Epic tales of science fiction, adventures of iconic super heroes, and fantastical quests and tales of brave deeds have for years been our modern morality tales: the stories once told around campfires or at bedtime to teach us how to treat our fellow men and women and of ideals of decency and how to strive for them have, in this century, been replaced by space ships on the screen, brightly colored tights in print, dragons and knights in books.
Where exactly did we go wrong?
I don’t think I’m alone in stating that I am who I am because of icons like Luke Skywalker and Gandalf, or for me personally, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, or the heroes of The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper: The Drew Children, Will Stanton, Bran Davies. These stories did more for us then make sure we were in a constant state of pretending things were light sabers. They taught us morals. They showed us what being a good, decent person looks like.
Why then, do so many people seem to not get the message?
After the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens dropped, some insanely dumb hashtag about boycotting the film trended on Twitter. Why? Because there is a black guy in it. Now, obviously this was a sadly vocal minority whose hashtag only made the jump to lightspeed because people made fun of it, but they aren’t alone.
Now Captain America, who has never been a big fan of the way his own government operates, is being targeted for a story arc where some masked guys try to violently prevent immigrants from entering a country built by immigrants. It’s not unlike the negative reactions to Miles Morales taking over as Spider-Man, because apparently years of stories about Spider-Man standing up to bullies and hate dissolved in some folks minds as fast as his webbing.
I am completely flummoxed how someone could memorize every moment and line of dialogue of Star Wars, and then not understand that outraging over a woman or black man playing a lead is behavior more befitting a Moff than Mon Mothma. George Lucas wasn’t exactly subtle in the original trilogy: The Empire is Nazis, from the uniforms to the philosophy. And not Nazis like ‘ugh Obama did something I didn’t like, that Nazi!’ I mean the actual Nazis. But like, from space.
I MEAN COME ON
Are people’s brains broken, or are we doing a terrible job telling stories? How are we not getting through?
I’ve now watched a whole bunch of Hunger Game movies, and I’m pretty sure the point of them is ‘celebrity worship is bad and the media is being used to control you.’ The second point of them is ‘Natalie Dormer can rock that haircut.’
How many teens are leaving the theater or closing that book and letting that message sink in? Are they learning the morals the story is expressing, or are they too excited about the dance mix of a sad song about a man being wrongly executed?
Are stories getting through to anyone?
Not to say that it’s just “kids these days!” that have thick, dumb skulls. Hell, I spent weeks wading through Orson Scott Card’s 80’s sci fi series Ender’s Game. It’s thousands of pages about the exploration, love of, and celebration for life in all forms, whether they be people, xenomorphs, pig creatures, or sentient viruses. Ender’s Game was clearly written to tell us that life is precious, mysterious, and wonderful.
And yet Scott Card is a total homophobe.
It’s maddening, then, to see a talented writer dedicate his entire career to “love each other” only to caveat with “unless you’ve both got dicks because what if the dicks touch eww.” It makes no sense. He doesn’t even get it and he wrote it.
How did these people not learn the same lessons that I learned reading these books? How do you watch Luke Skywalker look to the horizon, dreaming of a lifetime of excitement with that beautiful score swelling in the background and say “and I hope they defeat that xenophobic Empire and replace it with different white people that aren’t xenophobic because some of their best friends are Chewbaccas so it’s ok?”
I don’t get it. What are we doing wrong?
I’m on Twitter. Come be all sad and confused with me!