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Happy Reading

One of my favorite websites used to be theforce.net; the place for everything Star Wars. I discovered it back in 1998, and it had everything (it also looked a lot better . . . the site was “revamped” sometime between Episode II and Episode III, and I don’t like the change). One of its several dozen features was periodical editorials about all sorts of topics. The first one was about the superiority of Star Wars over Star Trek, but there were all sorts of topics: merchandising debates, endless thematic analyses.

Then, during darker times, there were defenses of, and predictions for, the prequel trilogy. They had titles like “Why Episode I is Brilliant.” Never underestimate the power of denial. I don’t know whether the people involved ran out of topics or ran out of enthusiasm, but either way the last editorial was posted in April of 2003. My own rabidity towards the subject flickered and went out a little over a year later, and I haven’t thought about those editorials at all in a few years.

I don’t remember what I was doing at Strange Horizons. Just one of those things you stumble across when you’re wandering the interwebs. On the site, I found this essay . . . a smart, funny, and scathing critique of the prequels that should be read by everyone who either enjoyed them or was vaguely bothered by them (I guess I was both). The author addresses too many points to summarize, and references everything from Oedipus Rex to Dune along the way. Great essay. Check it out.

And while you’re at it, take a stroll through the article archives. Just this afternoon I’ve read several fascinating essays on such disparate topics as the variety of “megastructures” in science fiction, the use of maps in modern fantasy, firewalking, a scale for assessing horror flicks, linguistic misconceptions in constructed languages. Happy reading.

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~ by Jared on March 14, 2007.

3 Responses to “Happy Reading”

  1. A couple thoughts on this essay:
    First, wow, she references all kinds of pop culture.
    Second, overall, she has some interesting, and perhaps good, points about Star Wars.
    Third, she needs to research a couple things more. “He is turned into a fighting machine for the status quo, just as Wolverine of the X-Men is made into a weapon even though his gift is for healing.” Huh? Forgive my nerdiness, but a couple points on this. First, Wolverine can only heal himself, at least barring medic training. Self-healing is actually hand for a soldier/weapon. Second, I know this refers more to the comics, rather than movies, but hey, it’s source material…anyway, Logan had those claws of his before the metal came. He was always a killer, if you will. The metal just made him a better killer…Those items kind of made that analogy fall flat for me.
    Finally…Towards the end, I kind of got the feeling that she has a bit of an axe to grind with almost any authority, as well as religious groups of all kinds, including the Church. I mean, she lumps in churches, corporations, and the US Army in with exttremist Islamic criminals and radical cultists. Is that entirely fair? Or very fair at all?

  2. At first, I was going to just roll my eyes and move on without actually reading anything because I’m lazy. Fortunately, you included the “scale for assessing horror flicks” in your list, and I’m assuming that was just for me. I read the piece, and I was impressed, although I disagree a bit about the “gross-out scale.” Now I’ll eventually read more.

  3. KD, yes this is incredibly nerdy to get into a discussion about, but oh, well. With regards to the third point, I am fairly confident that she is talking about the movie trilogy in this instance (since she later references <i>Spiderman 2</i>) and <i>X-Men 3</i> pretty much proved how totally disconnected the movies are from the comics. I don’t see a problem with disregarding the bone claws.

    As to what she is saying about Wolverine’s “gift for healing” . . . yes, he self-heals, but there’s more to it than that. First, there are two important scenes in the first movie where his powers save Rogue’s life. Second, I think it is legitimate to suppose that, if he cared to and his life had taken a different direction, Wolverine could have attained a special insight into the nature of the human body and how it can be repaired. He would make a credible and valuable team medic in a reimagined X-Men universe . . . one of many perceptive observations on her part.

    I see this as less a criticism of the creators of the character and story, and more a criticism of the villain of <i>X-Men 2</i>, who exploited a mutant’s healing talent to create the ultimate melee weapon within the context of the story. It could easily be argued that his actions warped Wolverine’s personality . . . there is a great deal of compassion in his character, but he has difficulty bringing it to the surface. The brutality he suffered has made him an animal.

    Similarly, Anakin’s character in Episode I is purely compassionate and empathetic . . . so much so that the transition to arrogance in Episode II is hard to follow (too much time has passed in-between the two). The only thing that is clear is that the Jedi have somehow done this to him (we lack the flashback scenes that <i>X-Men 2</i> had to connect the dots as to how). In any case, I think the analogy holds rather well.

    As to your final point, I take it you are referring chiefly to “Armies, fundamentalist churches, and corporations should add them to their teaching manuals.” I don’t see “government” on that list . . . she’s not an anarchist. What she is against is any organization or group that seeks to limit freedom of individual thought. All of the above are, to some degree, guilty of that.

    However, I find it very telling that she qualifies “churches” with the adjective “fundamentalist” (“armies” and “corporations” don’t get any modifiers). I certainly don’t see the <i>US</i> army getting singled out . . . and she invokes the American Revolution as a positive, less dehumanizing way to approach soldiering. She seems more against it as a profession than as an occasional necessity.

    In short, I don’t find it at all unfair to accuse such organizations of the sorts of things she is accusing them of, generally. But I don’t have time to flesh that out at the moment.

    Also, yes Randy, that one was just for you.

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