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Star Wars, The Hero’s Journey, and Multiculturalism

Rey-Finn-fleeLast week, countless nerds across the globe delighted in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer (our very own Tod commented on it, followed by Dan). Even apprehensive fans, having been burned by the last three films, appeared to actually be joyful to see another Star Wars film on the horizon.

Yet, all was not well in internet-land. Not only were some fans angry about this film’s release, they saw in it a representation of all they abhor in Hollywood. A handful of activists started #BoycottStarWarsVII to voice their disgust with the film’s racial makeup. Some even claimed the film was promoting “white genocide.”

Every media outlet had a field day pouncing on a handful of racial activists, making this little bit of Twitter-nonsense appear more significant than it is in actuality. As far as I could tell, the activists advancing the hashtag were unabashedly thrilled to be receiving such attention. Sites like the Daily Beast and Slate earned ample clickbait covering the “story,” and the activists had their names plastered across the Internet. Everyone won in this less-than-galactic battle.

This wasn’t the first time this group of Internet activists made a stink about a popular motion picture. When the new Mad Max film was released, the very same group complained that making the film’s protagonist a woman was just Hollywood feminizing a “man’s film” for the sake of cultural acceptance and appropriation. (Oddly enough, I found Fury Road to be rather antifeminist in its themes and arc, but that’s for another day).

Richard Spencer of Radix Journal has always been a sharper tool in the white nationalist arsenal than his blunter (and denser) allies. I’ve followed his rise on the Right for some time, and I’ll admit, I find myself agreeing with some of his points from time to time. Responding to the media storm that descended on #BoycottStarWarsVII, he argued against those shunning the film. However, he did write:

Liberals are getting mad at people for noticing something that is manifestly true—and something that was, no doubt, discussed in detail at the all-White and Jewish productions meetings in which the Force Awakens script and casting were hashed out. The galaxy is being diversified. And Hollywood is selling a post-White future, not through revenge fantasies like Django Unchanged, but through the nostalgia trip of a new Star Wars movie.

Clearly, there is a difference between recognizing the multicultural veneer present in Hollywood films and boycotting said films on principle. JJ Abrams has affirmed explicitly that he wanted a more racially diverse cast and the marketing of the film has capitalized on this element of it.

When The Lord of the Rings trilogy was released, some critics complained that the cast was not diverse and contained almost exclusively white actors. While I understand how movie-going audiences may wish to have their specific ethnic group represented in a film, I am perfectly content having said movie reflect the source material or historical era it derives from. The Lord of the Rings is inherently about European peoples, and making the cast racially diverse for modern marketing reasons would have been out of place.

Star Wars is a different story. While the core cast in the original trilogy was white, the universe around them was not. Casting demands and requirements were different in the ’70s than they are today, but the galaxy crafted in the narrative was meant to be diverse. It’s important to note that Lucas pulled from a slew of different cultures and traditions when he created the overarching universe. The philosophical ideas present in Star Wars are a hodgepodge of Eastern/Western concepts, and Lucas himself admits a great affinity for Samurai warrior culture and Kurosawa films. Having non-white actors take up leading roles in this universe feels entirely natural and consistent with the story’s original concepts.

There has been some talk on the alt-Right that the thematic narrative present in the film is distinctly European and thus unfitting for a female or black protagonist to partake in. I would challenge this appraisal of the hero’s journey as represented in Star Wars.

It’s no secret George Lucas was influenced by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. In the book, Campbell writes:

The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form – all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void. (Campbell, 2008)

A better definition of the Jedi’s journey has never been written (it unquestionably beats Lucas’ explanation for the Force in the prequels).

A few years back, I read Mariam Konate Deme’s Heroism and the Supernatural in the African Epic, a fine book that looks at convergent narrative themes present across African communities. Her research identified a recurring premise:

The hero’s journey to exile marks the beginning of his physical and psychological initiation that will prepare him for future leadership position. Driven from his community, “the hero leaves home because certain unbearable circumstances have arisen, and the purpose of this temporary exile is to prepare himself for the task of correcting those circumstances. (Kunene, Research in African Literatures 22, 2(1991): 219) (Deme, 2010, p.71)

She addresses The Ozidi Saga, where the protagonist’s journey begins while still in the womb of his mother. As a young man, he works to avenge the degradation (and death) of his father. Deme writes:

Therefore, while Ozidi’s journey is about avenging his father’s death and restoring his family’s noble name…[undertaking] both a physical and intellectual journey during which, [he] acquires the indispensable experience that will allow [him] to be better prepared for his future role as a leader. (Deme, 2010, p.72)

It is the trials the protagonist experiences in exile that prepare them for leadership and their eventual heroic return. Clearly, this narrative arc shares a great deal with Luke and Anakin’s character arcs, and from what I can gather from the trailers released thus far, The Force Awakens will have classic characters taking on roles of leadership with new characters entering a form of exile and embarking on their own quest.

Now that I am in my midlife with a family and a career, the trivial nature of many Internet controversies rarely concern me. Yet, Star Wars still holds a special place in my heart. I was fascinated by the original trilogy as a child and will defend those original films against their detractors. High art they are not, but fine cultural relics that still stand on their own merits. If a leading character being played by a black man offends some angry white nationalists, then by all means, they should boycott the film. It doesn’t say much of the “master race” that the casting of a space adventure in a galaxy far, far away produces such dread and drivel from its members.

(Image: STAR WARS VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS publicity)


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Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father just north of San Francisco who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular contributor at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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167 thoughts on “Star Wars, The Hero’s Journey, and Multiculturalism

  1. “Richard Spencer of Radix Journal has always been a sharper tool in the white nationalist arsenal than his blunter (and denser) allies. I’ve followed his rise on the Right for some time, and I’ll admit, I find myself agreeing with some of his points from time to time.”

    I just am having a hard time wrapping myself around this part. I feel like once you are getting involved in area’s of white nationalism, you lose all claims on being a sharp tool or intelligent. What points do you agree with Spencer on? How does he know the meetings were all white and Jewish? Where is his proof? Where is his evidence? Doesn’t it disturb you that he is willing to be openly anti-Semitic?

    The alt-right movement doesn’t seem very bright to me in general, I will agree with that. As I wrote before, they are praising Trump but don’t realize that in some ways Trump is a lot more socially liberal than the rest of the GOP. They seem to use Trump as an empty vessel (Trump probably encourages this to varying degrees). The neo-reactionary movement is also odd. Do they think they will be on top in a neo-reactionary political universe? How can they be so sure?

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    • I’m going to concur that the alt-right just like the SJW justice left, their mortal enemies, do not seem to be that intelligent. A lot of them might be technically intelligent, the read the books and have the degrees from elite colleges and universities, but demonstrate Orwell’s maxim that “there are some things so dumb that only intellectuals believe them.” They all seem to think that but for certain changes made during the mid-20th century, they would be kings.

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    • “What points do you agree with Spencer on?”

      I think his criticism of conservatism from a right-wing perspective is pretty interesting. He isn’t the first to do so, but his work was the one that introduced me to the idea that portions of “the Right” had little in common ideologically and ontologically with conservatism as conceived in America.

      Ironically enough, the Far Right and Far Left both put the issue of race at the heart of many political and social debates. There is a large swath of the liberal and conservative community in the US that would like to avoid race as a central characteristic (the BLM and Bernie Sanders people being a recent example of this that pops to mind). So when people are talking about “school choice,” there is a very large racial component that goes unsaid. I appreciate that Spencer is willing to bring up this element, especially because respectable conservative types want to just chew around the edges or avoid it completely.

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      • Spencer missed the point that the key word in show business is the second one. Star Wars had a practically all white cast in the first trilogy because America was a much more white country at the time and the international audience was of much less significance. The demographics in the United States have changed a lot since the 1970s and there is a lot of money to be made overseas these days. This requires a much more diverse choice in casting.

        And I see by his all White and Jewish comment, that Spencer is continuing a long line of Jew-baiting on the Far Right.

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  2. One argument I’ve encountered for having a more diverse casting for Lord of the Rings is that people of color are part of the West to now and they have equal right to the cultural heritage, folk tales, and mythology of the West. The BBC seems to take this line for at least some of their productions and this is why you can see black people cast as Friar Tuck, Queen Guinevere, or Venetian and French nobles to name a few. What is interesting is that Asian-British do not seem to be cast in the same color blind way as African-British people are by the BBC or British media companies.

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  3. Lord of the Rings does have dark-skinned racial minorities: they are the dehumanized, faceless masses from Harad and Khand that do the bidding of the dark lord Sauron. Sound familiar?

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  4. Good for you, Mr. Dodds, for being a white male and being able to comment on this. i am glad that you are comfortable with the “source material” being racially representative of the culture which created it. It is probably good that the vast majority of “source culture” is European. Unless, of course, you want to talk about travesties like the racist “Aladdin”. The source material was Arab, no?

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  5. Um. Wait, why exactly is Star Wars not high art?
    It’s in the National Film Registry, it’s screen play is listed as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, by the screenwriter’s guild.

    Is it just because it’s in SPACE?

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    • George Lucas considered the original trilogy to be children’s entertainment and family fun rather than high art. So we should take the word of the creator seriously.

      My more serious answer is that there is a big difference between a piece of media being of great cultural importance and being high art even though the lines can get very blurry. The problem isn’t that Star Wars takes place in space. 2001: A Space Odyssey takes place in space but it is also a piece of high art and culture. The biggest strike against Star Wars being high art is that it has been merchandized to death and high art is generally not something you can turn into toys. There aren’t 2001 action figures, corporate Halloween costumes, video games, cartoons, expanded book universes produced by companies for their own gain. Besides the original novel and one sequel; it stands by itself.

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      • “So we should take the word of the creator seriously.”

        The behind the scenes material form the prequels says it all. Lucas looks like a guy who just wants to see his computers make lots of laser swords hit each other on screen.

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      • high art is generally not something you can turn into toys. There aren’t 2001 action figures, corporate Halloween costumes, video games, cartoons, expanded book universes produced by companies for their own gain. Besides the original novel and one sequel; it stands by itself.

        IOW, high art, like medicine, is something no sane person wants any more than a single dose of.

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        • I make no claims regarding my sanity, but I note that I currently have a classical music station playing. I sometimes have other types of music playing, some of them recognizably commercial. I don’t know what “high art” is except as a marketing category, and something not even that. (2001 was, I believe, a commercially successful film.)

          I don’t find the high/low distinction particularly useful. I think it encompasses a lot of attitudes that are no longer current, if they ever were. We have the mental picture of Charles Emerson Winchester, who would never engage with low art, or would consider it a shameful lapse if he did. But talk to actual classical musicians and ask what they have on their IPods (or whatever the kids are using this week) and you will find it runs the gamut.

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          • I don’t find the high/low distinction particularly useful. I think it encompasses a lot of attitudes that are no longer current, if they ever were.

            And those attitudes were mostly *classism*, and nothing at all to do with the art.

            Ballet, for example. One of the super-high arts, right? And thus it…should be hard to understand? It should require a lot of work to understand?

            Except, of course, it’s not. Ballet performances are some of the *simplest* narrative stories ever told, mostly because they have to tell the frickin story in music and dance. Oh, look, it’s a beautiful woman, and she likes that guy, but the other guy takes her away. The first guy is sad, and she is sad, but then she escapes, and the first guy saves her, and they’re happy. That’s…literally the entire story. Not a summary of the story, the actual story. That’s like a three-year-old playing with dolls level of storytelling. (I mean, they managed to tell it *with no word at all*, which is an impressive technical feat, but my point is the story is completely trivial.)

            And let’s think for a second about classical music vs. pop music. Well, uh, one of those has words, which, in an absolute sense, seems to make it a bit more complicated and harder to understand. Is it even possible to *not understand* a orchestral performance?

            High brow vs. low brow has always, always, always been about the target audience, not about the actual content of anything. It used to be upper-class vs. lower-class, now it’s sorta ‘circle-jerking literary snobs vs. everyone else’.

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            • David,
              Would you like me to recommend a nice prizewinning author? I think he got sick of trying to appear highbrow. To quote him, “this porno is longer than Cinema Paradisio!”

              You can totally tell a kickass story using dance. Or is that martial arts at that point?

              Beethoven has made a few orchestral pieces that it is possible to not understand… you’re supposed to, as the audience, realize that the horns sound like they missed a cue. And, upon reflection (and deciphering the notation), you’re supposed to realize that Beethoven wrote it that way to embarrass them.
              If you’re not dealing with pranksters, most orchestral pieces are easy to understand (or if not understand, at least enjoy as written).

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              • If I were taking a friend with no background in classical music to a classical concert, I would choose the outdoor summer concert with the 1812 Overture and Ravel’s Bolero and Pachelbel’s Canon. Why? Because those are easy to understand. I mean this as neither praise nor criticism. Compare them with, e.g., the late Beethoven string quartets. I am fascinated by them, but I certainly don’t understand them. I wouldn’t take that non-classical music friend to one of them.

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                • We use so much classical music in our day to day reality that I don’t see how people can NOT be a classical music fan.

                  I mean, okay, maybe if you hate television and the movies….

                  But, so much background music is classical in nature. (even if I swear to god I had a few of the more pastoral European pieces as “these are Japanese” because the japanese love the hell out of them, and use them everywhere.).

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            • ‘circle-jerking literary snobs vs. everyone else’

              And we are back to classism. If you assume that everyone at a classical concert is just there to impress someone (perhaps themselves), but would really rather be at a rock concert (or whatever), then you really really don’t understand what is going on.

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              • If you assume that everyone at a classical concert is just there to impress someone (perhaps themselves), but would really rather be at a rock concert (or whatever), then you really really don’t understand what is going on.

                …I mention *literary* snobs and you decided to talk about music?

                Music high brow vs low brow barely even exists anymore, and when it does, it really just ‘older is better’ silliness (Whether ‘older’ is ‘Rolling Stones’ or ‘Beethoven’ depends), or ‘anything that is popular is dumb’ elitism where hipsters have to switch away from a band the second anyone’s heard of it.

                But no one’s running around trying to *teach* that nonsense, and everyone else rightly sees it as stupid.

                Likewise, I mention ballet as the ultimate high brow thing, but, uh, no one’s standing around saying we should all go to see ballet. (Well, except for ballet people.) Same with opera. If anyone starts talking about how high brow that is, it’s almost certainly some sort of joke, not a legit attempt to convince anyone to see it.

                The annoying bullshit is concentrated almost entirely in literature, which really is a circle jerk of people who have declared themselves experts of what sort of literature is important, so if you want to teach literature you have to agree that those sorts of literature are important. And it’s usually literature that is hard to understand so, of course, you need people to explain it to you, like them.(1) Any other literature is ‘low brow’.

                Film and TV, to a lesser extent, have become infected by this, but it’s harder for this stupidity to make headway there.

                1) In reality, art that is hard to understand is art that has *failed*. Now, sometimes this isn’t the art’s fault, language and society can change, but ‘non-understandable art’ is literally the *opposite* of the art we want to encourage.

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                • Ah, it was not clear that you meant to narrow the topic. I am currently reading, among other things, Rural Rides by William Cobbett, first published in 1826. I also mentioned elsethread Orlando Furioso, first published in 1516, which I have read of my own volition for personal pleasure. I could go on. Are you going to tell me my motivation for reading these?

                  I’m not saying the circle jerk phenomenon isn’t a real thing, but it is a thin line from this to assuming that everyone really shares your taste, which is unimpeachable, but many people out of one bad motivation or another pretend not to.

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                  • I am completely baffled as to why you seem to think I’m talking about your motivation at all. (And also why you’ve become hung up on age.)

                    When I see a self-perpetuating group of people running around defining the only books worth reading as books that people don’t normally read, and, moveover, the sort of books they happen to experts in and will gladly help explain to us…I will call it out.

                    They are the original hipsters, picking books that are not very interesting or easy to read. On purpose.

                    And somehow we *put them in charge of literary criticism*.

                    I have no idea if you are part of that group, and, moreover, I have no idea how many people in that group legitimately like the things they think are important. I don’t really care. Unlike *them*, I’m willing to let people *read* whatever they want without criticizing their behavior. Read Rural Rides. Read Tom Clancy. Read Twilight. I might criticize the actual books, but I will not criticize someone for reading them.

                    I’m just saying their opinions on ‘good literature’ are complete bullshit(1), their division into high and low brow is complete bullshit, and we should stop pretending those things mean anything at all.

                    1) There are very few objective ‘Is this good art?’ tests, but there are some, and the stuff they promote often fails one or both of the ‘Do readers generally understand the themes of the work?’ and ‘Can it hold an average person’s interest?’ tests, which are both pretty basic tests for art.

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                • High Art is like expensive wine. There is merit in it, and technical accomplishment, and enjoyment for those who’ve got the experience and education and the intelligence to find it. Without those three things, it looks like nothing more special than any other art, and can in fact descend to pretentious silliness (“This wine tastes like feet!” “Yes, and someone worked very hard to make that happen.”)

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                  • High Art is like expensive wine. There is merit in it, and technical accomplishment, and enjoyment for those who’ve got the experience and education and the intelligence to find it.

                    That is, quite likely, the best analogy I’ve ever heard, but probably not for the reason you think.

                    Why? Because expensive wine is a scam.

                    Once you get past the super-low-end stuff, no one can actually tell the difference between expensive and cheapish wine, and tend to rate the quality of wine almost *entirely* based on the cost and the label.

                    Yes, with a lot of training, someone can indeed make objective comments about the attributes of wine, like how much body it has and whatnot…but, the problem there is that all those attributes can easily be replicated by other wines, and aren’t actually hard to get deliberately, and certainly aren’t worth hundreds of dollars.

                    Basically, there’s no reason that any bottle of wine intended to be drunk should cost more than fifty dollars, because you can get any combination of tastes you like for well under that amount. If you think you can’t, you’ve been fooled by the *really expensive* piece of paper glued to the front of the bottle.

                    Wine, however, has been taken over by *exactly* the same sort of circle-jerking self-proclaimed experts running around trying to define what is good and bad (About what is a pretty subjective thing.), and, surprise surprise, it turns out the most *expensive* thing, aka, the thing hardest to get, is the best. So *they* can mock all those people who drink cheap wine.

                    So that is, basically, the best analogy I’ve ever *seen*. Kudos.

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                    • Have you ever had a wine taste like peanut butter?
                      Dry Wine is one of a few things that in general isn’t objective. Its flavors are so light that we get hallucinations of what we’re tasting. And those are culture-specific.

                      It is highly doubtful that you’ve ever had a wine taste like peanut butter, because you’re not South African, and the equivalent “taste” maps to something else in your brain.

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      • Are you sure that high art is incapable of commercialization? I mean, not on the scale of Star Wars, perhaps, but I don’t see any intrinsic reason that something like Treasure Island or a number of Dickens novels couldn’t be turned into toys if that sort of commercialization had existed when they were created.

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        • This is why I said that the lines can get very blurry. Many times high art can be turned into a commercial product. Fine arts are really good example. With a lot of hard work and a bit of good luck, you can make a lot of money in the high fine art world as an artist or merchant.

          I think a useful thing would to return to the concepts of high-brow, middle-brow, and low-brow. Low-brow art is accessible to the most people; they can see it and understand it without too much additional knowledge necessary. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t good or of high quality but simply that it is graspable. Star Wars would be low brow because anybody capable of understanding a good versus evil tale can get it. High-brow art is more of a struggle to get. Most people really can’t understand the works of Thomas Hardy without additional information because of the changes in the time. Even the most educated needs footnotes to really understand what is going on in the Divine Comedy and get all of Dante’s references.

          Incidentally, a piece of art can change between low, high, and medium through time. Charles Dickens started off as middle-brow novelist that middle class people read for entertainment and education. Thanks to the passage of time, he is now high brow. Unless you really like Victorian literature, your probably not going to pick up a piece of Dicken’s work for pleasure reading. His work shifted simply by surviving.

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          • Shakespeare intended everything that we can’t understand now to be easily recognizable parodies.

            Low brow, even if we can’t explain the politics anymore.

            Can I suggest something? Lowbrow is about emotions, Highbrow is about thought. Specifically, wordplay and cognitive flexibility, and all the refinements therein. By this thought, there may not be many Dramas that count, but there’ll be tons of Comedies in the Highbrow section.

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          • Charles Dickens started off as middle-brow novelist that middle class people read for entertainment and education….His work shifted simply by surviving.

            Which is why, all else equal, mass entertainment (like, say, Star Wars) is more likely in the future to become high brow; because one big reason Dickens survived, is because there was so damn much of Dickens printed, TO survive. The more popular something is – the more it is reproduced and quoted and referenced and cross-referenced – the more likely it will be remembered.

            In 100 years few will know Jonathan Franzen, but many will know Stephen King.

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          • So does that make football and baseball — with all their convoluted rules — high-brow? I mean, how many people can’t watch these sports without an ambassador of some sort to help make sense of it for them?

            I also think there is sometimes a tendency — especially within the “high-brow world” — to claim that something poorly executed is actually just too complex for people to get. They often decide beforehand what — or, more often, who — qualifies as high-brow and when people look at it and go, “WTF?” they say, “See?” But sometimes that shit is just shit.

            M. Night Shyamalan is a good example of this. His debut work got him labeled a genius and he was considered a great filmmaker. His next few pieces left people scratching their heads but there were still calls that people just weren’t getting it. Now he’s seen as a one-trick pony who made one or two good movies and a bunch of crap and thinking the rest were a bunch of crap doesn’t make you an idiot who doesn’t get it.

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            • I can’t really answer your question about sports because of lack of knowledge. A great athletic performance can be very moving like a well executed piece of dance or theater, so you can’t say that sports are not art. They clearly are. Sports does not fit well into the high, middle, or low brow extinction.

              Your second paragraph is true. A lot of what pases as high art is really bull shit pulled off in an Emperor Has No Clothes type trick. Some artists are really good at grift and separating rich people from their money while also having a lot of technical skill.

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              • Sports are not art.

                Please do not read that as any sort of criticism of sports. Sports simply do not fit inside the umbrella of art. Art exists for the purpose of causing emotions and expressing concepts in people consuming the art, sports is winning a competition within certain rules. They are not the same thing.

                Now, of course, when someone is *transmitting sports* with the intent of having someone else see them, *that* is a form of art. Running a live broadcast is a form of performance art, even when transmitting something that is not art.

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                • There is much artistry, however. A football pass (or a football catch) can be a thing of beauty. A well-done basketball dunk (for showboats) or a perfectly executed passing game (for true aficionados).

                  When watching Professional Wrestling, for example, we regularly say “oh, that was beautiful” or “ugh, that was ugly”.

                  Not that professional wrestling is a sport, of course. But it probably provides the best blurring of where sports and art overlap. It’s art that is supposed to look like a sport.

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                  • A football pass (or a football catch) can be a thing of beauty. A well-done basketball dunk (for showboats) or a perfectly executed passing game (for true aficionados).

                    A rainbow can be a thing of beauty too. But a rainbow isn’t art.

                    But it probably provides the best blurring of where sports and art overlap. It’s art that is supposed to look like a sport.

                    I think the best blurring of where sports and arts overlap are the ‘athletic performance art competitions’. Things like ice skating and gymnastics.

                    Those actually are sports *and* art at the same time, because the sport is ‘make the best of this sort of art’. (Hence the oft-heard claim those aren’t sports, but any athletic-based competition is a sport in my book.)

                    Professional wrestling, as you said, is just a performance art that is supposed to look like a sport. It’s really only impressive because it’s done live, but there’s lot of other places pretend sports happen live, like stage swordfighting and jousting at various medieval-themed places.

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                      • So the artifice is part of what makes art? (Oh, for a decent online etymology dictionary!)

                        *Intent* is part of what makes art. Intent for it to be art. Intent to have something beyond the obvious level.

                        A few days ago, using my cell phone, I took some pictures of a toner cartridge so I could remember the part number when ordering a new one.

                        Those were not art, as I was not intending them to be art. I was just recording a part number.

                        I also took a picture of a group of friends.

                        That *was* art, as I was intending to capture the emotions and memory of that moment.

                        Of course, it’s very easy for a photograph to be such bad art that people don’t get anything from them and don’t recognize them as art *at all*. ‘Oh, hey, a tree.’. Whether that is still ‘actually’ art, or if it’s possible to become ‘so bad at evoking anything it’s not art’, is debatable.

                        It is also possible for mere documentary photographs to end up having something else in them and actually cause emotions, and get mistaken for art. (The ultimate example is that monkey selfie, which almost certainly was not even intended to be a *photograph*, much less any sort of art. But people see art in it.) That often ends up *considered* as art, but isn’t, really.

                        But, anyway, art does not have to have ‘artifice’. If you see a rainbow and feel an emotion, and so you take a picture of it intending to capture that emotion, that picture is art, even though the rainbow was natural and not art.

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                        • *Intent* is part of what makes art. Intent for it to be art.

                          I wish I could track it down now, but I read a smart-guy artist plugged into the academic art community – I think he ran the department or something similar – who defined art as exactly that: art is any expression intended to be art. (Heh.)

                          I also just read an etymological definition on line (and I wish I could find this too) where person defined the contemporary meaning of the word “stupid” as deriving from the latin word meaning stupid. (Double heh!)

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                          • art is any expression intended to be art.

                            That’s…a dumb definition. I was trying to filter things *out* of art, not attempting to define ‘art’. It was like saying ‘murder requires the intent to murder someone, otherwise it’s not murder’.(1) It presumes you know what murder is to start with.

                            That guy, OTOH, failed some basic rules.

                            First rule of defining: You cannot use the word you’re defining in the definition of that word.

                            Also, first rule of teaching: Know how to give a basic definition of the damn subject you teach.

                            1) Which, yes, is not correct, but whatever.

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                    • But is “art” the only thing that lends itself to the high/middle/low-brow system? That is what I was getting at. If non-art can be high/middle/low-brow and we define that largely on accessibility, than many sports would qualify as high-brow. But I doubt folks would actually agree with that.

                      And as I think more about this, I keep coming back to the idea that “high brow”, “high culture”, or “high art” all require some degree of suffering. They can’t be easy. You have to work for them. They have to hurt. That is… weird to me.

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                      • And as I think more about this, I keep coming back to the idea that “high brow”, “high culture”, or “high art” all require some degree of suffering. They can’t be easy. You have to work for them. They have to hurt. That is… weird to me.

                        That is because, like I said, the entire concept is based in class.

                        Upper-class people can afford to spend their time and effort ‘working’ towards their entertainment. It’s a status symbol. And it lets them mock people who *don’t* have the energy to do that.

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                          • I agree. But at the same time, I think we can into some definitional/directional/chicken-and-egg type things.

                            We use the word “class” in different contexts to mean different things but we allow them to be conflated.

                            We talk about “socio-economic class”… which really means “economic class” but for some reason we tack “socio-” on there even though we really just want to know how rich or poor people are. But then we also use “class” or “classy” to define a particular set of behaviors — behaviors we tend to associate with those of higher economic class but which are neither inherent nor exclusive to those people.

                            So, at this point, I try to avoid using the term except in the strictest sense of “economic class” because the other definition feels fraught with moral and value judgements.

                            And, while I don’t disagree with you that there are “class” elements at play, I also think associating “high art” with “class” is problematic, because we are necessarily saying that the entertainment pursuits of the wealthy are higher — they are above that — of others. To which I say hogwash.

                            I know *YOU* guys aren’t saying that. But by using this language as you/we have, we’re sort of succumbing to that line of thinking.

                            tl;dr: Just because there is something that privileged people tend to do because their privilege allows them exclusive or greater access to it offers it no more artistic or moral value than any other thing.

                            I don’t believe that high art exists. Art exists. Art is art. It can’t be better or worse in any sort of objective, measurable sense. All we have is personal preferences and they tell us nothing more than what the individual in question happens to prefer.

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                            • I don’t believe that high art exists. Art exists.

                              Would you agree to a rephrasing: high art does exist, but it’s a social construct based on class and class identification and not defineable in non-class-based terms?

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                              • If you mean, “There is some subset of people will call some subset of art ‘high art’ and they will define this subset based on cultural and economic terms’ then, yes, ‘high art’ exists.

                                I just reject their definition and, with it, the idea that the thing they seek to define actually exists.

                                It’s like Big Foot. We have a rough definition of what Big Foot is. Some people insist Big Foot exists. And yet, Big Foot does not exist.

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                            • I also think associating “high art” with “class” is problematic, because we are necessarily saying that the entertainment pursuits of the wealthy are higher — they are above that — of others. To which I say hogwash.

                              No, we *aren’t* ‘necessarily saying’ that. In fact, I’m saying the exact opposite.

                              What *I’m* saying is the entire divisional system of ‘high’ and ‘low’ is complete and utter bullshit, based in classism.

                              Art is art. It can’t be better or worse in any sort of objective, measurable sense.

                              I disagree. A lot of how we *currently* measure art is nonsense, but there are certainly ways that art can *fail* at basic things that art should do.

                              Art’s first level should be comprehendable. In performance art, actors should speak clearly, and we should understand where things are happening. In literature, sentences should make grammatical sense and make it clear what is supposed to be going on. Those rules should only be violated to give a specific second-level effect.

                              Art’s second-level should also be *mostly* easy to understand. The audience should understand if something happening is supposed to be funny, or sad, or joyful, unless there’s some deliberate attempt to cause dissonance. If it’s a narrative, the audience should *want* specific outcomes, or at least understand the possible outcomes.

                              And, hell, I just came up with tests those literally off the top of my head.

                              A lot of ‘high art’, in fact, manages to screw those things up, often because the work is really old and the audience doesn’t understand specific words or the setting very well.

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                              • What I meant is that the idea that “classy” or “class” means something beyond “how much you make” is deeply problematic. I share your rejection of this notion. I was referring more to what “society” does.

                                As for the idea of art succeeding or failing, I think that largely has to do with the intent of the artist. I think art can (and should only be) judged against what the artist set out to do. Did the artist attempt to create something funny? Well, it succeeds or fails based on whether or not it makes you laugh. And because different people will react differently, it is hard to say that it ever fails or success objectively.

                                So I’m not sure I accept both your tests. If an artist wants to create something so complex that it takes years of study to even figure out what she is doing and years more to actually get at the meaning, hell, go for it, I say. However, she is going to severely limit her audience and, with it, her reach and influence. It will also be much harder to ascertain whether or not she succeeded. But I wouldn’t call it any less artful because most people won’t be able to scratch the surface of it.

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                                • Well, I might as well weigh in with a buck-twenty-five’s worth here.

                                  By one line of thinking, getting clear on what “high art” is requires getting clear on what “art” is, and then distinguishing between types of art. But no one’s ever come up with a definition of “art” that actually makes any non-question-begging sense, unless we reduce it something like “art is creative expression” or “the sublime” or somesuch.

                                  Personally, I think humans are creative, expressive organisms and whether or not some creative expression constitutes art (or high art, whatever) is quibbling over a distinction that only makes sense from the perspective of cultural analysis within existing institutional structures. So there are no facts of the matter regarding what’s art let alone high art, except that people do creative, expressive things which other folks get aholt of and enjoy, hate, promote, identify with, analyze, deconstruct, theorize about, categorize, etc based on their own subjectively determined cultural and individual experiences. And folks placed in the center or at the top of those cultural institutions will have a greater ability to make pronouncements about what constitutes “art”. (See: The Leisure Class.)

                                  So “high art” is defined, functionally, as whatever “high culture” views as art. And “high culture” can’t be defined, it seems to me, without recourse to class-based terms.

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                                  • A while ago Murali posted a “What is art?” thread. I stand by what I said then: art is the intentional demonstration of skill. Art that intends to demonstrate a skill that the artist lacks is failed art. Art may sacrifice some of its audience to demonstrate skills beyond the object level (for example, skill at titling paintings). Anything extra on the definition is the drawing of genre lines.

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                                • As for the idea of art succeeding or failing, I think that largely has to do with the intent of the artist. I think art can (and should only be) judged against what the artist set out to do.

                                  …I don’t understand how you think art is judged? Are you saying we shouldn’t treat a horror movie as a *really bad* comedy?

                                  I’m pretty sure people aren’t doing that.

                                  Did the artist attempt to create something funny? Well, it succeeds or fails based on whether or not it makes you laugh. And because different people will react differently, it is hard to say that it ever fails or success objectively.

                                  Art exists in the actual world. It is seen by actual people. Those people, on a whole, have an impression of it. And the job of a critic is to act as the average viewer and say whether or not this is something that people would like.

                                  Some parts of this are, indeed, objective. Sometimes the art technically fails…there’s a boom mic in the frame, or the CGI is obvious, or the perspective is incorrect, or the book constantly misspells words.

                                  And just because other parts are subjective doesn’t mean they can’t be judged. If a comedian is getting a few tiny chuckles and otherwise dead silence…yes, some people might like his stuff a little, but he’s still *failed*. His act was, on average, bad.

                                  Now, there are *actual* subjective things in art that people *shouldn’t* criticize art for…there are genres that don’t appeal to everyone, mediums that don’t appeal to everyone, etc. And, yes, it would be really stupid for someone who dislikes hiphop to, uh, operate as a music critic and claim every hiphop they came across was horrible.

                                  But, again…I’m pretty sure people aren’t doing that. If they are, no one is listening to them.

                                  What *is* possible, however, even with ‘subjective’ things, is to come to some sort of consensus on then.

                                  I don’t know why ‘it’s subjective’ is such a repeated excuse in art, when it doesn’t work anywhere else. ‘The food this restaurant serves tastes like crap!’ ‘Taste is subjective!’ ‘Everyone here thinks it tastes like crap.’ ‘TASTE IS SUBJECTIVE!’

                                  But I’m still going to say the food tastes like crap. As will everyone else.

                                  (You know what has always struck me as funny? When kids in high school are forced to read some utter crap like ‘A Separate Peace’ or something, and then have to answer a test where there is a question like ‘What is theme of this story?’. Guys, if the reader can’t tell you the basic theme of the story, that’s *your work’s* fault, not the reader’s. Perhaps you should stop choosing long and boring stories that modern readers can’t figure out.)

                                  . If an artist wants to create something so complex that it takes years of study to even figure out what she is doing and years more to actually get at the meaning, hell, go for it, I say. However, she is going to severely limit her audience and, with it, her reach and influence. It will also be much harder to ascertain whether or not she succeeded. But I wouldn’t call it any less artful because most people won’t be able to scratch the surface of it.

                                  Okay, maybe that’s the problem there.

                                  I didn’t say someone shouldn’t make whatever art they want.

                                  I said it would be *bad art*. Or, if you like, failed art. The point of art is to get a message across.

                                  If someone wants to create art that fails *at* arting, they can go right ahead, I’m not the art police. But, at the end, I reserve the right to say ‘That doesn’t seem to work every well as art. No one seems to get what you’re trying to say.’.

                                  And, yes, three people *might* get it, and maybe the artist is happy with those three people. But I’m not quite sure how that is relevant to how *everyone else* talks about that art.

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                              • For “modern” art, the issue of “if you saw this sitting next to a dumpster, would you take it home?” test is a good one.

                                If you saw Joseph Ducreux pointing at you next to a dumpster, you might take it home and put it up.

                                If you saw Fountain sitting next to a dumpster, you’d probably leave it there. Unless you needed a urinal, I suppose.

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                  • A few years ago, staying at an uncle’s house. Open floor plan. Unca and his buds in the living room watching football. Auntie and her friends in the kitchen discussing soap operas. Me sitting at the bar, in the middle, completely at sea on both topics.

                    What struck me was how amazingly similar the two conversations were: “Can you believe he did that?” “What will happen next?” “What does that mean for the future?” With the bleeping of just a couple of pertinent nouns and verbs, the two conversations would be nearly identical.

                    The NFL is, to a great extent, soap opera (vice versa is not true). People relate to sports in much the same way that people relate to soap opera. Soap opera is art. Sports is art.

                    “…sports is winning a competition within certain rules…” Nope. You are confusing “games” with “sports.”

                    Is “sports” great art? How would I know? I, quite honestly, can’t tell you what “red-shirt freshman” means. But it’s art all right. And great art or not, it is certainly high drama.

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                    • “…sports is winning a competition within certain rules…” Nope. You are confusing “games” with “sports.”

                      Okay, this is literally the second time in this discussion I’ve *compared* something to something else using the word ‘is’, and someone has decided that that ‘is’ meant I was giving a *definition* and that they should point out it wasn’t a full definition.

                      I *know* that.

                      The difference between sports and art is that sports is trying to win a competition using certain rules, and art is trying to do something else. That is the *difference* (Or at least, *a* difference.) between the two: The differing goals of people doing the thing.

                      To be a sports there are also *other* requirements (It has to be an athletic-based competition, for the most obvious) which *were not relevant* to my point.

                      ‘The difference between snakes and dogs is that snakes are cold-blooded and dogs are warm-blooded.’
                      ‘You’re confusing dogs with mammals!’

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                      • I’m such non-sport guy that I had to Google to make sure I knew who McMahon was. Ah! Thought so. Pro wrestling. There’s a big Fantasy Island-type atoll that sits right under the very broad causeway between sports and soap opera, and that would be pro wrestling.

                        But what about the NFL and the NCAA and the rest?

                        Here’s something from Merriam-Webster:

                        1. a serial drama performed originally on a daytime radio or television program and chiefly characterized by tangled interpersonal situations and melodramatic or sentimental treatment.

                        Football or “Days of Our Lives”? You decide. ;)

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                        • Professional sports are interesting, because that thing you see on TV?

                          That *is* art. That’s not the sport. The sport is the thing on the field, not how it’s presented to you on TV.

                          What is on TV is art created by broadcasting the sport, and art created by talking about the sport, and so on.

                          It has similarities to a documentary. Documentaries, in theory, are just recording things that happen, so wouldn’t logically be art, anymore than a surveillance video is art.

                          Except that is completely wrong, and, in what I can’t call anything but ‘arting’, documentaries take a bunch of facts and videos of real things, and turn them into art, with emotions, and usually some sort of semblance of plot, even if the conclusion is a bit unsatisfactory because real life refuses to do those correctly.

                          And that is what the entire entertainment industry organized around professional sports does also. It turns the facts of sports into art, even if sometime inexplicably the story is a bit dumb.(1)

                          And professional wrestling is exactly the same thing, except the sport is pretend. Which means you get *much* better plotlines and conclusions.

                          1) Promising new rookie with a disadvantaged upbringing shows up! He has a bad start. Later, he…uh…is let go. He then vanishes from the story. (Wait, wasn’t he supposed to have some sort of comeback and prove himself? What sort of dumbass story is this?)

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                            • For me, it is important to differentiate between “game” and “sport.” We all, at some point or another, play games. All primates, particularly young ones, play games. Games are natural. We can make them complicated with lots of rules and inventions and different shaped balls and fields and cameras — but it is still a game.

                              TV broadcasting of games is sports (wow, weird grammar). As are the other business surrounding the games, such as the NFL or NCAA. Those things take the game and make it a sport.

                              Folks running around with balls and having fun is a game. Broadcasting, organizing, league-ing — that’s sports.

                              For some reason, for me, that’s an important distinction. Perhaps I have a bit of angst about the fact that all that “sport” stuff — and I mean ALL of it — gets in the way of me enjoying people playing a game.

                              And yeah, I’m one of those commie bastards who would like to see 99% of the money spent on college “sports” spent on college “hospitals,” and the other one percent spent on a booth where college kids could check out balls and bats and such and on someone to mow a big piece of yard to play on.

                              Wow. It just occurred to me. I’m an old curmudgeon shouting: “You kids get on my lawn!”

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                          • I like your comment about documentary film. I have made many docs (almost all nature films) and never connected them to my feelings (see rant below) about sports vs. games.

                            The docs are indeed art. It is amazing what can be done in the editing room with even bland, dull footage. Big-time art. Lovely, effective art, at its best.

                            But I never confused the art of the nature film with nature. As much as I liked doing the films, I have alway far preferred a walk in the woods. Reality vs. art perhaps. And that really echoes my feelings vis-a-vis games vs. sports.

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  6. I would very much like for you to expand on your thoughts of Fury road a bit because I, a lot of left wingers and a significant number of feminists thought that Fury Road was not only not an anti-feminist movie but was one of the best/most feminist mainstream movies in recent times.

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  7. To treat this subject with the dignity it deserves, it must be pointed out that, in their final scene in the first Star Wars film produced, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen were black.

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  8. There has been some talk on the alt-Right that the thematic narrative present in the film is distinctly European and thus unfitting for a female or black protagonist to partake in.

    I was unaware that, historically, there were no women in Europe.

    I learn something new every day.

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    • I am glad I am the first one to enlighten you about this.

      Yes, that should be rephrased. I meant to say the European narrative arc often entails a man rising above evil forces, not that women are not present in said narratives.

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      • Princess Leia, however, being decidedly spunky was a commentary on the traditional trope of the helpless princess waiting for her hero to save her.

        Not, by the way, that this was anything like new. In Orlando Furioso there is a scene where the two men are fighting over who gets the fair Angelica. They go at one another quite enthusiastically, but after a while they notice that Angelica has left, so they team up to find her. This is from 1516, and is a commentary on the conventions of the chivalric romance of the day.

        I suspect that if I knew more about Roman literature I could site examples from Plautus or the like.

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  9. There still aren’t any Jewish Jedi or Roma characters in the Star Wars universe. Never mind that this would make no sense. If the Star Wars team was truly dedicated to multiculturalism we would have Jewish and Roma characters somehow. ;).

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  10. Why I want to scream:

    The original Star Wars movies included the following types of characters:
    – Green stumpy guy who spoke in riddles
    – Giant furry guy who roared
    – Talking robots
    – Women who shot guns
    – Guys who looked like they had fish for heads
    – Other assorted “alien creatures”

    No one seemed to raise an eyebrow.

    Suddenly we get a Black protagonist and it is all, “Woh woh woh… let’s not get ridiculous”?

    YODA WAS FUCKING GREEN!!!

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    • Racists are funny in their own evil way and none of the above were linked romantically with a white woman; which I’m really sure is at the root of the Boycott Star Wars campaign. Now, I don’t know if our two protagonists enter into a romantic relationship because I’ve only seen the preview. Hollywood isn’t that original though. When you have two leads of different genders who are unrelated in a Hollywood movie they tend to end up in a romantic relationship. When you look at the rawer elements of the Boycott campaign, this seems to be their biggest fear; that a young Black man is going to end up in a romantic relationship with a young White woman. They wouldn’t like a White man with a Black woman either but they would be less rattled.

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    • The other funny part is that the shoe dropped on the “black guys in Star Wars” thing about twelve years ago when “Attack Of The Clones” came out, and we learned that all the stormtroopers were clones of a black guy.

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        • I think the real reason no one *actually* had that objection is the one I pointed out when I heard people saying people were having that objection. (That sentence does make sense.)

          Namely, that it’s been 60 frickin years. None of those stormtroopers can *possibly* be the original clones. (Humans live longer and age slower in the SW universe, but, uh, not that much.)

          Now, I guess it’s hypothetically possible that the Empire might have kept the production running, but we’ve got no evidence of this. In fact, considering Luke wants to *be* a stormtrooper at the start of the movies, we’ve got evidence that, regardless of whether the clone production is still running, there are non-clones in that also. (Or Luke is a moron.)

          In fact, there was an interesting discussion back when the prequels came out and we learned that stormtroopers were originally clones, and most people *back then* concluded that they probably weren’t by the time of A New Hope. There’s really no reason that anyone would know *enough* to have seen the prequels and that they were clones, but not realize that might not be true 30 and then 60 years later. That’s just a special kind of stupid.

          So it’s not actually surprising that outrage was mostly made up.

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          • Luke wants to *be* a stormtrooper at the start of the movies

            Does he? How have I missed that? He wants to get off Tatooine, yes, but I don’t recall him ever expressing a desire to be an Imperial footsoldier.

            stormtroopers were originally clones, and…probably weren’t by the time of A New Hope.

            Huh. I assumed that they still were, hence Leia’s “aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper” line to Luke?

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            • I guess it depends on whether the references to “the Academy” for sure imply “Imperial” Academy (rather than a flight academy, or some sort of prep school).

              Still, even if the Academy is definitely Imperial, that doesn’t necessarily mean he wanted to be a stormtrooper; presumably there’s jobs other than footsoldier/cannon fodder to be trained for, and we know he wants to be a pilot.

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            • I assumed that they still were, hence Leia’s “aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper” line to Luke?

              Hahaha, no.

              In a Watsonian reading, if people want to think that line referred to the clones, they can. (Although technically Mark Hamill, at 5’9″, is *taller* than the actor that played the clones, Temuera Morrison, who is 5’7″.)

              In a Doylist reading, uh, basically none of the Star Wars universe existed, as it currently does, during the first movie. Likewise, quite a lot of the prequel universe hadn’t been decided on during the latter two movies.

              In fact, for the longest time in the EU, the clone wars were assumed to be involving clones *fighting* the Empire. Granted, Lucas never said it was that way, but he never bothered to step in and say it wasn’t, either. Which leads to the conclusion that, frankly, he never even bothered to figure out who was on what *side* until he started scripting the prequels, much less that the stormtroopers were the aforementioned clones. (Something that probably would have come up at *some* point during the original trilogy.)

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  11. DavidTC: EDIT: I also can’t figure out, since they were looking for the *droids* that that family purchased, why the hell they killed them and then left. We don’t know what anyone said, but it’s hard to figure out exactly why they would do that.

    Maybe the stormtrooper commander was cast from the mold of Ser Amory Lorch? brutality in a civil war doesn’t have to be a rational choice by the actor involved to be plausible.

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      • No, I get why they would kill them *afterwards*.

        But killing them *before* getting the data is amazingly stupid, and then just *leaving*…I can’t possibly figure out how that made sense.

        The only thing I can figure out is they were *extremely lazy*.

        ‘Well, this family had the droid with the data, but it let with their kid. We *could* kill them and hide inside and wait for him…or we could just burn the place down, claim the droid was inside, and go into town…I know this *great* bar. They have live music.’

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          • My god, it explains everything.

            (In Luke’s little droid repair room. Owen is being held at blasterpoint, Beru cowers in corner)
            Stormtrooper #1: Tell us where the R2 unit is, unless you want this to happen to you. (nods to #2)
            (stormtrooper #2 fires a shot towards droid with bad motivator that Luke was working on earlier. the shot misses, bounces off the floor, hit Aunt Beru, who collapses)
            Uncle Owen: You bastard. (starts to move towards #2)
            Stormtrooper: #1: You stay back, or she gets another! (waves his blaster toward Beru, it goes off, missed her, and hits Uncle Owen) Uh, crap.
            Stormtrooper #2: (checks Beru’s pulse) She’s alive! (starts dragging her behind him out of burning building)
            Stormtrooper #1: (grabs Owen and starts pulling him out too) Him too! We’ll wake them up and interrogate them outside.

            Thanks to the protection of the stormtrooper armor (Hey, it has to be good for something), they completely fail to notice the ceiling collapse on both Owen and Beru’s bodies as they drag them out, burning them to a cider. When they get outside, they turn around, look down at the burnt bodies, shrug comically at each other, and walk away.

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          • Dark Helmet: Careful you idiot! I said across her nose, not up it!

            Laser Gunner: Sorry sir! I’m doing my best!

            Dark Helmet: Who made that man a gunner?

            Major Asshole: I did sir. He’s my cousin.

            Dark Helmet: Who is he?

            Colonel Sandurz: He’s an asshole sir.

            Dark Helmet: I know that! What’s his name?

            Colonel Sandurz: That is his name sir. Asshole, Major Asshole!

            Dark Helmet: And his cousin?

            Colonel Sandurz: He’s an asshole too sir. Gunner’s mate First Class Philip Asshole!

            Dark Helmet: How many assholes do we have on this ship, anyway?

            [Entire bridge crew stands up and raises a hand]

            Entire Bridge Crew: Yo!

            Dark Helmet: I knew it. I’m surrounded by assholes!

            [Dark Helmet pulls his face shield down]

            Dark Helmet: Keep firing, assholes!

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  12. DavidTC:
    Once you get past the super-low-end stuff, no one can actually tell the difference between expensive and cheapish wine, and tend to rate the quality of wine almost *entirely* based on the cost and the label.

    Thus the “order the second-cheapest bottle on the wine list” rule. Once you filter out the obvious swill, there’s no reason to go much higher in price, if at all.

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    • Yeah.

      There are really two qualities of wine. Extremely low quality, and everything else.

      Extremely low quality wine has grapes grown in places they shouldn’t be grown and/or fermented with oak chips instead of barrels.

      The cheapest wine on a menu is often that, but packaged up as if it’s *not* that. Because wine producers and restaurants know people who do not know anything about wine will often order the cheapest wine.

      If you actually wish to buy very low quality wine, that’s what Two Buck Chuck is for. Don’t buy it at $2 a glass at a restaurant.

      My point was just, once you get *past* that level, there is really no reason that specific wines should cost more than other wines. I mean, there are probably are variants in the cost of production, but that cost has no impact on *quality*.

      Wine costs basically works the same as art costs. Average people, when presented in with one Picasso painting and one done in the same style, cannot point to the Picasso one. And they can tell the difference between two different wines, but can’t state which one is the super-expensive one.

      *Experts* have trained enough to know the actual Picassos that exist, so can exclude paintings done merely in the style of, but even they almost never can tell a Picasso from a *forgery* of that painting by sight, except maybe if they’re an expert in that specific painting. And experts can taste a wine and *exclude* it from being one of the super-expensive ones they know of, because none of them taste like that, but if it does taste like one, they can’t tell if it’s that or a knockoff intended to taste like it…unless they are some sort of expert in that particular wine…*maybe*.

      Of course, expects can do all sorts of *tests* with computers and whatnot and tell them apart, which is all well and good for things you’re buying as an investment to keep around, but absolutely gobstoppingly insane to worry about when the entire point is to *consume* it, at which point you logically want the *cheapest* thing that tastes like you want wine to taste.

      (This is, of course, assuming that the combination of super-expensive wine *actually tastes the best*. This is pretty conclusively not true, because if it was the knockoffs of those wines would be much better selling than just ‘normal wine’. Often, the really expensive stuff has a distinctive taste, aka, tastes a bit weird. Which is a bonus if the point is to broadcast how expensive you are, but sorta stupid WRT actual *taste*. It’s like how no one cares that Ferraris often fail at the actual ‘car’ thing.)

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