Wednesday, July 06, 2011

What in the Name of Yoda's Ears? The Force Help Us All... Hate Leads to Ass-Kicking

Suck this article does not.
Celebrity is a strange beast.  While it is a reciprocal relationship it is not a personal one.  Or, I suppose more accurately, it is an impersonal relationship with strangely personal emotional consequences for only half of the parties involved.  It's reciprocal in the sense that celebrities need fans and ordinary people (or at least less extraordinary people) in order to be considered celebrities and the fans get some sort of emotional and/or intellectual stimulation/satisfaction from celebrities.  On the other hand a weird kind of one-sided relationship -or virtual relationship- develops.  Through a celebrity's "art" (or at least their product) and experiencing their public persona via various interviews and Celebrity Gossip Media (be it magazine or insufferable TV program like ETalk or Entertainment Tonight or TMZ or some other such bullshit) the fans -and really the general public due to the pervasive nature of media now- "get to know" said celebrity and develop an emotional bond with him or her. 

Even though we have never met these movie stars or musicians we begin to feel like we know them, even though we couldn't possibly because we have never met them or interacted with them in any way.  What we are actually doing is constructing a character based on the information we are given and compiling a compilation of traits that we associate with a series of images we see on the screen.  We're creating characters.  We construct narratives for these personas that are based on (key concept here) real people then we work these narratives into our our own personal narratives through our emotional responses to what these characters produce and what they "do" and say in their "real lives."

But here's the real kicker.  While these relationships with celebrities we've never met are objectively Virtual they are subjectively Real insofar as that they provoke actual emotional responses in the minds of fans who have invested emotionally in these relationships.  And that makes them Real.  The only Reality that matters is perspective -both personal and collective- so while the fact that Justin Bieber is currently dating Selena Gomez is of no concern to most free-thinking citizens, to a teenage girl with fantasies of dating Bieber this is potentially crushing news, even though the fantasy may and probably will still manifest in some way.  But the emotional response was real and that's all that's important.  It matters if it matters to you. 

It's like a metamorphosis.  The Virtual is cocooned in emotion until it becomes Real.  It's one of the reasons that celebrity deaths affect (some of) us so much.  Even though we mean (literally) nothing to them through the lens of the media we have (vitually) come to know them so when they die the personas we have constructed based on the also die and we feel a (real) peronal loss.

And even though I am aware of the nature of this bond I not only continue to engage in it, I relish in it.  It brings me great (potentially perverse?) pleasure to love and hate these unstrangers who probably have nothng more in common with me than the fact I have seen them on my TV and read about them on the Internet.  I suppose it could be considered a double-edged sword, but that implies some kind of negative consequence for me, which I don't really think is the case because even when I hate a celebrity, deep down I still derive some kind of twisted pleasure from the hating. Just the sheer visceralness of the whole thing.  Misery loves company and we love misery.

Like most people I tend to take the decisions of celebrities far more personally than I probably should.  This is especially true of celebrities whose work I actually enjoy.   I don't know Christopher Nolan personally, but for making THE DARK KNIGHT I am eternally grateful and if we ever met I would happily partake in any Heracles-style Labour that he sent me to do short of sucking his no-doubt gargantuan dick.  (Oh, who am I kidding...)  More than that, I actually felt joy at his success as the media kept posting the record-breaking numbers. I was totally stoked when THE DARK KNIGHT broke the1 billion gross mark even though I would never see a cent of that money.  I got satisfaction from all of the critical acclaim the movie garnered him and his accomplishment not only of making one of the greatest films of all time, but also lending legitimacy to an entire genre of movies.

Conversely it always hurts when a celebrity that you like makes some piece of shit.  It feels like some kind of personal betrayal.  How could he do this to me?  But more importantly: why?  Perhaps one of the greatest betrayals came from none other than the Big Guy himself.  That's right, I'm talking about George Lucas.

George Lucas is a strange enough idiom in and of himself.  He's become a living contradiction: paradox incarnate.  As the creator of STAR WARS he has created one of the most pervasive and important cultural texts in the last century.  The intertext between the STAR WARS universe and modern pop-culture is so cemented that they have now become inexorably linked.  Referenes to STAR WARS now pervade our culture to the point where fictional characters and technology have become incorporated into household vocabulary.  Even people who have never seen a STAR WARS movie (I know, I know) or -even worse- have seen them but aren't fans understand these references.  Han Solo.  Yoda.  Light Saber.  My the Force be with you.  Why the hell do I know who IG-88 was?  It boggles my mind sometimes.  George Lucas is one of the few people who not only influenced our culture but actually shifted it's tragectory.  I don't even know if there is currently a cultural presence more pervasive than STAR WARS, or if there ever will be in the near future.  Even if you're not a fan of the movies or -perhaps more importantly- the merchandise, if you take a look at cultural texts around you, you will see these intertextual references popping off of te page or screen.

Now here's where everything gets screwy.  Even as George Lucas is the creator of this vast cultural empire (pardon the pun) he is also his own antithesis.  This is kind of poetic, and also kind of sad.  And at times, kind of frustrating.  As much as George Lucas contributed to our culture, and as much as he became this icon, he also seemed intent on destroying his credebility as an "artist" and a rational human being.  In seemingly complete defiance of all conventional logic George took one of the most beloved movie franchises in movie history and seemed to do everything in his power to undermine them and himself with his trilogy of prequels starting all the way back in 1999 with THE PHANTOM MENACE.

I'm not going to get into all the nitpicky details about why the Prequel Trilogy was far, far worse than the Original Trilogy, but even as an uninterested party watching all six of these movies it would be easy to see the decline in quality in the prequels.  In general there was a heavy reliance on special effects to make up for a lack of quality storytelling (a perfect illustration of the difference between "pioneering" and "beating to death"), convoluted plotlines, wooden acting, and an all-around sense of lack of direction.  And Jar-Jar Binks.  To this very day I still can't tell if George Lucas is some kind of Malevolent Entity bent on torturing mankind, or a Supreme Being testing our faith.  Neither one would surprise me.

I think what the STAR WARS prequels indicated was something fans had suspected for some time, but out of respect to their Messiah had not dared utter: George Lucas is not that great a director.  This may seem like blasphemy, and I know there are some out there who will throw AMERICAN GRAFITTI and THX: 1138 back at me as examples of his directorial prowess, however I will still be willing to concede absolutely nothing (except that their dick-sucking abilities are probably superb).  I'm a fan of those two movies as well, but they only further emphasize he point that Lucas is no maverick director.  As a director he is adequate at best.  If you look at the Original STAR WARS Trilogy and I mean really watch with a critical eye, I think the weakest one cinematically was the original STAR WARS.  Most fanboys will maintain that THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is far and away the best STAR WARS movie (for me a very close second to RETURN OF THE JEDI) and despite so much inexplicable hatred for Ewoks that RETURN OF THE JEDI is also a better movie than STAR WARS.  I'm not saying this to malign the original, because it was ground-breaking both narratively (well, not original, but innovative) and technically and captured the hearts and imaginations of several generations and without it we never would have had the subsequent movies.  I only draw the comparison to make a point.

And the poin is this: while George Lucas is undoubtedly a visionary with a vivid imagination and a creative mind he is not a director.  I think what George Lucas is good at is big ideas, but he has trouble working out the small details and navigating the nuances of translating his ideas onto the screen.  I think it can generally be agreed upon by fans and nonfans alike that the two best STAR WARS movies were the ones that weren't directed by Lucas.

And this really sucks balls.

As a fan of STAR WARS you can't help but be a fan of the entity who created it, despite any later attempts to alienate you.  (STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL anyone...?)  And as a fan of George Lucas I couldn't help but try to forgive what I thought was shitty about the STAR WARS prequels (especially ATTACK OF THE CLONES) and found myself in the (oftentimes) unenviable position of defending what I thought were mediocre movies just on principle alone.  Celebrity is a strange beast.  Even while defending his work both to others and myself, I still felt the need to exonerate George Lucas in my own mind for his heinous crimes against humanity (midichlorians?  WTF?).  You've probably found yourself wishing at some point in your fan-life that the object of your fandom wasn't responsible.  There must have been some other explanation, no matter how bizarre.  At times I found myself wishing that it was all just a terrible nightmare and that George Lucas couldn't have been responsible for the Prequels.  And now, thanks to YouTube I have an alternate, completely viable explanation as to what happened to bring about the STAR WARS Prequels in the form of a faux-trailer for GEORGE LUCAS STRIKES BACK which is loosely based onthe plot of OLDBOY.

There's tons of great little jokes like George Lucas getting upset at being labled "totally lame" by the media, his outrage over midichlorians, "I'm a businessman on my cell phone!," Darth Maul doing blow, assembling his team including Princess Leia, an older, rounder Short Round, and Chewbacca, Short Round's outrage over some clone trooper's admitted admiration of the new INDIANA JONES MOVIE, Greedo (not) shooting first, George Lucas fighting ninjas, clone troopers and Jar Jar, and several great lines like:

Princess Leia: "How do you take down an empire like that?"
George Lucas: "You shoot first."    

Princess Leia: "It's OK, George, even good directors make bombs once in a while"
George Lucas: "But mine go boom."

Anyway, after basically describing the whole fucking video for you just check it out below.  I found it quite hilarious and I hope you derive some pleasure out of the truth about what really happened in a galaxy far, far away...



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