So what have I been up to? Mainly rediscovering my childhood through my son. You see, he is a big Star Wars fan:
When I was little, I was a pretty big Star Wars fan. Coincidence? Not really, I've certainly stoked his interest, but his interest seems genuine nonetheless. That being said, I hope he doesn't do what I do and grow up resenting liking Star Wars for years because I associated it with "being little".
Although this insulated me from a lot of the Star Wars "extras" (what do you call the entire culture out there that lives this stuff?), it also insulated me from looking back fondly on my own childhood, which was, as far as I can recall, pretty good.
Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that I think a lot of the criticism around the prequels is very much related to the fact that there are a lot of people out there who grew up feeling a similar way to me about the original films, and discovered that being grown up doesn't offer the same experience of the "new" that being a five year old does.
That is also why I think the recent, and very popular film review of Phantom Menace, while funny (and disturbing - not for kids!) is still very much in the vein of "why couldn't George Lucas make me a kid again" style of Star Wars criticism that has characterized (or plagued) the past decade since the prequels were released.
I think the review makes a lot of salient points, but I also think it's couched in the same kind of anger that is fuelling the
People vs. George Lucas, an upcoming documentary on people's complex psychological relationships with Lucas.
If we can agree with Adorno that popular cultural products are a mirror of the culture in which we live, then I think it's safe to say that there are a lot of people out there who view George Lucas as the father who raised you really well and then once you'd grew up, dumped your mom, bought a Ferrari and took off with the waitress from another bar.
Am I (over)psychologizing Star Wars criticism? Perhaps, but then, LOOK AT THE CRITICISM. Doesn't a lot of it scream out "Father Issues"? And isn't this rather ironic, given the Saga of Anakin Skywalker is all about father issues?
He lacks a father, spends the prequels looking for one, finds one, and only begins to seriously question his life path once he discovers he himself is now a father? Should it surprise us that so much of the critical relationship models the movies' themes?
Perhaps the documentary attempts to address this - the trailers suggest that it doesn't, favouring instead a sequence of futile catharses, but given I haven't seen the film I can't say! However, I do think that a lot of this clouds our ability to look at the films aesthetically, or as cultural artifacts of some lasting significance.
But then, who am I to talk, as a father whose son has drawn him back into thinking about these father-son films? Perhaps I am in more need of psychologizing...