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The People Vs George Lucas – Artists vs the Audience

This weekend we watched The People Vs. George Lucas.  Netflix streaming is great if you want to watch the sequels of crappy horror movies, but not the originals (Who wants to jump right into Tremors 4?), and/or documentaries.

People is about Star Wars fans. Specifically, those fans and their relationship with Lucas.  The older trilogy was life-changing for these people, in a good way.  The changes to those old films, and of course, the more recent trilogy, were life changing in a bad way.

The film asks some very interesting questions. Like:

What do artists owe their fans?

Once you create something, does it belong to you, or does it belong to the audience?

The people ranting about the trajectory of Star Wars felt, unequivocally, that Lucas should have listened to their input about the direction of the series.

  • No more Jar Jar!
  • More light-sabers, less senate redistricting!
  • Get some CGI that’s better than Muppet Treasure Island! or Playstation !
  • Han shot first!
  • Lucas, you’ve become a marketer, not a filmmaker!
  • That scene with Jabba that you added back in sucked!
  • and so on. and on. and onnnnnnnnnnnn

Lucas essentially says, “No, it’s mine,” and does whatever he wants. Which is certainly his right, but tell that to someone with the Han Solo and Guido scene tattooed on their face.

Neil Gaiman makes a brief appearance and says, (paraphrasing) “Whatever comes out of my head belongs to me.  You’re welcome to your opinion, but please leave me alone about art that I create for my own pleasure.”

I thought it was fascinating that Lucas actually seemed immune to feedback.

What say you?

If you don’t care about Lucas and Star Wars–I really don’t care much–just think about any old artist:

What does that artist owe the audience?

I’m on the fence.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jen Hinderer August 27, 2012, 10:52 am

    it’s clear that Lucas has never asked anyone for an opinion or input of any kind or the blasphemy of Jar-Jar would never even exist to be talked about. Who ever would have said, hey George what a brilliant creation! Stick him in ALL the scenes.

    I believe an artist like Lucas (another argument can be had regarding whether artist really describes him) invites the audience into a discussion and gives them a kind of ownership (and thus the right to some input) once millions of them shell out the cash to view the work and to purchase some of the licensed gee-gaws that are marketed along side the work. An audience of millions (tens of millions) is a community and one that is sort of commissioning the next piece in a series.

    A stand-alone work that is truly created for the artist’s pleasure and not to generate a huge profit and launch a series of blockbusters is a different story: it should be appreciated for itself as it is, and we should be grateful for the fact it exists.

  • Jim Janney August 27, 2012, 11:46 am

    I hated the last three Star Wars movies, and I’m not even too keen on Return of the Jedi. Ewoks? Puhlease. But:

    Niel Gaiman has it right on this one: for better or worse, Star Wars belongs to George Lucas, and he can do what he likes with it. Claiming that you have ownership in something because you really, really like it is just rationalization, and pretty transparent rationalization at that.

    And yeah, Han did shoot first. And he know exactly what he was doing.

    • Josh Hanagarne August 28, 2012, 9:37 am

      If I was going to get riled about something, Han and Guido might be it. Han was much better as a “survive at all costs” type of rogue. Characterization matters to me and it was a big change.

      • Jim Janney August 29, 2012, 9:01 am

        Characterization, yes, but the original version also works better dramatically, because of the pacing and the tension and the surprise. You end up shocked and laughing at the same time. The revision just feels awkward and contrived.

  • Anja August 28, 2012, 3:18 am

    Great article. My view is that the art belongs to the artist. You can enjoy it if you like it or reject it. If we allowed everybody to muddle in the creative process (telling you how to write your own book for instance) then we would end up with a mishmash (or a Camel). And to listen to people who are obsessed, tattoo on the face anybody (?), is even more dangerous. If Steve Jobs had listened to the critics I would not be typing on my MacBook Air right now!

    • Josh Hanagarne August 28, 2012, 9:40 am

      Thanks Anja.

      A lot of the anger in the movie comes from the view that Lucas made the art and then focused on the merchandising, creating a juggernaut that invaded every nuance of my life when I was seven. I had Star Wars underwear, bedspreads, action figures, toothbrush, pajamas, etc.

      There’s an idea in the film that he made the second trilogy not to “realize his vision,” as he puts it, but to expand the merchandising empire. If that was indeed the true vision, which of course nobody can prove, then the questions about the art aren’t the right questions.

  • Todd August 28, 2012, 7:39 am

    The films belong to Lucas to do with what he likes. But, in a free market system, if you, the customer, don’t like it, you have the choice not to pay him for his work.

  • Gustavo August 28, 2012, 8:40 am

    You have to start with the nature of creating. As selfish as it sounds, creative people don’t work for serving others taste (when they do, they produce pipi and caca). The creative person creates (redundant, I know) to serve an inner wish. The rest is accessory.

  • Spencer August 31, 2012, 10:28 am

    Can’t believe I’m getting sucked in on a Star Wars discussion but…

    like you, I had the bedspread, underwear, action figures. You can’t have been a kid in the 70s and 80s and not been impacted by Star Wars. It was an institution.

    There is no disputing that Jar Jar sucks (way worse than Ewoks, yo). But that being said, philosophically, the art is the artists. He can do with it what he will. Suggesting that George Lucas should take the input of tens of millions of people into consideration, even if he wanted to, is both implausible and ridiculous. How does the audience know better than the artist?

    Also, artists have a right to make money. If he can make money making movies and marketing movie-related products, then I say good for him. All artists, on some level, either sell out or starve to death. It’s none of the audience’s business. If you don’t like it, take your old action figures and camcorder and make your own prequels.

    I hate all the computer regeneration stuff, personally. In that regard, all the new ones pale in comparison to the actual legions of actual extras in actual Stormtrooper uniforms. But I don’t have any lifestyle choices or body ink invested in any of the movies, old or new.

  • cinderkeys September 2, 2012, 11:39 am

    The art belongs to the artist.


    After you’ve completed it and given it to the world, something happens. The art belongs not to you, not to the audience, but to itself.

    Lucas could’ve stuck a hundred Jar-Jars in the sequels, and though I wouldn’t have liked that, he would’ve had the right. Changing who shot whom first in Star Wars is different. You’re not just tweaking art, you’re revising history. And it doesn’t work, because you can’t rewrite the memories of everybody who knows it happened a different way.