It’s amazing how often you can disagree with someone about most movies and the response is a shrug and a question, “How come?”
More often than not, they’ll listen respectfully and offer counterpoints, and the conversation moves on to scholarly discussion of other films. These types of conversations are creatively stimulating; they teach me something about myself, my art and a different perspective on films I may love or hate.
One filmmaker, however, incites such passion on both sides that logical arguments are tossed overboard and people just start shouting, “You’re wrong!” George Lucas has created such a divide in fans that I’m almost convinced no scholarly debate may ever again be able to take place. I had that problem on an upcoming episode of The Geek Show Podcast, while talking about Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was “wrong” for deriving enjoyment out of either of these movies, without anyone wanting to hear why both films merited respect.
More passionate than those offended by the Indiana Jones franchise is that vicious, overly vocal minority of Star Wars fans who absolutely detest any bit of Star Wars that came out after 1997. From the special editions to the prequels, sure, George Lucas has made a couple of missteps, but the level of vitriol coming from some fans is astonishing. Though it’s more tame and reasonable than the infamous and patently idiotic Red Letter Media review of The Phantom Menace, the documentary The People vs. George Lucas gave a slightly more even-handed voice to a bunch of whiny fans who felt miffed that Star Wars wasn’t exactly the way they wanted it. If we could find a way to harness the energy of smarmy, self-entitled arrogance found in these Star Wars fans’ hate, we could heat every home in America for a decade.
I badly wanted The People vs. George Lucas to give a fair and balanced account of the divide between fans. Instead, it offered a platform to those who really don’t like anything George Lucas has done since ’97. There was no scholarly debate whatsoever, and there was little discussion about why Lucas did what he did. One voice of reason did appear, though: Neil Gaiman spoke about how fans didn’t have a right to bitch at the creator for what he created. Fans can dislike it all they want, but Lucas’ creations come from his head, and they aren’t entitled to ask him to change that.
The one part of the film they should have spent more time on, but glossed over, is that all of George Lucas’ work post-1997 is hated by only a specific generation of fans. Kids these days don’t have the baggage that some older fans do, proving that 40 years from now, this documentary will be completely irrelevant.
The film itself was generally well-shot and well put together. Coming from a background in documentary-film production myself, its production values were very high, but it strained a lot of credibility for me by not seeking better interviews to balance out the overwhelming negativity. There is no shortage of credible, articulate people who could have provided a legitimate defense. Hell, I put together and moderated a panel of eight people—journalists, professionals, filmmakers, artists—to talk about why we love the prequels at the most recent Star Wars Celebration, and we talked to an enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowd. It’s not hard to talk to people who love Star Wars for all its flaws; the filmmakers should have tried harder to provide that balance. Instead, their film comes off as a one-sided attack.
The thing I’ve learned, watching this film and elsewhere, is this: If you don’t want to come off as a giant dick, don’t berate someone for liking something. If you disagree, do it respectfully. There are more of us who like the prequels than those who don’t. Why try to ruin our happiness just because we can enjoy these great movies? You don’t see me attacking fans of The Matrix or The Boondock Saints, even though I think those movies are terrible, do you?
I didn’t think so.
Bryan Young is the editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.