site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of January 16, 2023

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

Here's my opinion on how to defuse many aspects of culture war: reduce copyright length to at most 40-50 years.

Consider. Lots of people were upset when Rian Johnson deliberately made the Last Jedi to be about fighting "toxic masculinity" and "fan entitlement". But he is not the problem. I am not here to criticize RJ. His interpretation actually had some interesting ideas even if it was badly executed and inconsistent with my general concept of what SW movie "should" be.

The problem is that Disney anointed him to be the one to save Star Wars from smelly nerds. And there's nothing you could do unless you had a billion dollars to buy SW from Disney. Except in the end this didn't work out for "woke" cause either, because TLJ did poorly at the box office so Disney hired Abrams who overrode every RJs decision. Everyone loses.

I think part of the reason why "culture wars" are so bitter is that all sides are essentially reduced to pressuring (or begging) large, faceless corporations into reflecting their values. This creates mutual distrust because both sides know that corporations will drop your values the second they stop being profitable. It is fundamentally toxic.

But if noone owns IP then we can have both "based" and "woke" version of every franchise. Fans will rise to the occasion to make both. Hence, less bitter culture wars.

Of course, there's zero chance Disney ever allows erosion of copyright, but it is fun to speculate.

TLJ did poorly at the box office

According to Box Office Mojo, The Last Jedi earned. $1.3 billion worldwide -- and was the #1 film domestically in 2017

It's not what that film did, it's that every film since that one has been a box office dissapointment.

Solo, the next film after Last Jedi did 1/3 of Rogue One's Domestic Box, Rise of Skywalker did less than either of the previous trilogy films (in nominal dollars), compare with Lord of the Rings where each film does 20% more than the prior one, or the original trilogy where Return of the Jedi does 6% more than Empire Strikes Back.

Disney paid $4 billion for LucasFilm and released a film a year from the studio, which stopped after Solo and the last film of the trilogy. Compare with Marvel which continues to release 3-4 films a year under Disney.

Marvel, both comics and films, has always been not just an ensemble of heroes, but an ensemble of tones. Disney gets that, in the same way their Princess films have each been very different:

Want earnest do-gooding and the struggle between normal life and superheroing? Watch a Spider-Man. Want a story about doing right anyway in the face of bigotry and oppressive political power mirroring the Civil Rights struggles? Watch an X-Men. Want a story of a great mind struggling with both great obstacles and personal weakness? Watch an Iron Man.

They tried to do the same with Solo as a heist film, Rogue One as a war film, and The Last Jedi as a Chosen Ones Against Great Evil/Passing The Torch film, and for me, they mostly worked. But that ensemble of tones was attempted within the final trilogy, and in TLJ, within the same film, all without the level of master planning of Kevin Fiege’s Marvel, and it didn’t work. It all felt like plot and tone overrode the joy of imagination, which is what Disney and Marvel are both known for.

They also announced they were going to ignore the big story beats from the vast story universe of the books: a healthy and fecund Solo/Organa marriage, a happily married Grand Master Luke Skywalker and his functional and growing New Jedi Order, a struggling but functionally governed New Republic in an unsteady peace and competition with a militaristic and dysfunctional Imperial Remnant ruled by people, and the complete political dethroning of the Sith and other Dark Side factions who continue to make big trouble in the galaxy.

Instead we got divorced rogue Han, a Leia out of power and leading a militia, a Dark Side faction which was more interested in slavery and destruction than gaining true, lasting power, a bad Solo son who took out the whole New Jedi Order offscreen, and a bitter and failed Luke living in isolation as a monk and looking to forget his glory days in a galaxy still run by the connected and corrupt elite. People asked “what even was the point of the win in The Return of the Jedi if it all fell apart before a generation had passed?”

To be fair as a kid I felt the exact same way about the New Jedi Order series (R. A. Salvatore, really?), but it sounds like popular opinion swung in favor of those sometime after I checked out.

This isn't the first time someone's decided to destroy the happy endings of beloved characters and throw everything they built into a dystopian war with a few hundred trillion deaths that makes every earlier struggle meaningless. And at least Chewbacca didn't die in the new movies.(in an off-screen flashback? Or maybe that was from a "last time on star wars" scene from another book. It's been a while)

Ironically, the backstory of the final trilogy could have been the first film of it and garnered critical acclaim! Call it Fall Of Skywalker.

Show the New Jedi Order in morning calisthenics, doing sparring and obstacle courses with lit sabers. The order is doing great, but Ben doesn’t like Luke’s strictness. Also, Luke is married to Mara Jade, former Emperor’s Hand and second Master of the Order with Luke.

Leia being ousted from the New Republic leadership when it comes to light she’s Vader’s daughter, over her protests she’s an Organa in her politics and her heart.

The alien philosopher Snoke tempting Ben to become a “Grey Jedi” and giving him a test: watch his uncle’s eyes for hate.

Leia finds out the media scoop was provided by a shadowy source, and tracking it down leads to proof of mass abductions and missing hyperfuel shipments.

Ben and Han have a huge argument about Snoke and Ben uses the Force to shove his dad. Han tells Luke the kid’s a bad seed, then storms off to do some smuggling to clear his head.

Leia finds proof of slavery of armies of stormtroopers. She learns a new fascist power has emerged in the underindustrialized sectors of the galaxy, promising an end of poverty: The First Order. She returns to Hosnian Prime to discover they’re already there, making a non-aggression treaty with the New Republic.

Ben is startled awake from a nightmare by Luke standing over him, green saber lit. Ben fights him to a standstill, fear and anger boiling from him, while Luke looks stone cold deadly and determined, almost inhuman. Luke’s other students join in the fight reluctantly, and Luke slices through Ben’s blue lightsaber to disarm him, but red-sabered figures emerge from the shadows: the Knights of Ren (as seen in TLJ). They slaughter Luke’s students and wife, and rescue Ben, taking him aboard Snoke’s ship.

Epilogue: Leia forms her militia after the New Republic refuses to hear her evidence of stormtroopers and Star Destroyers. Luke disappears to the planet of the first Jedi temple. Han shows up at Chewie’s door on Kashykk and asks if he’d like to do one more run, for old time’s sake.

Do it this way, and the third film isn’t even needed.