Review: THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS

(A much longer version of this post appeared on [Comic Related])people v george lucas

Fandom can be a funny thing – motivated by love and admiration (with, at times, a slight hint of obsession), collective fandom can be simultaneously creative and destructive. With C2E2 coming to a close, some of the resulting issues are driving some very active – and necessary – conversation The recent documentary The People Vs. George Lucas bravely outlines these issues, using a variety of fan-created media and interviews to provide a very well-balanced and insightful examination of one of the key “nerd” franchises in popular culture.

The film not only explores the director’s career, but serves as a “crowdsourced” documentary exploring the world and nuances of Star Wars fandom. Neither puff piece nor hatchet job, People explores a variety of themes: the nature of marketing and its influence on the development of fandom; Lucas’ 1988 comments about film preservation in light of the “Special Edition” versions of the original trilogy; how the franchise has encouraged fan creativity; and how Lucas’ early studio dealings may have affected his later activities and attitudes, and how fans have strongly reacted to those actions.

The film also contains two sequences which demonstrate the extremes to which Star Wars fandom (or fandom of any kind) tend to move towards, and which (in this writer’s humble opinion) can be harmful. In one sequence, a pair of tattooed hipsters sing a tuneful, outrageous (and potentially offensive) folk song about George Lucas’ influence on their childhood, followed by a filmmaker providing an opposing – yet almost as potentially offensive – view. In both cases, both parties seem oblivious to the obvious absurdity and ambiguity of their statements. (Yes, the description is deliberately oblique – you really need to watch the sequences to appreciate them.)

But what makes the film really insightful is the way in which the film straddles the line, revealing the impact of Star Wars both positively and negatively. In an ironic way, it also reveals a more troubling tendency towards “groupthink” in nerd culture – an increasing tendency towards exclusion, snobbery, and single mindedness, with slightly more boorish and rude behavior becoming prevalent both within and outside the Internet. Thankfully, many of us refuse to indulge in the belief of a “nerd mainstream”, allowing us to define our nerdery for ourselves, increasing the diversity of opinion. When we choose to ignore that diversiy of opinions, even the opinion that it really doesn’t matter, say, whether Greedo shot first….that’s the first step towards denying the fact that it doesn’t matter kind of art we love….only that we can love and appreciate art.)

One of the things that makes The People Vs. George Lucas so fascinating is that it doesn’t take a hard line either way – it’s neither blatantly fannish nor is it extremely critical. It’s one of the most well-balanced, even-handed, extremely watchable documentaries made about popular culture. Some of the observations it makes and the conclusions it draws…well, one wonders whether Lucas watched this film…and took much of the content to heart. Plus, there’s plenty of fan-created content that makes this film visually distinctive and highly entertaining…and surprised that it never received greater exposure until a random Netflix recommendation.

Definitely worth seeking out if you’re interested in Star Wars, geek culture, and/or you just like documentaries.

One Response to Review: THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS

  1. marvin says:

    hey, I saw the footage of Lucas testifying before Congress was so Ironic!

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