This weekend the world was united in a common purpose, or so a certain movie’s $517 million weekend gross suggests. But there’s a corner of the galaxy that is beyond even the reach of The Force, and that’s rightblogger world. Certainly, people of any or no political affiliation have been spurred to dumb commentary by the long-awaited debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But the particular way rightbloggers went over the top on the blockbuster tells us a lot about them and their eternal “culture war” struggles.
Special pleading and “hot takes” are not the exclusive province of any ideology, and there were enough occasioned by this film phenomenon to go around. MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, for example, uncorked a puzzling rant about the racial ambiguity of Darth Vader that was challenged collegially by writers such as Alex Abad-Santos at Vox, and less collegially by rightbloggers (“Liberals Just Declared Star Wars ‘Racist’ — The Reason Why Is Mind-Blowing,” “LIBERALS THINK STAR WARS IS RACIST!” etc).
This is part of the “culture war” some people, including misguided liberals, think of as a struggle between right and left for the hearts and minds of American citizens, rather than as the natural evolution of social attitudes in an advanced society. But there’s one big distinction to the rightblogger idea of culture war: For them, war is the only thing you can do with culture. They treat culture as some dark art, and the artists who make it as socialist witches to whom God has granted special powers, which they perversely use to promote socialism.
This gives their musings a weird edge — especially when they actually enjoy the cultural artifacts they’re talking about (and who doesn’t enjoy Star Wars?). It’s as if they had been seduced by the dark side, and had to make a special effort to explain themselves after they’d given in.
Older readers may remember that rightbloggers got mightily pissed back in 2005 when George Lucas stuck an “if you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy” line into Revenge of the Sith, which they considered a not-too-subtle knock on Iraq war hero George W. Bush. Plus, Lucas said something nice about rightblogger troll Michael Moore in a Wired interview. “George Lucas caved to the fashionable anti-absolutism that comes with Bush hatred,” bawled Jonah Goldberg at National Review at the time. (Goldberg was still sore about this four years later, grumbling in 2009 that Lucas had “unraveled the entire moral superstructure of the Star Wars franchise.”)
Meanwhile, Goldberg’s colleague Jim Geraghty whined: “I’m being warned about the dangers of capitalism from a man who made perhaps more money from merchandising than any other man in history.” He added that Lucas used to be like Luke Skywalker but was now more like Darth Vader (“Lucas finds himself being swallowed up by the oppressive system he strove to fight against”).
Around the same time, John Podheretz blubbered: “Inadvertently, both Lucas and the Wachowski brothers (who wrote and directed the Matrix movies) reveal with their brainless anti-Bushism the essential cowardly vapidity of pacifism.” Others just told each other that Star Wars was really conservative, even if Lucas didn’t know it (“Perhaps Lucas doesn’t realize it, but he is subversively conservative and even pro-life when he depicts this cold Cloning facility with a million babies in jars”).
So how are the brethren handling the new film? Well, in the ten years since Revenge of the Sith, there’s been a social media explosion, so they had plenty to bitch about evenbefore the movie opened. For example, you may have seen the popular meme about Luke Skywalker as “an orphaned farm boy… radicalized after a military strike kills his family.” “It’s a cute piece of pop-culture rhetoric…” said Walter Hudson of PJ Media — and for a millisecond I held out hope; then, alas, he went on — “…but fails as serious commentary.” Not like other captioned pictures on the internet!
In brief, Hudson argued that Jedi philosophy and Islam are totally different, and 9/11 sucked, but blowing up the Death Star was awesome. “If anything, to the extent such memes are presented with sincerity,” warned Hudson, “they convey debilitating moral confusion which regards America as an evil empire and Islam as an order of peacekeeping monks.” Don’t let your son be radicalized by funny pictures on the internet! (Show him stuff like this instead — at the very least he’ll be too confused to do jihad.)
At Breitbart.com, John Nolte enjoyed the film but was upset that J.J. Abrams & Co. have allowed women to join the film’s ongoing intergalactic battle. “I know that we now live in a world where the horrors of feminism have morphed into this bizarre era where liberating yourself from men means acting exactly like a man, but does Leia have to dress like a 60 year-old lesbian?” Hey-o! “In the original trilogy, Leia was perfect,” Nolte continued. “She was both feminine and capable, a beauty who gave as good as she got, a woman who could handle a blaster and Han Solo’s ego, a princess who rocked out a slave bikini while strangling the pig who made her wear it.” But then she got old and went lezbo? Well, you can always check your phone for Star Wars porn during those parts.
“She’s now called ‘General’ Leia since Princess is no longer PC,” groused Ed Straker at American Thinker. Also, “Daisy Ridley, the actress who plays Rey, is a bit wooden (which she herself admits), but she is a woman so the politically correctness of her selection makes up for it.” Disney obviously wants women to come see this thing, too; they must be desperate.
Over on The Blaze, William Avitt took the opportunity to look back and tell us “Why ‘Han Shot First’ Debate Is Still Important.” George Lucas wanted Han to shoot second, said Avitt, because like all liberals he believes you should “let the bad guy shoot at you, and then you can shoot back and claim self-defense. If you shoot first, however — regardless of circumstances — you are a murderer. They would certainly have police live by this rule.” (Get it? Liberals hate cops!) Avitt then fired off hundreds more words about how Han shooting first is necessary to his “character arc.” Now all he has to do is get stuck in an elevator with Lucas and he’s set.
At The Federalist, Peter Cook grandly announced that he had “forgiven” George Lucas, not only for the old knock on George W., but also for “his change to the Han Solo-Greedo scene in the first movie” and other offenses to geekdom. Now Cook has daughters, and he wants them to enjoy Star Wars just as he did. “The words ‘Chewie, we’re home’ in the second trailer almost got me emotional,” said Cook, a poignant admission indeed. “Although it is unlikely that Lucas will ever read this,” said Cook, “I want to take a moment and thank him…” Say it in full-price movie tickets, nerd.
One holds out hope, in this Christmas season of goodwill toward men, that some rightbloggers can just have fun at what’s essentially a children’s movie and forget about the tedious palimpsest of politics. I was encouraged by Derek Hunter’s headline at the impeccably rightwing TownHall, “Reading Too Much Into Star Wars.” “What makes Star Wars so appealing is it hits on such universal themes of right and wrong, good and evil, that it can be anything to whoever is watching it,” wrote Hunter. “…Examining the politics of Star Wars is a dangerous path that can lead only to the Dark Side.”
But, eventually, Hunter got on the Sith-George Bush thing, and had to assure us that “the intent of movies is one thing, but art is in the eye of the beholder, not the artist.” In other words, those art-witches think they’re seducing us, but even in our orgasmic pleasure we yet retain the truth! “The real lesson of the Star Wars movies is big government leads to a loss of freedom, whether the government was voted for by the people or seized power through manipulation,” said Hunter. “It’s the natural order: Government grows and eventually consumes everything. Thankfully, for the residents of that world, there are always a group of rugged individualists…”
Oh, well, fuck ‘em. See you guys at the Christmas showing of The Hateful Eight.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 21, 2015