Archive for George Lucas

The Charlie Rose Interview, a year later

Posted in Spotlight with tags , on 18 January 2017 by Megan

Give or take a couple of weeks. Charlie Rose, a person I have never heard of before, interviewed George Lucas, a person who needs no introduction, in December 2015.

This interview is a huge inconvenience to Disney|Lucasfilm and the monster that is New Star Wars, so as the patrons and defenders of trEU Star Wars, we must never let this interview disappear or become obscure. There are so many great lines in this interview that as I listened to it, I kept thinking of so many things I wanted to touch on, so I’ve decided to do a post about it.

lucas_rose1

This is the one I want to start with — George Lucas, the human.

ROSE: Because you have worn all these hats, though — filmmaker, director, storyteller, writer, technological innovator — what do you want the first line of your obituary to say?

LUCAS: I was a great dad. (Long pause.) Or I tried. (Heh.)

And in that pause, he looks like he might cry. Rose seems kind of frustrated and repeats, “But do you consider yourself any of those things first? Writer, director?” And Lucas persists, “Dad.” And there’s something so deeply human in this that I had to stop and write a few words on it.

We all have some vision in our minds of who or what George Lucas is. Star Wars connects with each one of us so deeply that it feels like it’s our own. It feels so deeply our own that we can get irritated with him for not executing our vision of what it should be — but the fact is, while he made the OT for himself, he made the PT for his kids. He tells Rose he quit directing to be a dad. George Lucas is just a human being who made some incredible movies, and he is just a human being who wants to be the best father he can.

This is why, however you feel about him, he deserves our thanks and our respect, and why I am increasingly glad I’ve organized Thanksgeorging Day to try and give him something back for everything he gave us.

Lucas’ humanity also struck me in a surprising way when he explained his motivation for selling the company was concern for his employees; he emphasized that the films he’s interested in making now cannot make money and eventually would run the company into the ground.

Around the half hour mark is when he starts talking about how Star Wars is more than “just a silly kiddie movie” and how people keep failing because they make movies about spaceships and it’s “more than just spaceships.” Around the half hour mark is also when I began wanting to hit Rose in the head with a crowbar for sheer annoyingness. He was the most tedious and frustrating part of listening to this whole thing. I know interviewers tend to do this, but it seriously infuriates me how he kept interrupting Lucas to tell him to keep talking. Dude, you want someone to keep talking, you keep your mouth shut.

Anyway, where was I? Oh!

You’re telling a story using tools. You’re not using tools to tell a story.

In Yoda’s terms — that is why you (Disney) fail. Lucas’ observation is spot on that the American film industry is so constricted, so regulated, that it cannot tolerate innovation or creativity. He controlled his emotions pretty well, but it was clear how much disdain he felt that he sold this franchise and all they did was a glitzy re-cast of the film he made 38 years earlier. Movies are growing increasingly worse, with shallow, confusing plots and bad acting coupled with incredible special effects. Because the industry 1) will only sell what has already sold, and 2) puts the tools first.

This is the interview in which Lucas famously described Disney as “white slavers” — he takes full responsibility for selling, but at the same time grimly observes that the six films are his children and he gave them up to white slavers. The metaphor is clear, grim, and doesn’t break down. What are “white slavers”? In the modern context of Lucas’ interview, and especially coupled with the description of the Star Wars saga as his children, it means sex slavery — forced prostitution, especially of minors. It is undeniable that Disney lured Lucas’ brainchild away from him and is whoring it out for money.

That is why I call Disney and Disney’s treatment of Star Wars immoral.

That is why I will never stop resisting and fighting them.

They turned my best friend into an enslaved child prostitute.

This interview came out during the hype of “The Force Awakens” (many sarcastic air quotes), when Disney was frantically pumping that Lucas loved the movie and loved what they’d done — and this interview has been a huge wrench in their works. They tried to suppress it. We must never forget and or forgive while the injustice continues.

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A few random quotations from the interview that I enjoyed although don’t have any particular comment to make on them:

On art

If you want to say, I want to convey an emotion to another human being — that’s something only human beings can do.

On awards

I’m not much in to awards. It doesn’t mean that much to me because I’ve gone through this. … You’re there to draw eyeballs. … I know it’s about the TV show; it’s not about me.

On Hollywood industry

You’re forced to make a particular kind of movie … I know a lot of Russian filmmakers and they have a lot more freedom than I have. All they have to do is be careful about criticizing the government. Otherwise, they can do whatever they want. You have to adhere to a very narrow line of commercialism.

On politics

[In politics] they are doomed to repeat themselves every few years because they do not listen to history.

Dear Mr. Lucas

Posted in Spotlight with tags , on 26 May 2016 by Megan

I have complicated feelings about George Lucas. Really complicated feelings. Sometimes I think, “I don’t like him but I respect him” and then I’m like, “But I don’t respect him much either.” And then I go, “no, this feeling is definitely respect, but I don’t think much of him.”

I own a shirt that says Show us on the trilogy where George hurt you, which, unlike the creators of the shirt, I got in 2014 to express my bitter disappointment over his selling the franchise to “white slavers” (his term). They made the shirt because they’re whiny babies about the prequel trilogy, but I think it sums up my betrayal far better. At the same time, though, I have a shirt boasting George Shot First.

lucasshirt

I don’t know the man; I’ve never met him. These are impressions gleaned from behavior, interviews, biography, etc. But it seems to me that George Lucas is a egotistical control freak with social anxiety and no leadership skills. And if that makes you mad, keep in mind that we’re all humans and have flaws. I’m not criticizing him for his personality. He also has a stunning imagination, more knowledge of film than I could ever gain in a lifetime, and a filmmaker’s vision I could no more aspire to than I could aspire to paint the Mona Lisa. His ability to force control of everything in filming the PT resulted in weaker films than they should have been, but that’s balanced by the fact that the OT is weak in its own ways. So what? I’ve said it before: Star Wars is a coloring book. He gave us broad strokes and we can fill it in how we like. That’s the magic of it. That’s why it has universal appeal.

Even though I don’t like George Lucas very much, I’m awed by his accomplishments and I love his work. I have semi crippling social anxiety myself and know he must be some kind of hero level boss in order to overcome it and produce these films; and lest I become guilty of divorcing the trilogies from the EU, let me acknowledge that the EU ALSO CAME FROM GEORGE LUCAS. This was all his idea, his gift to fans. What did “fans” give him? Bile. A decade of harassment and derision.

I think he was manipulated and deceived into selling the Wars, manipulated like the Jedi Council by Senator Palpatine. And when he was tricked into selling his child to white slavers (as he stated in a 2015 interview Disney tried to hush up), the people who should have stood by him cheered instead. And now he’s had to helplessly watch as people who should have been his friends methodically shred his legacy and leave nothing but ashes and bones like a moisture farm after a Stormtrooper raid.

He deserves better. He deserves to have a true legacy, deserves to be allowed to retire. His mistakes should be acknowledged, but they also shouldn’t be held against him forever. We all have mistakes; ours are shrouded in privacy he’s denied.

So I’m setting aside one day a year to thank him. I’m setting aside the last Thursday of May to send him a thank you letter — the last Thursday in his birthday month, the month that gave us his films, the six greatest movies in the world. I think you should write to him, too. In fact, here’s a form letter you can use.

And here’s mine. My letter which should’ve reached him today — a true fan’s open letter to the creator of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. In celebration of the First Thanksgeorging Day.

dearluas

May 23, 2016

George Lucas
Skywalker Ranch
5858 Lucas Valley Rd.
Nicasio, CA 94946

Dear Mr. Lucas,

I’m writing you this letter for a holiday called “Thanksgeorging Day.” It’s an obvious play on “Thanksgiving Day,” celebrated on the last Thursday of May, the month all Star Wars fans set aside to celebrate this wonderful and amazing thing you gave us.

I’m writing to thank you for that. Thank you so much for creating the Star Wars universe. You must have heard this many, many times – but I know you’ve heard other things, less positive things, nasty things as well. I want this holiday to drown out some of that negativity. I hope you can hear the voice of the muffled majority, your fans, the real fanatics who love what you did and are grateful for what you gave us.

It’s the truth: you gave us something no one else did – or could. The spark in your imagination that somehow combined space adventure with mythology and classical themes became a fire, and that fire in turn sparked our imaginations, too.

You once said in an interview that you made films that pleased you, and you were surprised and pleased that they delighted others, too. I just want you to know how much it means to me. Return of the Jedi woke something up in me, gave me my first passion, and the way Star Wars has shaped my life, I think it’s safe to say what you did has helped me become who and what I am today.

It’s not just the films, not just those six pieces of art that defined imagination for generations. It’s the expanded universe you also created, the stories you inspired, the characters you breathed to life and set on journeys written by others. There’s not a day that passes without me thinking about my friends from Star Wars – Luke Skywalker, so much like myself; Qui-Gon Jinn, so much how I’d like to be; even background characters that took on lives of their own, from Wedge Antilles to Lobot.

Your universe has been an encouragement and a pleasure to me when I most needed it. You’ve given me things I can never thank you enough for – but thank you for this universe, for inviting us to join you in it. I’m sorry you’re no longer a part of it, but your Star Wars will always be the (only) Star Wars to me. I just want you to know what a great gift you have given me and fans like me.

Best Regards.

Star Wars’ Holy Month

Posted in Announcements with tags , , , , on 9 May 2016 by Megan

What’s up, Wars Fans? I’ll tell you what’s up — the month of May. Or as I’ve decided to call it, Maul. (Jadeuary, Fettuary, Marr, Aaypril, Maul, see?) The month of all months as far as any self-respecting Star Wars fan is concerned. Yes, yes, there’s that greeting card holiday business with May 4, and if you really want Sitho de Mayo or Revenge of the Sixth or whatever the next two days are, you’re welcome to them.

But there are bigger and better holidays afoot, my friends! Star Wars Day is May 25, the date that gave us Star Wars back in 1977 as well as my personal favorite Return of the Jedi in ’83. May 16 gives us Episode II’s birthday; May 19 is for Episode I and Episode III. Empire Strikes Back gets its day on the 21st. And there’s a cornucopia of Star Wars actors’ birthdays this month, too, not least of all Peter Cushing (May 26) and Christopher Lee (May 27).

George Lucas

And then there’s the patriarch. George Lucas. The literal Maker as far as the Wars is concerned. His birthday is May 14.

Now, I legitimately don’t care what you think of George Lucas. My own feelings and opinions are as complicated as they can be about someone who amounts to a complete stranger who created a thing that takes up roughly 40% of my entire life. I don’t like him, but I respect him. I don’t have a high opinion of him, yet I admire him, his imagination, his creations, his tenacity. This guy was barely older than I am now when he was catapulted to the top of an unforgiving industry. And like me, he seems like someone with severe social anxieties, someone ill-equipped for such massive fame on such an abrupt scale. Yes, I think he let his ego get in the way of smart choices when it came to filming the prequel trilogy — but if I’m honest, I could look at Paradise Lost and say “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” The point is not “how would you have done it” — the point is, “Is what was done great?”

The answer is yes. Yes, it is great. All six Star Wars films are great. The Indiana Jones films and TV series are great. If his other contributions — Willow, Howard the Duck— are not great, they are not terrible, either, but are unfortunate mediocre younger siblings of geniuses who would stand just fine on their own if they weren’t constantly compared to their elders. I’ll level with you: I was far more entertained by Howard the Duck than I was by THX-1138. But here, the point is not “do you like it” — the point is, “Is it great?

And the answer is still, yes! George Lucas’ visions have not shaped one generation — they will shape many. By using Joseph Campbell’s themes on mythology, by combining and rearranging the best that the best filmmakers of his lifetime had to offer, Lucas created something no one ever had nor ever will again create. Space mythology, space opera — a Casablanca of science fiction, where a hundred cliches expertly linked can move us to tears. And the life that George Lucas breathed into it came from something else, from having a heart and passion for the fans. Once in an interview, Lucas drew an analogy of Star Wars being a sort of “trinity,” himself the “father” (in control), the works themselves “the son” (physical form), and the fans being the “holy spirit” that breathes life and vision into the works. On the back of Star Wars Through the Years, there’s a quote from him that he was trying to recreate scifi as he remembered it, those “free and fun” old serials — he achieved it and then some.

Fanaticism, by definition, knows no bounds or control. Despite the negative opinions I do have about George Lucas, I more than freely acknowledge he has not deserved the treatment he’s gotten. Fans essentially appropriated his brainchild and pushed him out; it is burning insult to that injury that Disney has treated his legacy with as much care as they’d treat a bag of garbage. Childish disappointment in films that could never live up to 25 years of mental hyping caused some of the fanbase to behave abusively toward the man they literally owe their entire fanaticism to.

So the stance I would urge people to take is one of fairness: acknowledge that the man, like any human, has innumerable faults and has made bad choices. Guess what, so have you, and at least your faults and bad choices are generally protected by privacy and anonymity, luxuries he has not had. At the same time, acknowledge his greatness: he created something no one else ever could have. He had the vision and the crew to produce this amazing thing that hit the public in the right way at the right time. We owe him for that.

If you love Star Wars, you owe Mr. Lucas your thanks. That’s basic. That’s human decency. You don’t have to love him; you don’t have to pretend he doesn’t have faults. Just acknowledge “Here is a human being who is responsible for creating something I think is so great that I spend most of my life thinking about it.”

And if you’re really hardcore, how about you send those words his way?

See, friends, what I’m introducing in this post is the concept of a new holiday: Thanksgeorging. This holiday is for Star Wars fans to celebrate on the last Thursday of May (the 26th this year). Although I encourage fans to send Mr. Lucas a note for his birthday, which is Saturday, I know that may be pretty short notice for you. So let’s get together, coordinate our efforts, and send Mr. Lucas a thank you note for our new holiday. Here’s a handy stock guide, if you don’t word good — just be sure to adjust it so it fits your personality!

And lastly, a shout-out to my new favorite blog/store: George Shot First. I invite you to dress the part on the first Thanksgeorging Day, and send me a picture of yourself rocking one of these awesome shirts. I’ll be doing a post on May 26 to showcase pictures of your shirts, letters, and anything else you happen to send me that has to do with thanking the Maker!

thanksthreepio

And if you don’t send me anything, I’ll do a much lonelier version of me celebrating my new holiday by myself . . . *cue sad music* So, come on, let’s show George Lucas what his work means to us!

I’m trying to get the word count to 1138. Can you tell? I’m so close and it’s so fitting! More details will follow, but for now — get your shirt, write your letter, send me some pics. George Lucas deserves some thanking. For more, see also this post.

George Shot First

Posted in Spotlight with tags , on 21 April 2016 by Megan

This is something that has needed to be said. I am WITH these guys!

OCONNOBLOG

It’s frustrating to feel alone, like your opinion doesn’t matter. Like you’re “wrong” because you don’t see things the way others do.

I have felt this way for years as it pertained to the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Something that I loved so dearly was the subject of scorn and derision, anger and snarky put-downs. But the worst of it was the way that Director George Lucas was treated. Search his name in any Google feed and you’ll be greeted only with snide, condescending or vulgar remarks.

That’s right. The creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones (not to mention two of my other favorite films– American Graffiti and THX-1138) is being equated with the likes of Osama Bin Laden because he dared to make movies the way he wanted them.

I’m not denying that he’s a controversial figure. I understand why some fans would be irritated at his refusal…

View original post 397 more words

Bogus Math

Posted in Fun with tags , , , , , , , on 12 April 2013 by Megan

Today’s very fun Friday guest blog is, as usual, from HS, where I rediscovered this funny rant on George Lucas’ mathematics. As usual, click the link to view the entire post; it’s been shortened for SWL.

The most fun math is what I call bogus math. I use the term to refer to anything unconventional and especially fictional. For example, there was this time that I calculated the population of Coruscant. Today’s particular bogus math I wanted to talk about, now that you’re all paying attention, is again Star Wars related. I know you’re all thinking, “She wants me to believe she’s got dyscalculia but likes computing all this stuff?” Well, I have a superpower called Wolfram|Alpha, which I can use to calculate anything.

In Astronomy and the Bible, I read that it would take 100,000 years to cross the galaxy at the speed of light and I suddenly began to wonder how long it would take at Han’s boasted, “She’ll make .5 past light speed.” Thus I found out that Wolfy will calculate ly speeds for me ! I asked for lightspeed +50%, and it replied 1.5c. (Which caused me to remember the question that inspired this blog: What is the propulsion system on the Death Star? In researching the Death Star, I found a book that said its maximum speed was 1.2c, and nothing would tell me what c stood for! It’s speed of light in vacuum.) Then I asked what it would take to get to Alpha Centauri at a rate of 1.5c — 35 months. This got me thinking about the sublight run for Cloud City from Hoth in ESB. Well, I got out my map of the Star Wars galaxy, which is conveniently scaled that 1 pixel = 15 parsecs = 48.9 ly, and counted four pixels between Bespin and Hoth. Unfortunately for Lucas, this comes up to 195.6 ly, and a 130-year journey for our heroes.

ImpandFalcon

If the Millennium Falcon went into lightspeed, its passengers will be too old to do anything when they get back.

This is ridiculous, George! He really seems to use hyperdrive and lightspeed interchangeably: “sublight” is non-hyperdrive. Piett tells Vader, “If the Millennium Falcon went into lightspeed, it could be on the other end of the galaxy by now.” But as I believe I have demonstrated, even the smallest possible distance, 15 parsecs, would take 32 years to travel at the boasted .5 past lightspeed! I can’t even justify it by thinking maybe Han should have said “she’ll make five times lightspeed,” because that’s still 9 years to go 15 parsecs. I understand George rarely knows what he’s talking about and there are a lot of tips in the movie to demonstrate this, such as when everyone exclaims how impossible it would be to shoot a two-meters-wide target from a snub fighter. Pretty obvious George has no idea what a “meter” is. Han’s “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” has drawn a lot of flak and George has tried to cover it up a variety of ways, but frankly, it’s just because he didn’t know.

Another thing! Timelining! It is insane how George condenses the saga. You think my math is bad? For George, 25 + 30 = 63 (Obi-Wan is 25 years old in Episode I; 30 years pass between E1 and A New Hope; Alec Guinness was 63 in ANH). George actually shed four years in the timeline, whichhe really needed. In 1977, Luke Skywalker was “about twenty,” maybe as old as 22. Somewhere in the intervening two decades, he became 18. Luke is born just as the Empire is founded, which means that his age must equal the years between E3 and ANH. If Luke is 25, Palpatine has a nearly-quarter-century-old empire. If Luke is 18, the empire is a mewling teenager. Also, a more mature Luke in ANH = a Luke more on par with Mark Hamill’s actual age and appearance in ROTJ.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME, GEORGE?!

Obi-Wan, Owen Lars, and Aunt Beru age in astonishing and horrifying way if you leave 18 years between E3 and ANH; I pointed out Obi-Wan’s unpleasant aging (you’d think Jedi would age slower than the general population!), but Beru and Owen? Even if he’s older than Anakin, Owen can’t be older than 25 in E3. He’s barely in his 40s and looks like a craggy old man in ANH! Let me help you out, George — again. Anakin is 9, Padmé is 14, and Obi-Wan is 25 in E1. Give them 13 years before Episode II, and say they’ve worked with Padmé again within the last ten years. That gives her and Anakin some more footing. That makes Anakin a comfortable 22, Padmé a realistic 27, and Obi-Wan a mature 38. The Clone War is an established three year event, putting their ages at 25 (Anakin), 30 (Padmé), and 41 (Obi-Wan) at the birth of the Empire. Call Luke 22, which parallels neatly with Anakin, and this makes Vader 47 and Obi-Wan 63 — the exact age of the actor who played him. You’re welcome, George.

I know, you didn’t think this was going to descend into Star Wars, but honestly, it was inevitable. Now I’ve got a serious jonesing to go watch Star Wars . . . I haven’t done that in like three weeks!

Bogus Math and George Lucas via Hundredaire Socialite.

Favorite Non-Human Female

Posted in Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 10 March 2013 by Megan
Something called "C-level canon"

Something called “C-level canon”

This post was ridiculously hard to accomplish; I’ve been agonizing about this for days, which was weird because I was positive with all the scifi and stuff that I’m in to, the nonhuman character question would be the easiest. Then I realized every nonhuman I like is male. Pickings were slim and I nearly gave up altogether, and then I realized that Aayla Secura didn’t need more than her few seconds of screen time in two movies to count — I’ve been crazy about her for years!

Here’s the thing. I love Twi’leks. Twi’leks — their name comes from their twin lekku, or head-tails — are beautiful and fascinating and pretty. They hale from the planet Ryloth, and are memorable to most people because of Jabba’s dancers in Return of the Jedi. Now, if you haven’t heard me describe Star Wars as a “coloring book” before, you haven’t heard me discuss why Star Wars is like a coloring book. Lucas made six movies that give you the outlines of a battle against good and evil, the rise and fall and redemption of a slave boy, the end and beginning of a noble bunch of peacekeepers with light swords. He’s not much a one for character development, backstory, timelining, or any of those tedious little details that could really give the saga depth and meaning, and that’s where the very unique aspect of Star Wars comes to light — it’s boldly left up to each fan to fill in the lines using whatever he deems best. Maybe you want to use crayons, maybe she wants to use oil colors, maybe he wants to use wads of used gum. The great thing is that this is all okay because Lucas never put in enough of his own information to prevent fans from making it any color they want. So, like with all things Star Wars, I have elaborately fleshed out Ryloth and the Twi’leks according to my own imagination and logic, and done, I think, a considerably better job than the published EU writers, who are typically focused on one thing: “Heh, heh . . . boobs.”

It is hardly my fault women have boobs and this is a women-based challenge

It is hardly my fault women have boobs and this is a women-based challenge

So here’s the low-down on Aayla Secura, my favorite non-human character. She is also a type of character, which is why I paused to emphasize my love of Twi’leks. There’s very little to be known about Aayla Secura, but a lot to be inferred: she appears on screen in two scenes in Attack of the Clones — she is in the background as Obi-Wan goes to ask Yoda about the missing planet in the Jedi Archives, and again during the battle on Geonosis — and her death is seen in Revenge of the Sith on the planet Feluca. So she is a Jedi, one of the ones brought by Yoda to rescue Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Senator Amidala on Geonosis; she later fights in the Clone Wars and is stationed on the planet Feluca, where her clone troops turn on her and kill her. Really, not much more to know than that. Her death scene is a little weird, but then, all of them are . . . for example, how can Yoda on Kashyyk sense what’s happening to Jedi all over the galaxy, when the Jedi can’t sense the intent of their clone troops who are literally about to pull the trigger on them? Makes me think the Grand Egotist (Yoda) was doing a little long-distance brain-fuzzing.

Anyhow, while it’s not unusual for me to pick random background characters and obsess over them, how did an obscure blue Twi’lek with only a few seconds on screen manage to get a name, an action figure, and such a following? You might as well know there are lots of comic books about her. I don’t comic book. (I also don’t idiotic-cartoons-based-on-cinema-classics.) But she did come from the comic books. In fact, Jon Foster’s cover art painting of her was what caught George Lucas’ attention, so that he asked for her to be included in two of the films.

The painting that started it

The painting that started it

Actually I don’t see anything appealing about that picture at all and her head-tails make no sense. (I’m sure it annoys people how I take over at Star Wars and act like nobody else has any good thoughts about it except for myself, but the fact of the matter is, no one else will approach it with a modicum of logic!! They are thicker and more muscled than her arms! How does that make sense? And the shape has nothing to do with the established shape of lekku! Also, her left arm is gross.)

But I’ve had a background fixation on Aayla Secura since just before E2 came out, and I was one of the ones eagerly awaiting the release of the action figure. While it’s disappointing she still has to prance around in various stages of undress — what, is it illegal for female Twi’leks to wear clothes — it is nice to see a capable warrior female Jedi who is also a Twi’lek. (Soap box time! It’s not that the Empire was ever anti-nonhuman — another thing that makes absolutely no sense in an ancient universe where humans are freely mingled with nonhumans on every planet — but it’s that the 80s and 90s Star Wars authors themselves couldn’t cope with the not-human, and their own specisism colored what they wrote and created layers upon layers of nonsensical behavior that I have to compensate for! What am I, the only person who can think? Bah!)

So that’s why I like her and stuff. Twi’leks are cool.

She will mess you up.

She will mess you up.

Day 19: Favorite Non-Human Female Character via Hundredaire Socialite.

Science Fiction: The Confusing Frontier

Posted in Spotlight with tags , , , , , on 10 February 2013 by Megan

I really want to keep content coming in . . . to both of my blogs here. Which is why I hit upon this thing of using some old college essays for space filler when necessary. Here’s one from HS on Star Wars vs. Star Trek — and it’s not what you think.

I present a wildly successful (to me, anyway) early essay I did my freshman year of college. The following appeared in this form in a 2006 edition of Knights Write, Urbana University’s campus literary journal. This is an essay I do plan to expand eventually for my book of essays entitled Penguins.

Science Fiction: The Confusing Frontier

My mother uses “Star Wars” to describe anything in the science fiction genre. One afternoon, she called me up on the intercom and said, “Megan, Star Wars is on TV. Do you want to watch it?” I eagerly ran downstairs, anticipating a chance to see my favorite movie on television (in spite of owning it, watching it on TV is somehow a special experience), but instead of the evil Empire, I was confronted by Captain Piccard. “Mom, this is Star Trek,” I said patiently, then added, “The Next Generation.”

“Isn’t it the same thing?” she asked innocently.

This humorous situation exemplifies a difficulty many Star Wars addicts and “Trekkies” must face: because both of these epics have ‘Star’ in the title and are set in space, most people assume they are interchangeable and never understand what the problem is when they treat them as such. They never know why they are getting scolded for calling Darth Vader a Klingon agent or why, when they call Han Solo’s prize vessel the Enterprise, some lightsaber-wielding people get bent out of shape. In this age of communication, confusion rules supreme because Trekkies and Star Wars addicts can’t understand the inability of the uninitiated to tell the difference between these two things which are, to them, vastly dissimilar, while everybody else dismisses their objections because they are only overreacting sci-fi buffs.

Star Trek was an immensely popular, if short-lived, television series created by Gene Roddenberry; its last episode aired in 1969. It was innovative and featured earthlings in our galaxy on a quest for unknown and unexplored territory. Star Wars was the brainchild of director George Lucas and in 1977 hit theaters—and the people of the world—like a 2×4 between the eyes. It was set “long, long ago,” instead of in the future, and “far, far away,” instead of in our cosmic backyard.

The main characters of Star Wars are Luke Skywalker, the blond-haired farm boy who whined his way into our hearts; Han Solo, the gruff space pirate; and Leia, the politically passionate princess whose planet gets blown up. Obi-Wan Kenobi is the wise old mentor who oversees all happenings with subtle tones of The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Darth Vader remains the most evil, and asthmatic, villain audiences have ever seen. Good and evil battle through these beloved characters and bring to life vaguely Joseph Campbell-ish storylines that are simultaneously familiar and new.

On the other hand, Star Trek features an almost dizzying array of characters, goodies and baddies alike. The biggest evil fish in the pond are the Klingons of the Klingon Empire, though they certainly aren’t the only nasties out in space. An almost countless number of wicked aliens exist, new ones appearing in almost every episode: bad aliens with worse physical features. These evildoers try to perform all kinds of heinous acts against the intrepid humans, and it is the noble members of Starfleet who must stop them. These brave explorers are led by Captain Kirk, the playboy lead with a speech impairment that causes him to speak slowly and haltingly; Spock, a pointy-eared alien with no sense of humor; and Scotty of “Beam me up!” fame.

Another element of similarity these two science-fiction sagas share that makes it easy for non-viewers to confuse them is their vast reach in popular culture. Certainly by 1985 “Live long and prosper” had become a national catchphrase, complete with its own little hand gesture. Terms like “hyperspace” and “proton torpedo” were seeping into everyday language along with semi-nonsensical phrases like “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” Their similar media empires, vast enough to make even Julius Caesar green with envy, filled with spin-off novels, magazines, biographical books, and toys are one more confusing point for those who can’t tell a phaser from a blaster.

For those who don’t watch either landmark science-fiction creation, lines become even more blurred when they think of the sheer number of movies that revolve around both. George Lucas’ space saga was originally a single screenplay, but it was so long, he was forced to divide it into three parts. Just to make things more confusing for viewers, Lucas invented a new system of counting, too, and titled the episodes IV-VI; this naturally left everyone wondering where the first three films were and then, when Episodes I-III finally broke on the scene twenty-two years later, left everyone bewildered as to which film really was “the first one.” Star Trek had its own movies that featured extended adventures of the Enterprise’s crew. It also had four TV spin-offs in the 80s and 90s: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.

It is true that these epics have many things in common: their mutual setting in space, their similar gamut of space ships and laser weapons, and their endless array of toys, books, and additional movies or spin-offs. Their final similarity is a following of passionate fans, science-fiction junkies who will usually select either Star Trek or Star Wars as their idol, then despise the other show. To the majority of these rabid fans, these icons are as different as night and day, and it is important to them that one Holy Grail of science-fiction film not be confused with the other. Personally, I enjoy both very much, though my loyalties lie with Star Wars. Other fans are a little more picky, and they become so specific in their obsession that the original-trilogy-only Star Wars fans and the comics-only Star Wars fans will fiercely debate one another over what’s ‘real’ while Trekkies will stand on either side of a line in the sand, arguing over whether the spin-offs are blasphemy or unassailable truth.

Average people, though, are likely to be safe if they can just keep Luke Skywalker in his universe, well away from Captain Kirk. The clueless and the sci-fi adepts would be able to live together much more peaceably if the uninitiated could just remember that Star Wars is a movie set in a galaxy far away and Star Trek is a TV series set off in the future.

Science Fiction: The Confusing Frontier via Hundredaire Socialite.