A few weeks ago I decided to go for a walk in the woods near my house. It was late afternoon, and the sun had already started to set giving the sky a purplish golden palette. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground, just enough to cover the leaves that had fallen last November. I stopped walking and stood still for a moment to listen. It was dead silent. Not a sound–not even a bird chirping. The coolness of the winter air chilled my already red cheeks. The only living being besides myself were the towering oak trees that ruled these woods.
Typically in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey (monomyth), the hero is called upon to embark on a life-altering quest. After accomplishing each feat of the journey–accepting the call, crossing the threshold, encountering the shadow presence (in Luke Skywalker’s case; his aunt and uncle and the Tusken Raiders). Once the hero passes the point of no return, they enter the world of unfamiliarity, some of which will contain threats (The Empire), some will offer magical aid (Yoda, Ben Kenobi). When the hero finally reaches the mythological belly of the whale, several events can happen, but the one most germane to this discussion is the recognition by the father-creator (father atonement), which Luke does by confronting Vader and helping to redeem Anakin back to the light side by defeating the Emperor. The final step is that of the return. If the powers have consecrated the hero, they now set forth upon returning. When crossing the return threshold, the transcendental powers must be left behind; the hero re-surfaces from darkness; the blessing that they bring restores the world (freedom from the Empire’s oppression and rebuilding the Jedi Order).
The relationship between droid and organic in the Star Wars galaxy has been one of servitude, with the droids typically giving and the organic taking. In most instances, this is the case, and it’s met with contempt in return. Droids were built to serve the need of their masters. But with some droids developing a personality of their own, and creating long-lasting relationships with their masters, one has to wonder is it appropriate to treat a droid based on their programming? Or maybe we should ask ourselves, do we treat our cars like we treat our washing machines? No, but why?
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Episode VIII!”
Since director Rian Johnson uttered those words, Star Wars fandom has been anticipating and speculating where he will bring the next story. As Mark Hamill said, “It’s a real journey of discovery.” However, before we take the next step into a new larger world, let’s rediscover Rian Johnson and his previous directing achievements.
War. It’s one of those aspects of human nature that no one wants, however, we can’t seem to avoid taking part in its dark journey. So why then does it exist? For the Galactic Empire, under the rule of its emperor Darth Sidious, they used propaganda to preserve peace and order in the galaxy; peace through fear and oppression that tread over the citizens. The problem with maintaining control over an entire galactic population is that over time the people begin to get tired–tired of having their freedom taken away, of living in fear, of having their voice silenced. Eventually, the people will rebel, despite knowing their means and/or methods will probably be outgunned and out-manned, the need to live a free life unafraid to speak their minds makes it worth the fight.
As I’m about to watch a movie loosely based on Andrei Rublev, a 15th century Russian painter, I ask myself what does it take to be a creative genius besides being creative? Intelligence? Persistence? Curiosity? A slight case of mental instability? Probably a mixture of everything.. Every so often we are gifted with an individual that has an idea. A thought of how to make our world a better place. I recently read the May 2017 issue of National Geographic in which there was an article about what clues science gives us as to what it takes for someone to have such an exceptional mind that they change the world.
Shortly after reading that article I listened to a podcast called Stuff You Missed in History Class about Jane Austen and how supportive her father was in helping her writing career even in the 18th century when women weren’t exactly expected to be great at anything. Even being an author of fiction at that time was not very well received. But with her family’s support and Jane’s gift and perseverance, she went on to become a world renown author of so many classics. So with these two sources in mind let’s delve into the creative geniuses of history and see if there any connections.
My relationship with Star Wars has been long and very rewarding. It has taught me lessons in not giving up, of right and wrong, it has given me friends (real and otherwise) who will always be there even if the actors who portray them on screen won’t be. It has even opened up doors to other forms of entertainment that I would not have opened if it hadn’t been for the Wars. Heck even my career choice has been influenced by Star Wars and its story.
Sometimes I forget how many books, movies, and comic books I’ve been exposed to because of my love of Star Wars. So many artists, musical composers, and directors it’s quite staggering. I’m going to try to remember them now and share them with you, starting at when my fandom evolved from a kid and his toys to teenager noticing that there’s more to Star Wars than the funny names and cool spaceships.
Three years after the outbreak of The Clone Wars;
Decades after the Jedi began their deception;
Hours after the corrupt Republic has fallen,
Our Emperor, Sheev Palpatine, declares peace and stability in our new Galactic Empire.
These lines are directly influenced by the opening scene of the German propaganda film, Triumph of the Will. Triumph of the Will is a film created and directed by Leni Rienfenstahl at the request of Chancellor Adolf Hitler in order to present to the German public that Germany is on the rise again after the humiliation they faced as a country after The First World War. The use of propaganda films like these served as a useful tool when trying to present to the public a biased or misleading political cause or point of view.
This month I want to talk about two films that may not have had a direct influence on Star Wars, yet their lasting legacy helped paved the road for filmmakers like George Lucas, and eventually J. J. Abrams and Gareth Edwards to create movies that will inspire future filmmakers.
Those two films are Double Indemnity, whose film noir style created a whole new genre in film as far as cinematography, story, and dialogue. And Mysterious Island which served as yet another technical milestone for effects artists Ray Harryhausen and composer Miklòs Ròsza.
In 1972, John Lennon wrote a song called “Woman is the N****r of the World”. In my opinion, no song title has ever been truer. In more recent times there has been a change in the mentality; one that has taken far too long to have been readily accepted by society, specifically in Star Wars fandom. That it’s okay to be female and like Star Wars! I say “readily accepted” because unfortunately there are still too many who think that there is no issue when it comes to women and fandom. Coincidentally enough, these are the same folks who have not had to deal with being subjected to gatekeeping.