I interrupt this Black Friday, or in my case Advent prep, madness with a little geek timeout. The Star Wars Episode 7 teaser trailer came out today. A couple of things, first, I don’t like the title. How can the Force “Awaken” now? Isn’t that what it did when Luke refused to turn to the dark side? (Update: I changed the title and published a post at PJLifestyle on this awakening. I could muse on this for a while.)
Second and more important, I get the notes they are trying to hit in the trailer, the Millennium Falcon flying and a new red lightsaber in which the hilt is part of the weapon–which has already become a meme:
But the trailer stirred nothing in me. I got no hint of a story and as I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t think Hollywood is very good at telling stories anymore. It was, after all, the missed story that killed the prequels.
About the prequels
My version spilled out when ari, my commenter, turned research assistant, now hopefully turned blogger (no, I’m not pressuring her at all) and I got into a conversation about the fascist origins of school lunches. They started out of the need to grow soldiers. (I’ll make her post on that as soon as that blog is up and running.) On food and Star Wars, ari had noted: [edited for flow to make sense out of our email thread]
Most notable nourishment in the series is a school lunch meal on a cafeteria tray, at a recognizable school lunch table. Future soldiers eating. Accelerated childhood- scenes of intense study- no playing. No horseplay, no summer camp. No swimming.
Scenes with people eating food- Anakin and Padme flirting over dinner- and Anakin is griping about Obi- as close to a family as he’s got- Luke and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru- where Luke is begging to go to the Starfleet Academy- again with the bickering- and the clones eating off school lunch trays. There are three other consumable scenes- two at a bar- and one at a diner- the Han Solo and Greedo bar scene, the Kenobi and Anakin chasing the assassin, and the Dexx’s diner scene. No food gets eaten by a principal player. I’m not even sure Kenobi sips his drink. The two kitchens shown- Beru’s and ( possibly) the Mandalorian father of the clones– you see a lot of tupper-ware-ish plastic, but not any food. [Nope, Beru was cutting fennel root while Luke and Uncle Owen bickered. And she forgot Luke nibbling on a ration stick after crashlanding on Degobah, but the omissions bolster her argument.]
Star Wars is a modern version of Wagner, and really one of the most perfect fascist film series ever made. I mean, there’s even an essay about how George Lucas cribbed Leni Reifenstahl’s entire oeuvre- her “mountain adventure” movies when she was an actress, and then the graphics from her work as a director.
I hadn’t seen the fascism, that is, the elevation of the state, in the food, but I had seen it in the plot. I had thought the prequels were going to go after the fascist nature of the Jedi. The reason Anakin fell was because they had tried to sever all his ties with everything but the Jedi State. They tried to make him submit. He wouldn’t. But he was unmoored from everything so he split off.
Here Lucas made his error.
Lucas was right that a separation from Padme could turn Anakin, but he was wrong about how. Anakin wouldn’t turn against the Jedi just out of fear of her death in childbirth. He would have to see the Jedi cause his separation from her. That would trigger his rage. Admittedly, Lucas tried to bridge that with Palpatine’s offer of knowledge the Jedi wouldn’t use, but that is an act of omission or just ignorance on the Jedi’s part. That Anakin will be angry with the Jedi, true, but to get him to slaughter younglings, you need more than anger. You need him to think he is fighting for an idea. That’s where the fascist story was. For instance:
While afraid of Anakin’s power and his friendship/power play against the Jedi Council with Palpatine, the Jedi find out Padme is pregnant. They kidnap her or some such, planning to take the child and raise it, anon to Anakin, within the order. They have done this, separate the Force sensitive from their families, for centuries. Isolation and detachment from larger culture is what they do. Taking the baby would have been the obvious play to them.
So, they order Anakin to stop all contact with Padme or face excommunication. Actually, I would have liked it if Padme had to out her pregnancy to the Order because she was having force premonitions through the twins (totally plausible with the blood based Force theory) and realized that the Palpatine was the Sith Lord. She saw the danger to the Republic and her husband. She sought help from the Council. But they saw the child and Anakin’s defiance of rules as a threat as well as the Sith. They take Padme until she gives birth.
Either way, Anakin sees the Order as a threat to his family and his ally. Palpatine doesn’t even need to out himself as Sith to Anakin. He only whispers in his ear about how the Jedi are really the bad guys, out to control. Destroying Ani’s family and keeping him, the all powerful One, under their control are just means to their ends. This Anakin will destroy the Jedi and go to rescue his wife who is now so freaked out and worried about her baby she seeks shelter with Ben. Now, we can see a young, powerful man manipulated by pride. It turns to jealously and an epic mentor/student battle.
Yoda and Ben have a crisis about what the Jedi did wrong. They think their error with Anakin was taking him in when he was so old and couldn’t detach from his mother. They both isolate themselves to think, as is the Jedi way. But they handle the twins differently. They separate them so the Emperor can’t feel them as easily but decide, perhaps at Padme’s insistence, to let them grow up in a family. For the first time they will truly trust the Force to tell them when it is time for training. Padme goes into hiding with Leia as her nanny and later dies of heartache. And under the Emperor’s control and influence Vader becomes the controlling State he thought he set out to destroy. And like his predecessor, Dooku, he does not realize his error until Sidious prompts the new apprentice to kill the old.
But Lucas was apparently too much of a state worshiper to fully embrace the implications of the Jedi State. He set the story that way, but didn’t follow though. The story became Anakin’s crazy and unpredictable internal struggles and people reacting nonsensically to them. So it just became visual artistry with no story to back it up.
The new trailer doesn’t give me any hope that the next trilogy will do better, Lucas or no. Granted, I’m a little jaded about Hollywood messing with favorite modern myths.
A few Star Wars Black Friday shots
Since it is Black Friday, a few geek items anyone reading this post might like. You can get the Falcon church key, above, at Think Geek, the mugs on etsy. No idea where my sister-in-law got the decals. And it’s hard to tell, but in that sidecar in the double olds glass–that’s a Death Star ice sphere. Totally cool. My brother got it for me. Happy shopping.