George Lucas

By: Matthew Battles
May 14, 2010

george_lucas

And so we come to the difficulty with GEORGE LUCAS (b. 1944). Tricky case, this one. As Josh Glenn describes it in his post on the Boomers, Lucas’ cohort is susceptible to the condition of imaginative suggestibility: the tendency to succumb to auto-hypnosis. Shall we rehearse the diagnosis? First, there’s absorption: “the ability to immerse oneself whole-heartedly in whatever it is that one is into…only to drop it one day and quickly get absorbed in something else.” How else to understand Lucas’ serial industrialization of every facet of the modern storytelling apparatus, down to the primal forces of sound, light, and magic themselves? Next, there’s fantasy-proneness: “a marked tendency to frame one’s own life in a mythical register”; well, it goes without saying that the master of Skywalker Ranch has this in spades, along with hysteria-proneness, “a tendency towards emotional excess,” as any frame culled at the 10th, the 40th, or the 70th minute from any of his movies will attest. As for empathy — well, of this last symptom we have no clear evidence. With three of four symptoms present, though, we can conclude a case of Middlebrow Autohypnotic Suggestibility Syndrome. But we should have known it from the start: his first feature film, THX 1138, slavishly rehashed Orwell, Huxley, Kubrick, and pre-Golden Age SF; American Graffiti, meanwhile, gently toasted Boomer chestnuts in mythic grease. With the legend of Luke Skywalker, Lucas took the rehash to unprecedented heights. The man who told Carrie Fisher that “there is no underwear in space” cobbled together a TV dinner of reheated tropes and moods gathered from Joseph Campbell and the great space operas of the ’20s and ’30s. As the series progressed, it gained candelabras, linen napkins, and crystal goblets — but it was still a TV dinner, no matter the mise en place or the mass hysteria. In Star Wars we have the prototype of the mythos-as-product-line; the hero may not have a thousand faces, but a thousand price points will do. We can be grateful to Lucas for two things: first, the swarm of parody and cringe-worthy, meme-spawning fan fiction his work has spawned. Second, his impact on science fiction: for upon that spirited and speculative genre he leaves no mark of influence whatsoever.

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