Everyone knows that George Lucas has had a disproportionately large impact on our society. His "Star Wars" films have, over the last 33 years, become one of the globe's primary cultural touchstones.
Suppose you found yourself in a standoff with someone from a country or way of life that wants to harm you. If you suddenly said something like, "Luke, I am your father," you both would probably break up laughing.
But a film expected to make its world debut at the South by Southwest film festival next month in Austin, Texas, suggests that there's a bit of a standoff that's been going on for years between Lucas and the many, many fans of his films and other projects.
"'The People vs. George Lucas' is a no-holds-barred, no stone unturned, completely uncensored, yet balanced cultural examination of the conflicted dynamic between the great George Lucas and his fans over the past three decades," a synopsis for the film begins. "Chock-full of impassioned interviews, stop-motion and 3D animation, Super 8 action figure films, puppet rants, and many other surprises, this unique participatory [documentary] is the ultimate expression of the fans' obsession for a man and a universe that defined an entire generation."
Since the film isn't out yet, it's hard to know exactly how this will turn out. But the trailer (seen below) suggests that what it's really about is a clash between fans' love for the original three "Star Wars" films and their utter distaste for the later prequels that Lucas made. A particular target of the fans' wrath seems to be the notorious Jar-Jar Binks, whom everyone loves to hate.
One scene from the trailer shows two enthusiastic street performers singing their song, "George Lucas raped our childhood." And another has a sixtysomething academic speaking about how Lucas "is a little devil disguised as a false prophet."
But the film's director, Alexandre Philippe, also seems to be making the point that there are plenty of people who think that a narrative entirely focused on reviling Lucas for destroying his own masterpiece is a bit far-fetched. One French talking head in the trailer says, "The hatred that people claim they have for the new films proves how profoundly they love them," while an English observer notes that Lucas didn't rape anyone's childhood.
Watching the trailer, it reminded me of the recent documentary about Mac culture called "MacHeads." The look and feel, at least, seem very similar, and "MacHeads" made somewhat of the same point about there being a love/hate relationship between the fans of the iconic computers and their manufacturer, Apple.
The George Lucas film in the meantime may force "Star Wars" fans to confront their feelings about Lucas and the later films, and that may be a good thing. Fans may need to examine why they feel so strongly about how the franchise has crumbled, at least artistically, and to ask themselves why they care so much.
Is it because they resent something they care so much about being exploited for commercial gain? If so, they should remember that the first three films were financial juggernauts. Or is it because they can't imagine why Lucas would make such bad films the second time around? That is a much fairer question.