Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The positive power of apathy

I'm going to start with two things. One, I'm going to suggest that the answer of what to do about current politics is deceivingly simple. Two, I'm going to talk about Star Wars. Stick with me, because these things are related.

When I saw The Last Jedi, the seventh sequel, or the eighth movie in the series, or whatever it is, there was a point where I started to lose interest. Yes, the Rebels (or the Resistance) are noble in their quest to confront and wage war with the evil Empire...or the First Order, or whatever it's now called. It's just that it's all too familiar. The (chronologically) first Star Wars movie set basic plot lines the other movies followed, sometimes to a fault. The first sequel (The Empire Strikes Back) made history by ending on a down note, and the next (Return of the Jedi) made another kind of history, ending on a happy note:

Return of the Jedi is where we get Princess Leia's “sex slave” outfit, which is the origin of the name of my first novel, Sex Slaves from Galaxy Seven. It's a comedy. And a romance. But not a romantic comedy in the cinematic sense of the phrase...more of a satire in the style of Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Tom Robbins, Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore, etc. But I digress...

This latest movie, The Last Jedi, was all too familiar not only because the films have similar story arcs, but because a lot of the political nuances in the film was happening in real time, in the US and abroad. Okay, so after the first three movies, we get the prequels, whose sole purpose is to tell us how “good” Anakin Skywalker turned into the “evil” Darth Vader. I expected something along the lines of the fall of Michael Corleone in the Godfather, but no. It turns out that the Jedi don't really have an existential grip on things, and some guy who proclaims to be evil can just turn a normally good guy evil with a few well-placed cackles. You can read the commentary on that, of how silly the plot is of the Revenge of the Sith in my novel, Sex Slaves from GalaxySeven, where two space monks discuss just how preposterous it would be for that sort of thing to happen. And then, you know, more interesting stuff happens. In my novel, not in Revenge of the Sith, because by that time the movie is over.

How would I have written the fall of Anakin Skywalker? you ask. Easy. Just create a romantic tryst between Obi -Wan Kenobi and Padmé Amidala, somewhere in the second or third prequel. They are friends, having bonded from the first prequel, where Anakin is still just a boy. So Amidala goes to Kenobi for support because Anakin is acting weird, spending too much time with Palpatine, and there you go. Amidala realizes that Anakin Skywalker is a whiney little bitch who is about to sell out everything good, and everything he loves, just because he had a bad dream. Both Amidala and Kenobi try to bring him back from Palpatine's influence, he gets jealous, feels betrayed, and attacks Kenobi, who ultimately whips his ass.

What is lacking in the movie is any motivation on Anakin's part. What we need is some reason where the audience can say, okay, the guy has some reason for going to the dark side. We still know he's evil, but we have a level of sympathy for him. Have him face off with Obi-Wan first, and get burned half to death. Then, when he's rebuilt as a cyborg, he hears that Amidala has died, and he blames the Jedi Order. He then goes in to the temple, as Darth Vader, and murders all the “younglings,” the children learning to one day become a Jedi. Now he's a murderer, and the transformation to evil is complete.

But no. In the movie, he kills all the children first, simply because his new mentor told him to. His new mentor, of course, being an evil Sith lord bent on taking over the galaxy. And then Amidala and Kenobi confront him, trying to save him, after he's already comitted genocide for no real reason. So what we end up with is the only guy (so far) in the series who gets laid – the only one who gets married – is the one guy who turns evil. Sure, Han Solo and Leia Organa later on have a child, but that child turns evil. It's almost as if George Lucas and/or Disney have weird ideas about sex and romance.

So we finally get to the movies after Return of the Jedi, with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and what do we find? Years after Solo, Organa, and Luke Skywalker save the galaxy, it's all messed up again. Some new evil government is in power, weilding a leadership of two more Siths (including ex-Jedi Ben Solo), and here we go again with the resisting and rebelling, fighting for democracy while, here in real life, the populist demagogue who is supposed to be President threatens the free press while his critics declare proof that he's committed treason. There are people on both sides, and we're supposed to engage in lively but civil debate about the future of our government.

But wait, wait – even if you support the Republicans in power, you're wondering why everyone is so hostile. And I think they have a point. After all, Ben Solo is on point, in that the Jedi have done everything wrong. The “dark side” of the force always seems to be stronger, and the supposedly good people are always struggling against those in power. What's the difference, really, between a rebel and a terrorist? What made Han Solo so cool is that he was a pirate. He didn't even try to follow the rules; he just did his thing. That's what made Boba Fett so cool, also: here was a bounty hunter operating on his own terms, not some tool for the Empire or the Rebels.

So we're supposed to get along. We're supposed to sit down with the other side and reason with them, convince them that these Sith lords are bad people, as if it wasn't already obvious. And by the time we get to the Last Jedi, I've about had enough, because all these First Order guys were, in some way or another, put into office. There are millions of people in the galaxy that either voted them in, or supported them financially, or, perhaps they just abstained from voting at all. And so the future of the galaxy depends on a handful of rebels? They're going to save everyone? What's the point?

Sure, there will be another movie. Probably several more. Part Nine (IX) will be in theaters at some point, and it will be entertaining, as they all are. But I just can't support the Rebel/Resistance anymore. They've won so many wars, literally decades of star wars, and humans just keep going back to being evil and stupid. We need a new tactic, I think, and that's where apathy comes in.

Caring isn't bad, it's just that we have to have a sense of humor about everything. We need to be a little less like the Avengers and a little more like Deadpool.

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