After a solid week of stories beginning, “Jason Stieff, 13, of Littleton, Mass., traded one of two working kidneys for a ticket to the 1:15 showing at his local multiplex …,” even those of us who like “Star Wars” started wondering if it was time to start a backlash.
Look, it’s a nice movie, but critics over-intellectualize and claim it represents some kind of new mythology. Hey, it’s basically Unitarianism with light sabers, and the Jedi philosophy is a bunch of self-contradicting gibberish.
Obi-Wan and the Yoda spend half their time telling Luke to trust his feelings and the other half telling him that if he allows himself to feel angry or negative, he’ll wind up like his nozzle-nosed father.
Now there’s a prescription for mental health and serenity.
I like “Star Wars” anyway. It gets the father stuff exactly right. My 7-year-old watches the finale of “Return of the Jedi” over and over on video.
It explains everything. The guy who cuts off your hand and tries to kill you also is your life-giver and protector - just as the peevish bully who makes you do your homework and pries open your eyes for the conjunctivitis medicine also is the guy who plays catch, takes you to the movies and eats only the yellow Starburst candies that you don’t like.
But I confess being utterly creeped out by one of George Lucas’ “improvements” in the re-released “Star Wars.”
You may remember a scene in the interplanetary saloon: Han Solo is sitting at a cabaret table when a bounty hunter who looks like a big blue ant suddenly plops down opposite him.
As they talk, Solo eases a gun out of his boot and blasts the ant, whose name is Greedo, under the table.
Fine. Perfectly consistent with Solo’s slightly piratical edge, his standing as a man of dubious business ethics.
But in the new, retouched “Star Wars,” there’s been, well, a little retroactive decontamination.
Lucas now has Greedo shoot first. His blast ricochets around the room even as Solo puts him away. This is a little bit like going back to the Rodney King video and putting a knife in King’s hand or remastering the Zapruder film to have Gov. John Connally fire first at the Texas School Book Depository.
I have several million questions about this, starting with: Why does Lucas find it necessary to add Han Solo, a roguish smuggler and a charming opportunist in the tradition of Templeton the Rat, to the pasty white-guy world of bourgeois Bill Bennett values?
Even from the dramatist’s viewpoint, tidying up Solo’s old self makes his transition to full-blooded hero less interesting.
And how much tampering with fiction is permissible? You can restage “Othello” in New Orleans in 1952, but you can’t have the Moor and Desdemona seek counseling and work things out. You can’t give Ahab a Greenpeace card or have Willy Loman win Powerball. Or can you?
“Star Wars” may be overpraised, but it also is one of the few things people actually put faith in. That’s why there’s something sneaky about this kind of second-thought sanitizing.
It’s akin to what history books did for years, overlooking the slaves of Thomas Jefferson, the leftist politics of Helen Keller, the bigotry of Woodrow Wilson, the exploitation and violence of Christopher Columbus.
We can’t tell the truth about truth. You’d think we could at least tell the truth about fiction.
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