Monday, December 27, 2010

R2D2 - Sex Dwarf of the Spaceways

So I've been talking about watching Star Wars in another language, to see if the experience changed if I didn't cringe every time someone opened their fucking mouths. (Say what you will about Star Wars, George Lucas has an ear for dialog that is infallibly leaden.) So I put on the DVD, clicked French for the language, and No Subtitles, then followed it up with The Empire Strikes back. The result was a bit of a shock.

First off, it became totally obvious that droids are slaves. Boom, that simple, and all of a sudden Star Wars got nine kinds of ugly on me. That scene where the Jawas are selling the droids to Luke's uncle was actually a little chilling -- Luke simply has no idea that he's doing anything wrong, and neither does Lucas. I've been watching the damned movie since it came out and it had never struck me before. Luke is Mister fucking Charlie. Holy shit.

So R2D2 is a slave. Well, it gets worse. You know how he beeps and boops instead of talking? They did that on purpose. I mean, it's not like they'd have to get R2 any new hardware. If he can run a mind and he's got a speaker, he's an app away from speaking directly. It probably wouldn't even cost anything; it's probably available as freeware.

This is the equivalent of cutting out a slave's tongue.

And then there came the moment when R2D2 interfaces with the Death Star's central computer, and it dawned on me that the R2 unit had a unit. He was fucking the Death Star, which is actually much cooler than blowing it up.

But I can hear you saying, "Sean, you're reading too much into it. Just because R2D2 springs a stiff rod from the center of his body and thrusts it into a hole is no reason to go laying some weird sexual interpretation on things."

To which I can only say; in The Empire Strikes Back, they have a right hole/wrong hole joke.

The whole thing was like that. It was appalling. And the attitude of vague contempt for the droids... I mean, R2 is a wonderful little fellow, but whatever would he do with himself if he didn't have an owner?

That wasn't the worst, though. I spent way too much time thinking about Yoda's hair. Study the scalp of the wise one -- at one point in his life, he had total Larry hair. I'm picturing him in his salad days -- poor bastard probably started going bald in his twenties -- cruising around, trying to pick up girls with his little green stooge head.

Why the hell do I do this stuff to myself?


ada said...

I got that the droids were slaves right away when I first saw Star Wars back in 1977. The barkeeper saying,we don't serve your kind here, was a big red flag about that. I actually thought Lucas was making a point about AI's and autonomy. And yes, that gives Luke the same morals about slavery that Tom Sawyer has. He did not "have a bad feeling about this" when he bought the droids and he should have.

And then you have this extra irony in the Phantom Menace that Anakin was a slave and he created the two droids.

I didn't think about R2 and talking. But again, it's a world where people aren't seeing AI's as equals. I actually think we will be in this situation sometime and have to work through the ethics of the situation.

I didn't think about the R2D2 stupfing the Death Star. Hahahahahahaha. Thanks for pointing that out.

Traumador said...

awesome post sean!

i'd never thought of the slave angle in that light... i tend to think of AI as property as it was created for a specific purpose. granted i also doubt we'll ever manage true AI with current puter technology.

R2 shagging the death star though LOL... that is both awesome and hilarious!

ada said...

I don't see R2D2's lack of speech as equivalent to having his tongue cut out. They didn't take his speech away. It's more equivalent to someone having a readily treatable disability but not getting the treatment because they're too poor to afford it.

And that's making me think of what the character Harpo Marx always played represented. There were probably people who couldn't speak or had other disabilities who had to use clowning around as a survival mechanism.

Hi said...

Don't forget that Luke's crotchety old uncle was going to wipe their memories (i.e., give them a lobotomy).

Sean Craven said...

Hey, Ada!

I hold that the demi-muteness of the R2 units suggests that it's a caste requirement. Most humans probably don't want to talk labor droids; Luke's ability to do so speaks of his class.

Traumador, it would be easier to accept the 'they are objects' argument if Lucas didn't go out of his way to portray them as people. Short, incomprehinsible, funny-looking, swishy people who are very amusing, vaguely dim, and all right to own.

Good one, HI. Once you start looking for atrocities they just keep coming.

David Orr said...

This is so funny and spot-on. Torture yourself more with the new trilogy! Lucas clearly intends the droids to be human-like characters.

PS. I think one of the execs in my company is Boss Nass in disguise. Uncanny resemblance/ behavior.

PPS. There's a Patrick Swayze movie called "Steel Dawn" that seems to have been ripped off by Lucas when writing "The Phantom Menace." I have an essay about it on some hard drive somewhere...