Saga Star Wars and Racial Stereotypes: Existent or Imaginary

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by princethomas, Feb 15, 2012.

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  1. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Close enough.

    Plus, he has a cape, with a gold lining.

    Pretty pimp-esque, to me. [face_whistling]
  2. Sword_Of_Goliath Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 22, 2010
    star 3
    You've never known any pimps have you? o_O
  3. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Lando is a movie pimp.

    And that's probably how we should gauge Jar Jar.

    He's not a stereotype; he's a movie stereotype; or bunch of movie stereotypes.

    And those are very different things.

    The whole of Star Wars pays homage to extremes of varying kinds.

    Why aren't fans consistent and shouting out about the objectification of women a la slave-bikini-Leia and ripped-arena-garment-Padme?

    People are fine with Star Wars being Star Wars until they aren't.

    Jar Jar represents a new threshold; a new challenge to modern sensibilities.

    He's bashed for any number of reasons, but one seems to be that people haven't come to terms with the endless array of cinematic conventions and mythologies -- both sacred and profane -- that the series unapologetically brings back from the brink of irrelevance, investing each with updated meaning, as one element corrects or comments on another: a grand, unified tapestry.
  4. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    Cryo, there's something admirable about the extent to which you give Lucas the benefit of the doubt, and assume anything racist or sexist is intentional, to comment on racism or sexism.

    Out of curiosity, though, are you this indulgent of every filmmaker/artist? If not, where do you draw the line? Do you also read Gone With the Wind's Prissy as a commentary on stereotypical black characters, or do you entertain the possibility that the film was made by people with something less than an ideal level of racial sensitivity?
  5. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    I don't know all the history behind "Gone With The Wind", though I've seen the film, and I'm aware of its controversial nature in this regard. I can entertain many ideas; or, at least, I hope I can. I believe it is the mark of a reasonable mind to do so. That said, I tend to back off from the sort of one-note, reactive mindset that is keen to cry foul and allege racism when a work can simply be clunky and misguided, or working on other levels that such mindsets, to say the least, aren't apt to muse upon. Is Tarantino racist, sexist, violent, derogatory and cruel? Or rather, is he as racist, sexist, violent, derogatory and cruel as some people say his films are? Or might he be a post-modern artist, self-consciously combining low-brow with high-brow, in the creation of a new language, a new aesthetic? Or let's take a middle case: What about the "Police Academy" films? Should we regard them as insensitive, backwards piffle, with crude, unfunny humour, and move on? Or can they be read, and watched, as fun exploitative romps with amusing gags and iconic characters that even have the power, on occasion, to touch us? Because, really, I see too much concern -- and too much fingers-in-ears schtick -- where Jar Jar and Lucas are concerned. There is nothing in the art or life and times of Lucas that sounds an alarm and makes me think he is racist or sexist. I mean, I guess he could be, but if truth is in the eye of the beholder, I'm saying he isn't, all things being equal. I don't see myself as being all that indulgent on this matter, either. I speak as I find; and I don't find George Lucas guilty of things some are very hasty to accuse him of being; with a less-than-stellar grasp of the facts in a lot of cases (or so it seems to me). Finally, the Star Wars series, as far as I'm concerned, is a very elaborate commentary on all matter of stuff, concerning human nature and the kind of ideas we believe carry truth. It is also -- manifestly, to me -- a brash, syncretic work, roving freely over decades of storied cinematic history, and using classic tropes, common and obscure, with near-reckless abandon. This, in my case, makes it very hard to shout "Fire!", as it were, without being obtuse to the point of being blind.
  6. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Having long perceived Gone With the Wind as a spiritual cousin to "Springtime for Hitler", I embrace the Prissy grotesquerie with open arms. Mitchell's deranged veneration of the Confederacy needed more of that kind of thing...



    Oh, and a cousin informed me that Entertainment Weekly just did an Ahmed Best piece a few weeks back entitled "I Was Jar Jar Binks." He may have something to say on the subject.
  7. Jedsithor Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 2005
    star 4
    I had no idea that Jar Jar was a Jamaican stereotype before I discovered the internet. I assumed he was an homage to the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy and others, since pretty much everything else in Star Wars pays homage to old movies. But nope. Racist stereotype. Now I know... o_O
  8. Mond Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2009
    star 3
    I can sort of understand the Gunray thing, because Thai was one of the (several) accents used to make the Neimoidian accent, and I kind of get the Watto thing, as he was based on the Alec Guinnes version of Fagin. I suppose in the sake of fairness I should also note that Lucas reveres Asian cinema and is bests friends with a Jew.

    The Jar Jar = black thing is just nuts. Yes, that's right, it is loony tunes. Full stop. It almost feels like a deliberate satire of bonkers PC. It is perhaps the goofiest manufactured controversy of my lifetime. Friggin' Lando Calrissian the smooth pimp daddy ladies' man is vastly much more of a blatant black stereotype than Jar Jar Binks.

    I'm guessing it mostly has to do with the film being released in the 1990s, back when political correctness was actually still a going thing in society instead of a big joke.

    Interesting how what people think of this "TPM stereotypes" business coincides with their overall opinion of the film 95% of the time. If they dislike it, it's racist; if they enjoyed the film, it is not. Whatever.
  9. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    Yep. Like Stepin Fetchit...
  10. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2009
    star 4
    Watto's loosely based on the very generic stereotype of Shylock from Shakespeare's 'Merchant Of Venice' as presented over the years, not just Fagin (who, in turn was also based on Shylock, at least in Alec Guinness's portrayal), Nute Gunray was based more on the sinister Fu Manchu-type villains of 1930s serials (including Ming The Merciless) than being a specifically Asian character.
    Jar-Jar's a bit of a grey area, IMHO. Three Stooges or Stepin Fetchit? Or just both?

    Personally, I think GL let his own love of old movie serials overwhelm his common sense, and not being a member of any of the ethnic communities who object to the offensive stereotypes in these old serials, he just didn't see how inappropriate some of the accents and visual portrayals are these days. Perhaps he also overestimated just how cine-literate audiences would be, while underestimating their sensitivity to such potrayals. Too many filmmakers don't understand that 90% of audiences don't know or don't care about 'homage' - all they see is ripping off old ideas or being offensive.

    Nute Gunray's probably the only one I think crosses the line. You half expect him to say "Queen Amidara" most of the time. "Tuck him away..."

    I don't care if Jar-Jar is based on Stepin Fetchit, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, some half-witted servant in Birth Of A Nation or Abraham Lincoln, he still sucks. He offends me because he's an insult to my intelligence as a movie viewer with his moronic antics that belong on children's TV before 9am and because he has more screentime in TPM than a certain Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    By the same token, Watto's just a great character, well performed and realised. Whatever stereotype can be read into him doesn't contribute to or detract from that. The huge hook nose is the only concrete connection to an outdated Jewish caricature, beyond vague implications of greed and crookedness that one can take or leave as being connected to such a caricature. His accent's somewhat all over the place, I don't think it's specifically Jewish.
  11. Sword_Of_Goliath Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 22, 2010
    star 3
    Dude, you have tons of baggage!
  12. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    For me, the tragedy of the Jar Jar experiment/reaction is that it detracted from Watto, who, apart from Yoda, is the most well-realized alien character of the series. That hysterical little rotter should have been the hit of the movie.
  13. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    Jar Jar as racial stereotype is a "talking point".

    It's no different from something concocted by FOX News to influence an election.

    From Ahmed Best's own words and other factors we know it's nothing more than an invention of Lucas-haters.
  14. MandalorianDuchess Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 16, 2010
    star 3
    So silly to read things into SW that were not intended. Is Jabba the Hutt a caricature of obese people? He clearly seems somewhat inspired by the great Sydney Greenstreet. Maybe Chewbacca is poking fun of very hairy people? And maybe Yoda is making fun of short people with big ears?

    Pretty silly stuff, imho. :p
  15. Drewton Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 8, 2009
    star 4
    I always thought Jabba was an Irish stereotype?

    [image=http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/78/FordandMulholland.jpg]
  16. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    I still don't see why people aren't outraged about the Tusken Raiders. They're the most blatant stereotype in star wars.
  17. Sword_Of_Goliath Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 22, 2010
    star 3
    What, exactly, are they a stereotype of?
    We learn nothing of their way of life, beliefs, culture or language in the films. They are some kind of nomadic tribe that pops in & out of the story. What are we supposed to be all outraged over?
  18. MandalorianDuchess Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 16, 2010
    star 3
    Ah.... no, I don't think the Jabba that was eventually used in the actual movies was much of an Irish stereotype. The actor that stood in for him when they were filming ANH may have been Irish or Welsh. I don't know. They filmed mostly in the UK so they hired lots of local actors for the smaller stuff, I think.
  19. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    http://www.studiocreations.com/howto/tuskenraider/tuskenrifle.html
    "Since Lucas mandated that the look and feel of the Tusken Raider characters would emulate the Bedoiun people, the costumers decided to just take MIddle Eastern rifles and spruce them up to look more scifi-ish."
    [image=http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-APc0zC67K9s/Tirl-VM3BcI/AAAAAAAAFuI/mZnFVEJU97o/s1600/Bedouin_Resting.jpg]
    SAND PEOPLE? "Some nomadic tribe." Are you kidding me? We know plenty about their culture. They cover themselves head-to-toe, they shoot at people, pillage, and torture people for fun.

    Movies and cartoons are FULL of these kinds of characters, especially old ones which George likes to pay tribute to.

    In Episode II, Lucas turns the stereotype into a commentary on racism itself. "Vicious, mindless, monsters." "They're like animals."

    Come on. You know exactly what they're supposed to be.

    Frankly, Watto the space-Jew is nothing compared to the Goblin Bankers of Harry Potter.[image=http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110302105225/harrypotter/images/c/ce/Harry_Potter_films_Goblin_03.jpg]
  20. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2009
    star 4
    The character that latched himself on to the Jedi should have been Watto from the start. A screwup due in part to his greed as well as his stupidity - just like the farmers in The Hidden Fortress.
  21. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2009
    star 4
    Declan Mulholland was Irish. It's debatable whether or not he was actually 'standing in' at the time (the official line is that he was going to be replaced by an effect, the way it was shot suggests otherwise), but he probably would have been dubbed anyway, just as many locals were.
  22. Drewton Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 8, 2009
    star 4
    Just joking. :p
  23. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    What's interesting here is a certain dissonance there inevitably is to claims like these.

    For instance, on the matter of "hook" noses, people have chosen to fret about Watto, even though his nose clearly curves down in a fairly non-human way, resembling the trunk of an elephant, but they say nothing about the casting of Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, who got the part, he even (only) half-jokingly says, largely because of his crooked nose. And that's the Emperor, the greedist, slimiest, most openly evil character in the bloody universe. Such cherry-picking, to me, represents a staggering blindness on the part of the people who do the picking (sorry to mention noses and picking :p ), and suggests they may have one or two undiagnosed maladies of their own.

    The Tuskens, by the way, bear as much resemblance to Egyptian mummies as anything else, and their faces are clearly a close match, now that the whole saga is in the can, for General Grievous' private bodyguards. I've always seen the Tuskens' faces as an amalgamation, actually, diffusing the underlying Bedouin inspiration a fair degree. This is the problem with reducing things to stereotypes in art. You're hastily reifying without looking at a bigger picture: a form of selective editing no better than anything the RLM videos do. It's like writing out a mathematical equation and removing one of the terms. Congratulations, you have broken the equation. Do you want a cookie? It's concretized ignorance; and the only thing that can cure it is education.

    Educated people do not point fingers, but make serious attempts to understand a thing before coming to a conclusion; in many ways, to AVOID coming to a conclusion, and making conditional summaries instead. Of course, if something sticks in a person's craw, well then, it sticks in their craw. They are entitled to disdain something if they wish. Doesn't mean their view is anything but their view, however. Only by reducing things to stereotypes and labels do we childishly deceive ourselves into thinking we've arrived at unalterable truth; but reality is never that simple. Art works similarly. It is about creatively COMBINING old things to arrive at places new. To disavow the imaginative, symphonic quality of art is to commit a mortal sin.

    So, okay. Watto's an Arab, Jar Jar's a black slave. Super. What's Star Wars, then? Ask a hundred people and they might well give you a hundred different answers.
  24. TOSCHESTATION Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 17, 2003
    star 4
    Hmmm...at least you had the foresight to put "talking point" in scare quotes, though.

    However:

    "Lucas-haters" is itself a talking point, used as a convenient, anti-criticism "shield". Something along the lines of: "Don't even consider that opinion/argument worth answering because it comes from Lucas-haters."

    Then again, I'm surprised you'd be so careless with the use of such a term ("Lucas-haters") , Arawn_Fenn. After all, given the (fuzzy) criteria by which something is deemed to be borne of "Lucas-hate", those who believe the Lucas line that "Han NEVER shot first!" could easily (if they haven't already done so) throw the "Lucas-hater" label back at US. "US" being those like you and myself (and others) who dare to question the accuracy of the "Han NEVER shot first!" statement.


    With all that being said.......[face_whistling]:pI've never bought in to the whole 'racial-stereotypes' thing with the SW films. I think Darth_Nub sums it up perfectly when he says that the character simply sucks.


    regards,
    - TOSCHI "why didn't he just say so from the get go?" STATION

  25. shanerjedi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 17, 2010
    star 4
    Watto to me always seemed like a weird little elephant guy with wings.

    I never once thought of Amos and Andy or Stepin Fetchit with Jar Jar. I grew up watching classic films that had sections with minstrel and black face. But I still dont see the connection.

    It is true Lucas used classical iconography and representations to inform some of his characters. That's part of what makes them timeless. However, every alien and person is tied to in-universe culture or identity to suggest a vast universe.

    And for those people who crave post-modern films devoid of classical themes or iconography, they made plenty of them in the '60's and '70's. They still do today.

    But that's not Star Wars. There are nods to that time-period. It's not a completely reactionary piece to the point of absurdity. It just taps into classic storytelling structure, themes, and characters.

    So is it conservative? I would argue it's classical. Conservative is not the right term. That's too contemporary a phrase ushering in all kinds of preconceived notions.

    Star Wars takes a longer look back than that.

    And let's remember that the good guys in the films, the OT anyway, are the ones trying to *restore* an old system. The old ways. The Old Republic. Forgotten orders and systems. They're not trying to usher in a new, forward-thinking system.
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