Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lucas the Sell Out!


Or not. If anyone saw this bit on the Forcecast Facebook page, my apologies. It seems relevant to post here, where it can enjoy a permanent home.

If there’s one phrase that gets paraded around more than any other about the creator of Star Wars, the flannel-wearing, beard-sporting George Lucas, it’s that he’s a “sell out.” George Lucas equals sell out in many corners of the internet. A few years from now, if you look up the phrase “sell out” on wikipedia or somewhere, chances are a picture of the notorious GL will be there by way of simple explanation. The two are practically synonymous!

But as Alan Watts once so eloquently put it, sometimes the most creative bits of philosophy come from questioning the most accepted elements of common sense.

In that spirit, I wanted to add my thoughts on Lucas as the most selling outest person who has ever sold out in the history of seller outerdom. Simply put, the phrase “selling out” originated in the music industry, but fortunately for us and the internet, it has branched out to encompass about any artist who has compromised their creative integrity and vision to grab as many wads of cash as humanly possible and/or thoughtlessly cater to the whims and desires of their audience to win popularity and status.

After the most cursory of glances, it seems a little odd that Lucas would be thought of as a "sell out," and more so that the label is so universally accepted. The rest of this post will examine who or what Lucas is allegedly selling out too, not to mention the hows and the whys of why this is so commonly believed and unquestioned.

First off, George Lucas’ audience - call them “fans” if you must - have been on a relentless, decade-plus campaign in which they’ve complained, argued, protested, defamed, re-edited, boycotted, and personally insulted him. Are these really the people he’s sold out to? Surely not. If so, it’s perhaps the most ham-handed, ill-conceived, horrifically-executed “sell out” of all time.

Take the Special Editions. Lucas having Greedo shooting first in the cantina has elicited nothing but anger and loathing from all corners. In point of fact, Lucas is arguably the only person alive who thinks it was a good idea. Han Solo may not have stuck to his guns, but ironically Lucas certainly has. Very few would maintain the change, but GL refuses to compromise.

One also has to stop and wonder exactly how many campaigns there have been to release the original version of the original trilogy on Blu-Ray. But nope, it didn’t turn out that way. Not only did Lucas refuse to release the original version, not only did he stick his preferred Special Editions in there, but he even added more changes! Infuriating changes. Ewoks blink! Vader says noooo! Dogs and cats, living together … mass hysteria!

And make no mistake, he knew full well the howling rage and furious indignation it would cause. Just take a look at his “retirement” interview. He’s very aware of how “terrible” everyone thinks he is online. If he wasn’t before they started insulting him on his children’s Twitter accounts, he is now. Look at the situation on Amazon. Last time I bothered to check, the Star Wars Blu-Ray set that everyone has been anticipating for years is boasting over a thousand one star reviews! One star!

I’ve already made note of this in an early post, what with all the ludicrous, high-fiving, back-slapping congratulations that are going on in the forums and comments. Certainly more than one person there has accused Lucas of being a sell out. Not to get political, but this to me makes about as much sense as bothering to vote.

If Lucas is the ultimate sell out, willing to do anything to make another quick buck and build up his fame and ego - personal vision and creativity be damned - then why doesn’t he immediately retract all the Special Edition changes? Why not make extra special super care that he doesn’t contradict any Expanded Universe continuity, thus making sure no one has more excuses to get mad at him, thus Lucas Books will sell more novels and he’ll make more money? If all he cares about is rolling around in beds full of cash while laughing maniacally, why isn’t he just farming Star Wars out to any hack director and collecting the box office receipts? Why aren’t we on Episode XXXIII: The Search For Luke’s Grandson or some such?

If he’s such a sell out, with no creative energy, talent, or integrity, why didn’t he listen to all the endless complaints of ruined childhoods after the release of The Phantom Menace? Why didn’t he go onto the countless internet forums publically tearing him and everything to do with the film to shreds and take notes? He could have reshot and re-released the film, only this time Darth Maul could have decapitated Jar Jar Binks in the first thirty seconds, and then spun his lightsaber around and done backflips for the next two hours. He could have even called it “Episode I: I Was Wrong.” Legions of angry online fanboys would have been in utter, near orgasmic, ecstasy. It would have easily grossed five billion dollars domestic if the internet forums are anything to go on.

For that matter, why didn’t someone as lazy and untalented as Lucas simply take on and release one of the myriad fan edits of the film that cut out Jar Jar and midichlorians altogether? Episode I could have been Episode III, and then Episodes II and III could have been Vader stomping around the galaxy, breathing hard, and slaughtering Jedi. How badass would that have been? Because really, the only thing that matters when it comes to Star Wars is how badass it is, mouse droids in the original trilogy be damned.

Even more recently than that, "Lucas the Sell Out" should have set to release The Phantom Menace in 3-D, heard all the whining and complaining about it, and then laugh it off and release A New Hope, arguing that that had been the plan all along. Or better still, he could have released fan favorite The Empire Strikes Back, made a gazillion dollars, and had countless fanboys eating out of the palm of his hand and erecting statues of him in the town square.

In short, if George Lucas would just bend over, grab his ankles, and quietly take it like a man whenever the fanboys barked a command, there wouldn’t be any problem. If he would simply make his Star Wars movies their way, if he would promptly respond “How high?” when they asked him to jump, he would be the most loved celebrity on the internet.

The fact is, that maverick, independent filmmaker of the seventies and eighties that everyone claims to have idolized is actually alive and well. And arguably more maverick and independent then ever. For better or worse, he’s made his movies his way ever since 1977, with an almost careless or cavalier attitude to profit or public approval.

So yes, undeniably, the fanboys do hate George Lucas. But not for the exalted, artistic reasons they claim. In fact, it’s another reason altogether.

They don’t hate George Lucas because he's “sold out.”

They hate George Lucas because he refuses to.



15 comments:

  1. Glad you approved, illustrious count.

    And as I pointed out elsewhere, the funny thing about Lucas is, the very same stubbornness that people revile him for now is the very same stubbornness that got us the Wars in the first place!

    And as I also pointed out elsewhere, no this post doesn't translate into "Lucas must never be questioned" or "Lucas never makes a bad decision!" Well, it does for some people, but not my usual crowd here.

    You can accuse him of other things probably far more successfully than selling out.

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  2. Well said. Permanently bookmarked.

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  3. Well you know, Mike, I'm always happy to get a permanent bookmark. Glad you enjoyed, sir. More to follow.

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  4. Couldn't of said it better myself. Thank you. I suddenly don't feel alone on this topic on the internet.

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  5. Well said indeed. Lucas has his faults as a film maker. I wish he had done things differently (mostly dialog and some casting), but it has always been his series, so it is his right to make it to his vision.

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  6. All true. People love to clutch on to cliches such as "sell out" no matter how inaccurate it is, and once that opinion has gathered enough steam, most people would hesitate to contradict it for fear of being shouted down by fanboys. Yes, Lucas does have his faults, such as writing dialogue, and I don't like all of the changes to the original trilogy (well, Greedo shooting is the only one that really bothers me) be he is definitely not a sell-out. If people want to call him a nasty name, they should think of one that is more accurate.

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  7. I agree, guys. Yes, there are a few things here and there I would change in the prequels. Probably even in the originals too. Greedo Shooting First is certainly one of them. But you know what? It's not mine. I didn't invest time and money and risk my own neck to put my vision out there. To me, that trumps everything. Love or hate him, he's not a sell-out.

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  8. That's just what I was thinking, Paul. I don't love everything Lucas has done, but they're his movies. He owns the rights, not me. And yes, Lucas put up a lot of his own money to make the original Star Wars, and took a lit of risks, especialy as Fox dragged their feet in agreeing to pay him, so he deserves all the money he's earned from them, as far as I'm concerned. I do wish he'd release a high quality anamorphic version of the original theatrical release, but I'm still pretty happy watcinhg my 2004 Special Edition DVD's, and if I really get desperate, I've still got my VHS tapes from 1986, for as long as they last.

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  9. Also, Lucas hasn't "raped" my childhood. Actually, he gave me a huge part of my childhood which I still fondly remember and can even revisit, to some extent. Thank you for that, Mr. Lucas.

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  10. Yeah, I wouldn't mind a release of the original versions, either. That would be cool. That doesn't mean I'm owed them. That doesn't mean I'm going to be boycott the Blu-Ray. Lucas prefers the special editions and, when push comes to shove, so do I. As Peter Mayhew noted at Dragoncon, ninety percent of the changes have been for the better. I agree. Even though Carrie Fisher did snort at that point. :-)

    Thank you for everything too, Mr. Lucas.

    And thanks everyone for reading, too. We're up to 600 views on this puppy. Glad I can offer ... well, another point of view.

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    1. He sold out the universal principle that made the movie- not the bucks and everything added. The dream. This one cannot escape. He took what was speaking to millions (millions) and silenced it through alteration. This was a waste to many, myself included.

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    2. "He sold out the universal principle that made the movie- not the bucks and everything added." Yeah, not really understanding this?

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  11. I was book marked this on the basis that it was a reasoned argument, and to that extent I have to agree with that assessment for the most part. But the central thesis: 'George Lucas is not a sell out because there are several ways in which he could have made more money' just doesn't hold water.

    I agree, fanboys (of which I am not one) exaggerate, are mean and rude and generally say things that are downright detestable sometimes. Not to sound like them, but, tell us something we don't know. Obviously they are not the most accurate source for information; or rather an accurate way to frame the debate about Mr. Lucas but that doesn't necessarily substantiate an argument that he's not a sell-out.
    Citing the fact that he could have released The Empire Strikes Back in 3D and made more money as an example of his integrity cuts both ways. Yes, I agree, again, to the extent that he is not as big a sell out as is often made out, but it ultimately raises the question, if your saying he's not a sell-out why release any of them in 3D at all? George Lucas, as someone who has pioneered (and that is somewhere where you can credit him or loathe him respectfully - I'm probably in the former camp) digital technology. He knows, or should know, that retro-fitted (or whatever it's called) 3D just doesn't look as good as films shot in 3D. At the very least he knew that the audiences are smaller. So why re-release in 3D? Love of 3D? Maybe, but I think it's at least in part making more money from the Star Wars franchise, which he thought would put more bums on seats than a normal retrofitted 3D re-release. In other words, just because he's not as much as a sell-out as fanboys make him out to be, is not an argument to say he's not one at all.

    What your argument also does is confuse the artistic criticisms of George Lucas (where I actually agree with you, GL is in no way a sell-out, perhaps it would have been better if he were) with those elements of his career where he is most often criticised for being a sell-out for (or if I'm honest I suppose, what I think of him as being a sell-out for).

    For me that is the franchise itself, or more accurately the endless merchandise it has spawned. In and of itself it is almost incredible that my nephew who is 5, will still know the Star-Wars brand (largely thanks to Lego in his case – which is my fault  ) even though the first film came out 31 years before he was born. But when it gets to the point that Lego are now creating sets of the Knights of the Old republic videogame, that we have Star Wars Transformers and Risk, isn't enough enough?

    I know part of that isn't George Lucas himself, its those toy companies who want to keep the brand going and make more money off of it. But to my knowledge (presumably up until he sold the film rights) he still has had control over the rights to the merchandise, and indeed has said (according to UK Film Critic Mark Kermode) that one of his greatest creations was the Toyline (figuratively speaking I suppose he means) because it meant they could create their own stories.

    In a way that's sweet, and for the joy it brings my nephew and other children, I can't fault that. But to me he's a sell-out for allowing it to get to the point where the merchandise is, as Alan Moore might put it, almost turning to steam. Half of its not there for the love of the films (which is what I would say the action figures/lego sets are good at) but are just some weird homogenous blob (such as the endless reproductions of the same lego set, more and more obscure characters from the films and weird crossovers with risk and transformers). And maybe I'm wrong (read: I probably am) but I refuse to believe that at some point he could not have exerted some control to stop from it getting to that point. As such, this for me, this will always make him a bit of a sell-out


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    1. Well said. I mean, we pretty much agree here. You're probably right about the merchandizing, especially in recent years, but the place where I feel things got really out of control was the EU ....

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