Wed
Jan 2 2013 4:00pm

What is the Subtext of George Lucas’ Star Wars Exit Interviews?

What is the Subtext of George Lucas' Star Wars Exit Interviews?

In the most recent video conversation between George Lucas and new Lucasfilm head honcho, Kathleen Kennedy, it is asserted by the moderator that one of the themes of Star Wars is “letting go,” insofar as these videos feature George Lucas basically saying goodbye to his most famous creation. But what is the subtext of these interviews? And what does it mean for the future of Star Wars?

Though interesting, and seemingly fairly genuine, the conversations between Lucas and Kennedy are pretty static and safe and end up coming off as a representation of how little Lucasfilm (collectively) seems to understand how to communicate with its fans. On the one hand, it’s nice for them to present a large amount of transparency in this process, but on the other hand, there’s not much happening. The words “excitement” or “preservation” and “the future” pop up numerous times and the videos largely come off as The Lucas and Kennedy Mutual Admiration Society.

Some of the interviews are dedicated to very inside-baseball discussions of the film industry, which really, for most science fiction fans, is uninteresting. For those who are unaware of Lucas’s scruples, his entire career as a filmmaker can almost been viewed as a big middle finger to the Hollywood studio tradition. Lucas doesn’t really like doing things the way everyone else does them, but now with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, it’s almost like Lucas has thrown up his hands, saying “if you can’t beat them, then sell Star Wars to them.”

Both Kennedy and Lucas reiterate that Disney acquiring Star Wars is not a remotely bad thing, since they clearly know what they’re doing. And as both assert, Star Wars is a lot like a Disney movie anyway. Conversely, and bizarrely, Lucas also claims here that Star Wars is popular because it’s based on “human behavior” and the “human psychology.” (Presumably this is where lines like “I don’t like sand. It’s course, and rough, and irritating and gets everywhere,” come from. Human nature.)

Kennedy also roundaboutly asserts that Star Wars is somehow subversive of traditional hero stories insofar as things don’t end happily for everyone in the movie. Lucas also claims Star Wars is about the “dark and light inside of us.” All of this isn’t really anything new, but it’s sort of weird for these vaguely metaphysical ruminations about Star Wars to be happening side-by-side with a discussion by media moguls about what an awesome idea it was for them to get willing taken over by an even bigger mass-media giant.

There’s something weirdly Philip K. Dick-like about these philosophical platitudes, to the point where it feels sort of like a very carefully designed propaganda message. Now, I don’t actually think it is propaganda. I don’t actually believe Lucas or Kennedy are cynical, evil, plotting people. Instead, they just exist in this world where vague pop philosophy is commonly paired with big business decisions. Where once Lucas could have styled himself a filmmaker, now his predominant identity is as an executive.

The scary part about this is what we’ve kind of always known this about Lucas and Star Wars in general. He’s great, but not really all that reflective or deep. We’re really the ones putting the depth into Star Wars, which has always been the case, and will likely be the case going forward. And these repetitive conversations with Lucas and Kennedy remind us of that.

However, there is one, extremely instructive comment made by Kathleen Kennedy in the second video when she says “This is not (emphasis mine) a series of books like Harry Potter, we’re you’ve already got a template.” I like this, because Lucas basically has to sit there and agree, despite the fact he’s has been constantly trying to convince us for the past 15 years that he always knew the story of Star Wars. Now, his new “keeper of the flame” is essentially saying that’s not true. Star Wars is whatever it wants to be and what’s great about it is that she wraps it up in a genuine compliment to Lucas. She’s actually thanking him for letting her do it.

For me, the subtext of these interviews is quite simply this: though a creative person, Lucas isn’t all that reflective, nor in touch with the things he’s created. Kathleen Kennedy on the other hand, seems slightly more in touch; not with the soul of Star Wars, but rather with the way its body might now operate. Kathleen Kennedy is the Emperor to the Anakin Skywalker that George Lucas left limbless after Episode III. She’s giving Star Wars another chance at life and what remains now is to see if it will keep breathing.

Now the question is: Will one of the new directors or writers of the next Star Wars films be the new hope? Or will Star Wars continue to stagger around, breathing heavily, and clawing at the days when it was once great?


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.

9 comments
T C
1. Freelancer
Very subtle, George, wearing a "Han shot first" shirt. A sop to the fans who took you to the woodshed over that, eh?

Well, he has earned his fame, his money, and his place in Americana, and I have no problem saluting his genius in bringing us Star Wars. It's his story, he can tell it however he wishes. It isn't like he's adapting a book to film.
Christopher Bennett
2. ChristopherLBennett
@1: Or maybe he just has a sense of humor about the whole thing, unlike so many of those fans.
Alan Courchene
4. Majicou
"I don’t actually believe Lucas or Kennedy are cynical, evil, plotting people."
In the modern Star Wars fandom, that's a highly controversial statement.
Cecrow
5. Cecrow
I agree with the initial part of this article. The very act of Lucas handing over Star Wars to anyone in Hollywood, no matter how good the payout, was unthinkable to me because I thought it was unthinkable to him. I'm pleased (so far) that he did it, but how completely surprising was that?

But I've no problem with the back-and-forth ruminations in these videos. I find them reassuring. They tell me that although the brand has been sold, the person who sold it and the one who'll be overseeing it are still looking at it from this what-its-about perspective, not just the dollar signs. As a fan, that's important to me. It tells me those thoughts were in mind when this deal went down, and that they trust Disney not to muck it up.

I don't feel the same fear of this reminder that it's the fans who have demanded the depth. As you say, it's a reminder, and it's also the nature of any fandom. It's the side that George has expressed interest in getting a taste of himself for a change. I'm looking forward to his thoughts on the next movie after it's out. It would be fascinating to see him transformed into one of us, and what that might do to his perspective when he looks back at the first six movies.

I didn't read the "no template" thing as broadly, since I believe it means published material. It's a bash to the published EU, but not to any unpublished script ideas Lucas has been kicking around over the years that have remained almost entirely unseen.

I also don't draw the same conclusion that Kathleen is more in touch than George with the material's soul, but perhaps with the fans. I do believe they are on the same wavelength, and he trusts her to do right by the franchise. Good enough for me.
Cecrow
6. edgewalker
George has said numerous times he only had a broad, general idea of the entire story. This myth that he said he had it mapped out is from decades ago.
Cecrow
7. bluemonkeysfrommarz.com
@6 confirmed. i remember hearing that immediately after watching Jedi in 1983. the rumour is as old as the first trilogy.
Cecrow
8. Flocus Studios
Star Wars is simply an INCREDIBLE series!! :D I recently made a review on it as well! :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk7zvAzFxQY
Cecrow
9. Fahrbot
It seems to me like Lucas and his production team fundamentally understood a lot more about what they were doing when they made 'A New Hope' than decades later.

He understood the Joseph Campbell-style power of myth, but were savvy enough to include little pieces of modernist critique of the past, and make the 'symbols' unintrusive and give them a kind of 'realism'.

I.E. the ships were powerful symbols, but actually made sense in context. Something various attempts at replicating Star Wars style space opera still get wrong. The world an be directed by myth and mysticism if that is your cup of tea, but reality is always practical.

Star Wars sorta lost that...

We wound up with battle droids talking like comedy idiots, and solar-sailing yacht. The world of he prequels was still quite interesting, but lacked that internal belieavbility. Worse - for a lot of fans, it impacted the belivability of the older trilogy.

Serenity and Farscape then came a long and did the space western better than the original in many ways.

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