An Inclusive Litany

6/3/02

Roger Kaufman, a "psychotherapist intern in a Los Angeles private practice," reviews Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones in the Los Angeles Times, June 3, 2002:
Just as Oscar Wilde skewered the hypocrisies of the Victorian bourgeoisie while providing them with irresistible entertainment, so Lucas has used his formidable imagination to show us that the supposed pillars of American culture have fallen into shambles, while a growing, unconscious group-mindedness, systematic wastefulness and destructive militarism are rising toward a terrible, inevitable crescendo. It is no accident that Lucas and his most obvious gay character, Jar Jar Binks, have been so pummeled in the press, in ways that could be seen to parallel Wilde's public humiliation upon the discovery of his homosexuality....

[T]he style of dialogue and acting in "Attack of the Clones" is intentionally campy, a subversive mode of performance that gay people have used for centuries to express their outsider perspective on the dominant culture....

The young lovers Padme and Anakin may be courting one another on the far-off planet of Naboo, but it is our own culture's cliched honeymoon images of Venice and Niagara Falls that Lucas is visually quoting here to bracket the romance and to tip off moviegoers that he is being campy. When Padme tells Anakin that "I truly, deeply love you," they are immediately greeted by an arena full of jeering sentient insects, another Lucas tip-off to viewers about his true intent: ridiculing their irresponsible descent into unconscious union.

The lovers' dialogue is purposely lifted from soap operas and Harlequin romances to highlight the stultifying cultural effect of this attitude toward romance. Here Lucas is exposing the destructive machinery of an American culture that coerces human beings to blindly imitate and conform to smarmy, shadowless images of heterosexual romance, with terribly destructive and soul-killing results....

Lucas does not limit his critique to unconscious heterosexual romance, but also uses subtle styles of camp to highlight the imperfections of our most beloved Jedi knights in their role as leaders. Even the spry new digital Yoda, who knows something is terribly wrong in the galaxy, cannot see that he is being played like an old puppet by his supposed ally, Chancellor Palpatine. Likewise, we modern Americans allow our "elected" chief executive to claim "sole superpower" status against a so-called "axis of evil" and witness now another corporate-military-industrial buildup that rivals even the imagined one portrayed in "Attack of the Clones."

At the same time, Americans consume and pollute at a rate far beyond the planet's ultimate capacity while paying only lip service to protecting the environment.

Although Lucas could not have known the specifics of recent world events in the early stages of filming, his understanding of our crippled social system runs deep. The prescient parallels between the film and our own current situation are downright chilling.

Our society as a whole unfortunately shares the same attitude as the arrogant librarian in the Jedi temple who says, "If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist."

So many of us imagine ourselves as only "good," failing to recognize and come to terms with the "dark side" in ourselves, our loved ones, our leaders and our entire society.

Rather than "bring balance to the Force" within us, our current system is intensifying how the darkness that remains unconscious gets projected onto despised "others" such as gay people, minorities, foreign cultures and the planet.

Lucas has offered us a deeply felt warning about the price of such massive denial, but one that may be too late to reverse the inexorable descent of a decaying, overripe social order that is leading to planetary devastation.

[Ed.: Upon release of the film, Hispanic groups complained that the character of Jango Fett and the clones represented illegal Mexican immigrants. And, contrary to Mr. Kaufman's interpretation, Episode I was met with similar complaints that Jar Jar Binks was a crude racial caricature of a Jamaican.]

No comments: