This is Plinkett, and he’s pretty angry about The Phantom Menace. His “review” mostly consists of an hour-and-a-half lambasting of George Lucas, Jar Jar Binks, and young Anikan’s crappy acting. The movie was released in 1999, and he’s still fuming. He’s not alone either. Multitudes of forty year old Star Wars fans share his hate of that “floppy eared frog thing”, so many that a film was made as testimony against the sins of George Lucas. This is because, unlike me, the first Star Wars movie they saw was A New Hope. They saw it in 1977, and they were as young as I was when I saw The Phantom Menace and just as entranced by lightsabers, space-ships, and Jedi’s. They fell in love with the saga, and when the third installment came out in 1983 they impatiently waited for their next Star Wars fix. They waited sixteen years, now long past anything resembling childhood, to be massively disappointed by the Phantom Menace. Every nit-picking detail was torn apart, every single plot-hole, bad line, and Gungan was heralded as the “rape of their childhood.” Their former love for the man that had given them the saga that had shaped their lives was transformed into a deep-seated hatred. How and why did Lucas screw them over so badly?
For an American, taking part in the political-economy of the mass market is a sacred act. It has gone beyond simply trading for what is needed for survival, even entertainment, and passed into the realm of a cultural ritual. Like the cannibalism of Papa New Guinea, the obsession with media is ritualistic. Taking part in media, and thus your culture, is very important to an individual. They latch on to what they see, deriving values and morals and norms from the pictures on the various screens that take up their day. The movie is one of the biggest and most important mediums for media consumption. Television is every day, internet is every day, but movies are once in a while. More exciting and more important, movies are always heavily advertised and the talk of the town when they come out. People latch on to them, love them.
The young children, now in their forties, lining up to see Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977 were entranced and enchanted with their first participation in a culture rocking media event. Star Wars was huge, and it still is, but when it came out it was described as a “craze” and “phenomenon.” For those youths caught in the original trilogies glow and splendor the excitement could not have been more palpable. They not only “bought in” to the idea of space wizards, the literally bought in: Action figures, play sets, toy lightsabers, Han Solo Halloween costumes and tons of x-wing Lego sets. The usually commonplace, ritualistic consumption of media captured them because of their young age, their first experience with the political-economy was like losing their virginity, and everybody remembers their first time.
Old and tired and haggard by life, the same youth who played countless hours with their star wars action figures reject the new Star Wars as blasphemy. When their kids saw Jar Jar it was a funny frog dude. When they saw Jar Jar it was a stupid, convenient character to make into an action figure. When their kids saw the super cool Jedi light speed to escape the droidekas lasers, they saw a plot hole covered with convenient CGI. When their kids saw the must-have Obi-wan with kick twist action, their parents thought “9 dollars?!? That’s robbery!” While their kids saw a space epic they saw a vehicle for merchandise, a commodity to be bought and sold on the marketplace like a barrel of oil.
The parents of today cannot accept that the “garbage” their kids are eating up is the same garbage they ate up. They do not and will not see the original trilogy for what it was: a vehicle for merchandizing, product placement, and corporate profit. Even though those things are equally true for both trilogies, they choose to believe that CGI, Jar Jar, and George Lucas are responsible for the love they did not feel for The Phantom Menace. So they make reviews and criticize Lucas at every turn, their anger and hatred burning into frustration at inconsequential characters, computer generations, and plot-holes instead of their childhood memories.