Killing Your Father: Star Wars

edited March 2007 in Story Games
Posted By: Brand_RobinsSometimes its worth creating a problem. Sometimes it isn't. Knowing which is the thing that will fuck with you for your whole life.

Anyway, everything else aside, if someone wants to start a thread on all the ways Star Wars or Harry Potter are fucked up -- gender, class, race, bad directing, droids as slaves, free the computers... I'll play.
Let's throw down.

The really depressing thing about Star Wars, to me, is that the things it's lauded for are the very things it's such a failure at. People say Star Wars opened up new vistas of imagination and possibility, when in actuality, A New Hope is nothing more or less than the most successful clip show ever. There isn't a single moment of real exploration of how the world might change or how things other than our traditional tropes might exist; Lucas cuts together the Sierra Madre and the Temple of Doom and the Triumph of the Will and he puts some pretty pictures on the screen to make you think he's doing something. Star Wars isn't good science fiction; Star Wars isn't science fiction at all. Science fiction is about how things could be different. In many ways, Star Wars crippled the genre, in a way it took LeGuin and people like her to finally recover from.
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  • edited March 2007
    David Brin argued in Salon years ago that the Star Trek universe was preferable to the Star Wars milieu because the rational egalitarianism of the former is a far more palatable view of things than the monarchical elitist mysticism of the latter. But read it for yourself:

    Star Wars despots vs. Star Trek populists
  • Not just science fiction. I've read critiques where Star Wars is blamed for ruining cinema altogether.
  • Posted By: LarryI've read critiques where Star Wars is blamed for ruiningcinemaaltogether.
    You mean, the prequels? Cause I might agree there.

    I dunno about the originals. It was some pretty epic, fun, light action awesomeness. I remember how big I was into Star Wars even in the mid-nineties. My friends heard that "Toys R Us has some sort of new line of Star Wars figures!", and we were anticipating possibly a line-up of figures that were going to be in the new movies (uh... no. This was 1996, a year or so before the movie was even begin to start filming). Instead it was this new revamp of the OLD figures, called "Power of the Force" or something. We all, college students all, left Toys R Us with 1-2 of these figures anyway.

    But the prequels. Man, they sucked. Graphically stunning, but even the stunning scenes really had no focus.

    BUT, to bring this back to gaming a little?

    Uh...

    Hmmmm...

    I still don't mind playing Star Wars themed RPGs, but usually there has to be some edge: 5 years after Return of the Jedi; 50 to 100 to 1000 years after Jedi; Knight of the Old Republic Era; etc. I played a one-shot high action SW game set in the "prequel era" where we were all "ARK Troop Commandos", which are basically super-elite free-thinking clone troops. Even then, though we saw no Gungans, were not trumped by any background NPC, and were basically doing wacky kung-fu kickass commando shit set in a loose SW frame, parts of me still felt uneasy at times.

    But yeah, no problem playing in other eras, especially just using the trappings. I ran a mini-campaign using the Star Wars rules back in college where the PCs were all Jedi or Jedi-related characters that lived on a planet far, far from the Republic. After uncovering some ancient Jedi ruins, they discovered that:

    1) Their planet was Yavin, and
    2) It was haunted by Luke Skywalker's "Jedi Ghost Thingy", and
    3) Luke died 30,000 years ago.
    ...and things pretty much worked and looked like they did in the Republic Era (technology, etc), just a long history of a battle of good and evil in the interrim, the Core Planets/Core of the Galaxy (in terms of society) switching places a couple times, etc.

    -Andy
  • Here's one such claim:
    “Star Wars'' effectively brought to an end the golden era of early-1970s personal filmmaking and focused the industry on big-budget special-effects blockbusters, blasting off a trend we are still living through. But you can't blame it for what it did, you can only observe how well it did it. In one way or another all the big studios have been trying to make another “Star Wars'' ever since (pictures like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,'' “Jurassic Park'' and “Independence Day'' are its heirs). It located Hollywood's center of gravity at the intellectual and emotional level of a bright teenager.
  • I dunno about the originals. It was some pretty epic, fun, light action awesomeness.
    They were not. We remember them that way because we were, like, 10 years old at the time. Most of what people think was good about those movies is just misplaced nostalgia. The original Starwars movies are exactly the same as the prequels.

    I fully agree with the quote Larry posted.
  • The Shallow Big-Budget Hollywood Spectacular, and the Hollywood Adventure Serial, has been around since the 1940's. I don't see Star Wars changing that particularly, except that it was quantitatively more successful than its predecessors. The James Bond films were huge during the 1960's, and they're far shallower than Star Wars and nowhere near as well done from a technical standpoint.

    The first film also makes some thematic statements that are important, if shop-worn. First, in order to become a functional human being, you have to step outside of your social role and think critically about the society you're living in--and if necessary, oppose it. Second, technology dehumanizes us, and it has a symbiotic relationship with the military/industrial complex. Third, in order to grow as a human being, you have to be willing to trust in something beyond materialistic thinking. As a bildungsroman for young Americans growing up in the 1970's, these were important lessons for kids to learn and internalize--it's sort of like Beowulf for the children of Hippies.

    Attacking these themes because they're trite sort of misses the point. The lessons in almost all our classics are trite. A Christmas Carol, the Odyssey, Joyce's Ulysses--they're basically treacle once you boil away every trace of craftsmanship and originality away. Just because a lesson is simple and shop-worn, doesn't mean it's not valuable if delivered at the right time, or if we're reminded of it when we forget it.

    Is Star Wars a science-fiction film the way 2001 is a science-fiction film? No. But I don't think that's a valid distinction. Star Wars is an adventure story with high-tech "color." And that's fine.
  • I liked the Original Series because there may have been only one female, but she shot things, raced on speeder bikes, led the guys in her own escape, Lea was fearless, she was a girl who did things. Also while I can't remeber her name the leader of the rebellion was a woman. that meant alot to me.

    The new stuff? Amadala? She complained and hid during most of that movie...oh and she bears the responcibility of handing the senate over to Evil. Movie 2 - She inexplicably falls in love with a broody pouty brat after one day at the lake...WHAT? I mean I know what the script said but I sure didn't buy it. Movie 3- "there is still good in him...." and she dies because she has no will to live. WHAT????

    So I have no idea about starwars killing sci-fi or the movies. But I do know that the prequils were seriously un female friendly.
  • Kat, I'm right there with you. Prequels are also diversity unfriendly. The primary cast is: Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Amidala, and Anakin. Wonderbread.

    At least the original trilogy gave us a few character moments with Chewbacca and Lando.
  • One thing that allows me to still enjoy the original Star Wars films is the production design. It was so tight. If someone dug up unused designs for Star Wars spaceships, droids or aliens and showed them to you, I'd be willing to be that you could recognise them for what they were instantly. Now I don't know how well a TIE fighter would work, but it looks so original and cool that I don't care. I also appreciated that everything outside Imperial buildings or ships was dirty and broken down. So we have gee-whiz technology rendered down to barely operational junk, which gives the galaxy a sense of technological stagnation. This was pretty different. It was a very lived-in world and I think that made it all the more immersive. I doubt many people who play in Star Wars games care so much about the characters or plot of the movies, they just want to bask in the look and feel of the universe. It's a universe that still has potential, in my opinion. The first Knights of the Old Republic game had a more interesting story than the new movies, maybe even the originals too.

    I don't think Star Wars did much to injure sci-fi in film. I'd say Alien's success did more damage. 90% of all sci-fi movies are sci-fi/horror movies these days. There really haven't been many epic space operas since Star Wars. What was the last one? Chronicles of Riddick (Baaaaarf)?
  • . . . and the racial stereotyping.

    I can't play Star Wars because everything worth doing is done already. It's like WoD. There's a source book that tells you who the Prince of Bremen is, so forget your lofty aspirations of one day being a major figure in Euro-Vamp politics. (And if your GM changes it, you'll get Hell on the boards.)

    KOTOR and Clone Wars are the best things to come out of Star Wars. One had to go back thousands of years before the movies and the other had to massively alter the attitudes and personalities of two main characters (Anakin and Greivous) to make them interesting.
  • I mean this in a nonfaboi-way: Being the mystic warrior, and carrying a sword that's also made of a laser, is a very appealing image. You see that, and many folks can't help but want to *do* that, too.
  • But yeah, Star Wars is supremely problematic, especially if you think about it for too long.

    I think I was seeing Episode III with some folks who'd never seen any Star Wars (ever. yeah). Given my bitterness over Ep 1 & 2, I summed up the Jedi as "a psychic Taliban with magic swords - but fighting for the forces of good".
  • Nah, I think that's the good point of Episode III - you have a protagonist who is forced to choose between patriotism or religious faith, and between political process or substance. It's heavy-handed, and we might have qualms about Lucas's implied politics, but it's a timely question.
  • I loathe the whole Light Side/Dark Side thing. I loathe it for how it undercuts moral complexity. I loathe it for it's denial of emotion.

    I quite liked Knights of the Old Republic, but I always hated how the game would rpresent you with moral dilemmas which you could solve a number of different ways, some more ambiguous than others, and then at the end the game would go "Dark Side Points Gained". Like, sheesh, way to ruin the whole point of moral ambiguity.
  • Posted By: DevPI mean this in a nonfaboi-way: Being the mystic warrior, and carrying a sword that's also made of a laser, is a very appealing image. You see that, and many folks can't help but want to *do* that, too.
    I was just about to say something like "Fucking laser swords dude, LASER SWORDS!!!" when I read that post, Dev. Jedi are cool. They rock. As that guy says at the start of Phantom Menace, "The Republic has sent two religious nutters who can kill you with their minds and chop robots apart. They say they're here to negotiate". Bullshit, they're there to kick arse and take names.

    That fucking rocks.

    Sure, there's a lot of shite in those prequels and a fair bit in the originals, but I'm the right age to have fallen in love with the whole franchise. So it works for me.

    (Plus, I mean how cool is Lando? Re-watching the Holy Trilogy with my girlfriend last year after the DVDs came out. Now, she hasn't seen the movies since they came out, so when there's that big reveal that Lando was playing Vader for a chump the whole time, planning to double-cross the from the get-go and the big scary sithlord basically fell for it... Man, that's awesome.)

    But mainly: Laser Swords.
  • edited March 2007

    It's notable that Star Wars has gotten awards for production design but never story or directing. The movies are beautiful. Ralph McQuarrie is an amazing genius of a designer, not to mention the amazing work of John Dykstra, Phil Tippett, and all the incredible people who made the movies so beautiful.

    So, look, there's some stuff that's good, that is recontextualized for a space age audience: good vs. evil (always a favorite, though close examination is never flattering in these cases), supernaturally competent characters, and phallic symbols galore (which, honestly, there's nothing wrong with; it's only the obsession with them that's bad, and you can't fault a movie for being about masculinity, and a boy and his father, and they fight with swords that come out of their groins. (Dammit! I can't find that picture!) This isn't evenJung. This is Freud.)

    But, being as they were, according to Lucas, "Movies for kids", they lack subtlety, sure.

    When I've run Star Wars-based games, there have been basic rules:

    • Everyone is a Jedi. That's what the damned stories are about. There's no point in playing a game in Arthurian England and playing a farmer unless the farmer is really a knight.
    • Everyone has parents and a family. Had I been able to do so at the time, I'd have made some sort of relationship map thing to make that work; as it was, I winged it.
    • Questions are always about use and abuse of power. Mysteries are there to reveal, not withhold, stories of abuse of power. Every artifact, contact, whatever, is about the absolute power granted Jedi.

    There's some creepy stuff about Jedi. They're a theocracy, for one. Also, they abduct children and put them in their monasteries (which, really, that's supercreepy). They may kill based solely on their judgement and there is no check to balance them. This stuff is pretty good fodder. I mean, what if a Jedi wants to know who her parents are? That's good stuff. Totally impossible in the movies; too gnarly. But good for a game.

  • edited March 2007
    Posted By: MeserachI quite liked Knights of the Old Republic, but I always hated how the game would rpresent you with moral dilemmas which you could solve a number of different ways, some more ambiguous than others, and then at the end the game would go "Dark Side Points Gained". Like, sheesh, way to ruin the whole point of moral ambiguity.
    I definitely agree with the point that the games don't do that justice at all.

    I like -- no, love -- the whole Light Side/Dark Side thing. It isn't merely "good" and "evil." The "good" side is suppose to be an unemotional machine, and the Jedi think that's a good thing! That's part of why the Dark Side is as seductive as is it -- it's not just the power to throw around a little lightning at your foes, but the power to accept your feelings. Sure, in many ways those Dark Side emotions are used as an excuse to do bad things, but that doesn't remove the fact that something that looks like a black-and-white morality has something a bit more grey at its core.
  • Posted By: Jasper PolaneThey were not. We remember them that way because we were, like, 10 years old at the time. Most of what people think was good about those movies is just misplaced nostalgia. The original Starwars moviesare exactly the sameas the prequels.
    Actually, there is one major, glaring difference. The dialogue is much better in the originals, line-for-line. Where there's cheese, it's counter-balanced by Han Solo's sarcasm. Where there's genuine emotion between characters, it's usually quickly dealt with and understated, skirting just shy of melodrama (I said *usually*, no I'm not forgetting about the Luke scream in ESB).

    Take the exact same story structure that the prequel movies had, put in a Lawrence Kasdan script (or heck, fill in any other screenwriter you want, from Paul Haggis to Kevin Smith), most of the problems go away immediately, IMO.
  • If Kevin Smith wrote Star Wars, they would never stop talking and they'd never get around to chopping off arms with their laser-cocksswords.
  • edited March 2007
    I don't agree that the prequels are the same as the originals. The thing that still really stands the test of time from the originals was the wonderful chemistry between the three principal characters. That particular set of actors really carries the movies, even when they get schlocky. The prequels do not share this benefit, as highlighted by the laughter in the theater during the supposed romantic scenes.

    [Cross-posted with Landon.]

    But yeah, let's focus on questionable statements of race/gender/class. I think that's best way to go, rather than "Star Wars sucks/rules!"

    I think it's pretty sad when in some other galaxy far, far away, which isn't connected with European peoples in any way, where you've got funny-looking alien species running all over the place, the near-total majority of the baseline humans are light-skinned. Even on the multi-sunned desert planet. Like, did Lucas actually get to the second movie and Lando Calrissian before he even noticed "Hey! I didn't cast a single black person in my fantasy universe!"
  • Why are you people liking Star Wars in my "hate Star Wars" thread? Jesus, Story Games really is too damn nice.
  • Posted By: Rich StokesAs that guy says at the start of Phantom Menace, "The Republic has sent two religious nutters who can kill you with their minds and chop robots apart. They say they're here to negotiate". Bullshit, they're there to kick arse and take names.
    This makes me want to run a Jedi in the Vineyard game.
  • Posted By: pigeonWhy are you people liking Star Wars in my "hate Star Wars" thread? Jesus, Story Games really is too damn nice.
    I'll bite. Getting back to the question of race/gender/class in Star Wars, it's practically shooting fish in a barrel.
    • Jawas capturing droids and selling them to people -- is it okay because we're talking about droids? We've come to see R2 & 3PO as full characters by the end of the original trilogy, and we've come to see their plight as ordained by destiny -- so why do we ignore the fact that the story basically starts off with their enslavement?
    • The guy who can't speak English -- Chewbacca -- is the guy most likely to get all uppity & violent?
    • One of the two notable black actors in the film is the ultimate villain, and the other is a turncoat -- though they both eventually redeem themselves in the eyes of the protagonists.
    It's easy to question Star Wars because it's freakin' Star Wars -- the movie is partly a product of its time, and it's been analyzed so many times in the ensuing decades. It'd be a shorter to come up with a list of things Star Wars did right -- but then someone already said "laser swords."

    How's that for hating?
  • edited March 2007
    Anyone who watches Star Wars and only sees the Jedi...well. All I've got to say is that hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side. Ain't no mystic energy field that controls MY destiny.

    (And neither does 'catching hell on the boards' for changing things. What the fuck.)
  • Posted By: JDCorleyAnyone who watches Star Wars and only sees the Jedi...well. All I've got to say is that hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side. Ain't no mystic energy field that controls MY destiny.
    Sure, but I'd also argue that Star Wars -- the first movie, not necessarily any of the others -- was a movie about faith. Luke gained faith in himself. Han gained faith in something other than himself.

    I also just realized the parallels between that conversation Han had with Luke & the bit between Vader & Admiral Motti: "Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes." The parallel is weak, but it does show both sides of the conflict dealing with the twilight of their religion.
  • Posted By: pigeonWhy are you people liking Star Wars in my "hate Star Wars" thread? Jesus, Story Games really is too damn nice.
    You know, I think I have a perspective issue here that keeps me from doing so.

    Unlike a lot of other people, I didn't fall in love with the movies as a kid. I actually started absorbing the franchise lore in 1995 or so, after playing the old D6 RPG with my friends for the first time and enjoying it enough to become a regular GM. And pretty much, I only got into that stuff deeply because it seemed like part of being a good GM for the game. So, when I personally think about what Star Wars is, I think about the kickass campaigns I've been in and/or run, the rollicking, carefree environment for gaming, first. I think of the movies and novels as a distant second, more inspirational elements (both for stuff I like and don't like) than anything else.

    But I'll give you one: I've always thought that the Star Wars campaigns I ran and played in were better than Star Wars. Is that cocky or what?
  • It's not at all cocky, and to a certain degree I think the non-Jedi aspects of the d6 supplements twist my view of the source material. In a good way.

    I completely agree with the "faith" theme of the first trilogy. The fact that there is no Han Solo or even anyone remotely approaching his niche in the prequel trilogy dooms it in my view. Dooms. How can you punch space Nazis without Indiana Jones? I ask you.
  • edited March 2007
    Maybe in an odd way, Han is the moral center that keeps the Jedi drama from going into crazyland. In the original trilogy, the non-Jedi / non-royalty (particularly Han) kept the hijinx grounded a very little bit, whereas in the prequels the moral ground is provided by... Obi-Wan, at best.

    So maybe my rule is, when running a Star Wars game, everyone can be a Jedi, but *encourage* at least one person to be the Han.
  • Moment of insight.

    Just as Shakespeare used "low-class" characters in his plays to contrast with and comment on the high drama going on among the nobility (and keep the low-class part of his audience amused), you need a Han to keep things grounded amidst all the oh-my-destiny-is-a-terribly-high-one stuff.

    This is also why you need a Thief, or at least a comic servant, in high fantasy. It keeps it from taking itself too seriously.
  • Posted By: DevPSo maybe my rule is, when running a Star Wars game, everyone can be a Jedi, but *encourage* at least one person to be the Han.
    An interesting bit with playing games in the SW universe that just clicked: You can be a shady scoundrel with unclear motives. You can have mental kung-fu powers and throw around laser swords. But you can't do *both*. In my earlier RPG days, playing in Star Wars meant playing a Jedi -- otherwise why not just say "We're playing in Traveller" or some other made-up space opera setting? Sure, Star Wars has more to it than that, but that's where I'd go for my fix, man.

    Hi, my name is Ryan, and I'm a laser-swordaholic.
  • edited March 2007
    Because Traveller doesn't have Space Nazis or Indiana Jones, dur. (Or at least, if there are Space Nazis, it doesn't matter, you can just go somewhere else.)

    Speaking of missing prequel characters, one thing I was grouchy about was that while the characters spent a lot of time talking about the fall of the Republic and how awful it was, we were never shown the Republic was all that great, even in principle. There was some mumbling about freeing slaves in Episode 1, but did we ever see the Republic do anything good or decent that would make us shake our fists and go boo when it got kicked in the crotch? Hell no.

    (Hey, let me tell you about my character!) That is why when I played in a prequel-era Star Wars game I made a policy wonk Senator from a traditionalist but insignificant planet who was constantly working diligently to improve the Galaxy for all its inhabitants. Because I wanted someone who would show that the Republic was worth saving and why it was so tragic that their laser-sword wielding priesthood couldn't balance their checkbooks, let alone save it. Did anyone in the Jedi ever believe in The People? No? Well, why would they ever care if the people get trod on then? Compassion sure as hell isn't part of the code.

    Whereas my Senator dude would say "I see there is a problem. Let's hold a committee meeting about it." and scare the living bejeezus out of everyone who wanted to keep it secret just by advancing an ideal of representative government - transparency.

    This also meant that the bad guys hated him, really bad.

    Character page here. This is him after two movies worth of adventures.

    I wrote up the speech that got him finally dragged off the floor of the Senate by force when the hammer finally came down. I used anti-Imperial and anti-slavery speeches from the real world to get the money quotes.

    "Let us, however, not deceive ourselves. Liberty is not mocked. The Republic still lives. This is by no means its first trial. It has survived storms and stress a thousand times as severe as this convulsion, and come out of the furnace with scarce the smell of fire upon it. "

    Man, this is making me want to run a Star Wars game with you guys with no Jedi in it just so you can see how awesome it can be.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyMan, this is making me want to run a Star Wars game with you guys with no Jedi in it just so you can see how awesome it can be.
    I totally thought that the no-Jedi game was everyone's second Star Wars campaign, right after the first all-Jedi one.
  • Posted By: Landon DarkwoodI totally thought that the no-Jedi game was everyone's second Star Wars campaign, right after the first all-Jedi one.
    Don't forget the occasional all-Dark Side campaign that some groups go through.

    I did threaten once to run a one-shot where the group consisted of Jedi Masters (using d20, so 13th level Jedi) went to investigate a Great Disturbance on the planet, only to find that said GD was a new Dark Lord of the Sith -- the Ewok Wicket. Mainly as an excuse to kick the players' asses with a 20th level Ewok, because that would make for a hilarious story (which the players agreed).

    But actually building said characters and dealing with the bits of the d20 system I'm not sharp on weren't worth it.
  • One day, I will tell you the tale of Darth Bombad, the forgotten Gungan Sith Lord.

    But not today.
  • Thank you for sparing us, Landon.
  • Man, now I'm thinking of other games I could play Star Wars in. But I should spin that off onto its own thread.
    Posted By: JDCorleyMan, this is making me want to run a Star Wars game with you guys with no Jedi in it just so you can see how awesome it can be.
    I have no doubt, but I still want to see this because I love checking out other peoples' awesome.
  • I saw Star Wars the year I was 14. It had already been running in the cinemas almost a year. I thought it was fantastic, mainly because it put visuals to the SF I'd been reading all through the 70s (Asimov, Heinlein, Norton, Herbert, Harison and many more). Being 14, I already could pick holes in the science (how do you stop a laser beam? you can't fly a spaceship like a WWII fighter), but I thought it was marvellous, and the next fancy-dress party I went as Obi-Wan.

    By the time RotJ rocked around I was pushing 19 and highly cynical. RotJ lost me. I thought the plot was wrapped up far too neatly and happily, I thought Luke had not had to work for his mastery. The new aliens were too cute and Muppety for words. Mentally, I scratched Star Wars from my canon in 1983.

    The original Star Wars (AKA A New Hope) is a confused tale from a director mashing dozens of sources together and waving his hand mightily. It's a fairy tale so it must have princesses, and Good and Evil. It must have mystical prophecies, great destiny from humble beginnings. That sort of squashes up against the Roman-Nazi Imperials and their foil the American Adventurer, not to mention Obi-Wan's Kurosawa Samurai act. As a result, morals are very fluid, and more or less suit the momentary pastiche rather than a consistent character (the characters are all pretty much cardboard cut-outs). Hence Obi-Wan must rattle on about how the Force is about peace and harmony in his Mystical Old-Timer scene, but he chops off a bloke's arm in a bar without blinking when it's time for his Kick-Arse Samurai scene. There's no problem with blowing up millions of poor schlubs on the Death Star because hey, they work for the Empire and they are EVIL! (besides, you've got have the Dambusters scene). Life is cheap in Lucas's view of the post-Vietnam US, but only when they're not Us. Trust your feelings Luke, because THOUGHT IS BAD, thought got us into this mess and only by believing in the Good, the Light, the White will we get out off it again. That and a good air force.

    ANH could get away with it because it wasn't taking itself so weightily. In the end it was about Lucas's neat toys, and it handwaved all the problems and inconsistencies. We could have said "George, why are you peddling the myth of Divine Right alongside the American Dream and hoping we'll take it seriously?" and he could have said "Duh! It's about the spaceships."

    But no, it had to become a phenomenon.
  • Actually, there's something profound in the original Star Wars movies -- which Lucas appears to have done completely without realizing it, or to have completely forgotten by the time he made the "prequels" ([rant]which my daughter, now three, will never, ever be shown. She will know of three Stars Wars films and one Matrix, period.[/rant) Move by movie, looking at the crunch moments in story-games terms, specifically as escalating "even now? even now?" choices in the Vincent Baker mode -- I'm thinking especially of Vincent's "A or B?" essay (http://www.lumpley.com/creatingtheme.html):

    Star Wars
    Luke: Follow the crazy old man off on a damn fool crusade or stay home to help with the harvest? Stay home... whoops! Flee smoking ruins of home. Nevermind.
    Han and Luke: Go save the Princess from the heart of the enemy fortress or stay hidden in relative safety? Save the princess!
    Han: Go back and help your new friend or take the money and run? Go help your friend!
    Luke: Trust the crazy old man's freakin' VOICE IN YOUR HEAD or keep the targeting computer on? Turn that computer off and listen to the voices!

    The Empire Strikes Back
    Luke: Go try to save your friends when your wizened master tells you it will doom them and everything they sacrified for, or stay with your wizened master and learn more cool powerz to win later? Go save your friends!

    Return of the Jedi
    Luke: Try to save your father from himself or run away, or if you can't run away chop his head off? Try to save him!

    In each film, Luke -- and to a less dramatic degree, the other characters -- is confronted by a choice between doing the loving, trusting, human thing towards specific individuals and doing the logical, strategically sound thing that subordinates individuals to the Greater Good. Every time (after that initial kick with the slaughter of his family...), he goes with head over heart, despite all the warnings. And yet the big picture, grand strategic Greater Good always turns out right in the end, anyway. (In Vincent Baker's terms, this is responding to, "'A or B? Choose one!" with "choosing A over B ultimately gets you both A and B.") In each case, it works because the individuals Luke chooses over the abstract Greater Good always turn out to be, often against all expectations, the ones who save him in return: Obi-Wan actually does know how to blow up the Death Star in the first film (and it's only because we've seen that scene dozens of times that the choice to listen to him seems sensible and obvious); Luke's captured friends end up rescuing him in the second film; Luke's father breaks the mold of a lifetime and saves him at the last moment in the third film.

    There's a clear moral message, of which "trust your feelings" is a marginally passable distillation: "Do right by the people you know and care about ('love thy neighbhor...'), and they'll do right by you, and the big picture will get taken care of in the process, somehow."

    This totally fails to happen in the prequels, notably. There's no clear moral dilemma for Anakin in any of the films, let alone across all of them. He tends to stumble into critical moments and react with spasmic inconsistency (turning on the fighter's autopilot, charging Dooku too fast, happening on Mace Windu about to kill Palpatine). If he consistently choose to sacrifice the welfare of individuals for the Greater Good, only to discover that the very ruthlessness of the sacrifice undermined the Greater Good fatally -- the means polluting the ends -- then the prequels would have been a perfectly balanced thematic counterpoint to the original films. If he'd chosen consistently to sacrifice the Greater Good for specific individuals (e.g. the whole "Save Padme" plotline) and found that the Greater Good didn't take care of itself as a result, it would be an interestingly dark and world-wise counter-argument to the optimism of the original films. As it was, it was neither, and thus mush.
  • P.S: From what little I know of George Lucas's biography, the theme of the original films tracks very closely to a young Lucas being told by his difficult and demanding father, "You can't do this crazy kid stuff you love and still earn a decent living or adult respect, so choose!" and Lucas saying "Okay, I'm going to make a career out of tinkering with cameras and '30s pulp serials!" -- ending up with Lucas getting both the crazy kid stuff and the respect & money, and I suspect some kind of long-sought-for final approval from his father.
  • Great insight, Sydney, and yes, that certainly is an ideal of the movies. Luke shows compassion, which is prohibited to prequel Jedi.
  • Posted By: Sydney FreedbergThere's a clear moral message, of which "trust your feelings" is a marginally passable distillation: "Do right by the people you know and care about ('love thy neighbor...'), and they'll do right by you, and the big picture will get taken care of in the process, somehow."
    That's a moral message? "Do what you feel is right and it will be all right in the end"? Only when you've got the Plot on your side.
  • Well, it's not a mushy "whatever you feel is right," the way "trust your feelings" suggests: It's grounded in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic assumption that people are basically decent and know which of their "feelings" to "trust" and which not to -- note that you're not supposed to "trust" feelings of rage and hate, for example.

    Now, "it'll all be right in the end" is unreasonably optimistic, obviously. But "do the right thing by specific individuals instead of sacrificing them to the big picture, which will probably take care of itself if individuals do right by each other" is a much more practical and livable ethic than "individual people can and must be sacrificed for the Greater Good," if only because we human beings are much, much better at figuring out what other individual human beings need and how to help them get it than at understanding what society as a whole needs. I'd rather live in a world ruled by the moral precepts of George Lucas than by those of Lenin.
  • P.S. Lenin or Yoda, for that matter. Yoda isn't advising Luke to go out actively and eliminate entire categories of people to serve the long-term interests of humanity ("kill the Stormtroopers" isn't ethically objectionable in the same way as, say, "all peasants who have more than one cow, plus their families right down to the children"). But Yoda is arguing in the second film that Luke should let his friends die for the Greater Good -- when it turns out, a movie later, that those friends were actually damned important for the Greater Good to happen at all (note that Luke doesn't have a blessed thing to do with destroying the Death Star: Han, Luke, and Lando do it).

    What's worse, both Yoda and Obi-Wan -- "what I told you was true, from a certain point of view" -- clearly believe they have the right to lie to Luke about absolutely critical things in his past in order to get Luke to do what they consider to be the Right Thing. Yes, it'd probably been premature to tell Luke in the first movie, "Hi! This was your father's lightsaber. By the way, he's now the Emperor's right-hand man. Oh, and I pushed him into a lava pool." But I don't think they were ever going to tell him, at least not until they had him thoroughly "trained" ("indoctrinated"?): Luke found out himself, the hard way, and then confronted them. That was another, insidious example of sacrificing someone -- in this case, Luke's right to know -- to the Greater Good, and having it backfire badly.
  • Posted By: Sydney FreedbergOh, and I pushed him into a lava pool.
    While lopping off all of his arms and legs in one awkward circular swing.
  • Yeah, not too good to mention that either. There's being honest and there's being an asshole.

    Although I have a certain Protestant strain to my love of Star Wars, specifically that nothing gets to be "canon" just because George Lucas and his appointed minions say it is, so in my book, the awkward circular swing never happened, the prequels were a bad dream brought on by too much Kesselian spice, and the true story of what actually turned Luke's father into the galaxy's biggest black-leather Nazi is yet to be told.

    I feel I ought to type "so there!" at the end of the paragraph above, but I restrained myself. A little.
  • Out of curiosity, Sydney, what might that yet-to-be-told story involve, do you think?
  • Sssshhh! Wait 'til Game Chef for that one!
  • Actually, re-doing the prequels as a PTA series is my dream campaign. I'd love to do that one day.
  • Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyOut of curiosity, Sydney, what might that yet-to-be-told story involve, do you think?
    Not to speak for Sydney or anything, but personally I thought either of these ideas would've been rockin'.
    Posted By: Sydney FreedbergIf he [Anakin] consistently choose to sacrifice the welfare of individuals for the Greater Good, only to discover that the very ruthlessness of the sacrifice undermined the Greater Good fatally -- the means polluting the ends -- then the prequels would have been a perfectly balanced thematic counterpoint to the original films. If he'd chosen consistently to sacrifice the Greater Good for specific individuals (e.g. the whole "Save Padme" plotline) and found that the Greater Good didn't take care of itself as a result, it would be an interestingly dark and world-wise counter-argument to the optimism of the original films.
  • Sydney, while I think your analysis of "trust your heart" in both trilogies is pretty good, we are here to dig up the more regrettable aspects of Star Wars.

    Equating Yoda with Lenin? Now you're on topic!

    I think this thread is better if it focuses on the original trilogy. Finding things that are awful in the prequel trilogies is like shooting fish in a barrel.
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