November 03, 2005

More Po-Mo?

Star Wars is the greatest post-modern art film ever?

As Star Wars works to make us aware of its own narrative structure, other odd things about the films start to come into focus. Most significantly, we start to notice that the films are an elaborate meditation on the dialectic between chance and order. They all depend upon absurd coincidence to propel the story forward. Just what are the odds, in just one of near-infinite examples, that of all the planets in that galaxy far, far away, the droids should end up back on Tatooine, in the home of the son of the sweet (if annoying) boy who had built C-3PO decades before? Throughout all six films there are scenes of crucial serendipity. Such dependence on unlikely coincidence isn't unique to Star Wars. As literary critics have long pointed out, the arbitrary yoking together of events in the service of storytelling is one of the fundamental characteristics of all narrative. R2-D2 needs to hook up with Luke on Tatooine, just as Prospero's enemies need to wash up on the shores of his island, and Elizabeth Bennet needs to marry Mr. Darcy, for the narrative requirements of those stories to be fulfilled. The audience's willing surrender to narrative coincidence is demanded by the story's need to conclude itself.


(h/t Michael Stickings posting at TMV)

Posted by caltechgirl at November 3, 2005 12:43 PM | TrackBack

It might be possible to examine the films in that light. But I really don't think it was a conscious decision by Lucas.

Posted by: owlish at November 3, 2005 10:51 PM

This is sorta off topic, but does anyone else think it odd that when C3PO hooks up with Luke on Tatooine he doesn't twig to the name Skywalker and say "hey, my maker's last name was Skywalker, maybe you've heard of him?"

I now have a little chuckle when he has that oil bath and goes "oh, thank the maker", and he's talking about Anakin.

And yes, I have seen the movie a gazillion times.

Posted by: Amanda at November 4, 2005 12:01 AM

I've never put that much thought into the Star Wars movies. I'm a huge fan, but I don't spend that kind of time thinking about, let alone analysing, the movies.

Amanda: They erased the memories of the droids. That's why neither C-3PO nor R2-D2 remembered Anakin/Darth nor Obi-wan.

Posted by: Contagion at November 4, 2005 05:30 AM

I doubt Lucas put this much thought into the films either. Hence the clunky, awkward plot changes and the weird extra bits.

Ex. When Yoda gives Obi Wan instructions at the end of Ep III on "communing" with Qui-Gon, it's supposed to be the way that Yoda and OW learn how to turn into the force at death, disappear, and come back as ghosts. Qui Gon, however, never does this. Anakin can only do it after his redemption by fire in ROTJ. There's a logical disconnect there that GL never resolved.

Posted by: caltechgirl at November 4, 2005 11:43 AM