George Lucas the Great Anthropologist: What ‘Star Wars’ means under the flag of Walt Disney

In the small political battles of our day—the ones over which idea is better than the other, I see such conflicts to be minor squabbles in the scheme of existence.  I prefer always the long view of looking at big things with much distance between myself and the object so I can see the situation clearly.  When I have to engage against competing tribes of political view who attempt to interrupt my enjoyment of the long view I am all too happy to display their conquered scalps as trophies of war, but I am very aware that such things are small insignificant victories upon the tapestry of living.  When battles are raging around you, political or otherwise, there are only two choices, win or become a victim.  Choosing not to play is a choice towards becoming a victim.

I will have to thank my friend over at the Atlas Shrugged site Galt’s Gulch, Dr. Brett for being the first to break the news to me that Lucasfilm had been sold to Disney for $4 billion dollars.  As any who read here clearly know, I think a lot of Star Wars, and specifically George Lucas, so the news that Lucas has officially hung up a company he built all his life as a sole proprietor was very sad for me, almost as sad as losing a loved one to a death.  I respect deeply the creative environment that Lucas utilized to build Star Wars into one of the most recognizable names in the entire world.  I respect all the companies of George Lucas because he maintained his ownership of them the way he should have, and he never yielded to pressure to make his films into anything but what they are.  He reserved his right to make films like Howard the Duck which were bombs, but he also made wonderfully powerful films like Tucker: A Man and His Dreams, Willow, and of course the Indiana Jones series which has changed dramatically the entire field of archaeology and anthropology.  But it was and is Star Wars that made all those films possible, films that couldn’t be made by anybody else no matter how big the studio or the personalities behind them were.

It might seem that no amount of news could eclipse the massive Hurricane Sandy that had shut down the eastern United States, but news that Star Wars was now under the tent of the Disney Company eclipsed the tragedy of that event–even of the presidential elections.  The news that Star Wars was now owned by Disney and that the company fully intended to make more Star Wars films rocked the world of Twitter, Facebook and news organizations all over the world with shock and awe.

I grew up with Star Wars; I raised my family on Star Wars.  Star Wars is one of the great sacred bonds that my wife and I share.  We love it, have watched the movies thousands of times, and read all the books.  In fact, she has read every single Star Wars book ever written. They take up an entire section of our home.  I enjoy watching Family Guy primarily because of all the parodies that Seth McFarland has done as a tribute to Star Wars.  I get along most with Star Wars geeks and adults who aren’t afraid to admit that they love the films.  My father-in-law and I have always shared an intense love for Star Wars.  My nephews and I have stayed up entire nights playing Star Wars video games, and those memories still bond us as busy adults.  Star Wars is always a dominate topic at every Christmas and Thanksgiving Dinner on both sides of the family.  It is also the most commonly given gift for birthdays and Christmas in my family on both sides for over 30 years now.  For me the love of the films are not an immature reach for eternal youth and fantasy, but rather, the long view at philosophy and life in general that they offer against the backdrop of fantasy in a far away time and space that allows ideas to reside in neutral territory.  I find it repulsive when some fans accuse George Lucas of turning Star Wars into simply a cash cow, or that he sold out to the big and powerful Disney—allowing his sole creation to be turned over to some evil empire of the Disney Company.  They simply don’t understand the situation and how the dots connect.

I have spent considerable time explaining at this site Overmanwarrior’s Wisdom why some people believe making money is bad—where those ideas came from, and actually how they hold society back.  This is why I propose that Ayn Rand’s ideas are far more relevant philosophically for mankind than Karl Marx and that if one idea must be refined philosophically over another it should be those of Rand over Marx.  Those reflections can be heard clearly in the opinions of Star Wars by the general public, but one thing that Star Wars does is unite people who would otherwise not be able to talk politics.

For instance, many of the writers of The Huffington Post who might argue with me about the merits of socialism versus capitalism share a love and passion for Star Wars Many who believe that Star Wars is just a movie don’t understand why it is such a phenomena, but Star Wars is not just a movie intending to make money, but a tool that George Lucas has utilized to create the most important, and powerful mythology human civilization has ever known and it is intended to take Earth from a .7 Type Civilization that it is now, to a Type 1 Civilization on it’s way to an accelerated Type 2 with an intent to become a Type 3 and still have a basic philosophy that will hold up to such an expansion.  For people who think Star Wars is just a silly movie, they do not understand that the foundation blocks of any civilization is its basic philosophy that is reinforced by its mythology, and Star Wars created by George Lucas is intended to be a giant mythology.  Disney as a company envisioned by Uncle Walt was created to interpret and communicate mythology to the world, not to just make money.  What most people miss due to the fact that they have been taught to hate money is that Lucasfilm and the Walt Disney Company have billions of dollars of value between them because they offer a very good product—but the value of that product is cultural enrichment through mythological creation that improves the general philosophy of all human beings.  While it is true that Star Wars is geared for children, the messages within that mythology contribute greatly to the improvement of world-wide philosophy.  Lucas and Disney both as heads of their companies have managed to perfectly bring together two important attributes necessary to human survival, the ability to produce wealth, and to use that wealth to dramatically improve the living conditions of mankind.

The limits so far with Star Wars is that George Lucas has been the “brand” of his company.  He has become so big that anything done in Star Wars as a story, because they are so important mythically speaking to so many millions of people, is distracting, even limiting.  I believe Lucas being the “way ahead of the curve” kind of guy that he is has recognized this and has positioned his company, its employees, and the product of Star Wars itself through the television experiment of Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network to make this move with Disney at a very reasonable price.  Disney, as a giant company with no direct face that is the “brand” can take Star Wars to places it could not otherwise go being headed by George Lucas.  Disney has the ability to build an entire Star Wars park so visitors can actually walk around in the Star Wars Universe.  They can expand on the television, the movies, even the video games.  Disney has the power to take Star Wars from a household name and make it a room to room name within that household.

To understand why I think this move to Disney for Star Wars might have a severe impact for the positive it would require knowledge of George Lucas as I have, so to know what he is most likely thinking.  Back in the 1990’s George Lucas was a board member for The Joseph Campbell Foundation who was being carried on by Campbell’s wife Jean after Campbell’s death of which I was also a member.  Lucas has always been interested in using Star Wars to bring young people to the study of comparative religion and world mythology studies.  Few people know it, but Lucas always wanted to be an Anthropologist and books like The Golden Bough and The Hero with A Thousand Faces had a powerful impact on him as a youth and he has always planned to use Star Wars as a way to introduce youth to higher philosophical concepts.  To understand to what extent Lucas has been committed to this just look at his company Lucas Learning.  I would bet everything I have and everything I ever obtain on the notion that Lucas has intentionally planned to inspire young people to reach for the stars with the stories of Star Wars in fields of science, medicine, politics, art, virtually every aspect of society, and Lucas has done this as an anthropology/archaeology enthusiast, not as a film maker.  Lucas, never really wanted to be a film maker, but instead used film making to communicate his interest in cultural studies.  It is his interest in anthropology that gives the Star Wars Universe such a rich texture, that far exceeds any other science fiction endeavor so far to date.  And I believe the result of this investment Lucas has made in civilization will be the necessary mythological tool that is needed to continue the social evolution into a Type 1 Civilization where religious barriers, scientific limitations, and politics get in the way of arriving at these necessary human advancements.  This was why George Lucas made Episodes 1 through 3 the way he did about Galactic Republics and the demise of governments in spite of the efforts of the noble Jedi Knights.   Lucas solved the political problems of his galaxy that has embraced laissez-faire capitalism but is not regulated by untrustworthy politicians, by using Jedi Knights who are governed by a deep commitment to philosophy, not crony capitalism that goes on between gangsters, pirates and politicians, to maintain order.

In a 1964 article on searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev suggested using radio telescopes to detect energy signals from other solar systems in which there might be civilizations of three levels of advancement: Type 1 can harness all of the energy of its home planet; Type 2 can harvest all of the power of its sun; and Type 3 can master the energy from its entire galaxy.

Based on our energy efficiency at the time, in 1973 the astronomer Carl Sagan estimated that Earth represented a Type 0.7 civilization on a Type 0 to Type 1 scale. (More current assessments put us at 0.72.) As the Kardashevian scale is logarithmic — where any increase in power consumption requires a huge leap in power production — we have a ways before 1.0.

Fossil fuels won’t get us there. Renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal are a good start, and coupled to nuclear power could eventually get us to Type 1.  More  info can be found at this article.

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/jul/22/opinion/oe-shermer22

Nothing ever starts until the human mind can behold the concept.  From there, invention and personal innovation will bridge the gaps.  Currently, politically, our global societies are locked between a struggle between individualism and collectivism as political systems of all types are struggling to maintain the former power bases of class society indentured to resources controlled by the very few, whether that few are crony capitalists, socialists, pirates, thieves, looters, or kingdoms.  The future is moving away from these kinds of regionalized controls and the internet is the first step in that particular direction.  But there are still religions that are standing in the way of life expectancy and medicine, and governments that are restricting space travel as the human race is pushing violently against the limits of the past.  Star Wars is a giant leap forward, but at the same time, into the past so to join in the minds of mankind with the possibilities of now.  In Star Wars the galaxy they are living in is coming close to a Type 3 as they are able to travel across the entire Galaxy through hyperspace routes that are like intergalactic highways through worm holes in space.  Such a concept is scientifically viable and scientists are beginning to seriously think about such things—because of Star Wars.  And the utilization of the religious aspect of Star Wars, which is the Force follows many aspects that are just being discovered in quantum mechanics and presents them in story form in ways that human minds can find a practical use in the randomness of ideas.  I could literally go on and on about this type of thinking, but in short, Star Wars is a big galaxy that has a lot of very fresh ideas in it from communication devices to propulsion systems, and those scientific concepts are quickly finding their way into the everyday lives of our current civilization.

Further, Disney as a company is about to do something that I think Walt Disney always fantasized about–it is about to take a bold step forward from a market driven motion picture market place and become a truly world power that will benefit the lives of the entire planet.  For instance, China because it is a communist country only allows 10 foreign films to show in their country per year, which is actually a big step for them.  The people of China are already looking forward to the next installment of Iron Man that is gearing up for a tremendous 2013 release—again another property by Disney who is uniquely positioned to take such a powerful mythology as the Marvel Comic properties and present them to a world hungry for the ideas in those stories.  This is greatly helping China become more and more prone to the free market in all manners of business, slowly but surely brushing aside the kind of communism that has held those people down for over 60 years now.  Star Wars has the potential to communicate those types of messages to a mass audience perhaps 10 times more powerfully, because the texture and depth of Star Wars is so deep and engrossing, and if Earth is to become a Type 1 Civilization, the same idea has to be held in the mind over most of the world.  In other words, the people of China cannot think so much more different from those in The United States.  But the lifestyle of The United States cannot be brought down just to level the playing field globally, but the rest of the world must be brought up to the level of America.  The best way to do that is to export American ideas, like Star Wars to those countries so they can understand what they should be doing, and how to do it.

I feel sorry for some of my fellow adults who share my age, but not my youthful optimism.  They truly believe that Star Wars is just another movie like everything else designed to make money for Lucas, or Disney.  In fact in the days after this big announcement of Disney buying Lucasfilm that was the first thing that most people said to me, “Looks like Lucas just got even richer.”  Those same people rush their kids to soccer practice while they update their Facebook accounts religiously and po-poo anything that isn’t rooted in the reality of their current busy lives.  Their kids feel the magic on Christmas morning hoping they get a new Star Wars toy, or on Halloween when they get to dress up like a Jedi Knight.  The parents feel the magic just a bit when they walk down the isles at Target and look at all the Star Wars toys designed specifically to massage the mind of young people by the toy makers in a plot Lucas hatched decades ago to expand the consciousness of the human race by beholding in their minds all of life’s potential.

When I was a little kid, I wanted the full-sized Millennium Falcon from Star Wars for Christmas like nothing else.  This would be way back in 1980.  But my parents couldn’t afford it, because it was really expensive.  So I built my own Millennium Falcon out of a card board box that I played with for years.  Once I got older and could afford to buy it myself, the toy had been off the market for a number of years, so I was never able to get it.  But in 1995, prior to the Special Editions in 1997 Lucasfilm released all the old toys only updated with new manufacturing techniques complete with the “battle worn” condition made so popular in the films.  That year for Christmas my wife bought me the new electronic Millennium Falcon with the updated paint scheme and everyday since that Christmas I have proudly set it next to my bed where I engage the engines every night before I go to sleep.  Every night.  And what’s strange is that it still has the same batteries in it from 1995, and they still work.  Call it the FORCE!  When I have had to fix a number of complicated problems around the house from broken dishwashers to electrical problems I have sometimes stared at that toy for hours pushing the buttons and thinking about the problem at hand which often frames the answer for me with perspective.  The toy for me is a symbol of innovation and technical marvel, so it often elevates my logical trouble shooting thinking.  That magic has stayed with me my whole life so far and doesn’t appear to be abating.  And I know I’m not alone.

Under Disney, these toys, the books, the multiple nick-knacks will flood the marketplace and without question a sector of the population who hates money will call the whole ordeal a symbol of capitalist excess that is just making a lot of money for Disney and its shareholders.  But the estimates from people like George Lucas are that the money drives the product and allows more people to experience such magic, and even the most hardened skeptic against capitalism or fantasy stories knows that they too feel a little of that magic when the media blankets the release of a new film, or they hear the famous tune to Star Wars which indicates to the ear that something great awaits the witness of the story at hand, they feel the magic.  Lucas has attended many of the Star Wars Celebration events that take place each year, and he has seen the multitude of grown adults who share with their children love for a mythology that makes more sense to them than the reality of their daily life.  With Disney now pushing the mythology machine of Star Wars, these events will explode with interest by even more people. Already the Star Wars weekends at Hollywood Studios in Florida that take place from May to June is so packed that the visitors have to use the parking lots at Epcot Center and Animal Kingdom to hold all the extra Star Wars fans.  That was before Disney owned Star Wars.  Now, it is certain that the parks in Florida will have a continued and much, much larger presence during the entire year and new generations will catch the fever even more than in the past, because if Disney does with Star Wars what they did with The Avengers the possibilities for how big Star Wars may become is immeasurable.

I have my doubts that the new Star Wars films will be as good as Episode 4 and Episode 5.  But I have no doubt they can be as good as the other four.  The proof is in the Cartoon Network episodes of The Clone Wars currently on television every Saturday morning at 9:30 AM.  With that in mind, Disney could make Star Wars movies for centuries, because the material is that rich, and is so vast that the plot lines are literally infinite.  I believe that with Disney at the helm of Star Wars, the ideas contained within it will find their way to every corner of the globe and in that way, will put every human being on common ground for the first time since the Tower of Babel separated all human beings with foreign language.   That is what it will take to move Earth to a Type 1 Civilization, and Star Wars is the best hope for getting there.

So, in a lot of ways the news announced on October 30th 2012 has seismic consequences for every human being on planet Earth.  Star Wars is not just another movie, and it is not just another product of Hollywood.  It is modern mythology that surpasses the work of the Iliad, all the Greek classics, the Book of the Dead from Egypt, War and Peace, or all the works of Shakespeare, anything ever done in literature.  It is the next step put into visual form what human beings are supposed to be working toward and they weren’t created superficially by whim from the mind of George Lucas, but are mythic characters dusted off from past stories and placed into the future for all to see with common eyes transcending language, political, and sociological backgrounds.  That is the magic of Star Wars and the potential impact that the decision to move Lucasfilm under the umbrella of Disney can explode into uncharted waters never before seen by–anybody.

So I’m a fan of the move even though it does sadden me.  The sadness is a selfish one, which I wish to preserve what Star Wars meant to me growing up, wanting to freeze-frame those films in time for my own enjoyment and memory.  But I see the strategy and like Lucas I want the same thing.  I want to see a world that embraces capitalism, embraces technical advancement, embraces philosophy, and never losses its belief in the limitless potential of the human imagination.  There are only two directions possible at this juncture in history one where societies regress backward, or one where they move forward into space, colonizing the moon, Mars, and planets beyond with the effortless propulsion utilized in Star Wars.  And the inventors of those future technologies are probably not yet even born, but will grow up in a world where Star Wars entices their minds with sounds and images plunging their imaginations into fantasy yearning for a Christmas toy under the tree to open and play with while they work out all the problems of advanced propulsion systems, gravity manipulation, and medical miracles performed without the added complication of losing their very souls to a shackled embrace of institutional imprisonment which always threatens to cast the mind of man back to the creation of fire.

That is what the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm means, and why it is very good. Also as  a side note to George Lucas, when he enrolled in Modesto Junior college to become an anthropologist, and a philosopher he succeeded as both and those titles many years from now will come to describe him once all the concept of filmmaker is lost to the scrolls of time.  Not only was he successful in studying the past and developing an expertise of history, but he has also changed the future for the better in ways that are subtle, yet unfathomably powerful for a civilization that is teetering on the brink and may yet survive thanks to Star Wars.

And…………………..for me, Han Shot First! 

Rich Hoffman

www.tailofthedragonbook.com

 

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7 Comments

  1. Wow, I can’t believe you included the Star Wars “Gangnam Style” parody 🙂 On a serious note, you hit my feelings on this almost word-for-word. (Okay, maybe not “word-for-word,” but you get the metaphor.) To add a little bit of politics into this, it was reported that Lucas acted sooner rather than later to avoid more taxes coming down the Progressive road. To add A LOT of politics into this, I miss Eisner and Iger is an Obama kiss-ass.

    Like

    1. I feel a lot of passion for Star Wars, and Iger does a great job with all the Star Wars fans on the weekends at Hollywood Studios. And he won’t have Obama’s ass to kiss in a couple of days unless he wants to do it from the card board box the looter will find himself in when people with money find out Obama was involved in crimes during his term, and stop giving him money. Like a typical lottery winner, Obama and his wife will rifle through all their money in a few years and find themselves broke before the end of the decade. Then lets see who kisses whose ass.

      George is a smart guy. He supports education, but loves reforms. He sends Star Wars characters to the White House, but he isn’t afraid to stick up for himself in court, or save money in taxes. He’s a good business man, and a creative guy that I treasure. And I will miss him.

      Are you going to cover this on your radio show?

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      1. Well, I’ll *somewhat* give Iger that… the expansion of the Star Wars program at MGM Studios (it’ll forever be that name to me, never “Hollywood Studios”) is pretty awesome. I’ve seen this in person, and it’s fantastic! Don’t even try to ride Star Tours during this time, LOL – you’ll be in line indefinitely.

        Given the election, I won’t have time this Sunday, but perhaps there’s a Rich Hoffman segment on the show somewhere in this… hmmm?

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        1. We’ll start plugging/promoting right here: Next Sunday, November 11th at 1:30 PM ET. How’s that? Bring your Robert Iger dark side of the force to the airwaves too, Muahahaha.

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        2. Sure thing. It’s a date. It will be fun! You know I’m already trying to get my 1 month old grandson interested in Star Wars. If I have it my way he will have every toy that is made from now till the end of time!

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