Free Star Wars

I originally posted this on my LiveJournal yesterday but was urged to post it here as well.

Star Wars needs to renounce geek culture.

That might strike you as a bit weird, as though I’m saying we need to cut ourselves off from oxygen or gravity. Isn’t Star Wars part of the geeky universe after all? How could it possibly divorce itself from the worlds of comics, collectibles, cons, and cosplaying? It just isn’t possible!

Well, I’m not saying Dark Horse needs to stop publishing and far be it from me to suggest I wouldn’t want a Star Wars presence at Comic Con. God forbid! But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that “geek” and “Star Wars” aren’t necessarily synonymous and indeed, they shouldn’t be.

Sure, Star Wars was the first film marketed at Comic Con and it was marketed at Worldcon 1976 in Kansas City. But ultimately it has turned out to be an ill-fated partnership. It was geek culture that turned on the series and on Lucas. It dictated what fans and casual viewers alike are supposed to think about it. Because geek culture drives the media these days, the attacks on half the saga and on Lucas have been relentless and effective. (And regular moviegoers made ANH a hit, not the couple hundred people at Comic Con 1976.)

That isn’t to say Star Wars isn’t popular. But it’s popular with two kinds of people: loyal fans like me and Minivan Nation. Families with kids. The kind of people whose opinions aren’t as likely to be shaped by geek culture. Besides, regular moviegoers made Star Wars the megahit and cultural touchstone. Geeks create small devoted cults. The rest of the world picks the big winners.

But old habits die hard and it seems like up until the present, there’s a persistent need to try and keep Star Wars relevant among professed geeks. I think Lucasfilm is totally wasting its time with them.

For one thing, geeks are conformists of the worst kind. “Independent thought” doesn’t make you popular on geek sites. Voice a different opinion from “geek orthodoxy” and they will come down on you like a ton of bricks to punish you for your heresy. Why is that? I think it’s because there are a lot of very insecure people behind those oh-so-clever screennames. After a while it becomes learned behavior that if you deviate, others start to hate.

Geekdom is fickle and driven by hype. They are like the fair weather sports fans who only get on the bandwagon if the team’s heading to the Super Bowl or World Series. They like to be part of the cheering crowd of fellow geeks. They want to be where the cool kids are. Right before the Special Editions came out, there seemed to be an awful lot of Star Wars fans. I can also remember a lot of the same people who camped out for two months prior to TPM opening and went to see it several times over the summer quickly vamoosed once the backlash was underway. Why? Again, insecurity. On to the next hyped feature! These people often change their minds on what they consider cool or acceptable. They have lots of passion but they also have the attention span of that dog in “Up.” While looking at the Geek Mom blog on its Star Wars week, someone posted that Star Wars was as dated and kitschy as an Elvis impersonator. Yeah, those people are loyal!

Heroes die hard and almost never regain respect. When you’re on top in Geek World, you could be making Zeus clean your toilet on Mt. Olympus. Many geeks are not religious but geek heroes are as close as they will ever get to worshipping a god. But boy oh boy, displease your audience and you’ll fall further than Lucifer ever did. They take disappointment very personally and will never, ever forgive you for it.

Star Wars needs to establish itself independent of geek culture, a modern mythology accessible to everyone. If geek nation happens to like it, fine. If not, oh well. Disney has a large number of diehard fans and collectors, but they’re not necessarily part of geek culture. “The Wizard of Oz” continues to have a following after 73 years without the approval of Gizmodo, i09, and AICN. I don’t have a plan on how to make it happen except to say instead of focusing on geeks, focus on everybody else.

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14 Responses to “Free Star Wars”

  1. M. Marshall Says:

    I’ve always wondered if any of these “geeks” have ever read any of the science fiction classics. Seems like the closest thing to literature that geeks read is comic books. Geeks also think that “classic” science fiction stretches back to the 70s and 80s with Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner and The Terminator but have never seen the sci-fi of the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. If Star Wars is dated, what would they think of “Metropolis”, “The Island of Lost Souls” (a superb film I’ve just discovered) or “The Thing From Another World”? I was looking at FemPop some days ago and I saw an article about a woman film critic who posted a negative review of “The Avengers” and she faced internet backlash for her opinions, some of them laced with sexism, from geek “fanboys” (“Geek Guys Get Misogynistic When A Lady Dislikes The Avengers”). So it’s not just Lucas that’s taking the heat. Certain geeks have become the very bullies that they once deplored.

    • Keith Palmer Says:

      Once I’d managed to get past the fear that seeing other movies (or, indeed, watching the Star Wars movies again) would somehow “prove my opinions wrong,” I got around to understanding a larger perspective is useful. Unfortunately, it’s not an absolute cure-all: I once noticed someone commenting how she’d seen some of the Flash Gordon serials, but adding “they had what was missing from the prequels” for her… I’ve also suspected some point out influences in Star Wars as if every one of them is somehow a strike against George Lucas’s imagination, but that does go all the way back to the first movie, so it’s not necessarily a “half-fan’s” viewpoint.

      I’d be tempted to say whatever is being done to try and “focus on geeks” isn’t working anyway; a vocal group continues to keep up the non-negotiable minimum demand for Blu-Rays made from film prints of the “pre-Special Editions,” or something…

      • M.Marshall Says:

        It’s interesting that this woman thought the old Flash Gordon serials had “something missing from the prequels” (though I wonder what that was) because no matter how much I try to watch them, I find them downright boring while the 1980 Flash Gordon film (to me) was fun, exciting and imaginative.

  2. Adam D. Bram (Collor Pondrat) Says:

    It’s a vicious cycle of abuse.

    There are also two kinds of geeks. I put myself in the “Geeky but relatively nice about it” section. For example: I have no interest in the new Spider-Man because I feel it’s too soon to reboot and the guy looks like an underwear model (which is missing what I feel is the point of Spider-Man). But will I try to dissuede others from seeing it? No. Will I tell people it’s horrible when I haven’t seen it? No. I even said I’ll be willing to give it a chance…once it’s made the HBO rounds for a few years.

    I think that I tend to have more empathy for people on the other side. As someone with a B.A. in Theatre and has dabbled in writing and directing, I understand artistic liscence and am usually willing to forgive all but the worst character assassinations if it makes sense.

    • Carl Says:

      Quickly commenting- Andrew Garfield (the new Spider-Man) is an absolutely fantastic actor who deserves to be in a number of high-profile films. Saw him a while ago onstage in Death of a Salesman, and he was phenomenal.

      Sorry, just commenting on that; huge, huge fan of the actor.

  3. Stefan Kraft Says:

    “Many geeks are not religious but geek heroes are as close as they will ever get to worshipping a god. But boy oh boy, displease your audience and you’ll fall further than Lucifer ever did. They take disappointment very personally and will never, ever forgive you for it.”
    That’s more or less exactly what I think. To be fair, I sometimes may also behave like that. I’m a fan of Disney comics – they may not be popular in the US, but they’re HUGE in Europe. And if I read a bad story, I might also start a stupid and uneducated rant. However, all the discussion surrounding the prequels has taught me a lesson: maybe this or that comic / movie / … did not live up to the expectation or turned out to be bad. Does this invalidate all the good stuff that there has been before? Does it diminuish all the good work the writer / artist / director has done before? Even if he / she has lost his / her touch, does this diminuish the former achievements of the artist? I think the answer is a clear “no”: it is a pity, but things like that happen. And in the end, the artist owed me nothing.
    (And that’s why I may understand “Lucas bashing”, but think that it is wrong.)

    • M.Marshall Says:

      Even when the current art of the artist does exceed expectations and receive praise, does that mean it will eclipse the artist’s previous work. 9 times out of 10 the answer is no. Bob Dylan still releases Grammy-winning albums but it’s his music from the 60s that will always be remembered. Star Trek:The Next Generation and the new Battlestar Galactica are considered by many to be superior to their predecessors. But will the public think of them first? No. The same argument could be made for Star Wars.

  4. Wambulance | A Certain Point of View Says:

    […] SW Prequel Appreciation Society offers the suggestion that Star Wars “needs to renounce geek culture.” I agree with the sentiment and I think to an extent it already has. Star Wars will continue to appeal to the mainstream through things like Star Tours and Star Wars In Concert. Clone Wars is a big hit and the release of The Phantom Menace 3D (a movie “everyone” hates) made about the same money as Titanic 3D (that “everyone” loves). The hatred is mostly in the realm of online forums and comment boards (where one hater with a keyboard can spam a thousand positive comments). The Internet thrives on negativity, so the powers that be at Lucasfilm are best to ignore it. When it comes to creative decisions, they shouldn’t indulge in “fan service,” as Joss Wheedon calls it. That just turns art into a fast food franchise. It also empowers fickle basement dwellers to feel as if they have the power to FORCE artists to do their bidding. Don’t like what an artist has done? Create a petition, start a hate site, spam some message boards. Bitch bitch bitch and bitch until you get your way. […]

  5. Mike S Says:

    I’m a first generation Star Wars fan. The first film I ever saw, was “Star Wars” – even before the “A NEW HOPE” was added. I’m 42 for the record. For many years, I used to participate in defending Lucas for the Prequel Trilogy on forums and it took me a long, long time to come to the realization, that I’m never going to change their minds. No matter what I type or say, they’re never going to see things the way I, or we do.

    And that’s OK, you know why? Because at the end of the day, I get what I want and the half-fans (or posers) simply don’t. What I get, is MORE STAR WARS. I get SIX films instead of three, plus an ongoing incredible animated series, next-gen console video games and mountains of amazing collectible merchandise, to endlessly ogle over. I get a life time full of Star Wars enjoyment, while the haters are left with emptiness and perpetual suffering; which results in them posting their bitter diatribe, hidden behind foolish monikers on the web.

    Now, I just ignore it all and things are far less complicated.

    • Stefan Kraft Says:

      I think that the “average fan” who does not like the prequels has come to terms with it. He (she?) does not like them for whatever reasons, which is fine. They will sometimes get angry because of the “missed opportunity”, but they will not run around and tell everyone who does not want to know it how disapponted they were. They ask for the O-OT, but do it in a civilized manner.

      And then there are the fanboys who still cannot “let go” and would do everything to get the O-OT on DVD or BluRay. They’d probably even make a deal with the devil and think that they are right when doing it – George has after all ***** their childhood – and that they should have known earlier that Lucas was a sell-out and… (Any similarity to one of the main characters of the Saga is merely coincidental.)

      As usual, the question is how far someone is willing to go. And sometimes you wonder whether you’re really reading articles written by adults or by some spoiled children…

  6. Mike S Says:

    The haters are never going to be satisfied. Lucasfilm released the unaltered OT on DVD back in 2006 (?) only to be met by hatred and negative complaints. They need to let it go, but they can’t.

    • Stefan Kraft Says:

      To be fair, the O-OT on DVD were the old laserdisc transfers – not the best picture quality etc. Personally, I think that’s the maximum GL is willing to offer – a “documentary” release of a decent quality, the best quality will still be reserved for the Special Edition(s).

      • Mike S Says:

        I think they will eventually release the original versions. Somewhere later on down the track, Lucas will do it when he’s ready. And while I prefer my Mos Eisley to look more like a bustling Space Port. rather than a half empty shanty town; I do prefer the original scene where Han shoots first!

  7. drush76 Says:

    I was never that impressed by the scene regarding Han and Greedo. I assumed it was shot to make Han look cool. And Han Solo had ceased to be a “cool” character for me. His initial refusal to help Luke rescue Leia aboard the Death Star has always struck me as more cold-blooded.

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