Sax von Stroheim writes:
Uninspired action, a plot rehashed from Star Wars ’77 and Return of the Jedi, progressive signalling standing in for characterization (look, girl power!), a cynical trotting out of decrepit pieces of nostalgia to fulfill the audience’s jones for their childhood toys, a screenplay filled with dumb-hip-ironic jokes and sub-Joss Whedon snark: it’s hard for me to imagine any movie pandering any harder to all the worst impulses of the moviegoing audience of the current year. Though technically I guess this isn’t the worst Star Wars movie (though I think it falls well short of both Revenge of the Sith and Attack of the Clones in terms of both ambitions and execution), I’m much more tempted to white knight for The Phantom Menace, which is, at least, explicitly aimed at children (not man boys), and, even being aimed at children, still has genuine ideas. Granted, some of the ideas in Menace (and, to be fair, the other prequels) are terrible, but George Lucas had a vision for those movies: a moral and political allegory about the corrupting effects of vengeance and the dangers of unchecked ambition. The Force Awakens doesn’t have ideas, it doesn’t have a vision: it has marketing ploys. It’s a 2 hour long commercial for the new Disney Star Wars brand, which turns out to be just elements of the original trilogy that have been gussied up a little bit — Emo Vader, a fascistier Empire, a super-sized Death Star weapon — without any of those movies’ charm, narrative ingenuity, or inventiveness.
There aren’t even any cool, new spaceships.
(And I don’t really want to get into all the ways in which the plot is stupid and doesn’t make sense, because you can make such claims about all the Star Wars movies — but even by those standards the plot is pretty stupid and nothing makes much sense).
I’m more convinced that the whole butt-kicking babe trope has little to do with progressive status signaling, but is instead a form of autogynephilia — nerd boys feeling an emotional rush from imagining themselves as babes — mixed with standard nerd revenge fantasies against vapid jocks (that’s why she has to be a butt-kicking, patriarchy-thwarting babe, rather than a housewife babe or a supermodel babe).
I call these types “latent transgenders” because they don’t openly present as female (cross-dressing, etc.), but still invest loads of psychic energy in a make-believe persona where they’re female (why not imagine themselves as butt-kicking dudes?).
The butt-kicking babe tends not to engage in any sexual activity because the socially stunted nerds are still in the stage of development where they’d rather receive a bunch of attention for being awesome (hot), rather than get into an adolescent or adult relationship. And seeing their avatar get it on might make them feel gay — which I don’t think they are. Unless, of course, their avatar gets it on with another girl — an increasingly popular scenario for nerd masturbation in 2015.
Progs don’t really care about Star Wars, and besides the creators are already fully leveled up members of the prog clan. So there’s little left for them to gain. And girls are much more amenable to playing with boy-oriented toys than vice versa, so they don’t care if the protagonist is male.
The over-riding rationale for making this movie is fan service — offering any drug that fanboys are addicted to, and spiking the potency to 11. Therefore the point of making the protag a butt-kicking babe must also be part of nerd wish fulfillment, i.e. to stoke their latent transgender revenge fantasies.
“Would you Force me? I’d Force me.”
Interesting theory. All I want to know is does the butt-kicking white babe get it on with the white-kicking black dude. I don’t care if you spoil it for me and everyone else.
What about the people who just enjoyed the character as an action heroine? Like me. What label goes on my forehead? What latent tendencies am I suppressing? I gotta know.
Agnostic – I think your theory may be overall, generally correct. However, what’s going on in the new Star Wars is definitely proggy signalling. Why are they doing it with so little to gain? I could only speculate.
Disney execs: “We have this IP which is overwhelmingly appealing to men and boys, how can we make it appeal to women and girls too so we can make more money? I know, we’ll add a kick-ass girl as the main character. Guys like a kick-ass guy as the main character so that’s gotta be the thing will attract the girls, a kick-ass girl.”
You’re a fucking idiot.
Haven’t seen it and have no real intention to until it comes to DVD. But your review seems eminently plausible. Meanwhile, it’s got a very healthy 81 on Metacritic. Just goes to show you: we’re all fanboiz now.
I’ll watch it when it gets to the local library, which is how I wanted ‘Jupiter Ascending’. There’s absolutely no way I will deliver any real money to the House Of Mouse for this.
Naturally, the Times review gushes with the following:
“But his [Abrams’] most far-reaching accomplishment here is casting Mr. Isaac, Mr. Boyega and Ms. Ridley — a Latino, a black man and a white woman — in this juggernaut series. It’s too early to know how this will play out as the whole thing evolves, but the images of Mr. Boyega and Ms. Ridley each holding a lightsaber are among the most utopian moments in a Hollywood movie this year.”
Ahhh yes, diversity! I’m betting the vast majority of reviewers upped their reviews several notches just because of this.
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I agree it had zero new ideas, or any ideas at all. A big reason the original Star Wars trilogy has an almost singular appeal over 3 generations now, is because it taps into some of the oldest, deepest myths there are and merely places them within a sci-fi setting. There was an attempt at some Oedipal themes with the new bad guy being the son of Han and Lea, but it came off as perfunctory. And yeah, ANOTHER fucking Death Star? Only this one is SUPER big! And has the same goddamn planet exploding weapon, only BIGGER! Lame.
That said, I fully enjoyed it for what it was, and my kids were thrilled to see a new Star Wars on the big screen. I thought it did have the same plucky, swashbuckling excitement and humor of the originals. I got chills when the opening music and titles came on, what can I say? The theater applauded every time one of the original cast members made their first appearance on screen. The effects were just about perfect, did not look cartoony or blue-screened at all. The action sequences were fun, although, in the spirit of all modern action movies, there were too many of them.
I enjoyed the new characters. The fact that one was black and the other was a girl did not bother me in the slightest, and to those that it does bother, may I ask, why? Do you think casting Luke with a white guy was any less deliberate than casting Finn with a black guy? Or writing the main character as a woman was any more deliberate than writing Luke as a man? And both actors were more than up for the roles.
“Do you think casting Luke with a white guy was any less deliberate than casting Finn with a black guy?”
Of course it wasn’t deliberate. White male was simply the default, in 1977.
I disagree. A default is a choice. It’s the first choice, but it’s still a choice, so it’s deliberate. It was deliberate not to audition black actors for the part of Luke Skywalker. It was also a deliberate choice to audition black actors for the part of Fin. In movies especially, every decision is pretty darn deliberate, considering how much it costs to make a movie.
“Do you think casting Luke with a white guy was any less deliberate than casting Finn with a black guy?”
Yes, because of course if you yourself are a white male you should be writing hero stories with white men as the leads unless you have a special reason not to (e.g. you are writing a story about a slave rebellion or something.) Man up and embrace your race! And the same obviously goes for the girl.
By the way, I saw it this morning and while I agree with most of what Sax says, especially how derivative the plot was, I disagree about the action. I’m with JV — I thought Abrams did a greatjob with the visuals and the action — he knows how to shoot a movie (and throw in some fun monsters and aliens as well.)
The best that can be said about the movie is that now I’m looking forward to Episode VIII. I want to see Luke in action and I want to know more about Rey — I suspect she might be Ben’s sister. I could care less what happens to Finn, although I do like the black actor who plays him. On the other hand, the NYT’s favorite “Latin” actor (Cuban/Guatemalan), Oscar Isaac, was fantastic and I’m looking forward to more of his character, Poe Dameron.
“Yes, because of course if you yourself are a white male you should be writing hero stories with white men as the leads unless you have a special reason not to (e.g. you are writing a story about a slave rebellion or something.) Man up and embrace your race! And the same obviously goes for the girl.”
An actor of any ethnicity could have played Fin and not a single word in the script would need changing. It was a casting decision. Should casting directors not consider actors who are not the same ethnicity as they or the writer are? What if, in the case of this movie and the majority of others, there are multiple screenwriters?
JV, he’s not talking about whether a movie should be *made* with a BM/WF romance. He’s talking about whether whites (or blacks for that matter) should support such movies.
Personally as a WM I am orthogonal to this romance… as a BF would be. So I put it to you : why do you despise black women?
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Ha! You Americans are so determined to see everything in ‘black’ and ‘white’. There are others in the world who just don’t see colour in the same way you people do.
The story requires protagonists… one ‘good’, one ‘evil’ and someone to drive the narrative… and there is your woman, Latino and black… or what ever term is acceptable for some one who is overtly not ‘white’ at the moment…
As a movie overall, its a prequel to the next set of stories – think of modern movie making as a form or TV series… Its a space soap opera… so you have to start somewhere and with a break of 30 odd years some of it is going to look weird. New characters, new motivations, new galaxy really…
The movie only really got interesting in the final scene… what will happen next? Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment of the adventures of the Skywalker family…
And if this reminds you of anything… remember where this all started in George Lucas’ head… Flash Gordon.
I kind of like The Phantom Menace in a guilty pleasure sort of way – the extreme kiddiness of it, plus its magisterial quality, makes it feel like an episode of Wacky Races directed by David Lean.
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I always find it is difficult to disentangle my view of the quality of a movie I am really excited for from my expectations going in. They had a lot to live up to in this case. The emo vader reference got a chuckle though!