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Don’t Blame Disney. Star Wars Has Always Been Terrible

Before Disney made Star Wars gay, it was just a poorly written cash grab meant to sell merchandise to dweebs.

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Just in time for so-called “Pride Month,” Disney’s new Star Wars installment, “The Acolyte,” is “the gayest ever,” according to its creators. As predictable as a Star Wars plot, many conservatives complained, Disney has ruined muh Star Wars.

A long, long time ago, I would have agreed.

But now, after rewatching “Episode 4” with my children this weekend, I don’t believe Disney ruined Star Wars. It has always been terrible.

Behind the layers of nostalgia, I saw nothing of the enchanting space epic of my childhood memories but a dumb plot dependent on dumb characters in a dumb universe. I felt shame that for most of my life, I had been duped by the duplicitous Hollywood hype machine. The movie’s financial success has always depended on the campaign to make die-hard dweebs out of otherwise healthy young adult males.

One early critic of the film, science-fiction mastermind Harlan Ellison, recounts having his car keyed by teenagers after publicly expressing his dislike for the film. In his hilariously brutal 1977 review, Ellison excoriates the movie as a “criminal act of artistic prostitution” being nothing but “mindless shoot-em-up and hardware” whose “characters are comic strip stereotypes,” so much so that the “Bad Guy [wears] not merely a black hat but black body-armor and a black death-mask.”

Ellison explains that science fiction is meant for exploring the human condition in the face of new technology and discoveries. He resents how Star Wars made the genre synonymous with mindless special effects. We have Star Wars to thank for our world of entertainment without intelligence.

From my latest viewing of “Episode 4,” I must admit Ellison is right. The aliens, blasters, mythology, and music all obscure what is really nothing more than what Roger Ebert calls an Idiot Plot, which is “any plot that would be resolved in five minutes if everyone in the story were not an idiot.”

By contrast, a good plot develops naturally from characters making reasonable choices given their context. Even a character who makes unreasonable choices will make them in a context that renders his choice reasonable to him, even if we the audience see the limits of his context and the ultimate unreasonableness of his choices. Because we see characters making choices that we, reasonable creatures ourselves, could very well make in the same situation, we find them relatable, making the drama real. The conclusion of the drama is uncertain because, like life, it depends on the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.

Now consider the Idiot Plot of Star Wars. Seven minutes into the movie, C3P0 and R2D2, equipped with the secrets of the Death Star, evade Darth Vader’s invasion of the Rebel’s starship in an escape pod. Two imperial stooges see the pod flying away, laser cannons ready to blast it to smithereens.

“Hold your fire,” one tells the other. “There’s no life forms — It must have short circuited,” he explains. What’s the cost-benefit analysis governing his choice? Do laser blasts cost so much that the Empire can only afford to destroy Rebel escape pods that contain life forms? No bother. The plot must go on.

Other examples abound, but the most egregious might be the heroes’ escape from the Death Star, which is made possible not by their cunning and courage but by the idiocy of Imperial Stormtroopers. While standing guard at the Millennium Falcon, they conveniently leave their post to watch the saber duel between Vader and Kenobi just in time for Luke and company to sneak aboard. When Kenobi is struck down, Luke plays his role in the Idiot Plot by screaming, which alerts the idiot Stormtroopers to his presence. He then stands motionless while all five Stormtroopers wildly miss a stationary target. It takes the disembodied voice of Kenobi to break Luke from his Idiot Plot stupor by telling him the most obvious course of action: “Run!”

Worse still, the movie takes the audience for idiots. The Stormtroopers’ bad aim is undeniable. No one is even grazed by a stray shot. Yet earlier in the movie, when analyzing the massacre of the Jawas, Ben Kenobi concludes that the “blast points are too accurate for sandpeople. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.”

It’s tempting to shrug and say, “So what? Let the people have their entertainment.” Ellison, too, was blasted with this banality. He responds by asserting that stupid movies make people stupid. Similarly, in Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues that our souls are shaped by the poems we hear. The influence poetry has on the souls of the young is so great, Socrates advocates banishing all poets from the ideal city, lest the young be led astray from virtue. Without endorsing total censorship, we can agree with the general sentiment. The stories we experience influence the way we interpret our world. In other words, what we see influences how we see.

While the original Star Wars does not openly celebrate vice like more current movies such as “Trolls” or “The Shape of Water,” the results of a generation saturated with Idiot Plot movies (not just Star Wars, of course) and one-dimensional characters are all around us.

The left is incapable of grasping that Trump is a serious political leader addressing the real economic and cultural concerns of the working class. In their worldview, he is nothing more than some vulgar version of an on-screen supervillain, whether it be Emperor Palpatine, Thanos, or Voldemort.

Similarly, Vladimir Putin is not a well-respected leader overseeing a time of relative peace and stability in Russia, but he is also Palpatine with his own Vader to boot. Likewise, Zelensky is not a morally dubious president facing the consequences of the U.S.’s and NATO’s foolish provocations of Russia, but part of the Rebel Alliance battling the Evil Empire. Fighting off Russia’s invasion is harder than expected. Russians have better aim than Stormtroopers.

Entertainment can never just be entertainment. Bad stories corrupt our view of reality and our souls. Good stories ennoble and edify them. From the start, Star Wars had no intention of ennobling or edifying anything. Its intention was laid bare in the satirical “Spaceballs,” when Lone Star asks Yogurt (sparkly green Mel Brooks spoofing Yoda) what he’s up to, besides guarding the secret of “the schwartz” (“the force”). Yogurt exclaims, “Merchandising! We put the picture’s name on everything! This is where the real money from the movie is made!”

Clearly, from the lazy Idiot Plot screenplay, Star Wars is not a serious movie. Lucas’ vision was always more economic than artistic. Ellison recounts how Alan Dean Foster, who had written the sequel to the Star Wars novelization, had seen a rough cut of the film and explained to George Lucas that in space there is no sound, so the constant noise and explosions in the space fights perpetuate scientific illiteracy. Foster even suggested two “workable alternatives.” What was Lucas’ response? In paraphrase: “People expect to hear a boom when something blows up, so I’ll give them the boom.”

The customer is always right, even if the customer is scientifically illiterate. If the audience wants BOOM, it will get BOOM. If it wants a fire in space, it will get a fire in space. Similarly, if the audience wants gay, it will get gay. And evidently, the audience wants gay. During its first five days of streaming “The Acolyte” received 11.1 million views, the most successful Disney Plus launch this year.

Disney did not destroy Star Wars. It is carrying the original torch with pride.


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