Thursday, November 6, 2014

Where to Start?

Where to start this month long NaNoWriMo endeavor. One obvious place to start is at the very beginning, and believe me that first scene deserves some analysis. But it would encourage a chronological trend that I have no intention of following, and frankly “Quigon being dumb” is not a big enough moment to start on. What truly exemplifies why fans hate the Prequels, and how can we try to redeem that? Blue, I ask myself, what is the possibly the *worst* scene that is actually really good.

Ah yes. Sand.

I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like here.
Here everything’s soft... and smooth…

Traditionally understood as a clunky piece of dialogue, about a random subject, in what is supposed to be the most romantic scene between two leads who have an under-explained relationship. Why does Amidala like Anakin and tolerate his creepy possessiveness? Why is Anakin, member of a monastic order, so infatuated with her? And why is he talking about sand, and why is she ignoring him?

Many times in discussing these movies, it’s helpful to ask “What is something?” What is the Force? What is “the Phantom Menace”? These are boldly titled concepts that we know little concrete information about. (Really, what is the Phantom Menace?) Generally they are a metaphor for something important.

So. What is sand?

Anakin grew up on Tatooine, the moral center of the Star Wars universe, where we return to again and again. It’s defined to us as being covered in sand. Anakin has left Tatooine behind, and now hates what once surrounded him growing up.

Sand is coarse and rough and irritating. It infects everything it touches. Sand is poverty. Anakin grew up surrounded by poverty, and now he hates it.

Anakin is a chains-to-riches Horatio Hornblower story, full of insecurity and disgust for his low beginnings. He hates sand.

And what is Padme Amidala to him? She is rich. Specifically she is refined and graceful, but those are both effects of her being really, really rich (inherited wealth is probably why she was Queen at 14). She flew to his dirty little sandy planet one day, on her sleek chrome-covered spaceship, and carried him away from sand and poverty. He worships her high class status.

(Why does the former Queen like Anakin Skywalker? This is a rich woman who would dress as her own servant frequently, and is generally on the liberal side of political issues. She embraces poverty, not in a serious “give your wealth away” way, but in a lighter “experience that part of culture too” way.  [She is totally the type of Senator that would "live on minimum wage for a day", but not vote for tax increases.] She romanticizes poverty. And she wants to date the rough, coarse, tough warrior boy who represents all that.)

Let’s look at the full scene now.

When I was in Level Three, we used to come here for school retreat. See that island? We used to swim there every day. I love the water.

I do too. I guess it comes from growing up on a desert planet.

...We used to lie on the sand and let the sun dry us... and try to guess the names of the birds singing.

I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything’s soft... and smooth...

There was a very old man who lived on the island. He used to make glass out of sand - and vases and necklaces out of the glass. They were magical.

Everything here is magical.

Holy crap not two sentences before Anakin was saying how much he hated sand, and how Padme was not like sand, Padme is talking about how she rested on a bed of sand (and how it warmed her). Her luxury is supported by poverty, which she herself is fully aware of. At least she doesn’t hide from it, but it’s amazing how Anakin ignores the admission that the object he loves is built on the reality he is trying to escape from.

Amidala then talks about how something magical can be made from sand (poverty), which she romanticizes. Like say, the boy she is infatuated who is also a space-wizard. Anakin can’t deal with this, since he is still on his hating poverty schtick, and so insists magic can come from everywhere. He denies how his upbringing created him. (Jedi as he understands them, have no home. They are found young and trained only to know Coruscant. But Anakin Skywalker does have a home. The Chosen One of the galaxy had to come from poverty.)

Both of these characters are deeply tied up in their class existence and perceptions. And those identities lead them to be drawn to what the other represents (high class elegance, romanticized poverty; water, sand). They don’t really listen to each other, or acknowledge what the other is saying, which shows a personal failure to connect. All of which was communicated in 5 lines of dialogue about a setting.

This is good writing.

Of course, this should be no surprise. The themes of class and how it causes us to act towards each other, are repeated over and over again through the prequels. Absurd class structure - and ignorance of it - are the sins that brings down the supposed utopia of the Republic. When watching the movies, you should often think “What is Anakin saying about poverty?” and “What is Amidala saying about elitism?” And they are saying a lot.


If you are reading these posts in chronological order: Go to this link. Ignore the "Newer posts" arrow below.

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