return of the Jedi wouldn’t have been as interesting if Luke had to duel with his left hand only. » 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..

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