A recent social media campaign calling for a boycott of the latest edition to the Star Wars film series claims the movie promotes hatred of and violence against white people. While these incendiary charges are full of interpretations that are at best hyperbolistic, there are far better reasons to boycott the entire franchise.
Franchise would be the proper term here, as the Star Wars series has always been much more than some movies, but part of a large scale marketing campaign to sell an endless trove of collectible junk. While it was not the first cinematic offering to extend itself into a cross marketing campaign of goods based on its characters and themes, it was perhaps the first to be so successful at doing so. Even as a child I observed that liking the movies was not enough. You had to prove how much you liked it by having more Star Wars swag than the other kids in your neighborhood or school, and getting it first. These products became status symbols for an entire generation of young men who learned through this marketing campaign that your worthiness to others and yourself could be measured by what you owned. Star Wars became an accelerated course in rampant mindless consumerism aimed at children.
More symbolic buffoonery was also hidden within the Star Wars phenomena. Star Wars came to represent intelligence. Because society had observed that geeks and nerds flocked to science fiction, aligning yourself with that genre was a way of identifying as a geek or a nerd, which obviously made you smart. And since it had rolled up a hundred years of that genre into a slick package easily digestible by the general public, it was the proverbial honey you take with a bitter pill. Which is exactly what good science fiction, with its complex speculative themes and explorations into humanity, ethics and morality, is. Yet rather than swallow that pill, the public just sucked the honey off and patted themselves on the back for being one of those intelligent nerds/geeks who ‘got it’.
With its faux science fiction veneer, it also became a champion for ideologies about technology and science. By equating these status symbols with intelligence wrapped in science, it made a powerful cultural statement about scientistic ideologies and beliefs. Nevermind that it never actually promotes any actual science or the rational underpinnings of the empirical method. Merely aligning oneself with anything appearing even remotely sciencey soon became a cool thing to do, which has led us away from an understanding of what science is and does and why, and into the vast dogmatic worldview of scientism. Just as Star Wars helped to sell science fiction to mainstream audiences using an inferior replica of the actual thing, it also contributed to the cultural tendency to acquiesce to the knowledge of all things even labeled science, regardless of whether it is or not.
The symbolic suggestions contained in Star Wars don’t stop there. An ideology of dark/light, good/evil, etc. promoted the dangerous tendency of humans to think in false dichotomies. The binary logic which traps the thinking of so many people is evident all throughout Star Wars. To oversimplify any subject into a question with only two possible answers has been the folly of almost every wacky belief system humans have ever devised. From the Heaven or Hell of Abrahamic religion to racism to two party politics, the THIS or THAT and nothing else way of thinking has been one of our species greatest obstacles. Yet that entire fallacious dichotomizing is a central tenet of the Star Wars universe and the films help to validate these toxic ways of thinking by making them appear grandiose and heroic; and by implanting them in the head of the films target audiences- children.
In so many ways, even if the George Lucas or anyone else ever intended them to be, these films serve as little more propaganda for some of the least enlightened parts of the contemporary world. And even worse, they are designed for consumption by children, who then reinforce these ideas through rampant materialism at a lovely profit to those who shove this trash out there.
However, none of these reasons or all of them combined is as valid as this single reason for boycotting Star Wars films. They fucking suck. The entire series, from the very beginning, cannibalizes older science fiction themes and devices in a way that dumbs them down and strips them of meaning. It is full of terrible one-liners, childish gimmicks and coated in a sparkly cover of special effects that appeal to the sort of boyish minds that like to see things burn and explode. The characters are all shallow and two dimensional. The plot devices are paper thin and see through. And the entire package comes together not so much as an homage to truly great science fiction, but rather as an affront to the possibilities that genre has always offered in the way of making you think. Star Wars doesn’t ask you to think. It asks you to buy and be a loyal repeat customer.
The people who make Star Wars think you are dumb and want to capitalize on that. The only thing more sad than that is how many times film-goers and collectors prove them right. Prove them wrong, #boycottstarwars