Showing posts with label revisionism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label revisionism. Show all posts

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pushing the easy buttons

Okay, I know I know, three posts inspired – at least in part – by Toshgate? There’s just so much to say though. I’m trying not to say exactly the same things everyone else has been saying so well, and I’m mostly trying to take a more personal approach so here you go, post number three citing Toshgate as inspiration.

I’ve spent the better part of the last week steeped in the muck of misogyny in the Twitterverse. While I haven’t been engaging nearly as much of some of my braver tweeps I have chosen to stick around and bear witness, showing support where I can.

And then today Shakesville posted this piece about Dan Savage’s track record of fat shaming and A Time to Laugh posted this piece about rape culture and slavery apologists in conservative evangelical circles.

And all of them bring me to the same point: These people who claim to be railing against the oppression of feminism/liberalism/political correctness want us to believe that they are speaking truth to power. Their rape jokes/fat shaming/slave apologia are a spark of light in the darkness, calling attention to uncomfortable truths. They portray themselves as being victimized or attacked by those who try to silence them with the muzzle of political correctness.

At first, the notion that they are pushing boundaries sounds kind of right. I mean their words are certainly shocking to hear.  But scratch a little deeper, take even a nano-second to reflect on what purpose exactly those shocking words are serving and you can see that there is nothing revolutionary about what they are doing.  Whether they are propagating the rape culture, promoting fat-phobia or denying the horrifying legacy of slavery their actions are simply a natural extension of the dominant discourse.

The only rule these people are breaking is the one that requires those with privilege to exercise and maintain that privilege by subtler, more insidious, more structural means.

Daniel Tosh, Dan Savage and Doug Wilson (triple D?) are not the black sheep of the family.  Rather they are that loud drunken uncle that tells abrasive black jokes at the table while the rest of the family tut-tuts, only to go home and discuss why it’s a shame that that nice George Zimmerman is getting persecuted for defending himself.  The Toshes and Wilson’s are extreme enough in their methods that the rest of us can just shake our heads, safe in the knowledge that “we’re not like that”.  But make no mistake, if you have ever even suggested that a woman “should have known what to expect” or that “Black people should just get over it already” then you are just as much a part of the problem as the most offensive maker of rape jokes out there.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Han shot first!" (or why I don't heart George Lucas)

Every year H and I volunteer at HotDocs and, as such, we get to take in some first-run documentaries.  The other night I went to see The People vs. George Lucas.  This is a film about first generation Star Wars fans and all the ways in which they have felt betrayed by George Lucas.  Between the changes made for the special edition of “A New Hope” (and the subsequent refusal to make available the original version) and the horror that was “Phantom Menace” (what menace I ask, the only menace I felt was the menacing threat of dull politics and 3 hours of Jar Jar Binks) it’s not hard to understand why these dedicated fans felt like they’d been smacked in the face with C3PO’s dismembered arm. 

George Lucas has always said that the original release was not fully true to his vision and he had always wanted to be able to go back and ‘fix’ it.  Here’s what he has to say about the future of said original:

“So what ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that's what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won't last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition], and you'll be able to project it on a 20' by 40' screen with perfect quality. I think it's the director's prerogative, not the studio's to go back and reinvent a movie.”

So the crux of the matter here is this, once an artist has released their work to the public, who owns it?  Does the creator have the unalienable right to revisit, revise and permanently alter the work?  Or does it become the property of the audience/reader/culture?  Lucas argues that there were external limitations such as finance that prevented him from fully realizing his vision but I would argue that any piece of art is a product not only of the artist’s vision but also of how he or she expresses it within the confines within which she or he is forced to work.  There are many examples of published/released works that were made better because of the limitations placed on the creator.  Even Joss Whedon states in this article,

“Basically, the Network and I had different ideas about what the tone of the show would be. . . So back into the writer cave I went, wondering why I put up with this when I can make literally dozens of dollars making internet movies. . . [partly because] They're not wrong. Oh, we don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but wanting the first episodes to be exciting and accessible is not exactly Satanic. . . This kind of back and forth has happened on every show I've done, so if you liked those, chances are that was a part of why.”

So Whedon is basically saying that the diversions from his original version required by the Network have helped him to create the works we all love.  He further goes on to say,

“The show is really coming together now, in a way that I believe excites us and satisfies the Network. Of course, I have no idea if anybody else will like it, but I have the same faith in the staff, the crew and the remarkable cast that I always did. More, in fact. . . The episode we're shooting now I wrote as fast as anything I have before, not because I had to (although, funny side-note: I had to) but because I couldn't stop the words from coming. Because I can feel the show talking to me; delighting, scaring and occasionally even offending me. It's alive. Alive!”

So not only are the shows we love the product of Joss working within the demands of the network, but he finds himself energized by the new directions in which it takes him and loving the final product himself.

Of course when we’re talking about Star Wars, it’s not just that Lucas decided to re-vision the original films, it’s that he refuses to make the original versions available.  This isn’t just embracing the opportunity to do what you couldn’t do the first time (and of course recreate it based on who you are now rather than who you were then which is a whole other issue).  No, it’s telling the fans that they were wrong to love the original and if they want to be able to hold on to these films that formed a major part of their childhood and cultural landscape, well they can fuck themselves because little Georgie can’t stomach anyone preferring the “rough-cut” over the version that better serves his ego.  If he truly respected his fans he would sell the Special Edition along-side the original.  His refusal to do so is pure revisionism.  And with a movie as big as Star Wars, with all of its ensuing cultural impact, it’s more than revisionist film-making, it’s revisionist history.

So now let’s go back to something else Whedon said in the above quote, “I have the same faith in the staff, the crew and the remarkable cast that I always did.”  This brings me to another point.  George Lucas did not make these films alone.  There were hundreds of people working their creative and skilled asses off to create the effects, characters, sound and everything else that goes into making a great sci-fi film.  To just CGI over them and effectively erase all of their work (some of it award winning) is both disrespectful and downright insulting.

Finally, all art is a reflection of both a moment in the creator’s life and a period in history.  Look at any Hollywood remake next to the original on which it is based and you will see what I mean.  Star Wars spoke to a specific generation at a particular point in history and that is what gives it its cultural significance.  If Lucas wanted to be able go back and ‘fix’ his films as he did, he should have kept them in the vault until he thought they were ready.  Or take a page out of Whedon’s book.  When he was displeased with the 1992 Buffy film directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui he accepted the existence of this hokey interpretation of his script and quietly waited until he could give us his own vision in the form of the TV series which picked up more or less where the film left off. 

What it comes down to is this: all creative endeavours are the product of the artist’s inspiration and skill shaped and informed by a million outside influences.  Whether it’s financial constraints, availability of materials or the humidity of an artist’s studio, art is not created or consumed in a vacuum.  While it’s still in your hands you can re-work it ‘til the cows come home (although many artists and writers will tell you that left to their own devices they would over revise their works into an early grave) but once you release it into the wilds of public consumption it is part of the culture and it does, in fact, belong to the public.

And that, my lovelies, is my exceptionally long rant on Star Wars revisionism.

Now tell me, what do you think?
(holy crap did I just write a massive post about Star Wars??? WTF!)