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Why I don’t care about the new Star Wars film

By Mark Heley on Tuesday December 15th, 2015

I grew up with Star Wars, but now I believe we all have to outgrow War.

I was 11 when the first Star Wars film came out. This was an era that might as well have been in a galaxy far, far away. It would be another twenty years before mobile phones became computers and video games were just green squares on a flickering TV screen batting balls back and forth.

Somewhere, but not somewhere anywhere near me, punk was happening. But all that meant to me was some weird band got banned from the radio. Little did I know that I was living in the dying days of an analogue world. A world where the only text messages I got were little notes passed from one grubby hand to another at school.

Then Star Wars happened. I’d heard about it, but I hadn’t really cared much, everyone at school was talking about it, so we went as a family to see it on its first day of release in the UK. I was transported. It wasn’t the plot that got me so much, as just the scale of the film.

It was the epic space battles, the rollercoaster ride through different planetary cultures, but most of all the fact that it viscerally communicated to me for the first time in my life the concept of the galaxy and the vast, limitless potential that existed beyond our cosy, domestic and provincial world.

Alt text hereDo we really need to be exporting War to the rest of the Galaxy?

I’m Tired of War

Star Wars, for me, was an epic act of galaxy-sized imagineering that forever expanded the potential of existence. I know many other people feel the same way. So why is it that now, I just don’t care about the new Star Wars film? It’s not just that I’m much older, because I do feel the same intrigue to revisit the universe that, for me, opened the door to the universe. I feel affection for the characters, the droids, the ‘fairy-tale-in-space’ soap operatics.

The difference is that now, I’m tired of war. I’m tired of the lies that I’ve been told as the pretext for the bombing and invasion of other people’s countries. I’m tired of seeing the ragged doll corpses of dead children in Syria dismembered by munitions manufactured in the cosy, domestic and provincial country that I live in.

I’m fatigued by the endlessness of it. The stupidity of it. I’m offended by the cost, I’m horrified by the violence. I’m disgusted at the carnage of innocent people that is just ‘collateral damage’ to the disassociated talking heads in uniform who try to justify what is just a barbaric, cruel, and stupid practice at the best of times and a crime against humanity at the worst. I’m sick of war. As Harry Patch, the last ‘Tommy’ British soldier from the First World War said:

‘War is organised murder. Nothing else’

Child war soldier gunThe reality of War is nothing to be mythologized

Are you a Rebel Hero, or are you an Imperial Stormtrooper?

The very last thing I want to see right now is War taken to other worlds. It is a blight on this one and until we deal with our own sociopathic and self-destructive tendencies, the very last thing we should do is export our collective mental illness to the rest of the galaxy. The thing that enchanted me about Star Wars is now the very same problem I have with it. It is the glamor created by that epic scale of imagination.

Let’s be clear, war doesn’t deserve that. War is a messy, ugly business conducted in confusion. War is strafing a hospital in Afghanistan. War is barrel bombs dropped on civilian neighborhoods. War is a failure of the imagination. Not something to be celebrated. It is precisely because Star Wars is so unthreatening and so apparently benign that it is dangerous. It isn’t a graphic blood-splattered gore fest. And that’s the problem, real War is.

The problem with War and the way that War works is that EVERYONE thinks that they are the good guys. It’s the basic mechanism that allows us to separate ourselves enough from the ‘others’ so that we can see them as enemies, as targets, as something to be destroyed and defeated. War just wouldn’t work if we saw our enemies as fellow human beings. We HAVE to see them as the ‘bad guys’. So everyone thinks they are Luke Skywalker.

Here’s a classic account from an American Marine who through the reality of war came to the realization that he wasn’t a hero in the Rebel Alliance, but was in fact an Imperial Stormtrooper in the Empire. Here’s the big joke about War. Everyone thinks they are a hero in the Rebel Alliance and No-one thinks they are an Imperial Stormtrooper in the Empire…until it’s too late.

Stormtrooper Stop WarsMany veterans are now begging political leaders to Stop Wars

We must resist glamorizing War

We must resist the glamor of war- especially when it appears benign- and we must creatively challenge ourselves to glamorize Peace instead. What we really need, rather than another Star Wars film, is an equally compelling act of imagination that reframes peaceful co-existence as the exciting narrative for our collective future. Because the truth is that Peace IS exciting. It’s exciting to live a life of adventure exploring a beautiful planet (or new planets) with friends. It’s exciting to be part of the grand collective effort of restoring our biosphere and creating a truly sustainable and fair society. It’s exciting to dream big and to imagine exploring the reaches of our almost infinite galaxy.

But War is not exciting. It is drudgery, terror, and pain and we should leave it behind us as we leave the plastic toys of childhood behind us. We do not need lightsabers and deathstars where we are going. We have outgrown War and deserve better.

Feature image by street artist Kobra

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

Mark Heley

Mark Heley is UPLIFT's Editor and Director of Media.

 

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10 Responses to Why I don’t care about the new Star Wars film

  1. Thank you for this Mark. I seem to have a lot of the same feelings that you present here. I’ve just posted a piece on my blog titled “STAR WARS IN THE J.J. VERSE” and linked out to your piece, but reading your words points me back to another earlier post of mine that mirrors your central point:

    “As weapons dealer to the world and our own best customer, is it any wonder that American cultural promotion of war is second to none? Images of war (of violence and cruelty), those depicting the harsh reality of war and those meant to hide it from us, easily come to mind. But what of peace? Does peace appear more elusive simply because we haven’t taken the time, made the effort, to develop a peace vocabulary to speak of it?”

    More here:
    http://whatisthemissingpoint.blogspot.com/2013/01/visions-of-peace.html

  2. I grew up in East Germany and this article touches some odd observations of mine: Science Fiction stories in Eastern Europe before 1989 are much more friendly than their Western counterparts. They are mostly about solving problems peacefully, while having the same interstellar or galactic scope of imagination. A wonderful book, in its scope comparable with Star Wars, is Ivan Yefremov’s ‘Andromeda’, written already 1957. Most SF authors seemed to agree, that evolved civilizations, the ones that could develop interstellar travel, would have abandoned war completely. Unfortunately, most of those stories never got translated into English. Here is a small compilation: http://www.apatura.net/?p=116
    The odd part is, that these stories rarely reflect the now well-known political and economical problems, that existed in the socialist countries (called communist in the West, but communism was the goal, not a reality). So, I guess, censorship that allows only stories about peace and friendship, cannot be the answer.
    The SF in the West on the other hand is dominated by war stories. There are a few exceptions like the original Star Trek and TNG, Carl Sagan’s ‘Contact’, ‘Cocoon’, ‘Batteries Not Included’, ‘Abyss’ and ‘Mission to Mars’. But most of the SF movies, series and especially computer games can be considered military fiction. What also seems weird to me, is how many authors show very little imagination about social development. They project old society models into space and fill the galaxy with monarchies and emperors…

    But as long as there is commercial success, authors can also be more critical, which is certainly a good thing.

    Oh, and I haven’t seen the new Star Wars movie yet, but the producer is J.J. Abrams, who more or less turned Star Trek into war stories in the last three movies. Maybe this is what can be expected from him…

    • Ok, I watched the movie yesterday. It wasn’t bad, but in terms of fighting as I expected.
      And five or six planets destroyed this time :/. Is such CGI gigantomania really necessary for SF movies or rather a sign for beginning inner breakdown of the genre?

      To ‘outgrow’ war is a good image. Children (boys) like to play war games. Even young reincarnated Tibetan rinpoches, as I heard, and their mentors allow it. But part of growing up is to learn, that real war is different.

  3. I feel like one of the biggest problems is the meme of the entire premise of these new films. It perhaps should have been called ‘Galactic War Re-awakens’. The end of the original trilogy and the first 6 films concludes with balance being restored and peace returning to the galaxy. It left an entire generation feeling like restoring peace was possible.

    Now we’re left with the disturbing meme that peace, when restored will be inevitably be broken by someone else in a perpetually endless drama of conflict.

  4. I think you’re wrong. Of course peace needs to be worked towards in the real world, but that doesn’t mean all stories, especially SF&F, should only depict ‘utopian’ settings. It’s well known that conflict is absolutely central to storytelling – it’s what stories are, essentially. Fiction will always mirror real life struggles, that’s where it succeeds most as an artform.

    • ‘It’s well known that conflict is essential to storytelling.’ This may indeed be the deeper problem. Our ego feeds on separation and conflict, and every time we experience a story packed full of conflict the part of us that is enjoying it is our ego getting fed.

      The might not be that we have an ego and that it likes to feed vicariously on drama and conflict, it might be that it does so while we’re not aware of it. This is the breeding ground for endless need for more division, separation, conflict etc, which may be being created as fiction but spilling into the real world. It’s not just one movie, it’s a culture of every single piece of story based entertainment endlessly feeding our ego’s desire for drama. Like how when we over eat our stomach expands and we feel the need to eat more, so too it is with our desire for drama. Ever been addicted to watching just one more episode of a series drama?

      Drama in it’s highest form takes the protagonist from a state of ego, to a state of higher awareness and vicariously takes the audience along for the ride. This is the essence of the hero’s journey. The problem is that much of what we experience as screen entertainment doesn’t bother wit that higher expression and just caters to feeding ego from start to finish.

      Even if every peice of storytelling masterfully depicted the transition from us being in service to ourselves over others to being in service to the good of all (or some other incarnation of moving from ego to higher awareness) the sheer effect of us being shown going back to a so called ‘un-enlightened’ state, over and over throughout our lives is probably rewiring our brains through repetition and neuroplasticity. No wonder we keep going around in circles as a species.

      • I just can’t agree with that. I mean you talk about conflict in stories as if it’s a bad thing, but conflict IS story. That’s basically all it is, that’s it’s beauty – the meeting of contrasting elements. I mean I agree that hollywood is filled with worthless, or worse, dangerous bullshit – propaganda is rife throughout the history of literature/storytelling after all. Plus story is more of a mirror, a reflection of the state of humanity imo.

  5. One thing the story of star wars does, is show that those who sell themselves as heroes are actually the Imperial Elite. In other words those bombing Syria right now have been shown through the movies to be the corrupt. It’s analogous, it’s not by accident, and I am not sure many people get it. However, Hollywood has for years brainwashed us as to right and wrong. Wrongly so I would say. We are not so violent, so hateful as the movies would have us see. This is great place for starting a great debate.

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