by Mike Rogers
I wrote this op-ed piece the night I returned from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I know it is certainly not current, but I feel it is still very much relevant. I hope you all enjoy it..
This is not a Last Jedi review. It’s the work a fanboy whose 40-something year-old, cis, white, male tears are used in the 21st century as the literal fuel of a radical political ideology being force fed first through our political processes, then our government bureaucracies, military, our public education systems and now quite ominously and painfully – in the hijacking and destruction of collective culture and memory – for profit and a warped social engineering project.
All this, in the name of progress. “So what?” some say, “isn’t it time for change?” Perhaps it is, but change has costs and sometimes the effects aren’t even noticeable over a short term, in fact; most effects of any change aren’t even anticipated or imagined.
That’s what I’m going to talk about here. Changes that cause unintended consequences that could never have been foreseen. So here goes.
I’ve been a die hard fan of the Star Wars franchise since I was 3 years old. My family has contributed, as have millions of others just like us, to the research and development of Lucasarts, Industrial Light and Magic, as well as Kenner, Hasbro and other entities who have profited immensely since George Lucas gifted this wonderful mythology to us, to society. Did he understand the impact this new mythos would have on society? Most certainly not.
I understand and respect George when he says that he didn’t create these stories for anyone else but him, and he was simply satisfied that it paid for itself and the audience was receptive. But once those two objectives were met, even for George; things began to change rapidly.
The avalanche of fan letters, the conventions, the clubs; all of it came on with such force and such demand for more that to anyone not in the loop, it could be seen as some type of societal mania. And that it was. We loved it and we allowed it into our hearts and minds.
From that esteemed position a myth can acquire in public consciousness, it was a force in and of itself in our societal imagination and began to shape that society. It inspired writers, engineers, artists. It inspired scientists, tech-nerds and philosophers. It’s hard to find a facet of modern society that Star Wars hasn’t touched or influenced in some fashion. This fiction became part of our common reality, because we made it so. It was so impactful that it molded our perceptions and therefore altered a whole generation of young people.
Sounds like an incredible amount of power both economically and socially, you know; having this sort of effect on a global population – a family in fact – and their collective minds and dreams.
To me, this power needs a balance. In the case of Star Wars, that balance has been achieved by George Lucas over the years, by staying true to his characters, taking the utmost care in the details and content of his films to make sure that each was unique from other movies but also unique among it’s own installments.
George took care that any “politics” present in such content was purposefully vague with broad strokes of moderate metaphor and perhaps dramatic or contemporary ironies. Gentle messages that massage your thoughts and encourage imagination and creation.
This is intelligent, because the last thing you want, is to have fans fighting over politics coming out of your theater. A sure fire way to destroy your own franchise is through the division and fracturing of its fan base.
But I thought we were after dream here…and this is “dream-works”, not political science class.
This is an incredibly difficult thing for a writer to do and sadly, as in any enterprise; once you create something, some will like it and others will not.
George has taken his beats over the years from all of us, and I include myself as one of those abusers, but he stayed on target and gently pulled us along like good storytellers are apt no – destined to do.
And that’s what dreams are made of.
What seemingly simple but powerful stuff – dreams.
Two fellows, brothers in fact – Jacob and Wilhem; once saw the importance of dreams to their own culture. How it could heal societal traumas, bring divided people together and act as a glue to hold society together.
These two brothers had seen almost all of their parental figures pass in their youth and were desperately trying to hold a fracturing family together. They saw it as vital and for their culture and their region at that time, and it was. It worked. We have their legacy. It remains. It’s called Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Grimms’ Fairy Tales)
I implore you all to go the used book store nearest you and buy the oldest, scuffed up, century old, hardcover copy you can find, get in your comfy chair and feel those pages between your fingers. Just sit quietly for a few minutes and feel it. It’s history, it’s love and it’s timeless and it’s been placed in the palms of your hands by two desperate and loving brothers who traveled the countryside collecting their own societies most vital memories – myths – in order to save them from extinction . You rarely in life have a chance to hold a miracle in your hands; a more sacred book.
I had the honor of passing just such a copy to my own young child. This particular child was slower than others and struggled immensely with learning the skill of reading.
He had never read from such a vast tome, and seemed overwhelmed by the weight of it. It is in fact a very large book with many different themes. My copy was published in 1921 and weighed about four pounds. He marveled at the table of contents and how just that, came to pages.
Once he settled on one of his choice he began, fumbling with a child’s choppy unsure cadence…but then I closed my eyes and instead of focusing on the quality of what he was attempting since I knew the story he had chosen; instead I listened deeper and found that I was able to see him discovering this story as he read it to me. I could feel his wonder and his imagination, his confidence and his spirit fly.
He looked up at me and smiled an excited grin and continued on with his recitation.
He was a reader, an imagineer and speaker.
He was marveled by what he had discovered and he was elated.
It was a profound moment for both of us and the sort of thing that shapes lives. It was a proud parent moment for me. However, neither I nor my child could have experienced anything like it, had it not been for Jacob and Wilhelm in their terrible grief, attempting to hold their world together.
The fact that those two men, gone to us now for so long, enabled that moment I shared with my child can be wholly unknown to Jacob and Wilhelm themselves, of course. But, because I know the work they engaged in, when all else was lost, I feel I know a part of their spirit. I feel they would see that moment shared between “my kinder and me” and they would have been proud of us but also more proud of each other and their painful endeavor still. That is a feedback loop of positive energy without time and space as a barrier, without any barriers at all in fact.
That my friends….is immortality.
The name of the story my boy chose was called The Golden Key.
What is happening today in the Star Wars universe, and by which I mean Disney’s control and direction over such dreams; is beginning to have unintended consequences.
George Lucas, as was the case of Jacob and Wilhelm, has created something which is eternal, which binds a society together in a way, propels it forward with inspiration and motive. What he has created has touched many lives in so many countless ways. Exactly as is the case with other monumental and capable storytellers… like those old brothers Grimm.
As with the work of those same Brothers Grimm, when viewed with 21st century, ideologically-tinted glasses; why would anyone read these stories to their children? Look at the metaphors, the “stereotypes” and so there will be haters.
Or, as in the case of George Lucas, perhaps ’tis writing a character into his stories that infuriates his own fan base. And there, will also be the haters.
Both of these haters are haters indeed, but for vastly different reasons.
The myth based haters are simply angry that not enough respect is being shown to the creation itself. The spirit of that creation is immortal and it should be preserved as such. Going forward into uncharted courses is encouraged and in fact – highly desirous. However, these folks are demanding that the myth, that creation be respected and stay true to it’s own form in order to preserve the legacy and integrity of the myth itself. These things must be protected. Protection of vital and beautiful human tools is the goal for these “haters” it seems.
While the ideologically bent haters wish to control what we consume, what we think, what we say and in which order the classes of people they’ve inventoried are allowed to say it. They are trying to teach us all a lesson in morality. They desire power over society.
One point of view is for reverence and preservation, the other is bent on forcing compliance and social control. One is noble, the other – selfish.
Disney has destroyed the spirit of the myth in the cases of ironically, both the Brothers Grimm and now sadly in the case of George Lucas.
Disney was once a bastion for the preservation of myth and legend. The earliest tales of Snow White or Cinderella (by Charles Perrault) were masterpieces in the demonstration of how you preserve the myth and legend, perverted and twisted as even those were by Grimm standards.
However, I believe Jacob and Wilhelm would have enjoyed the films regardless had they lived to see them, since after all – the spirit was intact.
So Disney…..What happened? This is a very important question for a company with a very large brand.
Disney has now set both groups of haters a gnawin’ on each other and seems completely oblivious to the fact, since they are obviously being drowned by the tsunami of incoming cash-flow.
But that’s not the point here. The point here is unintended consequences.
My unintended consequences. Or at least the consequences for my relationships.
My child loves The Last Jedi.
As for myself, the only reason I remained in my theater seat after 15 mins was the fact that he was in the theater with me. I was appalled. Something in my heart IS broken. A piece of my spirit has been stolen from me. My mythos has been crushed and twisted.
How to reconcile the loathing I have for the direction of Star Wars now?
Star Wars was MY Golden Key.
How to sit reading a book in the corner while my child watches Star Wars on DVD?
Will I be in a position to allow dreams and imagination and the sharing of that creation to become a beautiful bond between my child and I ?
Or, will I be forced to continuously bite my tongue to avoid criticizing what is rightfully deserving of criticism, deep suspicion, contempt, ridicule and even loathing?
Has that beautiful and meaningful potential been tainted…poisoned somehow?
How to not criticize that which he loves?
Now it appears, it is more important that dreams be used as a tool of social change and control, than it is for me to have meaningful experiences with my child apparently – and shitloads of cash too right?
Disney has allowed the use of their platform and power along with the co-opting an incredibly powerful and established myth, a shared societal idea – to enable and encourage a radical transition from storytelling in a spirit of inspiring heroes and myth with an arc of overcoming adversity; into one of moral indoctrination.
Our shared myths are becoming a classroom – where we are forced to adopt the customs and ideologies of a strange group of control freaks whether we like it or not – and be made to pay for it all the while?
Of course we do….and the toys, and the clothes and the bed sheets….and if we don’t….our children will hate us….right?
What a disgusting little troll we have milking us (pun intended) for everything we’re worth. It’s humiliating, just ask Mark Hamill.
Money aside, there is loyalty, admiration, hope, ideals, dreams….Kind of powerful stuff we have here eh? I think it irresponsible and a breach of public trust for Disney to allow a social engineering entity that has in mind nothing but the control of thought and expression to dominate, bully and hijack their way into the destruction and perversion of a societal myth and dream that Disney was originally tasked with protecting.
All this, apparently in order simply to destroy it – as all forms of patriarchy must be destroyed right? Well, we destroy it of course and then shape it to our whims…and make shitloads of cash too right ?
I say if these moral bigotards are so imaginative and creative as they say they are then why don’t they get their own fucking myths and legends and see if society responds?
You don’t become a George Lucas or a Jacob or a Wilhelm by being a professional victim and forcing society to pay for your pain.
You get it by putting your head down and going against the flow because you believe in the power and solidity of your ideas.
Ya, I see, just set them all against each other and see how much money we can make off the controversy. What disturbing and obscene business we have here.
With the infrastructure of Disney behind it, what can’t these subversive and destructive elements of our society do? What sorts of things ARE our children being fed by this sort of ideologically twisted industry? What are the unintended consequences for them…for the future?
Why are we allowing this to continue?
So here’s my two cents. I hope that independent creators and artists read this.
I hope they can see the potential power they can hold in our societies when they use the tools of hope and dreams to help inspire us and push us forward.
I hope that they will never allow their creations to become the property of an entity such as Disney.
I hope their dreams and their hopes are not absorbed and distorted so brutally and so selfishly as we see in the case of George and Jacob and Wilhelm.
So to all those that feel a calling to create and share with the world –
Please….protect our dreams, protect our inspirations from ideological cannibalism such as this.
Save us…your minds, thoughts and your rights are our only hope.
All this being said, I wanted to make a very overdue apology.
I am sorry George. I am sorry that I and others doubted you or your ideals. I am sorry that the cast, our legends and heroes have been humiliated and co-opted under contract before they even knew what they were into.
I’m sorry that after you gave up control, I have spent money on an entity that has beaten you down into submission to the point where in your exasperation – just wanted it all to end and so – you sold it all.
I’m sorry you had to bow to that pressure. I’m sorry we all didn’t come together and help to support you to just say no. I’m so terribly sorry for that.
I am grateful for all that you’ve given me and countless millions of others and I will never be on the wrong side again.
This episode, this past Christmas has in a way taught me a very important lesson ironically – also unintended I’m sure.
A picture of that moon coming up behind that Disney castle is a very potent symbol in and of itself. For me it is anyway, as Star Wars always has been. But the central figure in that symbolism itself, physically I mean, it’s presence – is a castle- for fuck sakes.
When I see something like that in relation to my dreams, I expect it to also represent it’s own self, in it’s own symbolism and maybe have some fucking guards on the walls of that castle.
Disney should exist, at least in part, and should feel honored to be in a position to be the protector of our dreams both physically and legally. After all, we are constantly reminded of this fact – that Star Wars does not belong to the fans – such as when an utterance of dissent or criticism is exercised by that same fan base.
Disney continuously boast of profits and its shareholders and special interest groups are tripping on each other to be bent over legs in air. Look at the scam pulled two Christmases in a row? Using nostalgia to fill seats and offer nothing of substance in return. Windfall first weekend that breaks records.
With this sort of power and control over something so moving in our society, should not the controlling entity – Disney in this case – have to bear some sort of social responsibility to it’s preservation and legacy? I think so.
The lowest common denominators of greed, a general fuck you to everyone who loyally and faithfully helped to make the myth such a potent symbol in our modern culture, the humiliation of wonderfully talented actors and human beings and their gifts; and a divisive, culturally harmful policy of public education it seems, is to be our only menu choices here.
And the bigotards roar : “It’s just a movie, get over it!!!”
Then why has it been crafted, marketed and in such a way that it is definitely – “not just a movie”? .
So I would simply suggest that Disney, do their fucking job and start protecting the legacies and mythologies that are being entrusted to them as they once did.
They should expect that over time, less and less support will be diverted from citizens cash and ideas and into their hands.
And here’s an early example..mine :
The only reason I still had cable TV in the 21st century at all was so that my children could watch DisneyXD. This service has now been disconnected permanently. Our local cable provider has now born a cost as a result of Disneys new politics and direction.
A lens fell out of my 3D glasses about 10 mins through The Last Jedi and so I was forced to leave in order to find an intact pair. This obviously irritated my fellow fans in the theater, since I had to become “that guy” to everyone behind me on account of Disney products being shite.
I missed around 15 mins on account of the herd having lined up in the lobby in order to facilitate the dumping of their relative savings into Uncle Scrooges’ vault there. I was desperate to avoid tears.
Upon my eventual return, to the further annoyance I’m sure of my fellow fans; I uttered some such thing such as “WTF is this shit?” at around the 40min mark.
I did not want to remain for the remainder of the film and went for a cigarette in disgust and while doing so, I stopped to inform the manager that I would like my money back.
Yes, I seriously did. I didn’t make a scene, I spoke to him very discreetly off in the corner of the lobby, but expressed my disgust with the whole thing. He listened very patiently and was very gracious as I was obviously irritated and he obviously should not have to be in this position in the first place. It was not his fault and I hope he understood this when I told him so but nonetheless…WTF Disney?
I returned again to my seat and passed out for a nap with one lens out, dreams crushed, out $50 plus snacks again and awoke to find that Luke Skywalker was willing himself to death.
At this point I exclaimed very loudly :
“I cant take anymore of this shite, we’re leaving…”
And so we did.
And I do want my money back for both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. That comes to $100 even for the two shows and the junk I got with them.
What did I learn?
I am not paying for this shit any longer Disney.
Disney you are not our friend.