Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The Star Wars franchise has attained a cultural currency far beyond its actual value as cinema. Applied to discussions of the traditional hero-myth, to political theory and race relations, and as the basis for a New-Age-for-people-who-think-they’re-thinking religion, the unstable foundation George Lucas laid long ago remains standing only by the power of his self-serving devotion to it. The only Force in George Lucas’ world, one might say, is George Lucas.

With that said, I can now inform you that after viewing the third and mercifully final installment of the prequel trilogy, I have discerned the true nature of Lucas’ vision. I now know what he is trying to tell us. And it is a shocking revelation: the entire di-trilogy has been building up to one irrefutable conclusion. The agenda? The promulgation of a phallo-centric celibacy.

Consider the evidence. First, the Jedi Council. Here we have a circle of men, devoted to their own faded conception of democracy, who not only harness the forces of life itself in the galaxy but wield fetishized representations of the phallus as weapons. This is to the detriment of their own survival, as one by one they are hunted down and killed by so-called “barbaric” implements called “guns.” The light saber, while visually effective, is obviously an outdated symbol of an order that refused to adapt to the superior technology of diversification.

The Jedi enforce adherence to this cult by obtaining their trainees at a young age, before passions such as anger or lust, or even the most basic personal attachments, can develop. Jedi Masters train their “Padawans” one on one, maintaining a close intimacy through years of Jedi instruction which last until the young recruit’s attainment of adulthood. Although women may become Jedi, none are shown in high position in the films. I am not arguing the particulars of Jedi organization, but rather the portrayal of such by Lucas in his films. Masters teach their charges all they know of the Light side of the Force (usually shorthanded to as “all I know,” which suggests a possibly crass yet telling comparison to sexual prowess), which involved not only harnessing this power of the universe for Good, which definition is usually predicated on the “feelings” of the Jedi in question, but in denying passions such as anger, fear, and yes, desire. All such passions are sublimated back into the dangerously isolated relationship of the Master and his Padawan (frequently referred to by Masters such as Obi-Wan as “my Padawan”; a strangely possessive turn of phrase for such an ostensibly ascetic order).

In the trajectory of Anakin Skywalker’s character arc we witness the perils of passion as his love and lust for Queen Amidala lead him to form attachments not permitted by the Council. These attachments and the attendant jealousy, fear of loss, and carnality lead Anakin to follow the path of the Sith, who ascribe to the more self-serving “Dark Side” of the Force. The desire to save his wife, to avenge his mother, to right the wrongs done to him cause Anakin’s fall. While the Sith still maintain the phallic weaponry and masculine-oriented worldview of the Jedi, the light sabers exhibited by them glow a bloody, passionate red and the hilts are frequently curved in a manner suggestive of potentially increased sexual pleasure.

Using the Force in service of these passions which, I argue, are considered by Mr. Lucas to be “base,” leads to a loss of appendages which needs little metaphorical interpretation. No fewer than 8 hands are lost to light saber damage in the course of the six films. This is suggests not only the obvious parallel to castration anxiety but a cruder rejection of the act of self-pleasure. Furthermore, Anakin in his transformation to Dark Vader experiences a loss of both arms and both legs. The fate of his genitals is indeterminate, based on the evidence on the screen.

In the broader view, there is an overall elongated and rounded cast to much of the architecture of Mr. Lucas’ world, a penchant for monolithic structures and smooth erectness. Worship the phallus, Lucas seems to say, but do not give in to its carnal power. It is too sacred, too powerful, and too elegant to be put to merely pleasurable ends. Only the evil may deal in absolutes, to paraphrase Episode III, but there is no middle ground to be had here. Our choices are celibacy or dismemberment, unless we want to align ourselves with such primitives as those who use guns and are therefore incapable of any kind of spiritual transcendence at all.


Lake Howell said...

this never ceases to delight me: i wish you would expand it to a full volume covering the entire sequence of films, including the Holiday Special and the Ewok movies.

Kris said...

You are so right. I never thought of that. Next book, I promise.