Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lucas Stole All My Money!

The above picture is probably one of the most popular caricatures of George Lucas on the interwebs. For countless fanboys - or possibly half a dozen of them who just post the same thing over and over again - this is the image now most heavily associated with the creator of the Star Wars saga.

At least for those that don’t involve horns and pitchforks.

As our trilogy of essays examining Lucas and fandom continues, the relationship between Lucas and money must be addressed. Perhaps first and foremost, this seems to be the topic a lot of fans are simply obsessed with. There is really no way of calculating how many fanboys on the internet and off consider themselves informed experts when it comes to Lucasfilm and the financial rewards it has reaped.

Time and again though, I’ve read countless claims that Lucas - rather than having created films and merchandise and games and comics and books that they have exchanged money for, received, and probably enjoyed – has flat-out, no bones about it, stolen money from them. I encountered a poster on Facebook during The Phantom Menace 3-D release that was insisting that Lucas had in fact stolen all of his money, and he was doing so in a very vehement and very vocal manner.

The good news is, if George Lucas is indeed darting about the shadows, complete with ski mask, gun, and a bag from the comics with one of those dollar bill signs on it to carry all his loot in, as many, many fanboys would have you believe, the solution is very simple:

Just contact the authorities. I’m sure your local police department will be happy to assist you. They’re public servants, and that’s what they’re there for. I’m positive they will be greatly entertained by your efforts to explain the situation to them. The fact of the matter is, I personally don’t know why all these people are wasting time on the internet complaining about Lucas stealing their money. They should just file a police report and be done with it, like normal people would do in such a scenario.

After all, how hard could it honestly be to identify George Lucas in a line-up? Here’s a hint. He’ll be the one wearing a flannel shirt, jeans, and a pair of Nikes.

Or could it possibly be that, deep down inside them, in places they don’t talk about parties, they actually understand they don’t have a case?  That all this is just a sense of rabid fanboy entitlement that would be laughed out of court if it ever saw the light of day? That this is just another ham-handed attempt to wrestle creative control from the Star Wars saga that they didn’t create and have no claim to, financial or otherwise?

In a delightful post titled Just Say No, I explained a lot of this:

This may come as a shock, but when you were watching these movies over and over again as children, you weren’t making future investments. You weren’t purchasing stock in Lucasfilm. No matter how much money you shelled out on Empire merchandise, it in no way, shape, or form gives you the right to dictate artistic policy thirty years later.

You bought a toy back then? Okay, you got a toy. You saved your grass-cutting money to go buy a ticket to see A New Hope again? Okay, you got to see A New Hope again. Your grandparents gave you money for a Chewbacca t-shirt? Okay, you got a Chewbacca t-shirt.

End of story. Game over. Transaction complete.

Again, it is a sad state of affairs when I actually have to cut and paste just basic economic facts a second time. This isn’t a barter economy. You make money, you spend money, you get something in return. In no court of law anywhere in the Western hemisphere would anyone in their right mind consider this thievery. There are quite a few Easy-to-Read books in the children’s section of your local library that can explain this to you if you need additional help. They have Big Words and Brightly Colored Pictures and everything that may be of assistance. And much like law enforcement, the friendly librarians are there to help you as well.

But not it’s not that simple in Bizarro Fanboy World, is it? Not on your life. George Lucas must be held to a completely different standard than everyone else on the planet, customs and commerce and laws and constitutions and economic systems be damned.

This argument is just too easy to make, though. Like shooting fish in a barrel. With a high-powered rifle. With a laser scope. 

So okay, let’s assume the fanboys out there are right. George Lucas is simply in it for the money. He is the greediest, most soulless filmmaker on the planet. Every time he gazes through a camera, all he sees are dollar signs.

Then why did he even bother writing and directing and producing the prequels? That’s a lot of hard work, after all. Why didn’t he just turn the whole trilogy over to, oh, I don’t know, someone like Michael Bay? There would have been explosions bigger than the Death Star every five minutes and all the women would have been in slave girl bikinis and everyone would have been happy. And as I mentioned in the last post, for that matter why aren’t we on Episode XXVIII: The Red Lightsaber of Doom or some such by now? After all, the whole fanboy argument rests on the assumption that there are entire armies of mindless sycophants out there ready to shell out money for anything with a Star Wars logo on it, right?

Assuming the fanboys are right again, what are the practicalities of their claims? A stupid question I know, but George Lucas is a billionaire, right? I mean, what does the man want that he can’t buy? The sky is pretty much the limit at this point, right?

And for that matter, where are all the reports of the mad spending sprees that someone as greedy as Lucas would need to support his allegedly money-obsessed, no doubt decadent lifestyle? Shouldn’t he have a fleet of private jets at his disposal? A private island in the Pacific? Private parking garages full of vintage cars? Wild, drug-induced orgies at Skywalker Ranch, complete with legions of million-dollar-a-night escorts and dancing girls?

If memory serves, his only extravagant indulgence after the profits from A New Hope finally began filtering in was to go out and buy a Camaro. Excessive, I know. 

Unfortunately, reality is going to have to rear its ugly head again. But you know, this is The Star Wars Heresies, after all. Aside from losing a pretty penny in his divorce, most of the money Lucasfilm has earned has simply been poured back into movies. That’s how he was able to finance all the prequel films himself, that’s how he’s able to pretty much finance any movie he wants to make now, regardless of whether there’s an interested studio or not. His efforts to build up all the companies that make up Lucasfilm have been well-documented, not to mention creating the imaginative mecca that is Skywalker Ranch.

There’s also just the little fact of the amount of people involved in Star Wars who walked away millionaires. He shared countless profit points with the cast and crew, none of which he was obligated to do. And unless we all forget, when the negotiations for the merchandise and sequel rights came about back in the seventies, Lucas could very easily have renegotiated another contract asking for at least another hundred thousand dollars for writing and directing A New Hope. American Graffitti had already opened to great success, after all. But no, he opted for the merchandising rights, NOT to become a billionaire but rather to promote the film any way he could. That it left him absurdly rich was as much an accident as anything. FOX didn't blink when he asked for those rights, because they were considered utterly worthless.

And then there’s just the little thorn in the side of the fanboy argument, which is his philanthropic work. He’s even started an educational foundation which he is very passionate about sensing, quite correctly, the hopeless inadequacies of the standard, industrial-age school system.

Even long before 2010, Lucas also contributed considerably to various causes. And then in that year, he joined with other billionaires and donated half his wealth to charity. It was somewhere in the vicinity of over a billion and a half dollars. I’m sure it was a nice tax write-off, but precious few people can ever claim to have given so much to so many.

Yes, I'm sure George Lucas likes money. The same as you and me and everyone else. But to paint him as a devil and everyone else as saints when it comes to the topic is a bit much.

Then there’s the little matter of the man’s personal philosophy. If the fanboys would just pop in Bonus Disc 2 with the special features from the Blu-Ray set, and surf over to The Empire Strikes Back part, specifically Dagobah, they would find a featurette …. oh, wait. They didn’t buy the Blu-Ray set! They were too busy being self-congratulatory, self-styled rebels and organizing boycotts on Amazon because Ewoks blink now or some such nonsense.

Well, for those of us who have seen it, the bit in question is Lucas in the writer’s room during the prep for the Mortis episodes of The Clone Wars. Firsthand, he takes the time to describe his own personal philosophy of the Force. Allow me to paraphrase:

The core of the Force is the light side and the dark side. One is selfless
and the other is selfish. And you want to keep them in balance. What
happens when you go to the dark side is that it goes out of balance.
And then you get really selfish and you forget everybody ….
Because when you get selfish you get stuff or you want stuff.
And when you want stuff and you get stuff then you’re afraid someone
is going to take it away from you …. Once you become afraid that someone’s going to take it away from you or you’re going to
lose it, then you start to become angry. And that anger
leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering. Mostly on the part
of the person who’s selfish, because you spend all your
time afraid of losing everything you’ve got, instead of actually
living.  While joy, by giving to other people – you can’t think of
yourself and therefore there’s no pain. The pleasure factor of
greed and selfishness is a short-lived experience.

That these words can somehow be reconciled with the picture the haters and kooks try to paint of him as a money-mad lunatic, lurking in alleys with a loaded revolver, waiting for the next hapless consumer to pass so he can steal their wallet, is problematic at best.

Actually, while it wasn’t my intention, the above paragraph is a near perfect portrait of the current batch of haters on the internet parading themselves around as “fans.” They’re so afraid that they’re going to lose out on getting that original original trilogy on Blu-Ray that they get angry. And that anger leads to hate, and they go on the internet and make ridiculous claims about Lucas stealing their money. And this leads to suffering on the part of Lucas and his kids and the rest of fandom. They’re so afraid of somehow losing the original trilogy that they allegedly love so much that they can’t actually live and enjoy anything else.

As opposed to the people who have given so much back to fandom, rather than just being consumed with want they want and complaining about all the stuff that they don’t get. Or in the simple words of The Phantom Holiday:


  1. > or possibly half a dozen of them who just post the same thing over and over again

    Lol, that could be it!

    I agree that some people are too obsessed with money. They always count their own money, and what's worse, they constantly count someone else's, too.

    I don't really care how much GL earned, I'm just glad he got enough money to make most of the saga as he wanted it to be. To get independence was very wise.

  2. I agree. I just wonder when we experienced a major paradigm shift and everyone except George Lucas ceased to care about money. I was probably in the bathroom or something. :-)

  3. Another fantastic essay, Paul--I can't wait for the final chapter of the Lucas trilogy. I obviously don't know George Lucas personally, but from everything I've seen of or read about him over the course of my entire life, I get the feeling that George Lucas would have been essentially the same person with or without his billions. Echoing what tatooinesand said, his quest for independence (as a result of his experiences in the early 70's) is so much more fundamental to who he is as a human being than any of the wealth he's accrued...it's a shame that the braying fanboys, many of whom consider themselves such societal renegades, can't see that simple reality. The irony is thick: those folks shouting about Lucas "becoming the Empire" while in lockstep with the rest of the followers in their hater mob.

    And thanks for using my little propaganda piece at the end!

  4. Luckily I don't know anyone that claims that Lucas has actually robbed them, but there are tons of idiots on the internet, so I'm not surprised. Anyway, I've bought my fair share of Star Wars stuff over the years, and I don't regret one single dime of it. It's all brought me happiness, I knew what I was buying when I bought it, and no one forced me.

  5. Eddie, pretty much what you said. Obviously, I don't know Lucas either. Maybe he does just roll around in beds full of money everyday and laugh. But given the information I have, that doesn't seem very probable. Your comments about the hater mob are dead-on, too. Very much down with drinking the Lucas/SW hater kool-aide. In point of fact, the last piece is probably going to be something like "Night of the Mindless Lucas Slaves!" or some such. And thank you for your great blog/site.

    dbutler, I think happiness is what it's all about. I don't have to be a SW fan. You don't either. If all it's doing is making you upset, miserable, and for some reason paranoid, maybe it's time to find a new hobby. I say that with reluctance. People take major personal offense to things like that. I don't mean it in a negative way.

    Honestly, if a fellow fan is deeply disappointed or let down by a film or an additional tweak, I'm genuinely sorry. Maybe they can give it another shot and let it grow on them over time. On the other hand, if it's gone on for over a decade or so, my sympathies tend to wane.

    But honestly, I don't think the majority of fandom is like that. It's a minority, it seems to me. They're just really loud.