Friday, March 18, 2005
Dark Side
All I need now is for Elvis Costello to break out an unironic cover version of "...Baby One More Time" and then all my heroes will be completely dead to me.

All the other famous people I looked up to as a young person have completely imploded, credibility-wise. Charles Barkley told me right to my face he couldn't be my role-model (OK, it was a commercial, but he was looking right at the camera), which ruined my ambition to become a black man from Alabama. Pop princess/one-hit chanteuse Tiffany sold her boobies to Playboy, OJ Simpson got into that whole killing-ex-spouse-and-innocent-bystander scene and Nick Nolte, well, he just went fucking crazy. Also, he was in The Hulk.

They all seemed like such sensible choices as idols for a young man in the 1980s and now they're all, in their own ways, sullied. Diminished. Besmirched. Attenuated. Diluted. I have a thesaurus.

The longest fall by far from the pedestal, though, has to be George Lucas. Back in the day people would talk about him as a film-maker of vision and quality, a creator of an entire cinematic mythology that fired the imaginations of future directors, writers, actors and computer dorks the world over.

Me, I always admired him for what he was: a marketing genius. Who else could take one good idea they had and spin it into a cultural and industrial force worth hundreds of millions of dollars, still viable after thirty years? When I was 10 and I was asking my mom to buy me the regular Luke Skywalker action figure and the Ice Planet Luke Skywalker and the Bespin jumpsuit Luke and the green poncho jungle Luke and the fighter-pilot Luke... well, I just knew.

It occurred to me that ole George was getting 50ยข of every dollar I spent in the toy store and it made me feel all warm and safe inside. I was in the presence of someone touched by God. Mozart did that piano thing, Michelangelo sculpted and George Lucas made me want stuff I didn't need, the redundant purchase of which defied all common sense. I nearly weep to think of it now.

That is why it's particularly painful to see George Lucas now, a bloated, chinless, burnt-out shell of his former self. The disillusion started with Jar-Jar Binks. I was getting all the cues and subliminal messages that I was supposed to love the character, but somehow I just... couldn't. I walked out of Episode I feeling like my soul had been kicked in the nuts. I walked right past the kiosk selling commemorative t-shirts and just kept walking, saving my money for other shit I didn't need like McDonald's and Coca-Cola. At least they were still trying.

George seems to have completely lost his way. He's convinced himself he's a film-maker again, neglecting his true gifts by occupying his critical market-triangulation time to script-writing and actor-ruining.

He built up all kinds of excitement with a great trailer for Episode III (check your local internet) debuting on national TV during The OC last week, which was great. Spaceships, explosions, death, evil, lightsabers... lovely. The old George would have left it there, snowballing the free TV taste into a fast-food tie in or a cell phone promotion, something. Instead he turns around and gives an interview where he cuts the guts out of the trailer's impact by comparing the upcoming final installment to Titanic.

It's a "tearjerker" George says, "more emotional", which emphasizes George's ability to write emotional dialogue and direct actors in delicate scenes which we know he is incapable of doing. Who else remembers "I truly, deeply love you" from the last movie?

Dammit George, you had us with the lava and the dead Jedi and Sam Jackson from the trailer. What the hell are you doing? It's like you're going out of your way to deflate the erections of fanboys from India to Indiana. The old George would have heightened the sense of anticipation with a light touch like the seasoned, expensive whore he was. Now it's a rough hand-job and we're supposed to say "thanks" and fork over the amount you think you deserve based on your reputation alone.

I mean sure, I'll see it. But I can't guarantee I'll go out of my way to hit the Taco Bell just for the Commemorative Collector's Cups. And that makes me sad.

Thank God we still have Peter Jackson.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.9



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