PT Did you think Watto was a character that was based on antisemitic stereotypes?

Discussion in 'Prequel Trilogy' started by KilroyMcFadden, Feb 9, 2013.

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Did you think Watto was a character that was based on antisemitic stereotypes?

Yes 3 vote(s) 20.0%
Yes but unintentionaly 1 vote(s) 6.7%
No but I can see where people might get that impression 3 vote(s) 20.0%
No 8 vote(s) 53.3%
My feelings about Watto' character traits are more complex. See comment 0 vote(s) 0.0%
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  1. KilroyMcFadden Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 2012
    star 3
    In a thread that recently went completely off the rails, the Episode I character Watto was criticized by a couple of members for being an alleged anti-Semitic stereotype of the Jewish people. The most common traits in the wider media that Watto is accused of having that are commonly used to depict those of Jewish faith negatively include his sloped nose, droopy eyes, Yiddish accent, stubble, slave-ownership, and greed.

    Further reading:
    The Merchant of Menace - Racial stereotypes in a galaxy far, far away?
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_..._a_minute/1999/05/the_merchant_of_menace.html
  2. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    The thread went "off the rails" because I addressed the sexist stereotypes perpetuated by a popular prequel-basher and was told that such stereotypes were perfectly OK. But I digress.

    It seems to me that based on your posting that article, you're looking for one answer and one answer only.

    But no, I don't think Watto was an "anti-Semitic stereotype." I would be more willing to believe that he was, if there were any indication that Lucas himself were anti-Semitic.

    Watto was a cheapskate, but that's hardly limited to the Jewish community. There are a lot of cheapskates in my own family, and none of us have ever been Jewish. The "Yiddish accent" sounded more Italian to me, and slave ownership? That's a Jewish trait? News to me. Ditto with "stubble."
    Last edited by anakinfansince1983, Feb 9, 2013
  3. KilroyMcFadden Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 31, 2012
    star 3
    I have an opinion, otherwise I wouldn't have posted. I'm also curious what other people think.
  4. Vthuil Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 3, 2013
    star 4
    Not really, no. I could maybe see him being considered a negative Italian stereotype, but anti-Semitic? No.
    anakinfansince1983 likes this.
  5. Jedi_Ford_Prefect Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2003
    star 4
    I recall seeing a local cable news program (NY1, maybe?) covering some peoples' reactions to the Watto character in '99. It was the first inkling I ever got of the percieved racial stereotyping in TPM, something I never bought entirely myself. I could understand the misperceptions with Jar Jar, seeing as he was largely based on stock American cartoon character aspects that were themselves influenced by minstrel shows and their stereotypes (Mickey Mouse, the early Looney Tune character Bosko and a lot of Warner Bros. stuff in general is filled with this sort of thing, and tends to be censored out or memory today). I could understand the reaction to the Trade Federation cronies as sounding Asian-- I figured they were a play on the Yellow Peril stereotypes of pulp stuff like Flash Gordon and Fu Manchu, but the idea of them as botched Transfylvanian accents makes sense too (and anyway the Dracula character is largely trading in a lot of the same general fear of the East on the part of Eurocentric storytelling, anyway).

    But Watto? I couldn't wrap my head around any of the accusations with him. That news program didn't make any sense of it either-- first they trotted out somebody who said that Watto was supposed to represent negative stereotypes of Arabs. Then they interviewed someone who thought he was offensive towards Turks. Then Italians. Then Russians. It took them a while but they did finally get to someone who thought he represented a Jewish stereotype, but it was at the end and done very quickly, almost an afterthought.

    At that point I gave up trying to make sense of the whole caricature question. Then in 2002 AOTC comes out, and again I see news coverage about how Jango Fett and the clones must be racist portrayals of Hispanics. If the absurdity of that doesn't scream out at you from the get go, I don't know what to say.
  6. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Heck, if I had been trying to guess the "national origin" inspiration for Watto, I'd have bet Italian (only in the sense of bad- movie bad stereotyping, not my personal view of Italian speakers speaking English).
  7. Darth kRud Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2012
    star 3
    I didn't think so. Not so much. The Muun's are another story. Jar Jar was bad. Lucas even hired an African American to play the role as actors were acting out scenes.
  8. DARTHVENGERDARTHSEAR Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 8, 2002
    star 4
    I think Lucas was just trying to be more creative with newer alien races. It's got nothing to do with stereotyping.

    I don't see a problem with the accents because it makes more sense that different language speaking people would have them, regardless if they're from earth or from some other planet. Who's to say that a similar sounding language isn't possible on some other world, anyway? It would be naive to think otherwise. Besides, I like the variations. It's more realistic than having everyone with an American or British accent.

    Star Wars is full of homages, but to look for things that would insult other people's cultures instead of the things that pay tribute to them is just sad. Star Wars is harmless etertainment for all ages and cultures, and I hope it will continue to be so, regardless of what they base their ideas on.
  9. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    anakinfansince1983, you were not told that those stereotypes were OK. And one minor thing, stop quoting Plinkett as Stocklasa. That's like quoting the roles an actor plays as quotes the actor himself actually says. Plinkett is a fictional character.

    YES. Watto is clearly anti-semitic. Anyone who says otherwise just doesn't want to admit it.
    windu4 likes this.
  10. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    LOL really? I was told that there are things that many women look for in a man or "there wouldn't be any players," i.e. the stereotype was true. If that isn't the same as "it's perfectly acceptable to negatively stereotype women," I don't know what is. I'm pretty sure you'd take issue with a comment along the lines of "If Watto is a caricature of Jewish people, so what? Many of them are stingy and have big noses."

    Obviously not my stance as I've already mentioned; I only know a few Jews personally and none of them are stingy or have big noses, but my point stands. I definitely don't see Watto as a deliberate anti-Semitic caricature, particularly with no indication that Lucas is an anti-Semite. I'd think Natalie Portman would have picked up on it if he were.

    But let the "if you don't agree with my perception, you're just wrong" comments begin.

    As far as Stoklasa and Plinkett, no confusion there, as I wasn't referring to Plinkett's caricature of deliberate sexism but to the points that Stoklasa made against the love story--points that were supposed to be taken seriously and which many people do take seriously. "The love story didn't work because women like aggressive men and 19-year-old men only like boobs." Bull****.
  11. PiettsHat Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 1, 2011
    star 4
    Errr...no. Other people simply have different opinions than you do. I've seen Watto described as Italian, Jewish, Arab, etc. People who don't agree with you aren't in denial.

    Also, if you can interpret Watto as anti-semitic (which is your right), then you also must accept that many people find the arguments (not crazy, kooky actions) that Stoklassa uses in his reviews to be sexist because they utilize stereotypes about men and women. I don't particularly have an issue with the tying-women-up or rape-jokes subplots (although I don't find them particularly funny) because I know that they're just that -- gags and jokes. But when an argument is made that utilizes gender stereotypes, then yeah, I will call him out for making a point based on sexist notions. And it's not Plinkett making those points, it's Stoklassa.
  12. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    That's not the same as saying it's acceptable. Saying that one stereotype applies to a portion of that group is true, otherwise it wouldn't have become a stereotype. THAT DOESN"T MEAN IT'S ACCEPTABLE. I was trying to point out what was behind Plinkett's logic, but you clearly missed that point, and every other point I was trying to make in that thread. It's not surprising you don't see the racism in characters like Watto and Jar Jar. And some reviewer using stereotypes is completely different than a filmmaker using them, in one of the feature star wars films, which are viewed by tens of millions. I was trying to explain to you what was behind Plinkett's logic, but you missed my point entirely.
  13. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    Stocklasa doesn't use any of that. Plinkett does. That's like saying Samuel L. Jackson is as crazy as the characters he plays. Plinkett used crazy kooky actions to be funny. What was the purpose of including an anti-semitic element in the Star Wars films?
    Last edited by Chainmail_Jedi, Feb 10, 2013
  14. Alexrd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    Are you implying that jewish people have those characteristics?

    The way I see it, those who associate Watto to jewish people are the ones making the stereotype. He's an alien from a fictional universe who own's a shop and two slaves. Nothing more.

    What the...
    Last edited by Alexrd, Feb 10, 2013
  15. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    Oh wow. Are you saying that I, a Jew, am stereotyping my own people by pointing out how offensive a stereotype of my people is? [face_laugh]
  16. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Stereotypes become stereotypes because some people are ***holes and want to pigeonhole other people into convenient groups in order to keep their peanut-sized brains from working too hard. Not because the stereotypes are true, only because they decide that "I know a couple of cheap guys who are Jewish, therefore all Jewish guys must be cheap." And you missed the part where PiettsHat and I both mentioned that the offensive stereotyping came from the serious portion of the review, not the portion in which he is tying women in the basement--that part is too stupid to be offensive.

    Every single argument that Stoklasa has about the love story, arguments that we are supposed to take seriously, is a stereotype.

    As to your last question, if Watto doesn't look like an anti-Semitic caricature to me, I can't bash Lucas for using unacceptable caricatures.
  17. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    He still speaking in the Plinkett voice, he's still in character. It doesn't matter if it's serious or not. It's a role, so you can't associate it's views with the person playing the role's views.
    Watto doesn't look like an anti-semitic caricature to you? Maybe you didn't learn about it in school, or you must have missed the lessons where they showed the posters the Nazis used to stereotype Jews. Big droopy nose, stubble, even Watto's teeth are similar to the Jews in those posters.
    Last edited by Chainmail_Jedi, Feb 10, 2013
  18. Alexrd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    I'm saying that you are stereotyping your own people if you associate Watto's characteristics to your people.
  19. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    No, that's not at all what I'm doing.
  20. ezekiel22x Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 9, 2002
    star 4
    Unfortunate connotations can arise when works of art are designed by borrowing qualities from older forms. I certainly don't think Lucas is racist or antisemitic, but at the same time I certainly don't want to silence those who do see problematic representations in the films. I admit my worldview never led me to seeing Watto as antisemitic, but I've noticed other problematic aspects of the series, and in turn I know some of the frustration of being flat out told "that's not there at all."

    Some advice to social justice proponents--your argument might be more readily embraced if you're not proudly displaying an avatar that degrades women and a profile tagline that refers to choking prostitutes. Yeah, it's a joke maybe, but then Watto and Jar Jar were designed with some comedic goals in mind as well, no?
    Last edited by ezekiel22x, Feb 10, 2013
    anakinfansince1983 likes this.
  21. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Um, yeah, it does, especially when the overall review is set up as genuine commentary against the prequels with a bit of comedy thrown in, as opposed to an overall comedy.

    QFT.
  22. Alexrd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    I said "if". But if that's not what you're doing, then there is no problem at all with Watto's characterization.
    anakinfansince1983 likes this.
  23. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    Quote my whole post, or don't quote it at all. That's how you draw false conclusions, but not viewing and interpreting the whole message. By not viewing Watto for the traits he has, that's how people say "oh that's not racist at all! He's blue and has wings!"
  24. Chainmail_Jedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2013
    star 2
    No personal attacks-Darth Boba
    Last edited by DarthBoba, Feb 10, 2013
  25. Alexrd Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 7, 2009
    star 5
    Where didn't I quote your full post?

    What the...

    Weak strawman. But no.
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