Weeknote 2 (2020) - News, Bad News, and Star Wars

Life

To preserve my mental health I’ve been limiting my news and twitter intake over the past week. The thing is, even though it feels like there is an overwhelming amount of drama taking place in the world today, there are actually very few things actually happening. The US is continuing its slide into fascism. The UK is continuing its slide into fascism. There’s a disease spreading which may or may not be as dangerous as the flu (which honestly says more about the lethality of the flu than anything else).

A couple of those things are just the new normal, yet they fill the news everyday, reminding us constantly that things are shit and that we should be scared, angry, annoyed, outraged, frightened—some emotion dialled up to ten. Whatever it is, it’s not something you can or should keep up for extended periods of time. It also isn’t something you need to keep up. The situation is bad enough for us to be reminded of it on a daily basis without ever opening up a browser, app, or news channel.

TV

Enjoyed the first few episodes of Avenue 5. So far it’s an extended metaphor of the brutal stupidity of tech companies and tech startups and the radioactive effect of that toxic idiocy on society.

Except, y’know, funny and with Hugh Laurie.

It also has the best representation of tech startup CEO I’ve seen lately. The mannerisms vary but the underlying truth is the same:

  1. An arrogant half-wit lucks into getting one of their idiot ideas funded either through privilege or circumstance.
  2. Said half-wit hires somebody to actually do the work. But since said founder is almost always a genuine idiot who don’t know what they’re doing, their hiring and planning are based on superstition, hearsay, and random choices. If they’re lucky, one of their first choices they make is to stumble upon hiring somebody actually smart who then actually gets everything done just without getting a founder’s share.
  3. The lucky founders who stumbled their way into success become convinced that they are smarter than god despite being the dumbest thing in the room, and that’s counting the decorative cacti.

If there’s one thing working in or adjacent to the startup/tech scene has taught me is that it is meaner, dumber, and simpler than you think. It’s dominated by luck and the winners get to choose how they ruin the world.

(Bitter much, Baldur?)

Movies

After writing about The Mandalorian last week, I promised I’d write about the Star Wars movies at some point.

One of the essays that brought my issues with the movies into proper focus was Athena Andreadis’ ‘“We Must Love One Another or Die”: A Critique of Star Wars’ which I forgot to link to last week. Nothing I write can come close to doing the issues that plague the original and prequel series justice.

The new movies, however, are kind of a mess and aren’t nearly coherent enough to withstand that kind of scrutiny. Whatever you can say about the prequel series, you can’t call them inconsistent. They are George Lucas’s vision from beginning to end.

The new movies however:

  1. A Force Awakens: A remake of A New Hope with new spins on the original character archetypes and a new batch of charming, young actors. Some of those archetypes looked very interesting but were poorly fleshed out. A lot of ideas are introduced but J.J. Abrams is too keen on copying the narrative beats of George Lucas’s original to do anything with them.
  2. The Last Jedi. A somewhat interesting attempt to interrogate and engage with the Star Wars mythos in a critical manner. Which could have worked if it hadn’t effectively rebooted all of the characters. All of those new characters introduced in A Force Awakens? None of them really behave here in any way that’s consistent with the first movie. Nor does it really set up anything for the third movie to build upon. And It’s entirely too fond of humanising a horrendous genocidal maniac.
  3. The Rise of Skywalker: J.J. Abrams picks up his toys, ignores The Last Jedi, and does two movies in one, badly. Instead of doing anything interesting with the characters he introduced, he settles for inspiring emotion through visual references and nostalgia. There are no stakes and we know that there aren’t any stakes throughout the movie. None of the protagonists grow in any meaningful way. None of the antagonists grow in any meaningful way. Palpatine is a cheap, shallow, and meaningless villain. And It’s entirely too fond of humanising a horrendous genocidal maniac.

If you disregard the chaotic narrative mess which, let’s face it, is a constant throughout all of Star Wars, the single greatest defining characteristic of the new trilogy is that it tries and does a bad job of humanising space nazis.

Some of it could have worked. Finn and the other former stormtroopers could have served as the moral and narrative backbone of the new series. But all three movies were much more interested in humanising Kylo Ren. Which is like deciding to focus on the humanity of Heinrich Himmler when you could have told the story of a group of former Hitler Youth’s who have thrown off their brainwashing and joined the resistance.

But, no. Why choose to do an actually relevant and interesting story when you could instead tell a story that overtly values lineage and bloodlines over human lives?

At least if you are going for the reprehensible, you should at the very least have the decency to do it well.

And they didn’t.