This was nagging at me, so I thought I would complement my previous analogy, Interlude: Arguing on the Internet, with a slightly more balanced account and a bit of analysis now that I’ve thought about it a bit more. This also means being a bit more specific about the argument at hand, which – while it wasn’t a huge or searing one – was still a doozy.
The argument itself was based on Roy, having seen a television show comparing H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and George Lucas in terms of their visionary status, making a statement harshly rejecting such a comparison.
I KNOW, RIGHT?
Now, Roy did a number of quite dubious things in this debate, and my break-down made him seem rather more reasonable than he might have come across. In my analogy, I gave him the argument I thought he was trying to make.
- His opening statement was inflammatory – basically he said that Verne and Wells were visionaries, and Lucas was an infant – but he could have gotten away with that on the hallowed Everyone Gets One Opinion Each platform.
- His definition of visionary seemed to be linked – at least once he started debating the particulars of the case – to tangible scientific progress that these authors (arguably) helped bring about. And even before you stop and think “hang on, that’s going to be easier for someone making shit up in the 19th Century than it is for someone making shit up in the 21st anyway,” that’s a fairly limiting view of what a visionary is. And super easy to get bogged down in. Which – whaddaya know – is exactly what happened.
- He said that the insulting original brief was his opinion and he had no intention of changing his mind, but – and this was the watershed that turned this into such a great Argument on the Internet – he debated it anyway.
Ben made a few mistakes too, but was far more reasonable than my analogy gave him credit for. But this was part of what made the debate so entertaining. For me.
- He responded to the original brief. Okay, there was no way of knowing the original brief was Roy’s way of shouting indignation into the universe to get it off his chest, rather than an invitation to debate. But even so, he knew that shit was a snake when he picked it up.
- He failed to take into account the fact that anyone who speaks up in favour of something or someone polarising to the Internet community (Lucas, Martin, Star Trek, bacon) is going to automatically come off as a fanboy. Automatically. If someone hates on one of these classic subjects, for any reason, and you offer up some reasonable counter-argument, it is over for you. You become Urkel.
- He didn’t take advantage of the idea that [19th Century science-fiction author] and [contemporary science-fiction film-maker] are colossally different ideas and comparing them in terms of how “visionary” they are is ridiculous.
Because why would he? This is Ben. Look at him.
Fair to say, while Lucas may not be one of Ben’s personal heroes, film-makers – particularly popular, successful and influential ones – are figures he aspires to and respects. And fair enough. And George Lucas is one of them. He’s the Granny Smith to Steven Spielberg’s Golden Delicious, Martin Scorsese’s Red Delicious, Woody Allen’s Knobbed Russet.
Yeah, I went on wikipedia. Sue me.
Photo courtesy of Adam at http://adamapples.blogspot.com, because the Internet is an amazing place.
Shit, I’m not even a film-maker and I wouldn’t mind it if something I made up found its way into popular culture the way Lucas’s work has. And billions and billions of dollars would also be nice. What’s not to aspire to, there?
But instead, the debate raged into the things Verne may or may not have helped invent, and whether or not he meant to invent them or deserved any credit for them, and what Lucas has contributed … it was like a doubles tennis match, with poo instead of a ball.
Put it this way. Tolkien probably didn’t mean to change the landscape of the sword-and-sorcery genre, and I’m pretty damn sure he had no intention of forming tabletop role playing game culture as we know it. He probably never uttered the phrase “now roll for initiative.”
Although now I am imagining him doing so, and I have a nerdon.
No. As far as I have gathered from his biographies and things, he was aiming to create a sort of unifying national mythology for Great Britain, and if possible never to have to go through anything like the Battle of the Somme ever again (although that was arguably more just something in his subconscious mind, and didn’t find its way into his stories).
Compare him to Peter Jackson, however, in terms of how “visionary” they both are and what they’ve contributed to modern fantasy, and see what happens.
That tidal wave of geek-bile you just surfed doesn’t mean Peter Jackson isn’t a visionary film-maker, that he hasn’t made great movies, that he hasn’t breathed life into the high fantasy genre and brought millions of people into the sword-and-sorcery fold. It’s just that comparing them is ridiculous because nobody’s going to win that one.
Lucas’s vision, if it has tangible output, seems to have been a whole lot of toys and a generation of people who say “meesa sorry”.
Nice work, you wiffle-cut jerk.
But that’s not fair either, because his impact on film, and popular culture, and the lives of people he has touched with his stories, is incalculable (all of which ignores the fact that he didn’t make up all this stuff himself, or get it all onto the big screen single-handedly … but that’s a fact of the medium in which he works).
I poke fun at Lucas a fair amount, but never maliciously. I find the Lucas-haters to be hilarious. The guy does good films, and even when they’re (arguably) not good, they’re popular. Haters need to get over it (but they never will, which is why Arguing on the Internet is so fun). I personally have enjoyed pretty much every Lucas movie I have ever seen, as evidenced by many reviews right here on this blog – including the ones that the Lucas-haters famously lose their shit over.
Yes, all of them. Even that one where the Lost Doctor flees the genocide he just performed in the Time War and ends up going mad as he encounters the remains of a civilisation his actions had plunged into a parasite dimension.
Although now I am interpreting the film this way, I have a nerdon again.
So anyway, there it is. I hope this helped to explain my position on the sidelines of this particular debate, and has smoothed the feathers of all involved. Or, at least, ruffled the feathers of both Ben and Roy to an equal degree. Because that’s the way I roll.