Monday, October 13, 2014

The Stratified Future

Ralph McQuarrie matte painting of the desert and the void (1977); Skyscraper Index - up to 1974.
 Preparing for a talk at Whitman last week, a post on ello by @doingitwrong that mentioned the Skyscraper Index brought to mind a talk I gave a few years ago at Performa 11 in which I broke the visual language of the Star Wars "used future" down along lines of three stratified machine ages. I was looking for a way to explain to the students some of the things that I felt made the film so original, it occurred to me that while geeks love to play the gotcha game of spotting some imagery, predating Star Wars. That C3P0 is a copy of Fritz Lang's robot Maria, is an obvious example. The gist of the game is that Star Wars is derivative. But what the game misses is that C3P0 means something very different than Maria. If Lucas and his crew had attempted to build a stratified past for their futuristic world - something that had never been done on film before - it would have overwhelmed 70's audiences. What they did instead, was to appropriate an existing past: Yesterday's Tomorrows.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Update: The Star Wars Logo Actually Is fascist.

I'm giving a talk on Star Wars at Whitman College next week, so I was excited to see Chris Taylor speak last night at Seattle's' Town Hall about his new book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. It turned out to be the first stop on his first book tour for his first book, and he focused his talk on the first ten minutes of the film - starting with the carton that showed before the original print of the film (Duck Rodgers in the 24 1/2th Century). He is an engaging speaker, went into great detail, and repeatedly stumping a group of obviously die-hard fans. The biggest surprise for me, was very early on, when he got to the appearance of the Star Wars logo and he told us it was designed by a woman named Suzy Rice who says she was told by George Lucas to make the logo "very fascist... something to rival AT&T." It's an amazing bit of trivia, but what surprised me wasn't Ms. Rice's claim - I wrote about Suzy Rice's claim on this blog in 2010 - it's that Taylor chose to include her story in his book.