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. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    This, more than perhaps anything, is what kills me about the PT and all its political shenanigans: it completely undermines the moral righteousness of the Rebellion.

    We never see an Old Republic that's really worth fighting to restore. If it ever existed, it's long gone by the time TPM begins.

    Before the PT came out, we could imagine the Republic as a great democracy, a shining beacon of freedom, that the Rebels in the OT are fighting to restore. After the PT, the Rebels are a bunch of fools, fighting to restore a government arguably more corrupt than the Empire itself. The triumph of RotJ's finale is destroyed.

    EDIT: It also brought things far too close to home with all the politics.

    In other words, it turned Star Wars into exactly the opposite of what even Lucas maintains it was meant to be - an escapist fairy tale for a generation (originally, those who grew up with Vietnam and Watergate) who didn't have stories with easy happy endings.
  2. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    I'm actually keen on the conceit that the Rebels are pursuing something at least partly illusory. Isn't this the case in reality, wherein freedom fighters latch onto an ideal in order to quell a very genuine evil?

    Isn't it interesting that Ron Paul libertarians wax rhapsodic about the early days of the American Republic, conveniently forgetting that said republic was founded on the genocide of the natives and bolstered by the enslavement of Africans?

    Or how Democrat liberals sing about the visionaries behind the New Deal/Fair Deal/New Frontier/Great Society, while sometimes failing to address the fact that these progressives also unleashed untold suffering on people around the world via misguided foreign policy (Korea, Cuba, Indonesia, Vietnam, et al.)?


    Sorry, but I greatly appreciate the many twists and retcons offered up by an older, wiser Lucas, and consequently delight in ruminating on whether Luke, Leia, and the Alliance are going to pull off the democracy experiment.


    The original Star Wars has been credited with helping allay America of its "Vietnam syndrome". Making folks feel good again.

    The cynicism of the PT leads me to wonder whether Lucas regrets contributing to this (even if in the smallest way). It must have been galling for this self-described Kennedy Democrat to see the likes of Ronald Reagan adopt his iconography and language (e.g., "Evil Empire") for a right-wing agenda.

    I do wonder, if the PT is Lucas's way of saying, "Smarten' up, dummies!"
  3. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    Although GL & LFL have greatly exaggerated the extent of it, the backstory of the Republic decaying due to the corruption & greed of the bureaucrats and various guilds, then its takeover by a manipulative politician who declares himself Emperor, has existed since the early drafts of Star Wars, it's not the product of a newly discovered cynicism post-OT, it's the product of the same 1970s cynicism the first film seemed like such an antidote to.

    The backstory was directly influenced by the Vietnam War, Watergate and other such events of the day. The character of Palpatine was originally based on Richard Nixon, not Hitler, as many believe. Many seem to forget what a politically conscious filmmaker Lucas was before American Graffiti & Star Wars became such huge successes - he was one of the original creators of Apocalypse Now, after all.

    Timeframes changed, the plot took some wild turns & there were a few massive plot twists that completely transformed the Saga, but a great deal of the PT actually was there nearly from the start, mainly the political aspect. It was only ever meant to be backstory, but it was there.

    Prologue to the novelisation:

    [image=http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_SULXWciuoM8/TOGgvHPgNUI/AAAAAAAAANo/CBNdMXuLqlc/s1600/Untitled-2.jpg]
  4. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    Well, it seemed obvious to me that that was part of the point. If the Republic as represented in the prequels weren't a reverse of our expectations, it would be a two dimensional universe, with Good Governments and Bad Governments. The same with the prequels' politics. If Star Wars were COMPLETELY escapist, it wouldn't mean as much to us as it does.

    From a different point of view, the Rebels are fighting to restore something even older and more sacred than the Republic of the prequels, because the Republic at that point was practically the Empire already.
  5. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    drg4

    Sorry, but I greatly appreciate the many twists and retcons offered up by an older, wiser Lucas,

    Which is great for us older, cynical viewers. But what about the audience Lucas has maintained is the target of these films (particularly when defending the "ha, ha, poopie" antics that pass as "humor" in the PT)?

    And maybe it is as much a corrective to the modern movie climate as the OT was to the 70s, just in the opposite direction (now we have arguably too many lighthearted and poorly-thought-out happy endings, what with all the superheroes and such).

    But the problem for me is that all the subtext is forced upon the OT by the PT's context. If the OT actually had some of that "hey, the republic wasn't so great" in it, I think it would work better. But what we really have is a trilogy of movies where everything supports the notion that what these guys are doing is the right thing, a great move for the galaxy, and this outside voice saying "psst! ...this isn't the best idea".

    In other words, it reduces the OT to mere propaganda that needs to be deconstructed in light of the PT, instead of complete films enjoyable in their own right.



    Darth_Nub


    Notice how much what you're quoting suggests that at one point the Republic WAS good.

    Nothing in TPM/PT indicates that what we see is a fall from prior greatness. The bureaucratic mess IS the Republic, as it's always been, for all we know.

    Contrast that with your excerpt: The Republic is dead (meaning it was once alive); trader barons have REPLACED enlightenment with oppression (meaning the enlightenment really WAS there, at some point).

    Something good was corrupted, whereas the PT gives us something that seems to have been corrupt upon inception.
    TOSCHESTATION likes this.
  6. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    I don't think the PT implies that it was always that way, the very age of it & the determination of the likes of Bail Organa, Padme, Mon Mothma (via deleted scenes) et al would suggest the opposite.
    Admittedly, the main suggestions in the films proper that the Republic was once something better come from the lips of Palps ("The Republic is not what it once was" "I love democracy, I love the Republic"), but I never felt that the Republic was intended to be presented as corrupt at its core from the start, simply that the decay arose somewhat inevitably, through both the freedom that democracy afforded to those who would seek to exploit such freedom, as well as the complacency of the Jedi who hadn't faced a serious threat in a millennium.

    By the same token, I never felt that the Republic was being presented in either the PT or OT as some sort of Utopia which went bad, simply that it was the way things should be, rather than the way things were under the Empire. Obi-Wan sums it up well enough in ROTS - "My loyalty is to the Republic! TO DEMOCRACY!"
    Like they say, it's not perfect, but it's the best we've got.




    For now.
    -Kent Brockman


    Anyway, GL's anti-fascist stance is pretty clear, despite the lip-service he gives to the other side - Palpatine's thoroughly sympathetic position towards the corrupt bureaucrats in TPM, Anakin's semi-reasonable (though immature) argument with Padme in AOTC, even Anakin's passionate desire to make the galaxy a better place in ROTS - but given the scenarios & the fate we all know these characters will suffer, it's all there to bolster his own liberal position, & does so quite effectively.
  7. ezekiel22x Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 9, 2002
    star 5
    To me it's a case of Lucas being a good writer despite that he's not really a good writer. I think one of the big separation points between a literary vs. escapist mentality is that the former aims to eradicate comfort, do away with the idea that there can be a glorified normal to return to or achieve. Even in a film like TPM with a lot of goofiness, over-the-top action, and alleged wooden acting, I still get a sense of veracity from the whole deal in large part due to Anakin's basic arc moving from a flawed society on Tatooine to another flawed one on Coruscant. Thus I can buy into a 9 year old pod-racer who will be fighting in the Clone Wars in a decade, while Lil' Kirk joyriding off a cliff on his way to being named a young captain comes across to me mostly as dumb noise. Lucas just strikes me as guy who can't help but find his way to some very grounded and even heart-rending moments of cinema despite that his primary intentions are likely to craft big, vibrant, effects-driven thrill rides.
  8. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    LOL. Prosaic, but that's kind of how these things should be looked at, I think, before we start bolting on whatever we may wish to see, or think is there.

    Jar Jar, to me, while having certain overtones, feels like a unique creation. It is hard for me to place him in a box; which is as it should be.

    Fantastically said, Shane. One of your greatest posts, is this.

    Jeeze. You and Shane are batting 1.000 here. Brilliantly written, drg!

    Oh, absolutely.

    It's interesting to note that Reagan actually ran a political platform to power in California where he laid into the people at the USC and UCLA that year as hippies and beatniks with unpatriotic ideas. This was 1966 ("Execute Order 66!"). Lucas was one of those hippies and beatniks attending USC that very year. In the 1980s, during his presidency, Reagan, of course, tried to usher in an utterly grotesque missile "defence" system under the name "Star Wars": stealing the intellectual property of one of the very beatniks he originally slammed to get into power in the first place. Palpatine behaves in a near-identical fashion, audaciously lifting Jar Jar's term "Grand Army", which the character first utters in
  9. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    This cannot be emphasized enough.
  10. MandalorianDuchess Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 16, 2010
    star 3
    In all fairness, I think the character owes a lot to Nixon *and* to Hitler, both. If you read about how Hitler raised to become "das fuhrer" I'm sure you'll see more than a few things in common with the stuff that happens in the PT.

    And Nixon, unlike others who went on to become dictators or supreme rulers, was eventually done in by his own paranoia.
  11. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Point taken, but here's my question: Why did Lucas render the PT far darker than it had to be?

    Why were the Jedi reimagined as Palpatine's ?useful idiots??

    Why was each hero made complicit in ushering in totalitarianism?

    Why were the Clone Wars stripped of any romanticism, revealed instead to be a false flag operation?


    Beyond the Gungan shenanigans and CGI gloss, this is an oppressively dark story: one that indicts hero and villain alike; one that implicates well-meaning politicos and sages. I do think Lucas's worldview darkened over the years, almost comparable to Hitchcock's tonal shift that began with Rope and Vertigo and culminated with his 60s/early 70s work.

    What induces an artist to subvert his dream into a nightmare?
  12. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    There's many parallels you can make between Palpatine & Hitler, or between Palpatine & just about any dictator (a certain GW Bush was brought up repeatedly around the release of ROTS). Point being that Nixon was the original inspiration for the character (as GL himself has stated on numerous occasions, most recently to refute suggestions that the PT was about the War on Terror & the Iraq conflict), although GL was worried about what Nixon was going to do, rather than what he had already done.

    Similarly, many parallel the Galactic Civil War with WWII, when, in fact, it's really meant to be The Second American Civil War if you have to give it a real-world parallel - something that never happened, but could have been the result of some frightening potential developments in the early 1970s, or at least, what GL & many others believed might happen if Nixon carried on as he was. It was Nixon's plans to extend his Presidency beyond his second term that was the real worry - just like Palps did.

    This isn't what GL was trying to do with the first film, or even with the rest of the OT, but it all influenced what backstory he constructed back then.


    There's separate answers to each of those questions, particularly the one regarding the Clone Wars, but overall, I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that although the backstory existed, the details weren't worked out. As a result, developments in the OT necessarily changed the backstory, the main ones being the creation of Father Vader and making the Emperor a Sith Lord (as opposed to a bog-standard crooked pollie). You've also got the fact that GL eventually decided to attempt making a full six episode story arc as opposed to two separate (though obviously connected) stories.

    On top of that, of course, the George Lucas of the 1990s was a very different person to the one of the 1960s/70s. He's hinted that there's more personal stuff in the SW films than people realise.

    This all belongs in a different thread...
  13. Nordom Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 1, 2004
    star 4

    But the character changed from Star Wars to ESB. In the ANH novel, the emperor is said to be kind of a puppet, controlled by those around him and cut off from the people. And that the Imperial Governors and other officials take the opportunity to seize power. Also originally the character does not seem to be a Force user.

    The Hitler parallels can be drawn to the Empire itself, the soldiers are called "Stormtroopers", the look of the uniforms etc. Also parallels can be drawn to ancient Rome, who went from a republic to an empire.

    Regards
    Nordom
  14. Nordom Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 1, 2004
    star 4
    Very well said.

    But take what is going on on this site, all the labels "Basher", "Gusher", "Hater" and so on.
    Isn't this simply trying to reduce something complex into a simple and convient label.
    All "Gusher" are THIS or all "Bashers" are THAT.

    People can give lots of examples what they like about SW but others can also give lots of examples what they don't like about SW.

    It seems to me that some try to take all opinions that differ from theirs and put them all into big box, with a convinient label, so they can then ignore them. But to me, these labels just disrupts the discussion.

    Regards
    Nordom
  15. DRush76 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2008
    star 4
    Lando is a movie pimp.

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



    Exactly HOW is Lando Calrissian a movie pimp? How did you come up with that opinion?


    But the problem for me is that all the subtext is forced upon the OT by the PT's context. If the OT actually had some of that "hey, the republic wasn't so great" in it, I think it would work better.


    I don't. I feel that Lucas' portrayal of the Jedi and the Republic in the PT pulled the rug from under many movie goers. I thought it was very bold of him. He did the same with Vader's revelation as Anakin Skywalker in TESB, and with the darker portrayal of Obi-Wan in ROTJ. For me, those two OT scenes were dress rehearsals for the major upsets he pulled in the portrayals of the Jedi and the Republic in the PT. I applaud him.
  16. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Badly. Which is, in part, why I wrote that later stuff about the dangers and limitations of stereotyping.

    What I was really saying is that Lando plugs into certain things that may be considered pimp-like, but he can't be reduced to a pimp in any objective sense.

    The fallacy people commit in sententiously whining that Jar Jar is a "Stepin Fetchit" character (or whatever) is that they are projecting and accusing Lucas of the very thing they are ipso facto guilty of: stereotyping.

    In one's haste to make such broad, strawman-like accusations, one must be careful not to forget that the broader you go, the less specific -- and accurate -- you become; and, in the Nietzschean sense, when you long gaze into an abyss, the abyss also gaves into you.
  17. Valairy Scot Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Can I say I how much I enjoy all the posts above - the analysis is fascinating. If only more threads were like this.
  18. DarthHomer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 29, 2000
    star 5
    My favourite moment from the whole racism backlash against TPM was when Watto was called by three different critics a Jewish, Italian and Arab stereotype! Proof indeed that racial stereotypes are in the eye of the beholder. I heard that Andy Secombe was going for an Italian accent with the character, but not in a derogatory way.
  19. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    Haha, now that you mention it, Watto is a bit like Stromboli from Pinocchio, sort of, maybe.
  20. Darth_Nub Saga, Classic Trilogy and Film Music Manager

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    Yeah, I've always felt hat his accent was closest to Italian, but with Middle Eastern & East European tones as well. I think the whole 'Jewish stereotype' label applied to Watto comes from his appearance, but as Cryogenic has pointed out, his nose is completely alien anyway. It's a 'hook nose', but objecting to the angle of a bodily part is taking things way beyond political correctness & into the realm of insanity. Some people just go looking for things to be offended by.
  21. darth-sinister Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2001
    star 9
    Reminds me of this from "Chasing Amy".

    Hooper: "Always some white boy gotta invoke the holy trilogy. Bust this: Those movies are about how the white man keeps the brother man down, even in a galaxy far, far away. Check this ****: You got cracker farm boy Luke Skywalker, Nazi poster boy, blond hair, blue eyes. And then you got Darth Vader, the blackest brother in the galaxy, Nubian god!"

    Banky Edwards: "What's a Nubian?"

    Hooper: "Shut the **** up! Now... Vader, he's a spiritual brother, y'know, down with the force and all that good ****. Then this cracker, Skywalker, gets his hands on a light saber and the boy decides he's gonna run the ******* universe; gets a whole clan of whites together. And they go and bust up Vader's hood, the Death Star. Now what the **** do you call that?"

    Banky Edwards: "Intergalactic civil war?"


    Hooper: "Gentrification! They gon' drive out the black element to make the galaxy quote, unquote, safe for white folks. And Jedi's the most insulting installment! Because Vader's beautiful black visage is sullied when he pulls off his mask to reveal a feeble, crusty, old white man! They tryin' to tell us that deep inside we all wants to be white!"

    Banky Edwards: "Well, isn't that true?"

    [Hooper pulls out his gun, shoots Banky]



    Indeed. There was another with Jar Jar that wasn't as widespread as his accent was. Namely that he was a stereotype for homosexuals. In that his acts of cowardice, such as running away a lot and even passing out, would be viewed in relation to homosexual males. Thus supporting the notion that homosexuals shouldn't serve in the military. To which I said, "What about all the other famous cowards?" Scooby-Doo, Shaggy Rogers, Oliver Hardy and the like. Were they all homosexuals because they were easily scared?

    Then you had the Clone Army in AOTC which really is funny when you think about it. The stereotype was that they were Mexican because of their skin color and that the use of the word Kamino for the planet of origin which is like El Camino, which is Spanish for "The Road" or "The Path" or "The Walk". What's really funny is that Jango Fett was played by a Maori actor.
  22. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    Just a side note, its funny that Jango's race is so um... ambiguous. I don't know about anyone else, but I see in the distant future a more homogenized population. As the world becomes smaller and smaller, I imagine that generations and generations of miscegenation would create a bunch of people who look more and more alike. Like clones even. Just something to think about.
  23. CoolyFett Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 3, 2003
    star 4
    I'm sure Lucas gave him something extra to keep quiet. But the gungans were based on island/carribbean people. Hell Lando was based on the pimps & hustlers from blaxplotation films.What about Watto? And the Hutts? Who were they based on? Should irish people be offended at Obi Wan Kenobi?
  24. CoolyFett Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 3, 2003
    star 4
    Irish? I always saw him as arabic.
  25. WIERD_GREEN_MAN Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2010
    star 4
    Here's the thing to me about Jar Jar: I don't like him because he is stupid. I don't like many people and characters who are stupid. I don't really like Gungans because they are ugly. However, I think the racism outcry over Jar Jar is misplaced because while Jar Jar is very stupid (and, to some people, racist considering his voice and all), Jar Jar is a comic character and he is pretty unique. The other Gungans we saw in the movies were capable and pretty intelligent. Jar Jar was an outcast because he was so stupid, not because he was West Indian. Other Gungans did not sound the same as he does. Not all Gungans are examples of "racism", there was just one unique case that was believed to be good for marketing purposes.
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