Last week the latest Star Wars trailer came out. Sure, whatever.
I saw the original when I was three or four. At the time we lived on a military base, and the base theater constantly recycled previously released movies (much to my personal glee). So I have memories of watching this sucker on the big screen. And of reading the Marvel comic book. And playing with the toys.
On Thursday Amanda sent me to Burneko’s latest piece, “What If The New Star Wars Sucks, Too?” (You can also find it by googling “Burneko shit a dick”.) In it he lays the case for how the original and Empire Strikes Back are the only two good movies in the six movie series. The money shot:
Return of the Jedi is not good. C’mon. You’ll feel better when you just put it out there and name it. And the ways Return of the Jedi sucks are the ways the prequels suck: The prequels are not a betrayal, but a coherent expression of where the original trilogy was headed in 1983. It was already sprouting cutesy sidekicks and miserable plotting; the Jedi were already shifting from wise warrior monks to bland New-Age self-help gurus; it had already ruined Darth Vader.
Once you acknowledge these undeniable truths—you can do it!—the next step is recognizing that mostly, the Star Wars universe has given us movies that are bad. The prequels are not the aberrations. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are.
As always, it’s obvious once it’s put into words. But you know what also sucks/-ed? The Transformers. I was totally into The Transformers as a kid. As an adult, I bought the entire run of the original series and was shocked at how horrible the show was. It’s not that it didn’t age well, it’s just that it was so fucking terrible: the plots were horrible, the good guys were floundering milquetoasts, and the bad guys’ incompetence was beyond stupefying. And the same with G.I. Joe. And Knight Ridder. And Airwolf. And M.A.S.K. Aaaaannnnndddd TMNT.
But this isn’t news. This stuff was terrible corporate propaganda meant to separate my parents from their money. What is new (or at least for the past 10 years) is the use of nostalgia as a corporate tool meant to separate me from my money. The constant rehashing of movies and shows and toys from the late 70s and 80s into major forms of adult entertainment in the 21st Century. It’s a constant commercial harping that I need to get fucking hype for something just because it was a thing when I was a kid.
Corporate use of “nostalgia” pre-supposes (insists!) to us that entertainment “back in the day” was better than what we have now. That it’s reminiscent of when the world was supposedly a simpler, better place. Why else would Harrison Ford say, “Chewie, we’re home” in the trailers if this wasn’t the case? Why else would the 8-bit aesthetic in video games be so dominant today? “Oh, this game has the sort of graphics we had back when the computing hardware struggled so hard to keep up the software that the screen induced epilepsy from all the blinking it did.”
No, I’m sorry, but nostalgia is absolute garbage. The world was not a better place back then. A man like Nixon was president. It used to be illegal for a black person to marry a white person. Lynchings. Cross burnings. Mass corporate pollution. But today? Violent crimes are trending downward in a dramatically historic way. Everybody mostly has access to affordable healthcare. We’re finally addressing issues of gender pay inequality. It’s getting harder and harder for cops to go unnoticed when they shoot a black man. Obama is president! We’re safer. We’re healthier. We’re becoming more equal. The world is slowly becoming a better place. But we’re still being heavily coaxed to get excited for a movie franchise that’s almost 40 years old because it’s what we had when we were kids.
No, fuck that. I’m done with nostalgia. Give me something new and novel and as hopeful about the future as I am. Give me something that isn’t inspired by a comic book that’s older than 10 years old. Give me uncanny valley video game characters because at least somebody is trying to continue to push the hardware to its limit. Stop trying to force onto me the baby boomer predilection for “the good ol’ days” because the good ol’ days were racist as shit.