Aaron R. Davis
I had this horrible nightmare where I fell asleep and woke up in a world where it was still acceptable for grown men to whine about their disappointment in a children’s fantasy movie that they saw when they were in their twenties. A world where it was somehow socially acceptable to use public space to argue the merits of a movie that no one was forced at gunpoint to see yet everyone would not stop watching. A world where, somehow, people could use phrases like “childhood rape” without being completely ashamed of themselves for comparing severe emotional trauma to not liking a movie.
Unfortunately, I have yet to wake up from this nightmare, because I see it every freaking day — only once, if I’m lucky — all over the Internet.
The Internet is the greatest tool in human history for disseminating and retrieving information. It has made communication more immediate and leveled much of the playing field in access to education. It is also used so grown men can continue to not get over the fact that they were disappointed in The Phantom Menace. And quite frankly, most days I’m not sure if the advances to civilization are worth having to put up with these crybabies.
Guys, it’s time to let go of The Phantom Menace.
You weren’t traumatized in an accident. Your family wasn’t kidnapped by terrorists and never heard from again. You didn’t cut off a limb in a power tool mishap. You just went to see a movie and you didn’t like it. Or, to be more accurate, you did like it. I know, because I was there. You liked it and you went to see it five or six more times, and then once the euphoric high of having a new Star Wars movie in the cinemas wore off, you started analyzing it, decided it wasn’t cool to like Jar Jar Binks or little kid Darth Vader or midichlorians and you spent the next decade defensively whining about it to overcompensate for the fact that you didn’t hate it right away. Because, you know, that’s what would make you uncool.
Now, here I’m going to specifically use my own generation as an example. My generation is the one that were very little kids when the original Star Wars trilogy came out. We were the ones who played with the action figures, read the Marvel comics and — though we all pretend we hated them even when we were under the age of 10 (bullshit) — watched the Ewoks cartoon. We’re the ones who always had Star Wars in our lives and carried the torch for them all through our teenage years, even during the time period when Star Wars was pretty much dead as a commercial enterprise (before the Expanded Universe books and Special Edition re-releases, when there were no longer any toys being released based on those movies and George Lucas was making, I don’t know, Radioland Murders and such), clicking our heels and hoping against hope that the long-fabled prequels would finally be made.
My generation is the one that used to get on our bikes and glide through the neighborhoods pretending we were Imperial Biker Scouts on Endor, long before we decided liking a movie with spear-wielding teddy bears wasn’t cool and started talking about Return of the Jedi as though it’s the bad one. Those films overpowered our imaginations when we were in our formative years to the point where it was impossible to be objective about any of the films as narratives, but categorized them instead as important experiences.
And then, when George Lucas failed to recapture that experience, we turned on him.
Well, you did, you ingrates. I’ve always liked the movie. I find it just as fun — and just as flawed — as the other Star Wars flicks. I’ve heard all of your opinions, ad nauseum, and they aren’t going to change my mind because I don’t consider my opinion of The Phantom Menace to be so dire or important or character-defining that I need to be defensive about it. I think it’s a little rude of you to try and bully me into a discussion about it as though liking or not liking TPM says anything of any consequence to anyone’s life.
I wrote a post on my personal blog about how going to see the 3D re-release with my wife for our anniversary this year was pretty special because a) we’re broke and unemployed and don’t get to treat ourselves very often (thank you, tax refund) and b) the experience of seeing it in the cinema again recaptured an earlier time when we were first dating and still felt like kids, and someone came in and shit all over the sweet time we’d had in judgmental paragraphs about how awful they find the movie and how stupid anyone is for liking it, and I think that was extremely fucking rude, especially since any criticism I will ever hear of this movie — the least-objectively-reviewed movie of all time — is the exact same criticism repeated through various degrees of grown man tears. I have not heard an opinion about this movie that’s unique or insightful in at least nine years.
(And don’t tell me about that unfunny, overlong Red Letter Media asshole, because if you recommend that shit to me, that’s how I know you’re not an interesting person, you just like hearing your long-held biases repeated back at you via the kind of Internet meme thinking that sadly passes for wit in the digital age.)
So, look, I understand: you hate George Lucas because he couldn’t somehow make you seven years old when you saw The Phantom Menace. You had to watch it as a cynical guy in his twenties, a guy who had been burned by the hype on Godzilla and had suddenly decided after seeing it for the 13th time and making it one of the biggest hits in years that you were offended by the silliness of Independence Day. You held on to your childhood obsessions for too long, and when you realized it, you turned on the man who made your childhood what it was. And you never forgave him that it took you so long to figure out that even if you enjoy kid flicks as an adult, they’re always going to be more fun when seen through the uncritical eye of a child.
You grew up. Get over it. Being publicly destroyed by it and never letting it go is just in poor taste and, given the movies you find really serious and important now, impairing your judgment.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org