Monday, June 27, 2005

Belated Commentary “Everyone’s a little bit _____-ist, sometimes.”

Carl Everett of the Chicago White Sox, who has previously stated that he doesn’t believe that dinosaurs existed because they’re not mentioned in the bible, has come out with his opinion on gay marriage. In this month’s issue of Maxim magazine Everett says something to the effect of, “I’ve had gay teammates and I’ve accepted them, but being gay isn’t right. I don’t believe in gay marriage, it isn’t right.” He goes on to reveal that two women cannot make a baby, nor can two men. This morning on Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN radio Mike Greenberg suggested that this comment by Everett will spark “a firestorm of controversy.” It shouldn’t. Everett’s comments should be taken up to the point of “I’ve accepted them” and end there. As far as his opinion of gay marriage, or the validity of homosexual romance he is entitled to his opinion; even if he’s wrong.

Listening to Greenberg read Everett’s statement on air I got the impression that Everett was clearly stating his belief rather than attempting to influence people or incite debate. I don’t agree with Everett’s remarks but the fact that he is willing to accept gay people regardless of his personal opinion is enough for me. After all, we all have our own prejudices (cue Avenue Q soundtrack here). I am not for illegal immigration. I’ll never vote for harsher immigration laws, or denial of services to immigrants regardless of their legal status. Equality and justice for all doesn’t mean we all have to like each other. There will always be groups of people that we have some dislike for. As long as we don’t allow our prejudice to inform our treatment of people, or God forbid our public policy, it doesn’t matter what we think behind our eyes.

Ewoks are not Ethiopian. They’re Iraqi.

OK, they’re neither. One of the lasting memories of childhood is an argument between my mom and her boyfriend a couple of years after Return of the Jedi. The argument was about whether or not Ewoks were derogatory African stereotypes. My mother took the position that they were simply annoying little teddy bears created to sell merchandise to eight-year-olds. This led to one of the more vicious political arguments I have ever witnessed including during my recent trip to the senate.

Now the Ewok argument is being played out on a larger scale as republican leaders attempt to get people to boycott "Revenge of the Sith" due to its alleged anti-Bush bias. Among other things republicans point to Darth Vader’s line “If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.” As invoking Bush’s “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists.” Republicans have also pointed to the films apparent criticism of the war in Iraq.

For crying out loud people get a grip! People have been trying to find hidden messages in Star Wars films for too long. Sure, Lucas borrowed from eastern philosophy and Christianity in order to shape his epic. Sure, there are allusions to other famous stories. Yes, the films depict an amalgam of classic themes on the human condition. We get it. That’s where it should end. When asked about the republican’s ire Lucas himself issued one of the greatest non-confirmations of my young life saying that the story was written during the Vietnam war, not the current war. This statement at once denies that the movie had any overt bias against the current administration while at the same time using the GOP’s accusations to compare the current war to Vietnam, something most republicans want to avoid. In a sly way Lucas is pointing out what should be obvious to all of us, if the GOP see caricatures of themselves in the behavior of the Sith, who are patterned after a xenophobic administration that perpetrated a failed war, maybe they should take a hint that this a clear case of life imitating art. People need to stop trying to find the hidden political messages in Star Wars. After all, how long has this movie been in post production? Wasn’t some form of “Yer either wi’us ‘r a’gin us” used in films as far back as the 1930s? Isn’t likely that it was written into Bush’s speech because it’s an iconic phrase? So did Lucas play on Bush, or did Bush play on John Wayne? Or did Lucas play on Wayne? Could the line have been written prior to Bush’s speech? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Besides, if Bush says something that childish shouldn’t he be lampooned for it? Or are world politics so simple that the entire issue can be as simple as disagreeing with the war equals wishing death upon American civilians? I for one am not against the war because I’m for the terrorists, but rather because I am for the soldiers, and I am for the people of Iraq.

If republicans are upset about Sith now, imagine if Return of the Jedi were released today. Instead of being worried about comparing Bush to Vader the GOP would be up in arms about how the Ewoks, with their guerrilla tactics, were a clear nod to the Iraqi insurgents. After all, the Ewoks used IEDs and other primitive weapons to attack checkpoints in an attempt to defeat the most technologically advanced army in the galaxy, a strategy that closely parallels the tactics of the Vietcong who preyed upon the over confidence the US put into it’s military might. If Jedi were released today Lucas might find himself at Gitmo while our boys kept on the look out for insurgents using big logs and hang-gliders armed with giant rocks. Again, if the GOP sees a parallel, in a film, about outer space, written during Vietnam, to the current political climate they might want to take that as a sign. From what I can tell Vietnam is now widely acknowledged as an abject failure. If we have reached the point where even those who are perpetrating this war, the same people who promised that Iraq would “not be another Vietnam,” are starting to see the similarities, maybe they should wake up and realize it’s not a case of liberal bias, it’s reality.

On a related note…

…I’m kind of glad it’s all over. I was born approximately 11 months before Star Wars was released. The films have been a constant for me, as they have been for most American males my age. Like a Red Sox fan under the age of 90 I don’t know life without gossip and speculation surrounding one of the passions of my generation. Still, I’m glad that I’ll never again have to leave a movie theater listening to a depressed, thirty-something, never-been-kissed Star Wars junkie complaining that “this one wasn’t (fill in the blank) compared to the originals.” Never again will I have to fight the urge to shake this person and scream, “Dude! When you saw the originals you were 12 years old!” Here’s the deal gang, these are movies made for kids. Adults loved the originals in part because there had, to that point, never been a movie like Start Wars. Heck, if you’re reading this chances are your parents were in their mid-twenties when Star warts came out which ain't exactly old. The special effects were unlike anything that had been done to that point. The story was different than anything that had been done to that point. Star Wars was different. Now it’s not. Now we get a few special effects vehicles every summer. Now we have an entire channel that does nothing but sci-fi. Not to mention that no matter what, there’s almost nothing Lucas could have made that would live up to the hype and anticipation that preceded Episode I. Nothing will ever live up to a beloved childhood experience it’s stupid to expect it.

That said Episode III was far and away the best of the recent trilogy. The interesting thing is that this film puts the entire series into a different perspective. The original three were about Luke’s journey from Tatooine farm boy to Jedi Knight. Anakin’s transition into Vader shifts the focus of the entire series to his rise, fall, and eventual redemption. Looking at the series as a whole Luke becomes a supporting character. Say what you want about the acting, the directing, the writing or whatever Episode III delivered exactly what Star Wars fans should have wanted. I think John Cloud said it well in a recent issue of Time magazine. Cloud wrtites, “True, Lucas’ beautiful but turgid prequal trilogy has disappointed. But then again I am no longer an awe struck boy secluded in a theater, trying to find himself in that place far far away.

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