I went to Vegas last week for a business trip. This was my first time there and man, oh man, what a place it is! I’m glad I saw it once, though I’m not sure I really want to go back there again.
My first thoughts while staring out the window from my cab as we strolled down the strip were, “I can’t believe this excess of … stuff.” I mean – everything is in excess: the water, the hookers, the food, the shows and most of all – the lights. I drove in from the Grand Canyon on my last night there, and even before the city of Vegas came into view, you could see how the sky was just so bright from the light pollution. Some people may say that gambling is what Vegas is all about, but I believe it’s more excessive and sensory overload. I, of course, was almost continuously making parallels to Episode II and when Anakin and Obi-Wan chase Zam to the Uscru Entertainment District of Coruscant. So many times, I just wanted to have a speeder and fly above the streets to explore the area from a different angle.
As I was talking to Mr. Reticent (to be clear – Mr. Reticent is not my husband, but a good friend who puts up with me) about my trip, I asked him, “Is there ever any moment in Star Wars where you think George Lucas just went overboard? Was there anything that was just used in excess; too much of it at once?” I am a very literal thinker, and my only thoughts were that George used minor characters in excess during AOTC. I loved how in the original trilogy, each minor character has a purpose and a reason for being there. But with AOTC, let’s take Jocasta Nu as an example…did we really need her quip of “if an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist”? Sure, she provided a bit of background information (in the deleted scenes), but I think we could have gotten that another way. Dexter Jettster? Please, what a waste of a scene and time. Tuan We, Garbage-Cyborg-Droid-Seperatist-guy-that-had-to-use-a-dial-to-make-his-voice-sound-right (Wat Tambor), Poggle…I love how the original trilogy did not seem to have this excess of minor characters. It wasn’t until Star Wars really took off that Lucasfilm started naming every single item or character in the movie (think of the Gonk Droid and imagine what the name would be now).
Mr. Reticent is more of an analytical thinker than I am, so he thought about my question a lot differently. He brought up a point by saying that he thought the planets/moons and characters are overdone in Star Wars. He mentioned how the planets are always just one climate; they are never diverse like Earth. Tatooine is a desert. Dagobah is a swamp. Hoth is snow based. Endor is a forest moon. He said it was just excessive with no variety.
Then Mr. Reticent brought up a point that I had never really considered (I blame it on my literal thinking and taking things as-is): some of the characters are racially stereotyped. He brought my attention specifically to Jar Jar and Nute Gunray (or any of the Neimoidians). Jar Jar, he said, is an over-exaggerated Jamaican person while Nute and his species are over-exaggerated Asian people, to the point that is it seems like it’s a racial stereotype. I’d like to think he’s wrong, but now that he’s brought it up, I can see what he is saying. However, if we are going to start thinking with that filter over our eyes, would we say that Darth Vader is based on a black person? I mean – he has the James Earl Jones voice and is dressed all in black. Furthermore, would we say that Watto is based on a shady Italian salesman and that C-3PO is an English butler?
I disagree here with my friend and I do not think that George is using racial stereotyping in excess, if he is even using it at all. I think the problem lies in creating so many new species and characters that you need to give them distinguishing characteristics that seem real or familiar to us. I look at it as just a simple way to distinguish between everything and keep things consistent.
The same point relates to the planets as well. There is beauty in simplicity, and it was not an excess of one climate. George was creating planets with only one climate so that it was easier to navigate our way through his universe. Imagine trying to navigate the below map of the Star Wars universe without some simple understanding of which planet is molten rock, what moon is a forest, and what planet is a swamp?
In a way, that is the beauty of Vegas – every hotel has its own theme and you know where everything is because of the way you can describe it. There’s excess, but there is also a minimalistic way of understanding the hotels on The Strip. There is Caesar’s Palace where, of course, the hotel is like an Ancient Roman Palace. There is New York, New York where, of course, the hotel is like NYC. There is Paris where, of course, there is an Eiffel Tower. There is the Cosmopolitan where, of course, the hotel is glitzy and glamorous. It’s so simplistic that you almost are shocked because how do excess and simplicity coexist?
Star Wars also shows us that in the movies. There is an excess of planets and an excess of characters but in order to not be confused as a viewer, they are very basic in the way we think of them. I appreciate it and maybe this is a lesson to take home when I’m thinking of writing my own epic novel?
On a different note altogether, Clone Wars Season 5 starts this Saturday morning on Cartoon Network at 9:30am! Bringing back the morning cartoons, niiiice. I heard it’s opening with Savage and Maul, not a huge fan of that, but I understand needing to start with a bang. I hope to be reviewing a few of the episodes as the season progresses so stick with me.