Lit NJO and 9/11

Discussion in 'Literature' started by StarWarsFan91, Sep 9, 2012.

  1. Kuag Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 11, 2009
    star 2
    Not really. I've got a Master's in Middle East History with a focus on Islam. While the Vong may have been directly inspired by Meso-American cultural influences, they share many similarities with radical Islamists--from their worship of sacrifice to the glory of martyrdom to the fixation on blood. In fact, re-reading the NJO years later, I found the similarities between the Vong and certain sects within Shi'a Islam to be fairly jaw-dropping.

    It's not a stretch at all to compare the Vong to radical Islamists.
    Last edited by Kuag, Sep 11, 2012
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  2. MercenaryAce Force Ghost

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    Aug 10, 2005
    star 5
    Worshiping the glory of Martyrdom is common to many cultures....as for blood....it really is amazing how similar Vong beliefs mirror those of the Aztec (I don't know much about other Mezoamerican religions): the idea that the gods made humanity and the world through sacrificing their own bodies, the belief that the gods must be repaid with blood and sacrifice, including mutilation of our own bodies, the use of war to acquire sacrificial victims....it is almost one for one.

    I've studied Islam a fair bit and I can't see any specific similarities.
  3. Robimus Force Ghost

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    Jul 6, 2007
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    It's interesting that LFL employees made such a statement.

    I think Mani has hit the nail more on the head here. The use of a couple terms here or there doesn't equal a lot of significance to me. I read SbS when it was released and didn't really pick up on the similarities myself. I've always viewed the Vong as religious extremeists and zealots, but never tied them to any one people or group.

    I can certainly see why people would do that. Parallels can exist in fiction, either intentionally of unintenionally. I'd imagine that someone familiar with something like the Rwanadan genocide might have found parallels to that in the Black Fleet Crisis

    I won't even try to speak as an expert on Islamic faith(radical or otherwise), but I found the Vong religion, with its multiple gods, to have a lot in common on a basic level with Greek, Roman and Norse styled religions. Multiple gods representing multiple facets of their society and what not.
    Last edited by Robimus, Sep 11, 2012
  4. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    Again, being creatively inspired by something and having someting exist as an analog or representation of something are two entirely different things. Whether or not people tie the Vong to any real life group isn't relevant to that, nor is the accuracy of the similarity (which people seem to be hung up on here).
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  5. Robimus Force Ghost

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    Jul 6, 2007
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    It is relevent though if LFL is making statements about how they used this or that for their inspiration. They probably could have said that they used lots of ideas from different religions or mythos, but apparently they didn't go that route.

    How many people made a case of racism against LFL because of Jar Jar Binks and Nute Gunray? I'm not saying that I agree with them but a lot of people were rubbed the wrong way by those characters. Not that anyone is going to be terribly upset by the notion of terrorists being portrayed as monsterous aliens(as they weren't upset by the Empire's Nazi similarities), but it seems to me that its a bit of a more difficult area where the term Islam or Muslim gets thrown in, if one sticks a "radical" infront of it and a "terrorist" behind it or not.
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  6. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    About the only thing I said about the inspiration was about how they were culturally different, and that's really it. I highly doubt they wanted to go that detailed with their metaphors, given the sensitivity of it all, and I hardly think it worth getting worked up over in comparison to the monumentally stupid "Homeworld Security" and "Triad of Evil" business. I'm certain they didn't want to get into the business of talking about radicals and terrorists anyway, because that would just increase the politicization of it all rather than decrease it. I'm also not sure if it's a point worth debating, since we're going off of my foggy memories from seven years ago and it would be highly unfair to judge LFL based on that. I just presented what I remembered, and we can leave it at that.
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Sep 11, 2012
  7. Whuffa Jedi Knight

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    Sep 30, 2001
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    Really? I also said that I understand why people at the time would've projected their emotions onto it (this is a very natural thing to do), but if you look at the two situations objectively they are very different. I don't see anything offensive about this statement.
  8. Kuag Jedi Grand Master

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    Dec 11, 2009
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    Then I have to question the extent to which you've actually studied Islam.
  9. MercenaryAce Force Ghost

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    Aug 10, 2005
    star 5
    History Major with an emphasis on World and Asia, and an anthropology minor. Every single time I studied a country that had Muslims in it, we reviewed the history and tenants of Islam. Plus, a few of my teachers were Muslims themselves. I'll admit it is hardly a specialty of mine, and I am no religious studies major...still, it strikes me as a strange choice to compare a monotheistic religion with a strong focus on conversion and charity to a polytheistic, racially based religion with an emphasis on ritual pain and mutilation.

    Perhaps you could provide some specific examples?
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  10. Kuag Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 11, 2009
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    Well I have a Master's in Middle East History with a focus in Islam. You claimed that you "can't see any specific similarities." That's just...silly. The similarities should leap out to anyone who has even had a cursory exposure to Islam. I lived in the Middle East for over a year and was exposed to variety of sects and Muslims. Radical Islam, particularly the Shi'a version, is one that revolves around being the constant "deserving underdog." This goes all the way back to Hussein at the Battle of Karbala. Their worship and glorification of martyrdom is something that has been a consistent trait from the 7th Century and beyond. The Vong share the same glorification of martyrdom. The Vong also share the same "we deserve to own the galaxy" mindset that radical Islamists believe. Except instead of "galaxy," they substitute the "earth."

    The racial superiority championed by the Vong is directly in line with the Safavid ideology (and modern Iranian extremist ideology) of Shi'a superiority over the Sunni and the infidels. Hell, even the term "infidel" is ripped from the vocabulary of the radical Islamists.

    Feel free to argue that the Vong were inspired by Aztecs or Incas or whoever. But to claim that there are no "specific similarities" is denial and cognitive dissonance of a magnitude that I've rarely witnessed. The similarities are so numerous that they require a willful suspension of disbelief in order to deny.
  11. MercenaryAce Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 10, 2005
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    But those are not specific. Those are things that can be found in some sect of almost any religion, or most ideologies for that matter. These similarities are so broad as to be utterly meaningless - you may as well be talking about how the Vong are like Muslims because they breathe oxygen.
  12. jedimaster203 Force Ghost

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    Dec 19, 1999
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    It isn't a stretch. But it also isn't a stretch to compare them to any other extremist group.

    For a long time I made a living as an Army intelligence analyst, focusing primarily on Islamic Terrorists. You keep saying radical islamists are much like the vong, but it is really just that religious extremists all pretty much fall under the same mindset.

    You can draw parallels between radical Islamist's beliefs that they should have dominion over the world with pretty much any other religous extremist as well. That is the point of extremism. You think your own point of view invalidates everybody elses.

    So there are generalized correlations between Islamic Radicals and the Vong, but there are also the same correlations between racists, christian radicals, green extremists, and right wing nut-jobs.

    I think the claim on basing the Vong on Meso-Americans was specific to a polytheistic society that is caste based and showed devotion to their gods by self-mutilations, sacrifice, and ritualized tatooing.
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  13. Kuag Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 11, 2009
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    You seem to be struggling with understanding the difference between "inspired by" and "similar to." I gave you very specific similarities, including a particular sect of Islam, a specific trait of this sect stemming from a specific battle, a specific brand of this specific sect and its ideological foundation that espouses religious/sectarian superiority.

    jedimaster203 makes several solid points. I'm not claiming the Vong were inspired by radical Islamists. I'm merely stating the glaringly obvious fact that the Vong share undeniable similarities with the radical Islamists and that your contention that can't see any specific similarities and that it's a stretch....is a stretch in and of itself.
  14. MercenaryAce Force Ghost

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    Aug 10, 2005
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    Eh, Jedimaster said what I was trying to say, just better. I'll just let him/her speak for me now.
  15. Dawud786 Force Ghost

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    Dec 28, 2006
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    As a Shia Muslim reader of Star Wars... this thread depresses the hell out of me.

    Especially if "scarhead" is intended to be a parallel to "towelhead" and the fact that NO ONE is ever called out on the use of that term by the good guys. Which means to me that there was some feeling of justification for using such a pejorative within LFL.

    I should also say that as I was reading I never drew parallels between the Vong and even the extremists of my faith(I actually see them more akin to the Sith than I do the Vong), their polytheism and sentient sacrifice rituals always struck me as being much more Meso-American. The only times I ever recall having any such parallels stick out to me were whenever a priest like Harar was described as wearing a turban... which felt distasteful to me. It made me sick, actually. With the claim that Shelly Shapiro said the intentionally took inspiration from the Muslim Other, I'm further sickened. Even in Star Wars I am "othered" and I'm a white American convert.
    Last edited by Dawud786, Sep 15, 2012
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  16. stung4ever Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2002
    star 2
    I felt it brought some realism into the story.


    We've already seen racist terms in the GFFA (Fluties, Squid Heads, Bug Faces, Greenies, etc).

    Whenever there's a war, there's always pejorative terms for the enemies. For example, during WWII, calling Germans "Krauts", or Japanese "Japs" (among other, more incendiary terms). It's to be even more expected in the YV war, with the destruction and the brutality of the Vong, and the fact that the entire race was fighting the good guys for 90-95% of the war (until the Shamed heresy). And, like in the real world, once the war was over, the racist term quickly went out of style.
  17. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Except we rarely saw that kind of propaganda drive in NJO, I agree it's omission is odd though.

    I'd say Dawud's objecting more to the scarhead = towelhead notion than the former term itself.
  18. Dawud786 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 28, 2006
    star 4
    There was a time when pejorative terms were acceptable. They aren't widely acceptable anymore, especially in a diverse society. So the notion that scarhead is equivalent to towelhead is not only disgusting to me, it's disturbing to me that LFL would use this term in the story with no one objecting to it which indicates to me that there was some form of acceptance of towelhead as well.
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  19. JoinTheSchwarz Comms Admin & Community Manager

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    If anything, NJO was definitely affected by the gloomy mood everyone had post-9/11. The zeitgeist and all that.
  20. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    For myself, until I read this thread I hadn't picked up on the link, but then these things often go right over my head.
  21. dp4m Chosen One

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    Nov 8, 2001
    star 9
    The entirety of the NJO-era was an exploration in hate and bigotry in the GFFA though. The fact that there were pejorative terms about Imperials (almost always "human, white, male") didn't bother anyone; but then the GFFA hadn't experienced anything akin to a Total War either, really.

    Between being called "infidel" and hatred against droids, Jedi and being threatened with complete annihilation -- yeah, I could see a society devolving to using slurs worse than WW2-era Earth. And I don't think the Yuuzhan Vong and Radical Islamists are directly analogous -- just that right now that's the closest (if not perfect) analogue there may be in peoples' minds. Personally, there are extremists and fundamentalists among all peoples, races, colors (and species in the GFFA). I don't think depicting that is necessarlily a bad decision, though I personally would prefer that not in "my Star Wars." ;)

    EDIT: I suppose Jello would be upset about anti-Imperial slurs! :p
    Last edited by dp4m, Sep 15, 2012
  22. Jedi Ben Chosen One

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    Jul 19, 1999
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    I guess my answer to that is: What do you see SW as being about? Is it a war story or an adventure / space opera with a state of war as backdrop?

    I tend to go with the latter, as going with the former commits you to exploring war in all its horrific ugliness, which is rarely ever entertaining. WW2 is, as a total war, fascinating and horrific in equal measure for anyone studying it. The death dealt and carnage wrought is off the scale and beyond imagination's ability to envisage, no matter how excellent an account may be. In a way, for me, any fiction that seeks to out do WW2 in realistic terms really on a hiding to nothing.
  23. dp4m Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2001
    star 9
    The latter, for me, but you knew that! :p

    But we know plenty of people for what the NJO did to the universe -- and moving it away from the latter is a big part of it.
  24. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    I do, I confess, wonder what people have in mind when they post about wanting to read about "real war" and what they've actually read or even experienced. Everything I've ever heard from anyone who's been in the military and had combat experience is that reading about "real war" is pretty far down their list of entertainment options, why ever should they? They've lived it!

    I do think DR has stuck to the NJO template for LOTF and FOTJ, the difference being that those stories didn't have enough conceptual fuel in the tank to go the distance in the way NJO ultimately did. Equally just because people were wowed by NJO first time around doesn't mean it'll work as well the second.
  25. Robimus Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 6, 2007
    star 5
    Bottomline is people want good stories, stories that are not only exciting but stories that move them on an emotional level. If Star Wars gave us a Schindlers List, or a Saving Private Ryan, or a Hotel Rwanda people would be very accepting of those.

    Matt Stover is held up on a pedestal(rightfully so) when his novels contain some of the darkest, if not the darkest, story telling any Star Wars has given us.

    @ Ben, how many soldiers are going to want to sit down and read an entire novel about the torture of a prisoner of war?