The Mad Aardvark

Critical commentary on culture…

Archive for November, 2014

Yeah, that lightsaber…

Posted by madaardvark on November 29, 2014


I’ve mentioned this before. I can’t remember which episode it was, but in a commentary track from the Twilight Zone (original series) DVD set, Rod Serling comments about suspension of disbelief. He suggests (and I’m paraphrasing here) that the best way to get an audience to believe in the fantastic is to make sure the people that make up the world behave in ways you would expect them to, given the situation they’re in. Otherwise, the false reality built into a fantasy work starts to break down, the audience starts to question not just the character behavior, but eventually the whole premise of the movie.

The question is not “Is it possible to make a lightsaber like that?” Clearly, it isn’t. That’s the fantasy. We have accepted belief in a few things: lightsabers work, blaster pistols, flying in space, hyperspace, mystical energies that bind the universe together…

When people in these movies do things that seem “off”, we pause for just a moment and say, “Wow, that dialogue seemed forced” or “Why would somebody DO something like that?” or “That event would only happen in a movie like this because the writer is desperately trying to advance the plot”. So when I say “That lightsaber is really stupid because NOBODY would build one like that,” the response “Deal with it, bro. It’s all make-believe” just doesn’t get to the core of my problem.


See, I WANT TO BELIEVE. For a couple of hours at a time, I want to believe in aliens, magic, galactic civilizations, and laser swords. But when I see something that nobody in their right mind would do, even in a world that allows those things to exist, my whole belief structure falls apart.

I don’t even care about special effects! The original SW trilogy DID have its problems. But the story, with some real and sincere character development, carried the film. Not the bad special effects. Not the GOOD special effects. Not the acting from masters of their craft or bad actors who never quite learn. I want to believe by seeing how people WOULD react to these things IF these things were real. And when they don’t, I lose faith. I can’t accept it. My suspension of disbelief fails, and I find myself disappointed.

So, no, a weird lightsaber crossguard makes no sense at all, and it damages my belief that the rest of it could actually exist. It’s also just a trend in our need to make everything more bad-ass-er, which just accomplishes nothing. Trying too hard to make things “epic” only makes things look ridiculous.

Related Links:

I designed a better lightsaber than J. J. Abrams while I was in line for coffee this morning

Here, Star Wars, I fixed your “Force Awakens” lightsaber crossguard for you

Let’s talk about the new Star Wars lightsaber


Posted in movies, television | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Women and Nerds

Posted by madaardvark on November 17, 2014

Shirt StormIf you hadn’t heard, the Rosetta rocket launched a probe that landed on a comet. Nice work, rocket scientists! Anyway, during an interview about it, one of the lead scientists was wearing a bowling shirt adorned with comic book chicks, all cleavage and butts. A feminist blogger pointed out that it was unfortunate that the guy didn’t think anything of wearing that shirt because that kind of clueless attitude about women drives women away from the scientific fields. The internet exploded with opinionated garbage on both sides. They started calling it “Shirt Storm” (instead of shit storm. Clever internet people.) The poor clueless nerd-with-metal-tattoos apologized during another interview about the probe (no questions were asked about the shirt – he just volunteered the info), and was visibly shaken up while doing so. People were all over this guy calling him all kinds of names, and his defenders were all over THOSE people, calling them all kinds of names…

Anyway, the shi(r)t storm seems to have died down, now, especially since the probe died down, too (it’s solar-powered and pointed away from the sun – D’OH!). But nobody once said that this poor nerd has little social skills, along with being totally clueless about his own inherent sexism. The original blogger, though, was clearly pointing out that sexism is becoming more about being totally clueless about these things, not about being aggressively ignorant or hateful, and the internet uproar very clearly showed that.

So, even if the guys was NOT a socially inept nerd guy, he’s still a product of the system. The shirt was actually made by a woman (so the claim goes), and it looks like both the scientist and his tailor are part of the rockabilly culture, which is also totally sexist. (Don’t get me wrong, I personally really enjoy it, but the Cramps have more than one song about beating women, one of them presented as a new dance step – “Do the Crusher!”).

Women, too, are totally confusing me and themselves in this debate, as some of them claim that a woman should be in control of her own sexuality and may dress however she sees fit, but when the media presents a woman like that, they get upset, claiming that the media shouldn’t dictate such things to us. Musicians (or whatever they are) like Niki Minaj use that excuse to showcase themselves half-naked in music videos (“I’m showing how strong women can be by controlling my own sexuality.”) So far, nobody seems to buy that bullshit except her fans. Personally, I think that whole concept is just superficial, whether it shows women being strong and in control or not. Either way, they’re just relying on their outward appearance as the vessel of their so-called self-empowerment. That’s probably why everyone, men, women and nerds, are so confused.

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