In 1977 I was eager to accept the massive marketing blitz promoting the first film to me, and to adults who should have known better. And the firestorm of marketing was like nothing I had ever seen. Down even to Star Wars bubble gum with ‘trading cards’. It was more like a propaganda campaign than a promotion. I don’t have my hands on the data, but I wonder whether the marketing for Star Wars outstripped the cost of the film itself, which was not inconsiderable for its time.
Even then, though, I thought the film was a disappointment. I guess my expectations had been built up too highly. So highly that not even a masterpiece film could have met them. and Star Wars was not so much a masterpiece as a juvenile script populated with cardboard characters, and big budget special effects that started the trend for the effects to be the real stars of American films, and almost always as destructive forces.
In the 2015 instalment, I noticed most powerfully that the plots had always been representations of gangsterism triumphant. Their heroes and villains were all hired killers whose only virtue was and remains the power of storytellers to justify the rape, theft, and murder committed by some favoured party.
In some senses this is the official history of the USA: gangsters defying public order, all laws, and any recognisable human decency. And getting away with it. With monetary success, no matter how corrupt, being the mark of their nominal success.
The latest Star Wars film follows that formula pretty closely, with some phoney political correctness thrown in as an insincere means of massaging larger audiences with a young woman and a black man.
Every main character is dynastic. The scion or relative of gangsters imposing their will on everyone else. Every incidental character just gets kicked around or killed as a result of the incompetence and sociopathy of the protagonists.
This is a pretty accurate depiction of America’s depravity. The world has asked even John Kerry to explain what is going on in the present primaries, and just how scared we should all be.
We have all seen how the USA fights its wars: using impoverished and sometimes press ganged soldiers to die in wars their mostly entitled and white officers are too incompetent to win, and whose corporate sponsors seem to see solely as an opportunity to embezzle public funds and steal all that is not nailed down overseas.
In the Star Wars films we don’t get to see such indignities directly, but it’s not hard to imagine that the major characters would have to enslave large numbers of aliens and humans to fund their insanely pointless and massively destructive battles. How would anyone fund a Death Star, let alone a Star Destroyer? And what the hell was Luke Skywalker doing by deserting at his leisure? Was it to sip Pina Coladas and fuck the native girls on some planet so lush and verdant that it looked like a designer resort?
It’s not like European military histories aren’t also replete with lionised tales of absolute bastards abusing their own people and killing plenty of ‘bad guys’ in the process. In neither European nor US military histories aren’t there admissions of thefts, rape, and murder; but these aren’t mentioned as more than sideshows. And the European filmic tradition isn’t quite so beholden to violence as the answer to everything as the Hollywood guild of studio accountants and producers.
In the Star Wars films imperial American doctrine underlies all plot events, even if audiences are mostly treated as too stupid to interpret the metaphors that stand for such atrocities as imperial American propaganda.
So, in Episode VII we get a sanitised version of American robber baron history, and the righteousness of killing your enemies to steal their goodies.
I now wonder whether even the people making kid’s fiction in the USA can tell the difference anymore between their portrayals of the hypocritical lies about truth, freedom, and justice that cannot possibly exist side by side with the rotten-to-the-core American political process, and the deliberate pursuit of jaw-dropping discrimination against at least half the population.
I’m left wondering about the sanity of the people who should be beyond suspicion of such things: all the artists who make a Hollywood spectacular what it is.
I’m left wondering whether I would like them very much.
I’m left wondering whether I would like the people who are the fans of such films.
But maybe most importantly, I’m left wondering whether I don’t feel uncomfortable in my mounting disgust at all the decent people in the USA who continue to do nothing at all to stand against such corruptions of their stated values.