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Monday, May 13, 2002

(WARNING: RANT AHEAD!)

George Lucas has been blamed for a lot of things. The most common charge against him, mainly by film critics, is that he paved the way for Hollywood's ever-increasing obsession with huge blockbusters at the expense of quality films. The road leading to Armageddon, Godzilla, and The Scorpion King begins, they say, with Star Wars. This may be partly true, but to blame Lucas for that seems harsh. After all, Lucas had absolutely no idea how Star Wars would be received when it opened, and in any event the first real huge blockbuster came two years earlier, with Steven Spielberg's Jaws. Additionally, one need only watch AMC for a week to see that the idea that cinema used to produce films the caliber of Casablanca on a regular basis is false. There have always been bad movies; we merely remember the hits and forget the misses. So George Lucas isn't totally to blame for the blockbuster mentality of Hollywood these days. But there is one thing that I will blame on George Lucas: the evolution of the lunatic fanboy. Witness this AICN review of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

I have not yet seen the movie. I will be seeing it on opening day, three days from now. Thus, I do not challenge this person's view of the film, and even if after seeing it I disagree entirely, I still won't challenge it. Opinions are tricky things, not usually governed by reason (although reason can and should be brought to bear). A cut of meat one man wouldn't use to make shoe leather is another man's beef brisket, and we all would do well to remember that. This reviewer was decidedly unimpressed with Attack of the Clones. Fair enough.

But not fair enough is the vitriol with which he attacks the film and, both implicity and explicitly, George Lucas. It is no secret that many (if not most) filmgoers were disappointed with The Phantom Menace (I am one of the few who liked it; we are sufficiently low in number that we have petitioned EPA Administrator Christie Whitman for "Endangered Species" status). But the sheer hatred that film seems to engender is utterly mystifying to me. Consider the third paragraph of the review in question, and try while reading it to not hear in your innermost ear, as I did, the voice of William Shatner intoning "Get a life....it's just a movie....". I find it somewhat disturbing that some people would form such angry hatred for a Star Wars movie, and I would be bothered enough by this review if that paragraph stopped just after the first sentence. But then the reviewer goes on to intone the single most repugnant phrase I've ever heard from any sector of fandom:

"George Lucas raped my childhood."

I barely know where to start. First, I am baffled by the idea of one's childhood as something that can be harmed retroactively, as if we didn't learn until we were thirty that Christopher Reeve was buoyed by wires in Superman. When I learned that Errol Flynn, star of many films that I watched and loved when I was a kid, was a drunk and a rascal to such a degree that he basically drank himself to death, did learning that somehow harm the experiences I had enjoyed years before? If a heretofore unknown JRR Tolkien manuscript, detailing the Fourth Age of Middle Earth, comes to light and turns out to be a complete dud, has Tolkien somehow done injury to my original experience of reading The Lord of the Rings? The reviewer says, "Something died in me -- and George Lucas killed it. Bastard." No, he didn't. He did nothing except fail to live up to one person's expectations, and to call Lucas a "bastard" on that basis makes me wonder what we would say if George Lucas eventually was revealed to be the Zodiac Killer. (And of course, encountering such name-calling just three paragraphs into a lengthy review doesn't bode well for what one would hope to be a piece of rational criticism.)

But in any event, the truly disgusting thing about the whole thing is the idea that one's childhood could be "raped" by something so trivial as a movie. Sorry, folks. If you don't like this Star Wars movie, the last one, or any of them, fine. But let's reserve the overwrought hyperbole for people who really have a right to use it -- the children of Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, or Bosnia, for example. Or how about all those children who lost one or both parents on 11 September 2001. Their childhoods were raped. Anyone who wishes to claim that their childhood was raped by a Star Wars movie should be aware: they are still in their childhood, and really should grow up.

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