Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Blaming George Lucas

I got myself all geared up to go car shopping yesterday -- makeup and all -- and then after I'd run the errands that forced me out of the house, I changed my mind and just went to Target (too bad they don't sell cars). Today, though, I may force myself out there. I've caught myself brainstorming silly answers to the standard car salesman question "What can I do to sell you this car?" I'm trying to think of the most ridiculous things I could demand that they do for me. Any suggestions? Keep it clean, and it needs to be something I wouldn't mind if they called my bluff and did it. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to actually make any weird demands, since I don't do diva very well, but it's fun to contemplate.

To help gear myself up, I've got another minor rant. I was brainstorming a story idea, came up with a plot twist, then realized I probably couldn't do it, thanks to George Lucas. The whole "Luke, I am your father" thing has totally ruined the plot where the hero and the villain turn out to be related, and that's such a fun thematic thing to play with because it gets into father vs. son struggles, the enemy within and nature vs. nurture. If the hero and the villain are found to be related at all, and especially if the villain turns out to be the hero's secret babydaddy, then the automatic response is an eye roll and some comment about Star Wars.

But is this plot really dead now, or is it the unique combination of elements in the Luke and Darth Vader story that makes it worthy of an eye roll? We've got:

1) Hero thought his father was a hero killed by the villain. (Oops!)
2) Villain didn't know he had a son until the hero started making a splash (and wouldn't it have been smart to give Luke another last name so he wouldn't be quite so obvious if he did make a splash? I mean, keeping his last name and sending him to step-relatives his father knew wasn't exactly "hiding" him.).
3) Villain revealed their relationship in a big, dramatic moment while they were trying to kill each other.
4) Villain wanted hero to turn evil and join him in the dark side.
5) Then there's that whole secret twin sister thing.

I think the biggies are numbers 1 and 3 (though number 5 does kind of elevate the situation to the silliness level), so perhaps if the hero doesn't have any preconceived notions, illusions or lies about who his father was and if he learns the truth in some way other than the "Luke, I am your father" moment, and maybe if he figures it out before the villain does, it's not quite so Star Wars.

Of course, now that I start thinking about it, I can't recall any pre-Star Wars plots that specifically have that villain dad/hero son relationship. Dickens did like the surprise relationships (and unrelated identical doubles), but I don't remember a Star Wars-like situation. There must have been something in the Greek classics, but when I read those it was for world-building rather than plot. In mythology there are the various offspring of the gods who ended up in conflict with their fathers (which may be where Lucas got the idea, since he drew upon Campbell's work in mythology).

I still don't know what I'm going to do with this story (as if I'd tell!). Maybe I'll be brave enough not to worry about the Star Wars comparisons and know I'm doing the right thing for my story in the right way. Or maybe I'll wimp out, and that will force me to come up with something entirely different that will be even better.

I may have to go car shopping just to get away from my telephone. I keep getting these weird calls where there's dead silence when I answer, and then a phone starts ringing, like I called someone. In my more paranoid moments, I imagine it's some three-way calling scam that will have me on the phone with a foreign country to run up a phone bill. Then there are the recorded calls that generically refer to my credit card without naming the company or that warn me that the extended warranty on my car is about to expire (gee, at 11 years and 103,000 miles, you think?). I'm on the no-call list, so theoretically the only calls I get should be from people I'm doing business with, who would identify themselves. And gee, I just got another one of those warranty calls, and I stayed on the line to talk to a live agent. When I asked the name of the company before I would give them any info, they hung up on me. So, yeah, scam. But maybe that will flag my phone number and they'll quit calling me. (Can I blame this on George Lucas, too?)

1 comment:

Carradee said...

That's the misfortune of wildly popular works—their most ingenious elements become so overused that they're despised except in that work.

It also happens with names. I've been quite frustrated to realize that I have never been able to see or hear the name "Leia" without thinking of Star Wars. Also, "Hermione" is a name I can't even consider using in a work without someone thinking Harry Potter.

I personally hated the novel trilogy post-the movie Willow because the villian ended up being a mirror version of the heroine—a combo I'd only previously seen in parallel universe Star Trek episodes and in very, very bad fanfics.

I'm not sure that the fanfics really hurt it all that much. I think it was more of the illogic of Star Trek in the entire thing. If you think about it, the entire parallel universe idea makes the Temporal Prime Directive (interfering with the timeline is FORBIDDEN) a moot point, because who's to say that your particular future is the right future if every little possible choice produces at least two parallel universes, one where one option was selected, and the other where the other option was. Like, did you wear the perfume to the party or didn't you?


Oh, and then there were the few Spiderman cartoons with that freaky Madam Web lady…

When Star Wars becomes old hat in a century (or at least old enough hat that it's more of a vague cultural familiarity like Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff), then the plot will probably be "acceptible" again.

Or someone could come along who does such a fantastic job on something that it completely knocks people's socks off so they don't care that it's presumably Star Wars. That something would then be so popular that there wouldn't be just one thing defining those elements, but two, which would regulate them back into the realm of "suitable for use in story plot without necessarily being influenced by watching A New Hope forty-one times too many."