A Brief History of Prequel Bashing or Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Star Wars Prequel Posters

As the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens draws near, we find ourselves in the midst of an enormous wave of Star Wars enthusiasm unrivaled since the release of 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. That film like the forthcoming entry heralded the return of the Star Wars Saga to movie theaters after more than a decade of absence. But unlike The Force Awakens which will bring back familiar characters from the original trilogy and continue where 1983’s Return of the Jedi left the story, the prequel trilogy had the challenge of introducing an almost entirely new set of characters in unfamiliar settings while telling a different sort of story than the one that it was setting up. Despite initially being well-received by audiences world-wide and proving to have strong legs that produced record box office totals, by the time that its sequel Attack of the Clones debuted in 2002, The Phantom Menace had fallen into disfavor in the eyes of conventional wisdom. Now, a decade since the release of Revenge of the Sith, the Star Wars prequel trilogy is commonly the object of disparaging remarks and often dismissed as a failure when in fact, I would argue that these three films taken together instead constitute the saga’s artistic zenith. The Star Wars prequels are unfairly maligned, under appreciated films whose charms and greatness have been eclipsed in the public conversation by a vocal minority of myopic, overzealous armchair critics hyper-focused on real and imagined flaws in the films whose reach, voice, and influence have been excessively amplified by the echo chamber of Internet forums and the subsequent online media frenzy of gossipy entertainment media. Continue reading →

Telling and Amusing Headline Progression

The following is a list of Paris newspaper headlines reporting the journey of Napoleon across France, on his return from exile on Elba, March 9 to March 22, 1815:

March 9

THE ANTHROPOPHAGUS HAS QUITTED HIS DEN

March 10

THE CORSICAN OGRE HAS LANDED AT CAPE JUAN

March 11

THE TIGER HAS ARRIVED AT CAP

March 12

THE MONSTER SLEPT AT GRENOBLE

March 13

THE TYRANT HAS PASSED THOUGH LYONS

March 14

THE USURPER IS DIRECTING HIS STEPS TOWARDS DIJON

March 18

BONAPARTE IS ONLY SIXTY LEAGUES FROM THE CAPITAL

He has been fortunate enough to escape his pursuers

March 19

BONAPARTE IS ADVANCING WITH RAPID STEPS, BUT HE WILL NEVER ENTER PARIS

March 20

NAPOLEON WILL, TOMORROW, BE UNDER OUR RAMPARTS

March 21

THE EMPEROR IS AT FONTAINEBLEAU

March 22

HIS IMPERIAL AND ROYAL MAJESTY arrived yesterday evening at the Tuileries, amid the joyful acclamation of his devoted and faithful subjects

Obama is NOT a Socialist, People

Recently, I’ve been frequently seeing people refer to Obama as a socialist and making accusations that the new stimulus package amounts to socialism and that the new administration has a “socialist agenda”. Cafe Press is filled with “clever” t-shirts where people have juxtaposed Obama’s face with that of figures such as Marx, Lenin, and Mao.

It’s enough to make me scream.

As a socialist, I find that these claims add injury to insult as these people are using the label as though it were a slight all the while bestowing it on an individual who is clearly not a socialist.

Bonafide socialist and radical historian Paul Street puts it quite nicely in a recent ZNet commentary on the filtering out of authentic Left voices in mainstream media:

Two weeks ago, the leading weekly U.S. magazine Newsweek actually published a cover story titled “We are All Socialists Now.”  By “socialism,” the corporate magazine appeared to mean any sort of escalated government intervention in the U.S. economy. There were two things missing from this remarkable Newsweek story:

1. Any remotely accurate understanding of socialism as it is grasped and advanced by its modern-day adherents: democratic workers’ and peoples’ control of economic and political life in the interests of social use, equality, and the common good instead of private gain and social hierarchy. As Lance Selfa, a Marxist author, notes at the end of his recent and officially invisible (in the broader political culture) historical analysis of the Democratic Party, “in a socialist society, workers would take control of the factories and offices.  The repressive apparatuses of the state – from prisons to the military would be brought under democratic control and then abolished.”

2. Discussion with a single solitary living U.S socialist to get his or her take on whether or not the U.S. has now suddenly and miraculously embraced a socialist world view and program.  Such a person could easily be found but actual living socialists must remain offstage since they are and their ideals – shared to no small degree (as only a tiny percentage of Americans are permitted to know) by great historical personalities like Albert Einstein (author of a brilliant essay titled “Why Socialism” in the first issue of the Marxist journal Monthly Review), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Helen Keller – are officially invisible under the reigning corporate-Orwellian rules.

I will return in a future commentary to a closer examination of Newsweek’s fascinating “We Are All Socialists Now” claim.  In the meantime, I, an officially invisible American, leave you, dear reader, with the definition of capitalism in the second (1979) and unabridged edition of Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary.  Please note that it contains ample room for significant government intervention and that it contains no reference to the “democracy” and “freedom” with which it is routinely and falsely conflated in “mainstream” U.S. media and political discourse: “the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroads, etc., are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth and, its latter phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased government controls, etc.”