Don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but there’s a new Star Wars film out this week. They’ve tried to downplay it, but news still leaked out there subtly via all possible media platforms and product tie-ins . Of course, this being such a major cultural event means there’s a lot of associated traffic revenue to be generated . Tying an article, however remotely, to a popular subject matter is just one of many tactics to increase online traffic , so of course there have been countless articles tenuously linked to Star Wars churned out. This has caused a great disturbance in the web, as if millions of search algorithms cried out in terror, and were suddenly… silenced.
And yes, this article is yet another one. A general email was sent around the Guardian Science Blog network recently asking if anyone has any Star Wars articles planned, which is diplomatic code for “We need frivolous but topical: Dean, earn your keep!” The problem with this is, such is the furore around Star Wars right now that pretty much every idea for a cash-in article has been done already. Even the science of Star Wars has been thoroughly covered .
Many people who aren’t bothered about Star Wars may be surprised at all this interest and enthusiasm. After all, didn’t this exact thing happen less than 20 years ago with the Phantom Menace and the prequel trilogy? And look how disappointing that was . Why is everyone so sure it’ll be good this time around? Why is it different now?
A good question, but one that overlooks the workings of the brain. Nostalgia is actually quite a formidable emotion with many useful functions , and Star Wars, being so popular and widespread, is a big part of childhood for many. People have strong fondness for pleasant childhood experiences and studies suggest this can influence many decisions and behaviours later in life (specifically purchasing ones) .
It’s not just nostalgia. When it comes to past memories and predictions, the human brain has a weird optimistic bias ; by and large, we humans tend to put a positive spin on things that happened in the past, or at least downplay their unpleasantness (assuming they weren’t actively traumatic), and then assume things will work out fine in future if we do them again. Studies suggest that cognitive dissonance also causes this sort of thing.
As well as this, studies into cognitive dissonance suggest that people will alter their opinions to reflect their behaviour . If you make people do a very long boring task but tell them it’s exciting (or make them tell others it is), then they’ll start thinking it really was . Similarly, if you spend months being told repeatedly that a film is brilliant, you’re likely to end up remembering that it was enjoyable, despite it being a ridiculous mess.
People are going to criticise the new Star Wars film(s) though, that’s inevitable. Even if they’re the finest cinematic masterpieces in all of human history, some will still criticise due to psychological quirks . But one valid criticism of the current film is, as stated, the amount of cash-in articles generated by it in order to exploit the popularity of Star Wars.
All this is the science of Star Wars fandom though, not Star Wars itself. That’s been thoroughly tapped as a subject matter. In the interests of showing that I did actually make the effort though, here are some ideas I had that I tried to make work, but failed. If you think you can stretch them into a whole piece, be my guest.
Where does ‘The Force’ energy come from?
Jedi and Sith can use The Force . This ability allows them to control things from a distance, lifting very heavy things remotely , improve their own physical abilities exponentially, even cheat death (sort of). Doing these things requires a lot of energy (except maybe that last one which seems more metaphysical), so where does this energy come from?
I don’t know. It’s probably something else entirely.
The blockade of Naboo: totally justified?
The Phantom Menace opened with the Trade Federation having set up a blockade of planet Naboo for some reason or other . The rest of the film stems around defeating the Trade Federation via various long-winded routes.
But what if the blockade/invasion of Naboo was totally justified? The Neimoidians who run the Trade Federation may seem like offensive caricatures , but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the best interests of everyone in mind. Naboo is the planet where Emperor Palpatine comes from . And Jar Jar Binks . Two of the worst people in the galaxy, coming from the same planet, in a society of thousands of worlds? This can’t be a coincidence, Naboo is obviously a horrible place that just breeds evil. Even Anakin Skywalker seemed fine before he spent a brief period there .
Maybe the Galaxy would have been better off overall if Naboo had been given the Alderaan treatment?
And speaking of Jar Jar Binks…
Jar Jar Binks: Possible Time Lord?
Jar Jar Binks is widely thought of as the worst character in Star Wars history , but he has his defenders. A particularly popular later theory is that Jar Jar was actually meant to be a powerful Sith and his grating bumbling idiot routine was exactly that; an act.
But let’s push this further. Jar Jar Binks has been criticised for sounding like a crude racial stereotype of black people . Given that he lived a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, how would he even be aware of this stereotype? Even the closest galaxy to our own would still count as far far away on a human scale ( Andromeda, 2.5 million light years distant ) so for Jar Jar Binks to encounter racial stereotypes from the 19th/20th centuries he’d have to be able to travel great distances in both time and space.
Seeing as there’s never been any mention of time travel capabilities in the (canon) Star Wars universe, it’s possible Jar Jar Binks is a Time Lord from Gallifrey. Think about it; his ability to avoid danger despite being in the thick of it suggests he knows the future to a certain extent, he is amphibious but survived long periods on the desert world of Tatooine with no ill effects which suggests he’s incredibly physically durable, and he appears to be bungling and whacky, which some Time Lords seem inclined to do.
There’s probably more, but I’d lost interest at this point.
Ewoks and their clothes
Ewoks wear clothes . They’re small, stout bear-like creatures covered in thick dense fur. So why do they even need clothes? Can’t be for keeping warm, and they’re very varied in size and colour so identification is unlikely. Some ceremonial thing?
Then again, these are creatures who worshipped C3PO while simultaneously barbecuing his friends , so let’s not assume anything they do fits our concept of what’s rational.
R2D2 might be a bin
R2D2 looks a bit like a bin. Do you think if you step on his foot his head flips off and you can put your crisp packets in him?
Yeah, probably not.
Dean Burnett is tired lately. So very tired. @garwboy
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