Need to catch up on a couple of recent news items related to that far, far away galaxy. First up, you've probably already heard Lost co-creator and Star Trek reboot director J.J. Abrams will be helming the next Star Wars movie:
If for some reason you haven't heard, it was announced earlier today that the mega-director will direct Star Wars 7.
"It really is an incredible thing," Abrams just told me on the red carpet at the Producers Guild of America Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Even more so, he said, "It's wildly surreal."
Get used to non-answers like the above, as Abrams is notoriously close-mouthed when it comes to his productions. This should make for a fun give-and-take as rabid fanboys attempt to get behind the scenes scoops and Disney threatens to sue everybody.
Once upon a time, I would've welcome any news regarding the next Star Wars movie. That was before midichlorians, Hayden Christensen, and NOOOO! Disney's acquisition of the property is probably a good thing, but at this point it's way too early to get your hopes up. Now, about that racism thing.
It seems the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria has a bone to pick with Lego over a Star Wars model set it says is a racist depiction of one of Turkey's most famous mosques:
The anger was provoked by "Jabba's Palace", a model of the home of Jabba the Hutt from Lego's Star Wars product range based on the blockbusting series of science fiction films.
Jabba is the large slug-like creature who holds Han Solo captive in the film Return of the Jedi, and his palace is the setting for several crucial scenes, including using Princess Leia as his slave.
Jabba's domed home and accompanying watchtower bear, according to the statement, an unwanted resemblance to Istanbul's great Hagia Sophia, and another mosque in Beirut.
The TCC didn't have a problem with the Hagia Sophia on display in the awful Taken 2, presumably because they approved of the wanton slaughter of Albanians depicted therein.
Anyway, here's Hagia Sophia:
And here's Jabba's Palace:
Case closed, right? They both have those ... dome thingies, so clearly Lucas and his running dog lackeys at Lego have conspired to besmirch this ancient edifice and bring dishonor upon all of Turkey.
Not really. The Cultural Committee is pretty obviously wrong that Jabba's Palace is based on the former cathedral/mosque. What they're right about, however, is the pervasive racism in the Star Wars universe.
Let's just get this out of the way:
The Galactic Empire, with their sharp-dressed yet poorly trained shock shock troops and totalitarian aims, have long been established as based on Nazi Germany. George Lucas apparently felt using space Nazis as the bad guys absolves him of any responsibility for making just about every other race in the Star Wars universe an alleged stereotype. For example:
Jar Jar Binks I don't see the entire Gungan race as represented poorly in the prequels (or The Phantom Menace, anyway), just Jar Jar. Simply put, he's a fucking idiot and Lucas is deserving of every criticism leveled at him.
But Jar Jar has it pretty easy compared to the women of the prequels. Anakin's mom Shmi languishes in slavery even after her son becomes a Jedi. Padme gets in the occasional fight, but is generally relegated to wearing leather and dying in childbirth. Hell, Princess Leia got to kick more ass, but even she had to wear a bikini.
The Neimodeans I don't know if I buy the "Neimodeans embody negative Asian stereotypes" argument. Certainly they have suspiciously slanted eyes and speak what could be described as vaguely Asiatic sounding pidgin English. And it's true one could rightfully accuse the Chinese of predatory policies like those embodied by the Trade Federation. All the same, I'd like to point out two things:
1. The Chinese are so sensitive about this kind of thing that FilmDistrict changed the villains of the Red Dawn reboot to North Koreans so as not to offend them. Of course, it's possible Honey Badger Lucas doesn't give a fuck, which leads me to: 2. Any Asian stereotyping is far less an offense than Lucas' persistently asinine habit of giving his characters cute names, such as "Nute Gunray" -- a play on Newt (as in Gingrich) and Reagan (as in Ronald).
Watto Mos Espa junk dealer Watto is a "Toydarian," which is apparently Lucas-speak for "Jewy Jew McJewenstein." Every negative characteristic is right there: the exaggerated hooked nose, the Hebrew accent, the spurious association with slavery. And if all that wasn't enough, check him out in Attack of the Clones:
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The Sandpeople/Jawas You've got two choices of sentient species on Tattooine: desert marauders who are both savagely hostile and dimwitted enough to believe an old guy in a robe is a Krayt Dragon, or diminutive scavengers out to hustle honest famers out of their hard-earned ... whatever currency they used. Clearly Lucas regards all desert-dwelling peoples as subhuman. I mean, Anakin confesses to murdering an entire Sandpeople settlement, including women and children, and the first thing out of Padme's mouth is, "To be angry is to be human." No wonder the Gungans hid from you Naboo assholes.
Wookiees You heard me. For someone as unapologetically hirsute as George Lucas, he sure gives his hairy brethren a hard time in the Star Wars movies. Chewbacca, the franchise's most famous Wookiee, suffers abuse throughout the series, both of the verbal ("Someobody get this walking carpet out of my way," "Laugh it up, fuzzball) and physical (Imperial torture, Ewok torment) variety. Hell, the Ewoks were supposed to be Wookiees until Lucas realized the marketing potential of stuffing his movie with teddy bear creatures. And in the end, Chewie doesn't even rate an appearance on Jedi's poster.