June 1999
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The Fear of The Phantom Menace, Is a Fear of Our Own Mortality

by Jeremy Pearson

After observing the hubub which has occured over the recently released reviews of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, I have come to several profound conclusions. First of all, being in college forces one to write in a horribly pretentious manner. Ever a lover of education, I have happily acquiesced.

Beyond my own pretense, I believe that the negative reviews stem from a collective fear of our own mortality. For most of us, Star Wars is intrinsically linked to our childhood. I'm confident that I'm not the only one who engaged my friends in fearsome combat, armed with flashlights and garbed in Underoos. Part of the price of growing up, is a loss of innocence and wonder.

Adults are capable of a greater complexity of thought, but children believe in magic.

As the weariness of daily life takes its toll, our subconscious yearns for simpler times. A time when we could believe, imagine, and let go. I believe that many of the people who venture to see TPM do so with the subconscious desire to become children again. Our intellect assures us that this cannot happen, but our subconscious is not so easily convinced. When the viewer is not transformed, our intellect lashes out in misdirected fury, judging the film for what it could not hope to accomplish. When the film fails to transform us into children, we are confronted with our own mortality. We have lost something which cannot be regained, and we are one step closer to the abyss. It is not easy to stare into the abyss of our own death and the unknown, and instead of confronting this, the reviewer attacks the source of the reminder.

Beyond these overtones, there are also many vivid reminders of death that pepper their way through the film. On a brutally obvious level, many of the ships and weapons (ie. DEATH star) feature death as part of their name. As Confucius wrote, "He that gives death a name, invites death as his companion."

On a deeper level, I don't think it was an accident that the afore mentioned Death Star was designed to resemble a human egg. The egg represents life and fertility, the point when a person has the most amount of living yet to do. Instead of embracing the Death Star, or fertilizing it with the curiously sperm shaped Star Destroyers, the rebels destroy it. Instead of fighting for freedom, the rebellion seems to embrace the path of nihilism. As Carl Jones, one of the great Jungian philosophers of our time, wrote, "Once society embraces the destruction of a single egg, especially through explosion, society will begin exploding all the eggs." Take a moment to reflect on this if you desire. Moving forward, Lucas seems to have a curious fascination with hair. Many of the aliens (ie. Wookies, Ewoks, Taun Tauns) are covered entirely in body hair.

As many of you probably know, one of the effects of the aging process is the rapid growth of hair in places where one did not usually grow hair. As creatures of hair, Wookies, Ewoks, etc., are the ultimate symbols of the decrepity of old age. Hunter S. Thompson, when making a similar observation, wrote, "Life is the battle against hair in all its forms. If I only had a pair of cosmic scissors, I would live forever." America is a culture structured around the love of youth. We fear growing old, because we fear the ultimate end of the aging process. Is it any surprise that the heroes of the rebellion are youthful and attractive, and Emperor Palpatine, the symbol of evil, is aged and repulsive?

Beyond simple human death, Lucas seems to be implying that the destruction of nature is on the foreseeable horizon. The most vivid example of this message is embodied in Yoda. There are two aspects to Yoda that are significant. First of all, Yoda is green. Much like the Green Knight, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, green has often been associated with the forces of nature. Yoda could be considered a nature god, if you will. When you link Yoda's greenness, with the profuse amount of hair that grows out of his ears, the connection becomes obvious. By combining nature and old age, and factoring in Yoda's death, Lucas seems to imply that nature is on its deathbed, on the verge of fading into oblivion. Herman Hesse, in a great debate before the German Parliament, argued, "The actions of my countrymen should convince you, that what is green is rubbish, and what is rubbish should be swept away. Our blitzkrieg has split the great oak in two."

The purpose of linking the Star Wars movies to a fear of our own mortality, is simply done as an aid so that we might enjoy TPM all the more. If we are aware of the detente between our subconscious and intellect, it may be easier to rise above it, allowing neither to dictate our reaction to the film. As Jonathan Swift, one far more gifted than myself, said in a speech before the House of Commons, "Lucas, why do you rock so hard?"

Editors Note: None of the famous people mentioned actually said or wrote any of the things attributed to them. The author has been fired for a far too liberal interpretation of artistic license. Further, the author intended this to be funnier than, in reading over it, it actually ended up being, but he had already written quite a bit and felt like sending it anyway. As the Biblical Proverb says, "Even a fool is thought wise if he holds his tongue."

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