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Thoughts on my Star Wars prequels poll.

This is the poll I am referring to:

Now I have observed that while most fannish types hate, or at least were dissappointed by, the Star Wars prequels, most loved the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films (except for some hardcore purists who wanted Tom Bombadil and felt that some piece of dialogue was ever so slightly different from the books).

Continuing with this thought leads me to this list of reasons to hate the LoTR films:

Jar-Jar Binks Pippin is annoying.
Who cares about "the taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems" "a Last Alliance of Elves and Men"?
Teenage Anakin Comedy Gimli is annoying.
Hayden Christensen Elijah Wood can't act.
Natalie Portman Orlando Bloom can't act.
Midi-chlorians. Magic rings.
Soppy love story in Episode 2 3.
Needs more women.
Too many fan-pleasing references to and appearances of minor characters from the original trilogy other books in the series.
CGI is never as good as muppets!*
Jar-Jar Binks All the good guys are white and all the bad guys are black is like totally racist.
Poor direction in green screen and CGI shots.
Too much of the plot is happening off-screen.
Since when can R2-D2 fly? do dwarves get tossed?

Not really that different is it? (Personally I think ladyofastolat hit the nail on the head, when she suggested that people were comparing the Star Wars prequels not to the original trilogy, but to how they felt about the original trilogy when they first saw them as children.)

* Although since he is in water for many scenes, I can see some practical problems in having a muppet Gollum...

I've never quite got the Jar-Jar Binks is racist thing. Apparently he represents a Jamaican stereotype. Wikipedia has a page on Jamaican stereotypes which suggests that Jamaican men are stereotypically:

  • Marijuana smokers

  • Womanisers

  • Rastafarians

  • Black

That wikipedia page links to the site jamaicans.com, which has a longer list of Jamaican stereotypes, most notably:

  • They say "man" after everything

  • They (only) listen to reggae

  • They're always late

  • They like white women with long hair

  • They have many jobs

  • They practise voodoo

Let's consider whether those stereotypes apply to Jar-Jar and the other gungans:

  • Marijuana smokers - I must have missed that scene. Perhaps it's one of the deleted scenes included in the second disc of the DVD boxed set.

  • Womanisers - Do we even see a gungan woman?

  • Rastafarians - Little evidence of the gungans worshipping dead Ethiopians or wearing dreadlocks (in fact they don't seem to have hair).

  • Black - As far as I can see, all the gungans are green or greenish.

  • They say "man" after everything - Jar-Jar has lots of annoying verbal mannerisms (which seem to be unique to him rather than shared with his fellow gungans) but this isn't one of them.

  • They (only) listen to reggae - We get to hear some gungan music during the victory parade at the end of Episode 1. It definitely isn't reggae.

  • They're always late - The gungans seem to be in the right place at the right time to, for example, fight the Trade Federation's droid army, or propose important legislation in the Imperial Senate.

  • They like white women with long hair - Jar-Jar does seem quite fond of Padme / Amidala, and she's definitely a white woman with long hair, so you can have this one.

  • They have many jobs - Jar-Jar does have more than one job it's true (itinerant, general, diplomat...) but not generally at the same time.

  • They practise voodoo - Nope. In a 2002 RPG adventure, two gungan Jedi are mentioned, but that wasn't canon then, and it certainly won't be now.

So, not seeing it I'm afraid. If you're setting out to find racism in the Star Wars films, surely it's much more obviously racist that pretty much all the bad guys are played by British actors. Peter Cushing, Dave Prowse, Ian McDiarmid, Peter Serafinowicz, Sir Christopher Lee, Julian Glover, Don Henderson, Jeremy Bulloch, Michael Sheard...


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 22nd, 2014 09:17 am (UTC)
I don't have any baggage around the original trilogy, which Brian and I enjoyed but were not our gateway drug. Hoever, this didn't stop us resisting watching the prequels forever. Daughter has been faunching and we have not been co-operating, but now this poll and this post have persuaded me to cease my non-co-operation (gosh that hyphenation looks odd) and we will probably be watching the full series in number order sometime soon.
Nov. 22nd, 2014 10:45 am (UTC)
Gosh. I'm quite chuffed by that! One of my LJ posts persuaded someone to do something. I really hope you like them when you watch them!
Nov. 22nd, 2014 12:26 pm (UTC)
I have heard good things about watching them in order:

This gives you the original stories up until Luke discovers the truth about his origins, flashes back to show you those origins, and then returns to the "present" to show how it all turns out:

I've not yet watched it that way, but I fully intend to next time around!
Nov. 22nd, 2014 01:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Noted.
Nov. 22nd, 2014 02:27 pm (UTC)
That's the order I went with last time I rewatched them. It works if you think of the series as the story of Luke and Anakin. However, since I've just read Darth Plagueis, it occurs to me that you can also think of the series as the story of Palpatine, and in that case Darth Plagueis, 1,2,3,4,5,6 makes the most sense.
Nov. 22nd, 2014 02:30 pm (UTC)
I need to know what you think about Movies! In! Space!
Good point!

(Also, if you see them as the story of Anakin, then watching them I-VI makes sense, and you get to watch Ben lie to Luke about his father and worry that the kid is going to doom them all.)

I'll add Darth Plagueis to my Christmas List!
Nov. 22nd, 2014 11:45 am (UTC)
Glad to please you. I'll let you know what I think, if I remember. We don't have the films in house so we may be some time...
Nov. 22nd, 2014 12:29 pm (UTC)
Jar-Jar was supposed to be Jamaican??? I always thought the racist accusations were because he was some sort of pidgin-English speaking tribesman...
Nov. 22nd, 2014 02:31 pm (UTC)
Nov. 22nd, 2014 04:21 pm (UTC)
Yes this is what I thought too. He is a caricature of a patois or pidgin english speaker. Jamaicans speak a patois which isn't dissimilar to how he speaks. Considering that his character is depicted as stupid, incredible subservient to the most white humans and is only there to be a deus ex dimwit, well he's pretty offensive.
Nov. 23rd, 2014 08:50 am (UTC)
It might not have occurred to me that "OMG Jar Jar Binks is an offensive parody of a black man" if I'd first seen him in the films, as I'd have been distracted by his giraffe-like appearance. But I first heard him on a radio programme about the new SW films - they played a clip of him going "yes massa" or whatever and I was gobsmacked - "are you still allowed to do that?! In America?!"

Also, the SW prequels have a similarly "!!!" parody of a grasping Jewish merchant - hooked nose, rubbing hands, would not look out of place on a 1930s NS poster, you know the one I mean?

Nov. 22nd, 2014 09:31 pm (UTC)
As I understand it the racist impliations of Jar Jar are not really visible to most UK viewers - the problem is that he's too reminiscent of the Stepin Fetchit/Birmingham Brown characters of 1930's Hollywood with which few Brits are familiar.
Nov. 23rd, 2014 04:04 am (UTC)
Just what I was going to say. I've only seen a few minutes of Stepin Fetchit (the films are really utterly tedious), but the vocal mannerisms, style of movement and general comic uselessness are markedly similar to Jar-Jar Binks. It was Stepin Fetchit in particular that many Americans cited when complaining about the apparent racist signifiers of Jar-Jar Binks.
Nov. 23rd, 2014 08:51 am (UTC)
Ah! I wondered if it was something culturally specific like that.

It's fascinating how different contexts can so acutely affect meaning.

I assumed Jar Jar was a clumsy adolescent who'd got into trouble, as teenagers do, and was a bit baffled by his patois being seen as racist - after all, all the Gungans speak in a similar way, and they are clearly a pretty advanced civilisation and heroically save the day.

But if lots of Americans are getting Stepin vibes from him, and it's not so much what he does per se so much as the echoes, I can why that might cause offense.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )