Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil: Outgeeking Bainbridge

« Getting Ready for Hong Kong | Main | Idealist? You must be joking »

Outgeeking Bainbridge

Now, I'd never take on Professor Bainbridge when it comes to wine: I haven't the taste buds. And on corporate law? More fool me to challenge the guy who authors textbooks. But outgeeking? There we're on more equal ground. And I'm afraid that his accusation that George Lucas has sold the soul of Star Wars to the Democrats just rings hollow.

Basically, the good Professor is upset because:

...Lucas betrayed the basic story arc of the Star Wars mythology in order to score these cheap political points. In the original trilogy, Luke struggled against the absolutism of Obi-Wan and Yoda. It was Luke who insisted that there was still good in Vader, which Yoda and Obi-Wan rejected.

The betrayal in question is in having Obi-Wan say to Anakin, after the latter has muttered some you're-for-me-or-against-me line, "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."

Now, I've not seen the movie yet, and to the best of my knowledge, neither has Prof. Bainbridge, but to my mind his internal critique doesn't hold up. Bainbridge spends a great deal of time talking about how an older (presumably wiser) Obi-Wan was still doctrinaire and absolutist in his consideration of the Force. But if we consider this Obi-Wan to be less mature than Alec Guinness (and who wouldn't), then the plot still hangs together. Obi-wan may just be full of it. And there's no "betrayal" for "cheap political points" so long as the elder Jedi isn't doing anything more than the lightsaber equivalent of Godwin's Law: you know the conversation's over (and someone's limbs are about to go) when somebody mentions the Sith.

So why are so many assuming that Old Kenobi needs to be taken seriously? It seems that the New York Times found political meaning in the film:

"This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause," Padm observes as senators, their fears and dreams of glory deftly manipulated by Palpatine, vote to give him sweeping new powers. "Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." You may applaud this editorializing, or you may find it overwrought, but give Mr. Lucas his due. For decades he has been blamed (unjustly) for helping to lead American movies away from their early-70's engagement with political matters, and he deserves credit for trying to bring them back.

Dear goodness, we can only hope. I mean, if Democrats can't do better than Lucas's tin-ear for dialogue for their political bumper stickers, then I suspect the Republicans will get the geek vote. But now the New York Times has done the impossible: it's made me curious about the final Star Wars film.

Let's face it: Lucas is about as subtle as a chainsaw running through a screen door, at least when it comes to dialogue. I'd expect that even if Chewbacca were mouthing Bush-lite rhetoric, you wouldn't need to be Han Solo to figure out the reference. On the other hand, the New York Times could probably scan Beowulf and find hidden anti-Bush meanings.

So who is it? Is George L. taking on George B.? Or is this all a figment of the Times' fevered fantasies? Sadly, I'll have to see the film to find out, because when it comes to a conflict between the Lucas lack of subtext and the Greying Lady's determination to find same, we reach a level of difficulty almost equal to that of the Great Sci Fi Paradox: What happens when a bunch of clueless red-shirts, guaranteed to survive less than three minutes after a beamdown, meets a platoon of Imperial Stormtroopers, who can't hit a barn from inside it?


This article on a Cannes press conference might save you the trouble of going to the movie.
A wise man once pointed out that "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", and I think someone needs to remind Prof. Bainbridge that sometimes a trashy sci-fi B flick is just a trashy sci-fi B flick.....
The "wise man" was Freud, on the sometimes-noninterpretation-of-dreams. Less well known is his debt to Kipling. The original line went something like "Wine is only wine, but a cigar is a smoke."
I've noticed that people who are absolutist often think that they are nuanced. (Often because they know other people on their own side who are even more extreme, or have unexpressed feelings which are much nastier.)
TTP: I know it was Freud; I was under the impression that the quote was familiar enough that nobody (at least nobody well educated enough to be follwoing a first person narrative of American legal education) needed to be told who said it. :-)
Oh, perhaps I've underestimated folks. I was under the impression that a lot of people didn't know the source. Eh. Also I was trolling for the exact phrasing of the Kipling quote.
"Now, I've not seen the movie yet, and to the best of my knowledge, neither has Prof. Bainbridge..." And thus continues the conservative tradition of critiquing movies without having seen them. :)
If you notice, Dave, the above isn't a critique of a movie, but a series of questions about it. And having now seen the movie, if you want to carry water for Lucas's dialogue, I hope your back's pretty strong.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

NOTICE TO SPAMMERS, COMMENT ROBOTS, TRACKBACK SPAMMERS AND OTHER NON-HUMAN VISITORS: No comment or trackback left via a robot is ever welcome at Three Years of Hell. Your interference imposes significant costs upon me and my legitimate users. The owner, user or affiliate who advertises using non-human visitors and leaves a comment or trackback on this site therefore agrees to the following: (a) they will pay fifty cents (US$0.50) to Anthony Rickey (hereinafter, the "Host") for every spam trackback or comment processed through any blogs hosted on, or, irrespective of whether that comment or trackback is actually posted on the publicly-accessible site, such fees to cover Host's costs of hosting and bandwidth, time in tending to your comment or trackback and costs of enforcement; (b) if such comment or trackback is published on the publicly-accessible site, an additional fee of one dollar (US$1.00) per day per URL included in the comment or trackback for every day the comment or trackback remains publicly available, such fee to represent the value of publicity and search-engine placement advantages.

Giving The Devil His Due

And like that... he is gone (8)
Bateleur wrote: I tip my hat to you - not only for ... [more]

Law Firm Technology (5)
Len Cleavelin wrote: I find it extremely difficult to be... [more]

Post Exam Rant (9)
Tony the Pony wrote: Humbug. Allowing computers already... [more]

Symbols, Shame, and A Number of Reasons that Billy Idol is Wrong (11)
Adam wrote: Well, here's a spin on the theory o... [more]

I've Always Wanted to Say This: What Do You Want? (14)
gcr wrote: a nice cozy victorian in west phill... [more]

Choose Stylesheet

What I'm Reading

D.C. Noir

My city. But darker.
A Clockwork Orange

About time I read this...


Projects I've Been Involved With

A Round-the-World Travel Blog: Devil May Care (A new round-the-world travel blog, co-written with my wife)
Parents for Inclusive Education (From my Clinic)

Syndicated from other sites

The Columbia Continuum
Other Blogs by CLS students

Great, Green, Grindelwald

IMG 9430 Great, Green, Grindelwald

I don’t want to die and go to heaven. I want to go to Grindelwald.

Those were the first words I uttered after arriving to Gletschegarden Hotel, spot in the middle of Grindewald, Switzerland. With a view of the rolling green hills and the imposing Jungfrau Mountain seemingly superimposed on a postcard amount of red, pink and white flowers, I thought I was in Heaven.

But if only Heaven didn’t cost as much…Switzerland was never part of our around the world itinerary for this reason. Laura and I had long known that Switzerland is associated with three things: money, time and chocolate (probably in that order, too), so it never even crossed our minds that our meager backpacking dollars could bring us to this wonderfully expensive paradise.

Chair Great, Green, Grindelwald

IMG 9497 2 Great, Green, Grindelwald

Enter Laura’s parents. Gracious and giving as always, they treated us to a four day holiday in Switzerland that I’ll remember forever. We spent the first two days in the skiing-obsessed Zermatt. While I greatly enjoyed the chic shops, fine dining, incredible trekking, sleek efficiency, and, of course, the magnificent views of the Matterhorn in car-free Zermatt, it still was not perfect enough. Great, green Grindewald had to go and top it.

When one pictures Switzerland, they are picturing Grindewald. With no more than a couple thousand residents, Grindewald is more village than town. We arrived on one of those temperate, sunny Fall days that even Grindewaldians(?) (who are accustomed to perfection) had to call perfect. The air was cool, the sun was shining and the flowers were still in full bloom (although I think the Swiss secretly import their flowers to retain that “full-bloom” look year-round). The afternoon sun moved from the Jungfrau onto the rolling hills and played shadow games over hamlets straight out of Hansel and Gretel.

IMG 9365 Great, Green, Grindelwald

Besides staring at all this beauty what were to do? Head to one of those neat, corner cafes to laze away the afternoon sipping strong coffee and eating flaky pastries? Or maybe head to an outdoor wine bar to take in the outstanding mountain views? The Swiss have a way of tricking you into doing nothing and yet have you feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Or, if you actually are serious about being active, there a wealth of opportunities to pass the time in Grindewald. I forewent the shopping that the Dowling ladies set out for some serious trail running in preparation for the Cape Town Marathon, now just two weeks away. While the thin mountain air and vertical trails make running an extreme sport in this part of Switzerland, I always was able to stop and catch my breath. I had to. The views were so stunning that I had to take a moment every few minutes to admire the serene, green alpine beauty. Glaciers, rolling green hills, cascading waterfalls, gentle streams – you name it, Grindewald has it all.

IMG 9461 2 Great, Green, Grindelwald

The following day I found an even greater appreciation for the splendor of this idyllic mountain village when Laura, her parents and I took one of the shiny red palaces they call cable cars to the top of one of the ski lifts for an afternoon hike down the mountain. The views from above 10,000 feet only improved our already high marks for Grindewald.

These afternoon hikes proved necessary with the delectable culinary options Grindewald had in store for us: hearty Hungarian goulashes, grilled venison with beets in a red wine sauce, veal with a creamy marsala sauce, lamb over couscous with a red pepper mousse and a ridiculously cheesed-out Swiss cheese special.

IMG 9303 Great, Green, Grindelwald

Heaven Grindewald most certainly was. Even the town cemetery was perfect and a place any visitor would want to frequent. To top off our experience was the 100 year old and downright rustic Gletschegarden Hotel. Even among so many wonderful homes and hotels, the Gletschergarden stood out. The place was full of charm with every crevasse of the home opening up into a new-found nook with well-appointed hand-crafted wooden furniture. The views were nothing less than stunning and the family-only staff as hospitable as they come.

Lake Lookout Great, Green, Grindelwald

So, if Heaven is anything less than Grindewald, I, for one, will be disappointed. Unless less means cheaper, then it’s OK.

pixel Great, Green, Grindelwald

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Laura, Loved, loved your pics of Switzerland. It is one of my fav places too but when I went to Grindelwald about 10 years ago it was covered in fog…

  2. Shannon OD says:

    I don’t know what I expected when I clicked through to look at this post, but that wasn’t it – WOW, absolutely stunning photos, you’ve sold me on this place too :)

  3. Haha funny stuff guys! And the pictures are amazing! Maybe I want to die and go to Grindewald as well now!

  4. Wow, that place looks amazing! You know, Google Maps found god in Switzerland, so maybe it’s not a stretch that you found heaven.
    The Jetpacker´s last [type] ..Japan Introduces Lingerie Tour Guide Uniforms

  5. Tim Stephans says:

    This place is amazing. I went there for a few days with my family when I was 14. My brother and I climbed Mt Monch. It’s the far right peak in the picture with Laura.

  6. Liz says:

    Gorgeous!! Those photos are straight out of a dream.