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What George Lucas does when he's resisted
There is something about the new Star Wars movies that gets me really giddy. I couldn’t really comprehend what was happening when I saw Han Solo utter those now-famous words to his Wookiee comrade, “We’re home, Chewie” on the lastest teaser. But it feels like a dream still. Star Wars fans all over the country are excited for how J.J. Abrams will redeem the series that George Lucas allegedly destroyed.
Granted, the prequels are horrific movies, but I think fans criticize George Lucas too much for them. When we heard that we would learn the origin story, I think the sky was the limit for how awesome it would be. No matter what, I think our expectations were impossibly high. So it’s not surprising that Lucas has received a deluge of criticism, especially while making so much money off of the movies and their merchandise.
Red Letter Media deconstructs the films, and not without being creepy, in excruciating detail. But take a trip down memory late for a moment: it’s not like critics universally praised the original movies. Bad acting and writing plagued the originals too. I think I may even prefer Jar Jar to the Ewoks (whose names were never uttered in Jedi, but whose name we all know because of how marketed they were).
The original movies grew in status over time. They became untouchable because the kids that fell in love with them grew up with their childhood idealism intact. When Lucas didn’t give them something as perfect as their idealism crafted, the response was drastic. Here’s my favorite parody of Gotye’s overplayed single that covers this very subject:
What happened to the Star Wars that I used to know? I’m afraid that the nostalgic concept of Star Wars in our minds is impossible to replicate. I won’t be surprised if J.J. Abrams movies are criticized as much as the prequels (but they probably won’t be because at this point Star Wars fans just want something to get the bad taste of midi-chlorians out of their mouths).
Like a poor sport, George Lucas seems to be getting jealous of J.J. Abrams’ popularity. At least that’s how the Internet is telling the story. Here’s Rolling Stone making fun of him for not seeing the new trailer. The Guardian here notes that all of Lucas’ ideas were rejected. Can you feel the resistance against Lucas? Are you relating to it yet?
I wanted to write about Star Wars just to highlight some of the ways that we can act when we are resisted.
Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for loyalty, but I feel sorry for him. I think George Lucas made kids movies that kids like. That was his mission. He may have lost sight of it. When those kids grew up, they just lost interest in that kind of movie and led us all in a different direction. It’s very interesting to me that the movie that heralded the best out of the prequels is the most violent one—Revenge of the Sith earned a PG-13 rating and has Anakin killing younglins on-screen!
Lucas may have succumbed to pressure to make his movies darker to match the maturation of his audience, when I think he really just wanted to make kids’ movies. It’s easy to listen to the haters and go against our God-given instinct. Criticism is painful and resistance is hard to bear sometimes. Lucas doesn’t always do a good job with it, especially when he’s killing young Jedis and manufacturing Ewoks. But the fans were telling him something—simplify it, make it about the story, gives us characters that we understand that have conflicts that are relatable. It’s not just about fan service like Yoda swinging a tiny lightsaber. There’s more that we liked, even when we were kids. We were compelled by the battle of good and evil, not Anakin decapitating Count Dooku with two lightsabers.
Though Lucas might act like a sore loser sometimes and a buffoon at other times, he still seems to be trying to do the right thing. He still has some humanity. All of his money and celebrity hasn’t sucked the life out of him.
Two more stories of how he is responding to resistance. First, Lucas wants to build affordable housing on his land. He got the idea after his community rejected the prospect of expanding his company’s studios—now he’s advocated for the least of these. Second, he repented of his sin of making Star Wars way too scientific and Jedis way too rigid when a young fan asked him to change the rules so that Jedi could get married. Check out this heartwarming article—the kids gets a letter with the rules changed, plus a lot of super cool Star Wars stuff (I was very jealous, truly).
So what do you do when the world resists you? Here’s what Lucas is teaching me. 1) Listen to your resisters. They very well might be telling you something that you should change. 2) Help them along, don’t just move along. If they are wrong, don’t just bulldoze them with arrogance, respond in love. 3) But don’t forget what you’re about. Consider what you want to do and keep going back to it. For Lucas, it may have been just to make kids have fun. And I’m glad he’s still finding ways to do that.