A New Hope That The Empire Strikes Back at the Jedi’s Return to the Dark Side

As we approach the possible sequel to Barack Obama’s New Hope the Empire is surely striking back. Personally, as a fervent Obama supporter in 2008 (I made calls to New Hampshire, Florida, and Pennsylvania) I’m happy that should he be reelected there won’t be a trilogy. There doesn’t need to be. Like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, Obama is being tempted and seduced by the dark side. Gitmo is still open; Afghanistan has drained the wealth of our nation, debilitating its ability to weather the global financial storm, while thousands of young Americans and Afghani civilians have died. Furthermore, an assault on the middle class in the form of debt championed by corporate welfare in the Senate and the White House has gone unfettered by our president. The empire has indeed co-opted this promising young padawan.

I’m not a fan of Lucas’s prequels to his masterful and visionary Star Wars Trilogy and I especially hated Episode 1: The Phantom Acting Ability. However, Lucas’s take on the process of political decay that befalls all republics has been spot on. In The Phantom Menace (the real title) it is a permanent bureaucracy in conjunction with a monopolistic business class that has true control while representatives squabble over inane policies and our kept in the dark on military and regulatory action. This bureaucracy knows no party affiliation or check on its power and through a combination of fear tactics, media malpractice (business class), and money has allowed for a reversal of civil rights of all Americans.

It’s on the back of these events that the Tea Party has successfully funneled white anger against the system only to reinforce the system. Senator Palpatine used fear of this bureaucracy to force of vote of confidence in the chancellor and take control for himself. The current rising star of the republican presidential field, Michele Bachmann, has stated in a Wall Street Journal interview that her favorite philosophical author is Ludwig Von Mises, the economist known for such writings as Socialism, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War, and surprise surprise, Bureaucracy. 

The Tea Party continues to push back against this bureaucracy but through an unbalanced approach, blowing away sensible regulation of what pollutants go into our water and food while supporting tax credits for industries, deregulation of the financial system and the Sherman Anti-trust policies, and the reauthorization of the patriot act, all programs that have successfully crowded out the free market from American business.

The Tea Party should be careful not to make the mistake of propping up a messiah figure forth right that only serves to indulge their nativist attitudes while allowing the same monopolistic and bureaucratic policies to continue.

We must remember that the problems facing America are not the sole creation of big business as the left would preach or big government as the right preaches, but a collusion of both. This collusion of classes –political and financial– in the protection of a noble class in Washington must be stopped but not at the expense of creating a strong executive with wide powers over the state’s monopoly over violence. There are indeed admirable qualities that Ms. Bachmann possesses outside the hyperbolic religious fervor she espouses in Taliban-like rhetoric.

Many societies have stood on the doorstep of totalitarianism before a charismatic leader, Rome before Caesar, Germany before Hitler, and the intergalactic senate before Darth Sidious’s alter ego Senator Palpatine. I’ve never recommended the Star War prequels to anyone before, but to my Tea Party brothers and sisters I suggest a movie marathon… I’ll bring the popcorn.

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Holy Superheroes, Batman!

The superhero genre is an American creation, like jazz and stripper poles, exemplifying American ideals, American know-how, and American might, a mating of magical thinking and the right stuff. (May Vanity Fair)

After Barack Obama was elected in November 2008, Hollywood saw the trend: This man would save America, from the economy, from foreign opinion, from war, from the Bush era.  He would bring America back to its former glory.

After a decade of sorted superheroes flying across green screens with the greatest of ease, in 2009 and 2010 only two films from the superhero genre were released, Iron Man 2 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Both films were sequels; America didn’t need any new superheroes, we had Obama.

Now over two years into Obama’s term and things are changing.  If you needed any other signs that summer is finally (almost, kind of) here, you only need to look at the swell of blockbusters hitting the screens.  Johnny Depp with his raven locks and guyliner, took over the box office last weekend with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but two weeks ago it was America’s superheroes who officially launched their summer tour.  Thor, which has grossed over $145 million in the US since its May 6 release, is the first of four big-budget superhero films set for theaters this summer (X-Men First Class, June 3, Green Lantern, June 17, Captain America: The First Avenger, July 22).

Even more capes will be flashing across the big screen in 2012 with The Avengers, Superman: Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man.

So what’s going on?

In almost every year since 2000, at least one film from the superhero genre has cracked the top 20 list of domestic box office grossers.  The X-Men and Spider-Man franchises alone have grossed over $1.9 billion domestically, spanning across seven films.

Comparatively, however, the 2000’s were unable to capture a tone befitting the era, as the genre has done in the past.  Superman ruled at the box office from 1978 until 1988, releasing four films in the franchise.  The escalating Cold War and an economic crisis encouraged a country in distress to embrace the nationalistic timbre that defined Ronald Reagan’s presidency; Superman, with his ability to withstand bullets and leap tall buildings in a single bound, was an ideal guardian for America during the turbulent 1980’s.

As the last great enemy of the United States vanished with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, America became the world’s only remaining superpower, and in turn with the tide in 1989, Tim Burton would reboot Batman. A superhero who lacked any superhuman abilities, save perhaps his high intelligence, Batman a.k.a. Bruce Wayne, was a wealthy businessman-turned-vigilante fighting crime at night dressed as a bat, using an array of highly developed, tech-savvy weapons.  Batman was symbolic of the abundant wealth and economic dominance of Wall Street and Silicon Valley throughout much of the 1990’s.  In addition to America’s dark knight, Hollywood also created film versions of dark, morally ambiguous superheroes in The Punisher (1989), Spawn (1997), and Blade (1998).

But the post 9/11 America never found itself a consistent superhero; along with the X-Men and Spider-Man, Hollywood also gave us Hellboy, The Fantastic Four, Hulk, Ghost Rider, Chris Nolen’s take on Batman, another Superman, and Iron Man.

What makes 2011/2012 different is that, contrary to previous years when we saw the same characters over several films, only two of the upcoming superhero flicks are sequels, The Dark Knight Rises and Ghost Rider.  The remainder are either brand new franchises or reboots, such as Captain America and Superman: Man of Steel.

In 2008, America thought it had found its hero.  Now, however, it seems the “honeymoon” is over.  Obama’s campaign of “hope” and “change” were stalled by reality, and despite the achievements he has made thus far — passing health care legislation, over-turning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and now the death of Osama bin Laden — people still can at most times only talk of his failures, such as the slow economic recovery, high unemployment, and unforthcoming closing of Guantanamo.

Obama couldn’t perform miracles or walk on water, and he couldn’t instantly pull America out of the hole it had dug for itself since 9/11, as so many had expected him to after they built him up during the campaign.

Perhaps the words of Commissioner Jim Gordon closing lines of The Dark Knight best describe the decline of Super-Obama: “he’s the hero Gotham deserves. But not the one it needs right now. And so we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark knight.”


Jon Stewart vs Bill O’Reilly

As much as it kills me to link to anything from Fox News, here is Jon Stewart’s appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s The O’Reilly Factor last night, “defending” the Obama Administrations choice to invite the rapper Common to the White House for a poetry reading last week.

As Stewart deftly pointed out — when he was able to get a word in – the “cop killers” Common celebrates, according to Fox, are not the defining points of the rappers career.  Stewart went on to say that, “there is a selective outrage machine over here at Fox that pettifogs only when it suits the narrative that suits them.”

While Stewart’s words weren’t exactly shocking, it’s still nice to watch someone say it to their faces.  You can almost see O’Reilly being boxed into an uncomfortable corner as Stewart compared Common’s raps to other works by artists Bono and Bob Dylan, who have in the past written lyrics about convicted murderers they felt were done a diservice by the American justice system. But O’Reilly basically just shuts that down by cutting the feed to move onto another segment of the interview.