Why I Hate Star Wars
We should use the Force to grow the hell up.
When I first saw Star Wars in the theater, I didn’t pee myself with excitement like some of the other boys at my best friend Todd Lowy’s birthday party.
I found the film a bit simplistic in its fundamentally bifurcated worldview, almost Biblical in its languorous pacing and needlessly complex in its detailed introduction of minor characters—especially all the inane puppets and robots. The costumes had a certain desexualized disco glamour, and Mark Hamill was pleasant enough to look at despite remaining generally shirted. But still.
I was eight years old.
In the nearly 40 years since, Star Wars has hardened into a generational touchstone for my cohort, privileged—like so many otherwise insipid spectacles—solely by its imprinting introduction into our ductile tweenage minds. And the franchise it spawned has acted as filmic punctuation to our lives, recurring, in its unspooling, every few years like a pestilence with a lengthy but unpredictable gestation period.
With each iteration, I endure the grotesque and fawning lead-up, heralded for years before on the flanks of toothpaste tubes and Happy Meals. I witness friends firming up their intransigent positions on the off-screen motivations of fictional aliens. As the folly of the depicted holy space wars become eerily realistic, my feelings toward the franchise only diminish further.
I can say now with certainty: I fucking hate Star Wars.
I also hate Dune, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Narnia, The Hunger Games, Dianetics and the Olympics. So perhaps I simply chafe against complex fictional multi-verses that are governed by arcane rules and created by religious fanatics and proto-fascists in order to serve their retrograde social views.
Adults queuing online for Star Wars tickets while playing with Star Wars Lego sets and swaddling themselves in Star Wars blankies is part and parcel of the same horrid dilemma.
Or maybe I’m just bored by one-trick pony riders like George Lucas, who have parlayed Baby Boomer nostalgia and a fatuously foundational family drama—barely disguised in intergalactic bombast and cheap nomenclature (Darth Vader, really?)—into a multibillion-dollar, megaplex-dominating career. A career that, at its start, along with its Spielbergian cine-mate Jaws, damned the innovative and emotional American cinema of the late Sixties and early Seventies in favor of the big, noisy, scary, flashy blockbuster. It should come as no surprise that Lucas collects Norman Rockwell paintings. (Though I feel obliged to mention that he also does some wonderful philanthropic work.)
Perhaps most egregious is the way in which the Star Wars films initiated, and continue to act as catalyst to, our insatiable national appetite for infantilization. Born of a need—in an era of declining American prominence, prosperity and parity–to be told, like a baby, that everything is going to be O.K, this trend finds depressing exemplification in adult crazes for childish delights like cupcakes, onesies and superheroes. Adults queuing online for Star Wars tickets while playing with Star Wars Lego sets and swaddling themselves in Star Wars blankies is part and parcel of the same horrid dilemma.
I’m all for entertainment that promotes escapism and fantasy. I love the dastardly machinations of Game of Thrones, the winking adult pleasures of costumed porn and any movie like Freaky Friday or The Hot Chick, where people switch bodies and have to confront their unassailed assumptions.
I’ll admit that the imaginary world of Star Wars is intricately rendered. But there is a difference between being complicated, and being complex. (Think M.C. Escher’s “Relativity” vs. Jackson Pollock’s “Greyed Rainbow.”) Even the sophomoric reality-is-not-as-it-seems perspective of The Twilight Zone or the on-the-nose satire of Spaceballs is like molecular gastronomy compared to the dark/light duality of Star Wars baby-food bananas.
A certain strain of American demagogue has made a bombastic religion out of these simple, unexamined dichotomies of good and evil, of the playground bully’s taunt: I’m the king of the castle, and you’re the dirty rascal. Their weapon systems are named for Lucas’ films. Their call to prayer sounds, to my ears, like a John Williams score.
In the decades since that first Star Wars movie was released, I have aspired to become many things, but a hoodwinked eight-year-old boy is not one of them.