Darth Vader Runs Through Death Valley

A professional runner, who favors running in the extreme heat, ran a mile in 129 degree weather while dressed as Darth Vader. Afterwards, the runner warned only trained professional to try a similar stunt. But considering he’s a grown man who owns a Darth Vader costume, it’s probably a good idea to not try anything he does, yourself.

Princess Leia – My Sci-Fi Feminist Icon

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what makes a strong female character- strong? There was recently a meme going around presenting pop culture female icons versus sci-fi female icons, implying sci-fi characters were better role models. Then another meme was created as a response, showing some examples of poor female representations of sci-fi, implying that the geek community has no right to present itself as feminist. One aspect that stands out in the positive role model meme is that all the women are in the military and are known for being tough. This is a classic example of how our society views masculinity as a sign of strength while femininity is always seen as weak. Tomboy = good, Girly girl = bad. As a wearer of dresses, I’ve always found this insulting. My biggest issue with the negative role model meme is its inclusion of Princess Leia in her slave costume. I hope the creator of the graphic is trying to say that even stronger female characters get relegated to eye candy in sci-fi, because, to me, Leia is one of the strongest, most complete female characters in sci-fi history due to her ability to be tough and in charge without relinquishing her femininity.

While Princess Leia is royalty she is no damsel in distress. She is an active member of the rebellion. Without her giving the Death Star plans to R2-D2 when her ship is boarded, the rebellion would have most likely been squashed. She also is seen giving orders to the troops and actively participates in the Battle of Endor. And, while she does need to be save in A New Hope, she isn’t some poor victim, and not only sasses her rescuers but takes control of the situation by firing a few shots and finding an exit plan. She also never cracks under pressure. When General Tarkin (to whom she delivers one of the most awesome put-down in film history) threatens to destroy her home planet and everyone she loves, she doesn’t reveal the true rebel base. While the gold bikini is a bit much, even as a slave Leia kicks ass, strangling Jabba to death with her own chains.
Leia is involved in a romance (and a sort of love triangle until it’s revealed two of the participants are related) but it is a love based on respect. While Han Solo is initially taken aback by Leia’s independence, he is enviably won over by her refusal to do what she’s told. Harrison Ford’s “I know” is one of film’s most famous ad libs, but Leia throws it right back in Solo’s face as she saves his life in Return of the Jedi.
Gold bikini aside, Leia isn’t as sexualized as most sci-fi/action movie females. Leia is pretty, not aggressively hot. She’s someone girls can relate to because nothing about her is over-the-top. She’s the intergalactic girl next door who doesn’t shy away from a fight but still can wear dresses and try new things with her hair. One truth about feminism that often gets ignored is it should be about women have the opportunity to be/do whatever they want and not sticking to one specific mold.

The People Vs George Lucas

Like anyone who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, I have opinions about George Lucas. Few public figures have such a complicated relationship with their fans. When I heard about this documentary, I knew I would have to check it out but didn’t get around to it until I saw it was streaming on Netflix. It’s definitely a conversation starter. While there are some arguments in this film, that I don’t agree with, it shows you how each fan has their own unique experience with Star Wars and the man who created it. And it touches on the idea that for great hate to exist there must also be great love.

One thing that becomes very clear in this documentary, your feelings about Lucas are very tied to when you first became familiar with his work. Basically, the version of Star Wars you grew up with is our Star Wars, and any changes are met with resistance, to say the least. Those who watched the original versions find the Special Edition to be a betrayal. Those in my generation were pulled in by the allure of seeing the Special Edition on the big screen but find the prequels to be an abomination. Kids who grew up with the prequels don’t understand all the hate regarding the films, and sometimes find the older films boring, preferring “their Star Wars”. It’s interesting because Star Wars rival sage, Star Trek doesn’t have any of this generational angst, despite series creator Gene Roddenberry having no involvement with some of the shows.

Those interviewed for the documentary tend to be in the first group of Star Wars fans, the group that grew up with the original, original films and find the “enhancements” of the special edition to be a travesty. They try to make the argument that Lucas should know better than to tamper with classic films after he fought Ted Turner colorizing older films, but this is hollow to me since Lucas created the art he’s “fixing”, while Ted Turner simply owned the rights. Lucas’ stance has been that it is his baby and he can do what he wants with it. However, one fan does make a great point but saying “fixing” the films and saying they were never quite what he wanted, is a slap in the face to the crew who worked so hard to make it what it was. The fan points out that the team did win an Oscar for best special effects and did groundbreaking work. And while I understand the anger of the “Han Shot First!” people, claiming that this “raped” their childhood is a bit of a stretch.

The film then focuses on the second act of betrayal by Lucas towards the fans, the prequels. The frustration seems to go deeper than disappointment that the new movies were not as good as the originals, but there really was a promise broken by Lucas. Fans had been told that Lucas had the first three planned out all along, but it seems clear when watching the movies, he was making it up as he went along. The pacing alone, with lots of wasted time early on, then plot crammed in towards the end to make sure it all made it in, shows you these were not part of his original vision. These were created by a very different man, with a very different outlook on the world. I’ve noticed with some artists, after they’ve made it and have been comfortable in their success, they start to appear unsure about what fans like about them, so they put out inferior work that is clearly them going “This is what you like, right?” I could do a whole post about this phenomenon, but the prequel had the feeling of Lucas trying to give fans what they wanted but not knowing what that was. This includes bringing back familiar characters that make no sense in this world (Why would a slave build his own protocol droid and why doesn’t Obi-Wan remember them when they clearly had prolong exposure to one another?),the gang themselves are very formulaic, etc. He wanted to please his fan, and when he didn’t he seemed to have a “screw you, then!” attitude about it, with fan pointing out a shot of Jar Jar Binks looking into the camera, as if he’s saying, “I’m still here, Bitches!”

There’s very little new information here, so don’t go in hoping to learn something about Lucas or his work. It’s really a bunch of angry fans bitching, which can be satisfying if you share some of their opinions. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is unfamiliar with Lucas’ work, but it you’ve ever uttered the phrase “Fucking George Lucas”, definitely check this out, preferably with a fellow fan.