Friday, December 30, 2016

Star Wars is about Fascism, but is it so in a way that is actually useful in opposing Fascism?

So my fellow SJWs at TheMarySue and LadyGeekGirl and on Tumblr have been going on and on about how Star Wars is obviously political.  What they mainly mean by that is it's obviously on their side, and want to use that George Lucas and the new directors are all mostly on the Left of modern American politics as proof of that.  But the Author Is Dead and George Lucas especially was like Tolkien in that he wanted his stories to have a universal appeal beyond his own personal views or context.

But I'm not making this to talk about any intentional room for interpretation.  But rather a far deeper issue of how society responds to the fiction they watch.  And to start with you should watch this video from KyleKallgrenBHH on YouTube.

From Caligari to Hitler: Imagining the Tyrant - Between the Lines

This premise goes back decades. But this particular video on it was made in November of 2016, after the U.S. presidential Election of that month but before Rogue One came out.  I had watched it when it was still pretty new and bookmarked it on YouTube.

Rogue One is a movie I loved and enjoyed.  But as I looked at a certain segment of Star Wars fans not so impressed with it, expressing how bothered they were by people in their theater openly cheering on Darth Vader at the end.  I was reminded of the above video.

Because this thesis was not mainly about heroes of German cinema who could be viewed as unintentional proto-Nazis, though that was a small factor.  It mostly came down to the tendency of the masses to be fascinated by Villains.  Star Wars has always had that factor, it is the TVTropes Trope Namer for Rooting For The Empire.  And recently The Fanboy Perspective did an editorial about how annoyed he is by movies who's villains are not sufficiently charismatic and Bad@$$ enough to satisfy him.

Now don't get me wrong.  That Vader scene is one you are supposed to "enjoy".  You are supposed to "enjoy" it the same way you "enjoy" a Slasher film.  But of course the fandom of Slasher films has this same problem, I keep seeing people try to say the Final Girl archetype is Feminist, but they don't sell action figures of Laurie Strode, they sell action figures of Michael Myers.

Now I was planning on making this post and saying what I am about to say before Carrie Fisher was even hospitalized.  But naturally I now find it even more important to say that the character people should have been standing up and cheering at the end of Rogue One was Princess Leia.

And of course I can't help but notice the clear correlation between this kind of Star Wars fan, and the Prequel Haters.  People who resent the Prequels for emasculating Darth Vader, and are oh so thankful now to Rogue One for restoring his Manhood, quite literally symbolized by the extending of his Lightsaber.

And we see that in the new Trilogy's haters also to an extent, not liking how whiny and pathetic Kylo Ren seems, they wanted a new Vader, not a Vader wannabe.

Now before you go "great Job invoking Godwin's Law in your ongoing Crusade against Prequel Haters".  I want to say, don't oversimplify my premise.  I'm not sawing you can identify Trump voters by tallying who cheered on Darth Vader, or who hated the Prequels.  On Tumblr I certainly know many Prequel haters who are Anti-Trump, and the most Conservative Star Wars fan I know is a relative who's pretty okay with the Prequels.  My point is that there is a basic cultural overlap between the mentality that leads to thinking the Villains are the best parts of Comic Book films, and finding Trump's style appealing.

And I know full well The Prequels also give us a Villain to be fascinated by, as they finally gave The Emperor an actual character.  Yet at the same time so much Prequel hate is tied to feeling Darth Maul and Count Dooku were under utilized.  And complaining about Anakin killing the Younglings.

Yes, that is an important comparison to the Rogue One scene.  Undeniably that should show the character's Evilness far more.  In Rogue One he's killing enemy combatants, not even a War Crime much less one against civilians, it's wrong only to the extent his goal is wrong.  But it's not so easy to cheer on Vader massacring Younglings, which Lucas kept off-screen anyway.  More importantly then that though, is how it doesn't make him seem Bad@$$, it makes him seem Pathetic.  Sidous had basically just told him he needed to so some Evil for the Evuls to grow more powerful with The Dark Side, and so he did just that.  Reminds me of how Utena fans who hate the movie are so upset by Akio now being made to look pathetic, Ikuhara did that deliberately.

The massacre of the Seperatists leaders could have been far easier to cheer on.  But the way it's scored and shot, and how it's inter-cut with Palpatine's speech (Lucas cited this as his one Godfather Baptism moment) discourages the audience from doing so.  Topped off by seeing how even this killing of people who narratively had it coming had Anakin crying, showing he still has further to fall, and is certainly as Yoda predicted "Suffering".

I also noticed recently a problem in how all the universally praised Star Wars films, are ones where the "War" in question in unquestioningly a just one, for our Heroes side at least.  And in TFA and Rogue One even more so then the Original Trilogy, hesitancy to go all in on fighting it is presented as weakness.  While The Prequels which send the message that fighting an unjust war, one where our Heroes were the aggressors, is what created The Empire in the first place, get decried as not being simple enough.

2002 saw the release of both Attack of The Clones and The Two Towers.  That was also the year the Bush Administration was beating the War Drums on Iraq, so much so my mind still affiliates that War with 2002 more so then 2003.   Both films happen to have a theme of a War about to break out which it does at the end.  Bizarre coincidence since it couldn't have been pre-planned.

The sad Irony is that Tolkien would certainly despise the Bush Doctrine as someone traumatized by WWI.  Yet the timing of when the Two Towers movie came out allowed many Bush voters in the theater to take Aragorn's "Open War is upon you, whether you would have it or not" as a take that to Anti-War liberals.  I know this because way back then I was one, a fact I'm deeply ashamed of.  Meanwhile AOTC clearly presents the decision to go to War as a mistake.  The Empire was truly Born in Episode II, as the score beautifully tells you that at the end.  It was just formalized in Episode III.  I wonder to what extent the Prequels are a factor in my ceasing to be Pro-War by 2006.

Going back to Lucas intent, yes he wanted to cosmetically reference the Nazis like everyone was doing at that time.  But in the Audio Commentaries the real meat when he's talking about Historical influences lie in his talking about Ancient Rome and of all people Napoleon III.  Julius and Augustus Caesar, and both Napoleons presented themselves as the Left Wing of the politics of their times, however odd that may seem to us looking at it now.  Lucas message in the prequels was about how Democracy can be subverted, regardless of the ideology of the one subverting it.

That he cited Napoleon III is interesting to me.  Years after I'd first enjoyed those Audio Commentaries, I started developing an interest in 19th Century French Popular fiction, the genesis of which was discovering Paul Feval and BlackCoatPress.  Brain Stableford talks much about the historical contexts of all these novels in his Introductions, Afterwards and Footnotes of his Translations, (interestingly in The Invisible Weapon he theorized Feval become personally disturbed by his own ability to write such compelling villains, that he became like Mliton, unknowingly of The Devil's Party).  And there too Napoleon III is unavoidable.  He may be a nearly forgotten figure today, but to his contemporaries he was very important.

And of course the shadow of Napoleon Classic Version is vital to that.  Especially since censorship meant any negative commentary on him had to veiled.  And he had critics from both progressives and old fashioned conservatives.  Seemingly any novel mentioning the original Napoleon in the 1850s, 60s or even to an extent 70s had Napoleon III in mind.  But not using OG Napoleon himself as the allegory, no they didn't want to grant him that.

The thing about the real Napoleon was that he managed to earn the respect even of those who most harshly opposed him Politically, from both the Royalists and Republicans, from Alexandre Dumas to Paul Feval.  Napoleon III couldn't do that.  And thus the contemporary fictional allegories for him lie in the Napoleon wannabes.  Like Henri Belcamp of Paul Feval's John Devil, or The Blackcoats: Companions of The Treasure, where Julian Bozzo-Corona disguised himself as his far more iconic Corsican Grandfather, Colonel Bozzo-Corona.

Of course it is this failed wannabe nature of how Napoleon III was fictionalized by his contemporaries that makes someone in the know like me a little disappointed in Palapatine as a character partly inspired by him.  And this informs what I in-spite of my issues with TFA love about Kylo Ren.  It is Kylo Ren's failure to be Darth Vader that reminds me of Napleon III's failure to be Napoleon.  And I now kinda hope Snoke is equally a wannabe Sidious, overcompensating in his hologram, so no one question the size of his.... hands.

I realize I kinda left the original topic a bit there.  But I wanted to show I'm not just being a hater who's now completely cynical to seeing useful Politics in Star Wars.  Because Donald Trump also wants to be something he is not.  The Alt-Right sees this as a second American Revolution, but Trump is no George Washington.

Some people might find it offensive to see any French Figure as a proto-Fascist when France was a nation victimized by 1940s Fascists.  But in their current Political Climate they should know they're no more immune to it then America is.

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