star wars usenet

Yes, people were arguing about Star Wars on Usenet way back in 1985

I am not sure who Kelvin Thompson is, but some of the sentiment he expresses were all the rage when trying to get into “deeper” discussions about Star Wars when I was a kid. As a fan of Star Wars, I disagree with almost everything Kelvin mentions, but his post triggered quite the discussion. It is an early look at what blogging would become. Posting your opinion, hoping to connect with like-minded people, or at least engage with people who disagree.

I recall going online in the eighties and trawling Usenet, but not sure I ever visited any Star Wars Usenet. The following was posted on Star Wars Usenet (net.movies.sw) by Thompson way back in 1985. It triggered quite the discussion. The opinions are all his:

Star Wars
by Kelvin Thompson

Star Wars, yet another entry in the recent spate of “Space Operas,” is a bad, morally empty movie. Look, quick!! It has lights!! It has zooming spaceships!! It has laser flashes!! It has explosions!! Look closer, and it has nothing.

The plot of Star Wars is certainly nothing new: a bunch of good guys try to overthrow an evil space empire. Ruling the evil space empire are an evil count, James Earl Jones, and an evil spaceship commander, Peter Cushing (Dracula A.D.1972, The Curse of Frankenstein). Among the good guys are a princess, Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Shampoo), an old warrior, Alec Guiness (The Man in the White Suit, Murder by Death), a young warrior, Mark Hammil (Corvette Summer, Three Women), a mercenary, Harrison Ford (Witness, The_Conversation), and assorted robots and aliens.

From its opening scene, where two spaceships chase each other around a planet while trying to blow one another to smithereens, the movie loses any semblance of realism. The spaceships make swishing and humming noises as they maneuver about, and their lasers make zapping noises as they fire — all despite the fact that it has been scientifically proven that there are absolutely no sounds in space.

In another gaffe later in the movie, a robot supposedly manages to go up and down a staircase, even though it is quite obvious that it is structurally impossible for the robot to do so. The camera cuts away just as the robot gets to the staircase, but the viewer is again jolted by the obvious impossibility.

More important than any scientific error, however, is the glaring lack of any moral statement. In a time of mass starvation in central Africa, terrible human-wave battles in the Middle East, repression of civil rights in the USSR, legalized racism in South Africa, and rampant terrorism everywhere, this movie just hums merrily along in its rose-colored glasses.

For example, when Hammill, the supposed hero of the movie, sees the burned corpses of his parents, he responds by turning his head sideways. No tears, no shouts of outrage, just a crick in the neck and they are forgotten. Later, when an android buddy of his is discriminated against in a space-bar, he accepts the wrong without a blink. Late in the film, when an entire *planet* full of billions of sentient beings is annihilated, the good guys just sort of go, “Gosh, that’s too bad.” The bad guys, of course, smile cruelly. These kinds of responses to murder, discrimination, and genocide certainly do not encourage the kind of consciousness needed to overcome today’s problems.

Star Wars contains a lot of action sequences, so it will no doubt have a strong draw on today’s young people. Nonetheless, parents should make every effort to keep their children away from this morally bankrupt movie and direct them toward a film which takes a useful stand on some of the issues facing our world. And, naturally, all ethical adults should stay well away from it themselves.

Sadly these Star Wars Usenet discussions are getting difficult to find nowadays. Happily a few groups and companies have gone out of their way to preserve this early part of online life.

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9 thoughts on “Yes, people were arguing about Star Wars on Usenet way back in 1985

  1. Badwolf says:

    Is this guy for real?

    Has he ever heard of the concept of escapism? I mean, the film opens with the rejoinder “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” – why not bring up the fact that intergalactic travel has not yet been invented, so how could we possibly know what went on? In addition, time travel is also not yet known, so how could we know when it happened?

    Again – is this guy for real?

  2. mporcius says:

    In my youth I also beat the “this is unrealistic” drum quite a bit concerning Star Wars, especially “Return of the Jedi,” in which the Stone Age cave bears defeated the futuristic armored division. I never got on the “this movie should be about oppression in the Soviet Union and South Africa” bandwagon though. In fact, I think it is easy to argue that the first three Star Wars movies are an allegory about the need for diverse classes/races to work together to oppose oppressive regimes.

  3. Yes, more crying, self-righteousness, and scientific accuracy would have made Star Wars a much better film!

    The best (by which I mean most absurd) line: “Later, when an android buddy of his is discriminated against in a space-bar, he accepts the wrong without a blink.” LOL!

    I do wonder if the whole thing isn’t just a skillful attempt at comedy.

  4. I can appreciate where he’s coming from, but remarking about all the immorality while making no mention of the fact that Luke’s parents were also his aunt and uncle is an oversight of incest that in itself is morally bankrupt.

    Also, Harlan Ellison used to routinely beat that drum about “no sound in space” which he cited as his central motivation in refusing (allegedly) to write for major sci-fi projects. Even he eventually justified that away with some explanation about how due to “space wind” there’s an effectively similar phenomena in space that we might as well as think of as sound. Personally, I think the science was substantiated for him mostly by the idea of drawing a paycheck.

  5. He’s wasn’t serious:

    “WHY I POSTED THE ANTI-REVIEWS (in order of increasing importance):
    [1] To make a statement about the inherent ridiculousness of the movie
    review itself. Each viewer has a unique response to a movie, based on
    his or her unique set of preferences, biases, and tastes … and yet some
    people — sometimes one’s friends and sometimes pseudo-oracles called
    Critics — presume to predict how others will respond. If a single
    person can have two different reactions to a movie on two different days,
    how can a Critic predict how millions will respond? And other artsy-
    fartsy bull****. ”

    “[5] A couple of times, as I read a response to an anti-review that
    somebody had taken seriously, I would think to myself, “My God, some
    people will beleive *anything*.” But then a little voice in my head
    would retort on the responder’s behalf, “Yeah, but I can beleive
    *anything* about some people.” Later, as I was going through a film
    review index doing research for some anti-reviews, I had an opportunity
    to read a lot of reviews, and I came across some real dogs. In case
    y’all haven’t heard: there are some *stupid* reviews out there. And they
    are for real.”

    http://groups.google.com/group/net.movies/browse_thread/thread/eeacffa06073fc92/42c603bab46a396b?hl=en#42c603bab46a396b

  6. In my youth I also beat the “this is unrealistic” drum quite a bit concerning Star Wars, especially “Return of the Jedi,” in which the Stone Age cave bears defeated the futuristic armored division. I never got on the “this movie should be about oppression in the Soviet Union and South Africa” bandwagon though. In fact, I think it is easy to argue that the first three Star Wars movies are an allegory about the need for diverse classes/races to work together to oppose oppressive regimes.

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