So, this expo… This expo, my friends, has left a bitter taste in my mouth.
First of all, I guess, I should point out that I grew up with StarWars. My close family loves the films (at least the first 3). I was so excited for The Phantom Menace just because it was a new StarWars, and I was actually going to see on the big screen. I was just a kid, but I cried as the rolling credits started. I was not disappointed with it, not at first, because I was not in an analyzing frame of mind. The next two films, however, disappointed me. Anakin is, in my opinion, a poorly written character and the trilogy has plot holes the size of volcanic pits.
That said, what is the pitch of this exhibition aside from showing StarWars artifacts and talking about characters/plot creation process? It is called “identities” for a reason. You actually get to create a character for yourself, in a few steps, which allegedly represent the landmarks of the building of our identity. Those landmarks are “theorized” and illustrated with a comparison of Luke’s and Anakin’s personalities and pasts. At the end, you get to send yourself an email with your avatar and its short story. The last part is nothing fancy. It consists in pre-written paragraphs that are stuck together depending on your choices. Oh, and do not expect it to be some kind of Role Playing Game which lets you discover whether you belong to the Empire, the Republic/the Jedi or whether you are independent. No. You choose everything right up to your leanings. So no excitement there.
To be fair, the props, costumes, models, sketches, puppets… basically everything directly related to the films was amazing. I learned some amusing anecdotes about the characters’ creations and Lucas’ thought process.
Nevertheless, the negative aspects outnumber the good ones. First and foremost, the pitch of the expo, the idea of creating your own character, was badly handled. Now, as a RPG player, creating characters is what I do on a regular basis. This, however, was not so much a character creation as a summary of why reading a lot and using nuances is paramount when talking about any given subject. The idea of comparing Anakin’s and Luke’s life experiences is forced at many points. Just because they wanted it to work does not mean that it can work. Some of their experiences are simply not comparable. You cannot put into parallels parenting styles by saying Luke’s (adoptive) family was loving but strict and sometimes in the way of his dream, while Anakin’s mother’s was complacent and freer because she let him go when he was very young. Excuse my French, but WTF?! Anakin’s mother had to let him go! She did not have a choice! She was a SLAVE for Odin’s sake! She wanted a better life for him!
Whoever wrote the texts “explaining” the various points of creation of an identity either knows next to nothing about the fields of psychology, neurology and genetics, or didn’t care at all about the difference between making something accessible and flatly oversimplifying it and betraying it. Translation did not help. Understanding both French and English, I can tell you that some bits were problematic. For instance, when Darth Sidious says “Good and Evil are points of view”, it is different from saying “C’est très subjectif, le Bien et le Mal”. The second one seems to imply irony, whereas the first one makes a very valid point. Darth Sidious is actually one of the most interesting characters in the SW verse, because he challenges the Jedi’s views and paradigms which are problematic. When you see the third movie, he seems to be the only one set on really educating Anakin. But the expo simply follows the Manichean flow. Jedi = Good / Sith = Evil. No reflection, no analysis beyond that simplified concept. Instead of going further into the finest questions in SW (Good and Evil, how can droïds have feeling? etc), we are given a pitch patch of pseudo-science.
Some parts were pertinent, but you can only say “Scientific studies have proven” so many times before it gets problematic, especially if you are going to pretend that those “scientifically proven” points were the truth, somehow universally acknowledged. No. They are not. Psychology simply does not work that way. The explanations about resilience were lacking and, in my humble opinion anyway, completely missing the point.
Fact is, in the end, there is a bit that cannot be proven. I mean, you cannot say that having “good” values and displaying kindness and optimism will lead to a longer life. You cannot, because it cannot be reliably proven. There are simply too many factors to be taken into account (environment, genetic make-up, nutrition, and so many more…) which were neglected here. Ridiculous.
Paying 20+€ for that was disappointing. On the one hand, it is shiny, and looked like a (badly written) attraction from a theme park. On the other hand, we learn next to nothing about many characters, such as Leïa or Han.
I do not regret going, because I love StarWars, and seeing some of the movies’ props, and finding that magic again, was amazing. I have also to point out that Padme’s own credo (“Stick to your principles, and you’ll have no regrets”) was very well chosen.
But it could have been cheaper, more informative and less insulting to science or the Humanities by bypassing many of its shortcuts into complex sciences.
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La Cité du Cinéma