krpalmer: (mimas)
[personal profile] krpalmer
With another new month under way, there's a new update at Saga Journal. In looking at [ profile] reihla's new essay, though, I found myself stuck facing memories of having run several times into an old complaint sparked by the concept of "slavery": that while Shmi and Anakin Skywalker might have been slaves on Tatooine, "they lived in an awfully plush dwelling..." Even my own brother has mentioned that point before, if more just observing it than trying to turn it into a complaint.

On one level, I can see this as just one example of the millions and millions of attacks thrown at every single aspect of The Phantom Menace; something about the sheer bulk of those attempts perhaps does help me to not take them quite as hard as I might. As for the specific complaint, though, I've found myself wondering about way to address it. It seems easy enough to connect slavery with miserable conditions and the degradation of both owner and owned... but it also seems that should owners be humane, there's still the unobscured issue of people's destiny taken out of their hands. After all, Shmi and Anakin might have had a "plush dwelling," but they couldn't go far beyond it without being blown up... and while that may not seem subtle on the surface, I suppose at times I wonder if some people simply refuse the whole concept of thinking about things in Star Wars instead of making quick judgements.

Date: 2008-04-05 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah yes, I'm quite familiar with this complaint. Variations: "If being a slave meant living as well as they did, then sign me up!" and "Luca$ has insulted real slaves by presenting such a cushy existence and calling it slavery."

Actually, I think it is comments like that last that are insulting to real slaves. Now, I've guessed that the satisfaction bashers seem to find in condemning absolutely everything about TPM sweeps aside most if not all the common sense and logic they may possess, but that doesn't really bother me.

(The inverse of that is how they absolutely refuse to see any flaws in LOTR or "Matrix" or "Serenity," and, of course ESB -- the only SW movie worth anything, according to them -- and absolutely freak out if you dare imply otherwise.)

What bothers me is when they cloak their hatred in fake moral outrage (i.e., accusing Lucas of racism, although, as some of them like to simper, "He probably didn't MEAN to feature such offensive racist caricatures...") and spew ridiculous, ignorant crap about subjects they know little to nothing about. For instance, slavery.

Are we supposed to think that, just as long as you have a roof over your head and your master doesn't beat or starve you, slavery is not so bad? Even desirable? (I heard that one of the EU authors said in a PT-era book that Watto did in fact beat Anakin, which irritates me in no small part because it was quite plainly done to appease the bedwetters and offer them an "explanation" that they don't even come close to deserving.) Do these people not get the central concept of being a slave? Evidently not.

If you are a slave, it doesn't matter how "kind" your master is. You are still a slave. You are property. Your master can sell you at any time and you'll be parted from your family forever. And what do you know -- that's what happened to Anakin. Also, even though he was only nine, he knew what being a slave meant. Hence his angry reaction to Padmé's innocent question, "You're a slave?": "I'm a PERSON, and my name is Anakin."

Cont'd in part 2

Date: 2008-04-05 05:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Some bedwetters tried to give "weight" to their argument by saying, "If Anakin being a slave is supposed to explain why he turns into Vader, his slave life should've been much harsher." Of course, this makes the assumption that Anakin being a slave is meant to explain why he turns into Vader...something that Lucas has never indicated, either within the story or during interviews/commentaries. I pointed this out, and the bedwetter "comeback" was: "Well, if Anakin being a slave isn't supposed to explain why he turns into Vader, what's the point of him being a slave at all?"

This brilliant and witty reply garnered the bedwetter "high fives" from his fellow bedwetters.

(It reminded me of the time when a bedwetter claimed that "everyone who worked on the Han/Greedo scene has said that Han was always meant to shoot first," but was unable to come up with the testimony of one single person who we know for sure worked on the Han/Greedo scene. He did, however, offer a quote from A.C. Crispin, author of three EU books about Han, in which she called the Greedo-shoots-first change "stupid." When I asked the bedwetter what on God's green Earth A.C. Crispin's opinion had to do with anything, he replied, "LFL called her books a 'pure slice of Han.'" The other bedwetters rushed in and said to me, "You are thoroughly pwned...he has proven that Greedo was never meat to shoot first." He did no such thing, but I figured it was pointless to argue further with those complete nimrods...and I feel no shame in calling them that.)

But anyway...I think it pitifully short-sighted to insist that the only reason for him to be a slave would be to explain why he becomes Vader. Of course, the purpose of such a statement is to try and back up the argument that Anakin's slave life is too nice and easy, which is another way that "Luca$ failed as a storyteller," but never mind. I think the signficance of Anakin starting out as a slave is to provide a parallel -- he starts out a slave, through no fault of his own, but he also ends up a slave, to the Dark Side, only that slavery is of his own making. And it didn't take too much effort to come up with that explanation.

Date: 2008-04-05 05:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In any case..Anakin and Shmi's dwelling was not really what I'd call "plush." It seemed roomy enough, at least what we saw of it, but I would not say they were living in the lap of luxury. Also, during the dinner scene, they didn't appear to have all that much food, even taking into account that they had guests. They weren't starving, obviously, but they only seemed to have just enough food for two people.

Date: 2008-04-05 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Now that's a response. I suppose I did wonder myself about whether some might think "a nasty early life would help justify Anakin's fall to the Dark Side," but perhaps wound up deciding it didn't have that much bearing on my point... I do recall, though, some mostly post-TPM speculation that "returning to try and free the slaves would have some bearing on Anakin's fall," and at times I wonder if that could tie into some alternative vision in which Palpatine offers the power of the Dark Side to "fix the galaxy as a whole!", something I just think "no better and no worse" than how the story turned out... although I've also considered that if Vader's redemption is signalled (not bought, as some seem to be stuck on believing) by personal connections, then a fall due to personal connections as well is somehow more "balanced," less "Don't worry about the big picture--just cling to your family."

I do find myself wondering about that confrontation you related about the cantina encounter, though... I would suppose that everyone involved with the initial filming of Star Wars would have figured "It is what it is." Of course, I'm sure they didn't imagine the stupendous cosmic significance some have applied to it after the fact...

Date: 2008-04-05 06:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In the Roman Empire, some slaves managed to acquire enough wealth to purchase slaves of their own. But it didn't change that they were not free people. If the master felt like having sex with your wife or daughter, there wasn't anything you could do about it. If the master wanted to sell your son to somebody, too bad so sad. Even in the antebellum South, not every single slave was kept in bad conditions or treated poorly. In fact in Louisiana, slaves could earn money and buy themselves out of servitude. Did this change the fact they were still someone else's property and had no rights? No. There doesn't need to be chains and a Simon Legree flogging Anakin to get the point across that he was not living the life of Riley. Anakin and Shmi lived in a crappy hovel, a far cry from the Jedi Temple, Palpatine's posh digs, or Amidala's palace. He had some explosive device in his body. He was not in control of his own fate, something that affected his psyche for the rest of his life.

Date: 2008-04-05 06:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I thought a bit myself about trying to make the point "there are variations on a slave society," but perhaps left it out because I was worried I would somehow make a faux pas. Your points are very valid, though.

Date: 2008-04-08 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow! I inspired thought! Which was, of course, the whole point, though I didn't really expect it to happen... :) Good observations!

Date: 2008-04-09 12:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm glad just to have helped show that people have read your essay. Of course, I'm glad to have shown your essay inspired thought as well.

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