Tuesday, May 17, 2005

First learn Chronology, THEN learn Continuity.

Following a series of links from Michelle to Glenn Reynolds* to Professor Bainbridge, who thinks that George Lucas is betraying continuity in the new film in order to "score cheap political points". (Which, as I pointed out yesterday, Lucas planned to score all along seeing as how they have always been part of his story, from the 1970s when he started writing the damn thing.)

First of all: bad guys have been making the "You're either with me or against me!" charge in movies for a long, long time. Just because George W. Bush said something very similar in a very important speech a few years back doesn't make every subsequent appearance of the "you're with me or against me" thing in a movie a transparent homage, spoof, attack, parody, or pastiche on George W. Bush. OK?

Second of all: Prof. Bainbridge can claim to be inured to Bush-bashing from Hollywood, but (and this is a really minor point) George Lucas is not a Hollywood filmmaker. Lucas moved to Marin County and set up his own shop because he hated Hollywood's internal politics.

Third of all, and Prof. Bainbridge's main point: Apparently in Revenge of the Sith, Obi Wan has this line: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." This is, apparently, a betrayal of Lucas's continuity, since Lucas later establishes Yoda as clearly believing in some kind of absolutes.

OK. Dealing with that, I have several main objections:

1. "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" does not necessarily imply "Jedi only think in terms of relativism".

2. Prof. Bainbridge is correct that the sum total of the Star Wars saga is that the Force has a yin-yang aspect which the Jedi and Sith have ignored. But he's wrong in what happens: Luke isn't the one who restores balance. Anakin Skywalker is. And that's an important point, because it establishes that for all of Yoda's and Obi Wan's warnings about the Dark Side and how Darth Vader is forever beyond redemption, they are both wrong.

In fact, when you think about it, the Force is restored to balance and everything turns out right despite the fact that the Jedi basically make one blunder after another. They consistently make the wrong prognostications, their wisdom leads them to utter ruin, and then they continue to be wrong. In ROTJ, both Yoda and Obi Wan believe that Luke must kill Vader and the Emperor if things are to be set right. But Obi Wan, if Vader is to be believed in ROTJ, didn't even always believe that: he specifically says that Obi Wan once thought that he could be turned back to the Good side, a possibility that Vader totally discounts until the actual moment of his turning. Note that: a Sith thinking in absolutes.

And besides: the lines that Prof. Bainbridge cites from Episodes V and VI as being contradictory to what Obi Wan says in Episode III are interesting because they are said over twenty years later, in story terms. Lots of water flows under a lot of bridges in that time, and I can only assume that both Yoda and Obi Wan come to think of things quite a bit differently. Lucas isn't betraying his own creation; he is depicting characters changing over time, and he is depicting his own characters being stone, cold wrong.

This is no continuity error and no betrayal of key Star Wars philosophy. It's a blatant misinterpretation of the film on the part of Prof. Bainbridge. But then, he's in good company; people have been misinterpreting George Lucas for years.

* And I have to note Glenn Reynolds's timeliness in his choice of news articles to link. That article, about annoyed Latinos watching Star Wars, sounded familiar to me, and sure enough: that article appeared in 2002 at the release of Attack of the Clones, and yours truly posted a rejoinder at the time. Nice to see that Instapundit is right on top of things as always.

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