False Dichotomy in Culture Wars: Disney Strikes Back

As I’ve made pretty clear, I am not a fan of the recent Star Wars trilogy. I’m aware of the social minefield this places me in. I must hate these movies because I am racist, misogynist or both. A spoiled fan boy who won’t share his toys.

For the record, I simply think they are poorly told stories. Heavily reliant on nostalgia porn, they’ve produced flat, uninteresting characters to replace icons. Story is something which we should be able to criticize without claiming affiliation to one tribe or another. But such are the times we live in.

When I heard Lando would be returning to the franchise (aside from his role in Solo), my first thought was, “Great, another of the original cast led to the slaughter.”

True, Leia has survived. But without some uncanny valley CGI, surely the only option is for her to fade away or die next film. And Chewie, C-3PO, R2 – they’ve all made the cut, so maybe Lando’s fate isn’t sealed.

But those other survivors are faceless puppets. Aliens and robots who aren’t a consideration in the culture wars or a threat to the new legacy. They can offer neutral continuity. Set pieces to mollify those from the early generation who decide to stick around.

How many of those fans will stay the course? If Solo’s box office figures are any indication, fatigue may have begun to set in. I’m pretty sure I know why.

The entire intent of this new trilogy seems to be to deconstruct the old. Personally, I think this is an intriguing idea. But in focusing so much on ending the former legacy, Disney and company have yet to create anything which stands on it’s own (A lingering problem with –any– J.J. Abrams project…) At the same time, they’ve laid a nihilistic agenda at the feet of every lifelong Star Wars fan.

But have they offered a compelling new story? Or one simply muddied by their hyper-focus on undoing the past? Personally, I don’t think that answer is at all clear.

What is clear is they seem brazenly intent on playing the culture card to cover their tracks. New Lando? He’s pansexual didn’t you know? Such a fascinating character now. Another diversity token dangled to cover for an uninspired plot.

The poison pill here leaves those from a different generation a false dichotomy: accept the new narrative or be exposed as the backward, ignorant person you are.

People are tired of culture wars. They simply want to be entertained.

I don’t care if Lando is pansexual, the maybe-last-Jedi is a woman, or the reformed stormtrooper is black. In a galaxy far, far away, we should embrace diversity and hope one day it makes it’s way to our own backward corner of the universe.

What I do care about though is that the characters are worth watching. These aren’t.

So far there’s one character in the new trilogy with a complete arc. He’s whiter than Wonder Bread, angsty, and he single-handedly carved the heart out of the franchise with a light saber because some mystery-box-spouting director who should’ve found a new career after the six season blue balls production which was Lost thought it would be cool.

(Yes I’m bitter. Yes Han lives on.)

Now we get to find out what the Disney executives and their misguided minions will do with poor Lando.

Lando was a great addition to the original cast. Complex, cunning, and a guy who so effortlessly felt like he had a past with our favorite smuggler, his role in Empire as friend and traitor (which Last Jedi sloppily tried to mimic with its deconstructionist bullshit) drove one of the more powerful plot threads of the original franchise.

But as far as I’m concerned, whatever role Lando plays in the new movie is irrelevant: he’s already been assigned his function whether the story calls for it or not.

Look, if you want strong, diverse casts in SF supported by their own stories, their own intriguing backgrounds, try Fury Road. Try Black Panther. Annihilation. Luke Cage. Jessica Jones. Enjoy good story un-mired in the baggage of past or present for a change. Appreciate the growing diversity on screens big and small with truly empowered characters not reliant on the awkward decimation of a legacy. Those are the stories worth telling.

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