Sunday, May 22, 2005

Last night my starginity was broken...

...when I saw my first-ever Star Wars movie. When we got to the theater downtown, I was immediately struck by how much it felt like being back in high school. Not since my Stuy years had I seen so many nerds in one place. It was really neat. Many, of course, came from the U of C, but some were unaffiliated nerds. Freelance nerds. Yeah. But I'm afraid I just don't get science fiction, and could thus never be as nerdy as all that. So, in Star Wars, (when) do the characters eat and go to the bathroom? If they're in such a futuristic wonderland that everyday, normal things don't happen, then how exactly did Natalie Portman become pregnant? Why, if we're in the future, does everyone dress in pseudo-medieval garb? Is it because the target audiences of science fiction and medieval reenactment societies are one and the same? Relatedly, why do duels (albeit light-beam duels) remain so important in the future, when they've lost their significance long ago? I have a lot of trouble suspending disbelief when so many of the characters (my favorite was Yoda--so fuzzy!) are so silly.


Nick said...


Libby Pearson said...

Hello, long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. It's our actual medieval people who were immitating their style of dress.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Ohhh, it's past, not future. I so didn't get that.

0 said...

You should really read Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker. He makes many of the same points, put in his inimitable style.

Anonymous said...

"But I'm afraid I just don't get science fiction, and could thus never be as nerdy as all that."

The trick with science fiction, much like nerdiness in general, is to pass through the portal of punk into true and profound hipness.

In other words, George Lucas is a dweeb, while the ever nerdier Todd Solondz is cool.

Science fiction is much the same. Godard's Alphaville, Blade Runner, Starship Troopers, and Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 are all examples of science fiction that went through the punk portal and became interesting.

The Lucas movies, on the other hand, don't hold much interest for anybody except for boys before puberty sets in.

And yes, muppets are quite cool.

Anonymous said...

Wow, someone has a severely limited fantasy life. While I do have fantasies involving artisanal cheese, most of my fantasy life does not revolve around grabbing a bite to eat and going to the bathroom. That is awfully reductionist. There is more to life.

I assume that Natalie Portman got pregnant the same way people got pregnant in Victorian novels. She had sex, but she did it off stage. You should be able to make the necessary inference. Classical productions of Romeo and Juliet do not portray heavy petting.

Alternatively, it involved "the force" somehow, but I'll leave this to the SF pornographers. Light sabers anyone?

Pseudo-medieval? Perhaps you mean just not conventional? This is an artifact of the costume department being told to produce clothing that is "different". I believe Babylon Five, set five centuries in the future, had a rabbi wearing a 20th century men's suit, in gray, as traditional religious dress. Not every costume designer is this imaginative.

I assume that science fiction stories use duels for the same reasons that so many modern cop shows and gritty, "realistic" thrillers do. Duels work well in the framework of story telling and dramatic structure. It's that old protagonist-antagonist thing. It seems to have somehow survived existentialism. Proles are suckers for conflict.

I always found Clint Eastwood rather silly in those Dirty Harry movies, so I can understand your problem with Yoda. My guess is that Lucas was trying to cast against type with Yoda. Rather than a Yoda of fearsome mien, he chose a cute little critter who could be fearsome in action. Cute does not mean helpless. A bunny can savage a housecat.

I hope you find some of these answers helpful. Fantasy is a highly subjective thing. For example, heterosexual men tend to fantasize about having sex with women while heterosexual women tend to fantasize about having sex with men.

Clearly, science fiction is not for everyone. however it does have some advantages: "There’s a certain kind of faith that you get from reading science fiction. It often starts with something like, 'Botar hit the Ella button, and Gima appeared at sunset.' And you’re like, I have no idea what they’re talking about. But I know that I will. And that serves you very well when you go on to read French philosophy."

- John Patrick Shanley from his interview in New York Magazine

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Rabbis traditionally wear gray suits? Huh. But my complaint about Portman's pregnancy was that the simple sex-then-baby trajectory seems far too banal for the food-and-toilet-free Star Wars universe.