Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You can still like Star Wars when it feels like the world is burning down around you

A particularly callous and cruel piece of legislation was recently passed by the US House  of Representatives, on the same day as 'Star Wars Day', a celebration of the space movie saga based entirely on the dumb pun linking the date to the movie's catch-phrase.

As a fan of both those films and really bad puns, I'm all for Star Wars day. While not quite dorky enough to actually do anything for it other than watch 10 minutes of The Force Awakens on the TV, I certainly didn't begrudge anybody else their celebrations.

But other people appeared to be genuinely upset about the frivolity of May the Fourth, and let everybody know all about it on social media. You can understand where those people complaining about this are coming from, with all the fear and uncertainty crowding their lives, but I would argue that this is also exactly the right time to soak in some invigorating and useless pop culture.

On a personal level, it's the stupid shit that gets me through the serious shit. During times of misery and proper despair, I retreat into four-colour fantasies, and really do feel a lot better for shutting out the dark for a little while. It doesn't totally cure the blues, but it certainly helps.

On a societal level, it's a lot more complicated, because we all like different shit and have different tastes and have different levels of emotional attachments to our entertainments, but we should still be able to talk about the dumb movies and TV and books comics. They're not important, but they still matter.

Winston Churchill was a grotesque old-world creature who was just what the world needed when it was time to face up to the fascists in World War 2, and even though he had a love for slaughter running through his blood, he also knew the importance of art.

The story that he said 'then what are we fighting for?' when asked to slash the arts funding during the war is, unfortunately, a load of old bollocks, but the sentiment still rings true. Art and literature and pop culture is how a society is remembered, and it just doesn't stop because everything in the real world is turning to shit.

Even during the darkest days of WW2, Hollywood pumped out classic crime movies, dumb horror flicks and screwball comedies, and they were gladly lapped up by a public that was dealing with unprecedented death and destruction on a daily basis. Life goes on, and so do the movies.

We're not in the middle of a world war at the moment (even if it sometimes feels like it), but culture is as important as ever was. This is part of how the history books will judge us all.

Part of it is the escapism thing, stepping away from this world, into a darkened space, which can take you away with fantasy and drama. It's not a luxury to turn off the mind every now and then, and calm the raging voices inside your head, it's a goddamn necessity.

You can't go around worrying about everything all the time, because A) nobody will ever want to talk to you, and B) it's not fucking healthy. It's all right to surrender to the occasional bout of dark and troubled thoughts, but if you stay in that head space, you can get stuck in a downward spiral into true despair.

You can't shut the horror out forever, and that new Scott Adkins film might not fill the gaping existential hole at the centre of your soul, but again - it'll help.

But it's not just all about the escapism from this grey and hate-filled world. This kind of thing is also important because even the silliest fictions can speak some deadly serious truths.

Truth has never been more valued, probably because it's being heavily out-weighed by all the bullshit in the world, but all the best fictions manage to articulate a universal truth, whether it's a meditation on loyalty, or honesty, or love, or a million other subjects and emotions.

The silly entertainments that we use to escape this world invariably bring a little bit of the world with them, and can leave us wiser and more informed, even if they're surrounded in the cloud of storytelling.

And when people in power seem to get away with terrible things, day after fucking day, they can be held accountable in the satire of entertainment. They're still fucking up the world, but it also helps the soul to laugh at them while they do it.

This is why we keep talking about this rubbish, even as horrible things happen to good people in the real world. But it's important to always, always remember that the dumb fictions aren't worth getting genuinely angry about.

You're allowed to be disappointed in the latest episode of The Leftovers or Doctor Who, or the new Guardians of the Galaxy film, but you just look like a prat if you start crying about it. When there is so much to get genuinely upset about in this world, that would be the acme of foolishness.

Save the rage for the shitshow in South Sudan, or in flagrant abuses of human rights all over the globe. It is literally not the end of the world if you don't like the latest issue of The Walking Dead.

My sympathies are always with all those who are worried about the future, especially when cruel and callous legislation has the potential to really fuck up your life.

But don't hold it against anybody else who just wants to talk about the new Star Wars trailer, or the latest comic crossover, when there are obviously far more important things to worry about. We need the distraction, and the metaphors, and all the entertainment we can get.

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