Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil: Outgeeking Bainbridge

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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.

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A Year Around the World in Photos

Here’s our journey around the world in photos. Turn up the music!

Music: Sigur Ros

pixel A Year Around the World in Photos

Comments (17)

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  1. Michele and Mark says:

    Wow. I stumbled upon roundwego while researching a trip to South Afric. We both enjoyed watching your video and litening to the music. Were very inspired not only by the perspicuousness of the photo’s but how the both of you managed to look so beautiful in all of them. We were able to vicariously relive our journeys through most of the like contries we have traversed though. Added a few to our list since viewing your slides. We have many worthwile photos of our own, but both agree that our intrepid travels usual resulted in road weary photos of ourselves.

    Seems like you had a magical trip and I believe your hearts and eyes will be forever seeing life differently. Namaste M&M

  2. roundwego says:

    @Scott Thanks for the praise. Fun to make but hard to watch now. Wish we could do it again right now. Good luck with MPG St. Louis. When we’re next in STL we’ll have to exchange travel info and stories.

  3. Scott says:

    This is possibly one of the most inspirational travel videos I’ve ever seen!
    Scott´s last [type] ..STL > RTW

  4. Jessica says:

    This is amazing !!!!!! just that it’s a little bit too fast can’t see the photo properly

  5. roundwego says:

    Wow – thanks so much for your kind comments, Kelly. Enjoy your time abroad. We’ll keep Chicago locked down for you in the meantime.

  6. Kelly says:

    This was absolutely amazing and inspiring. I dream of doing a trip like this and seeing the things you did. I am currently living abroad (and from Chicago as well) and can only hope one of these days I get to see as much as you did, it really DOES change you, and there is no turning back. Thank you so much for sharing all of this….

  7. [...] In photos – around the world in 400 days [...]

  8. We have a next adventure idea for you –

    We love your video. We watched it just as we decided to slow down and not try to back in as many destinations as we originally planned. Your video made us re think that decision one more time.

  9. Jillian Cusimano says:

    Wow! Laura, such an amazing video. What an unforgettable and unique experience you’ve had. I am jealous!

  10. Janna says:

    So amazing and so inspiring! What a great adventure and treasured memories. I wish I was that brave and do hope you write a book one day, I’d like a signed copy :)

  11. molly s says:

    CHILLS! This is amazing, near tears! Have to share with others!

  12. mark says:

    AMAZING photos! However, I know they can’t do justice of the memories you shared. Congrats on the adventure!

  13. Hayley says:

    Awesome video! This trip looks incredible. I want to be like you guys when I “grow up” :) Thanks for sharing the great shots!

  14. Skott and Shawna says:


    If you are not moved by that, you do not have a soul….wow…so, very well done.

  15. Romana says:

    Wow!! Thanks for sharing this video! This got me emotional. I’m so happy to be living this similar experience too.

  16. Sarah Drew says:

    Spectacular photos…almost bring tears to my eyes…this world is so beautiful! Your journey looked incredible and filled with memories you will never forget. Thanks for sharing the photos! Best!

  17. Matt says:

    Wow…breathtaking pictures and a beautiful glimpse into the sights of your last year. Thanks for continuing to share your journey with us.