- WND - http://www.wnd.com -

Jarred by Jar Jar: Is Lucas a racist?

Despite its (inevitable and predestined) inability to live up to the
canonical Star Wars trilogy, I had a terrific time at “The Phantom
Menace.” But the Star Wars street wisdom seems utterly obsessed with
denouncing what it considers a fatal, irredeemable flaw in the movie —
to wit, the silly alien sidekick, Jar Jar Binks. Sites dedicated to the
goal of his painful death and the destruction of his race have
at hyperdrive speed (click
here for one of the funnier

I was a little baffled by the depth of the hatred here till I figured
out that it isn’t just that people think Jar Jar’s not funny — although
many of them do in fact think he’s not funny. It’s that they see his
existence in the movie as sacrilegious. Hardcore Star Wars fans are
interested in seeing earnestness, heroism, and (in its attractive though
strangely content-free Jedi form) spirituality. They take their Star
Wars very, very seriously, and they’re profoundly offended by the
slapstick element this clumsy Gungan fellow imparts. “Comedy? We don’t
need no stinkin’ comedy!” You know, even “King Lear” has a Fool, guys.

More gravely, some critics are actually levying charges of

upon Lucas & Co. because of the foolish and bumbling Jar Jar’s
Caribbean-sounding patois. This is pure and unequivocal hogwash, and I’m
going to give away plot elements explaining why, so those of you who’d
rather not know should skip the next paragraph.

The Caribbean reference in Jar Jar’s accent (which happens to be the
idea of black actor Ahmed Best, the voice of Jar Jar — not Lucas) is a
deliberate and profoundly intelligent choice. It adds
dimensionality to the portrayal of the equivocal, less-than-comfortable
way in which the Gungan race coexists on the planet Naboo with the
mainstream or dominant culture, Queen Amidala’s people. Since the plot
hinges upon the latter coming to renounce their feelings of superiority
(very explicitly indeed — honestly, you’d think the PC crowd would get
this) and ally themselves with the Gungans, who take center stage in the
subsequent battle, it should be abundantly clear
that the Gungan element in the film is, if anything, anti-racist. And a
thoughtfully anti-racist movie is rare enough among the standardized,
knee-jerk, platitude-based offerings normally vouchsafed the public that
all of us, led by the politically correct, ought by rights to be
acclaiming Lucas — and Best — in every newspaper’s arts section if not
its editorial page. The accusations against Lucas are simple-minded at
best. At worst, they’re the product of spite, envy, and the smallest and
pettiest species of pop-culture-despising elitism.

Regarding the rest of “The Phantom Menace,” it’s true that the
ubiquitously promoted villain Darth Maul turned out vague and unrealized
— my worst disappointment. On the other hand, Liam Neeson as the Jedi
mentor Qui-Gon Jinn rose to the occasion, projecting just the right
reassuring, Gandalfian air of unassuming gravitas. Even young Jake Lloyd
as Anakin Skywalker seemed adequate to his task — or, at least, he
wasn’t as dreadfully, Spielbergianly cute as early reports had had me
fearing. But in any case, the mise-en-scène, with its remarkable and
elsewhere-detailed technical achievements, is the real star of this
movie. It’s never going to be 1977 again, so I figure we may as well all
quit bellyaching and enjoy Episode I’s considerable accomplishments for
what they’re worth.

Get ready for the rays

Now that it’s June, the skin-conscious will want to check in daily
with the UV
developed by
the National Weather Service and the EPA. A colorful map of the U.S. (or
a text

if you prefer) will show you the strength of ultraviolet rays in your
area and how long you can safely stay in the sun
before skin
damage is
likely to occur. The site also offers tips on protecting
yourself and
your children
while outdoors. I’m not in general a fan of the EPA, or of
finger-wagging health-police ideas like “stay out of the sun.” I
consider sunshine one of life’s basic pleasures. But I’m acquainted with
a melanoma case or two, and you don’t want to go there.

Yes, Virginia

The Columbia Journalism Review’s typically and offensively
patronizing take on
Virginia Postrel’s libertarian magazine
Reason has to be seen to be believed. I’m
spluttering. Go check it out. Then take a look at the kind of coverage
Reason offers on issues like the gun
and see what’s making the
socialist CJR so nervous.

The Street’s Y2K contingency planning

The Securities Industry Association has
issued the report of its Ad-Hoc Committee on Y2K Contingency Planning.
The committee suggests that U.S. markets close early this December 31
and that mutual funds make their year-end payouts well before the
Christmas break. They have addressed the issues of a major investment
bank failure — a country-wide failure — as well as of reducing and/or
redirecting end-of-year trading volume. Download the report from the
site, and see also the informative program of the SIA’s Year 2000

which will take place on June 23 in New York City.