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April 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 5 Apr 91 19:11:00 EST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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I suppose I could be charged with reinserting jargon into the simple world of
all you Screen-L members (actually, no world in which people communicate by
internet could possibly be considered simple!) but I happen to have a quote
from Fredric Jameson on the Lucas topic.  It comes from his article
"Postmodernism and Consumer Society" in Hal Foster, ed., *The Anti Aesthetic*,
(Bay Press, 1983).  I'm only sharing it because I happen to think it's right on
the money:
"... Suppose I suggested that Star Wars is a nostalgia film.  What could that
mean?  I presume we can agree that this is not a historical film about our own
intergalactic past.  Let me put it somewhat differently: one of the most
important cultural experiences of the generations that grew up from the '30 to
the '50s was the Saturday after noon serial of the Buck Rogers type--alien
villians, true American heroes, heroines in distress, the death ray or doomsday
box, and the cliffhanger at the end whose miraculous resolution was to be
witnessed next Saturday afternoon.  Star Wars reinvents this experience in the
form of a pastiche: that is, there is no longer any point to a parody of such
serials since they are long extinct.  Star Wars, far from being a pointless
satire of such now dead forms, satisfies a deep (might I even say repressed?)
longing to experience them again: it is a complex object in which on some first
level children and adolescents can take the adventures straight, while the
adult public is able to gratify a deeper and more properly nostalgic desire to
return to that older period and to live its strange old aesthetic artifacts
through once again.  This film is thus metonymically a historical or nostalgia
film: unlike American Graffiti, it does not reinvent a picture of the past in
its lived totality; rather, by reinventing the feel and shape of characteristic
art objects of an older period (the serials), it seeks to reawaken a sense of
the past assoicated with those objects..."
Now, all this probably needs some further clarification (e.g. How is it that I,
a 22 year-old, also see Star Wars as a nostalgia film?; How does the
quasi-Biblical feel of the film fit in?; etc.), but I think Jameson does as
good a job as anyone in putting his finger on what gives the film its bizarre
sense of deja vu... To say that Star Wars is ultimately about history (or the
loss thereof) is admittedly rather opaque, but I'll put my chips with Jameson
any day.  After all, Star Wars (the movie) can ultimately be seen as an
unsettling harbinger of Reagan-era techno-nostalgia and our ex-president's own
apocalyptic vision of star wars (the defense program)...
Am I being clear, or do I hear the pitter patter of jargon-police feet?
Jim Berkley
Harvard Business School