In the comments of our last thrilling installment, a dispute arose concerning the veracity of a statement made by Alexis:
“...this insistence that [Star Wars] is ‘the greatest movie ever made’ is merely a bit of social wish-fulfillment...”
The Anonymous Timothy expressed a desire for Alexis to prove this statement; after all, the burden of proof lies with the party making the assertion. Alexis indicated that Alec Guinness' autobiography contains sufficient proof; alas, Guinness' statements are hearsay and we cannot accept them as proof. Alexis then said, “Try Google.” Personally, I take this to be a cop-out. Nonetheless, as a nascent blogger attempting to cater to his audience, I followed up on Alexis' suggestion. (I used dogpile instead of Google, but that's how I roll.)
Of course, nearly every movie has its proponents. (Some wag has even put forth an argument for The Dukes of Hazzard.)
Anyway, this BBC poll from ten years ago seems on-point...and, yes, it tends to support Alexis' position. So, there are (many) people who consider Star Wars to be “the greatest movie ever made.” We may not concur but, to these people, Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made. The world will never come to a consensus as to “the greatest movie” because such a determination is inherently subjective. Certainly Star Wars is a very popular movie but, in terms of cinematic art, it is subject to criticism.
Thus we have an elitist/populist dichotomy; the intelligentsia as opposed to the groundlings, the people who read Proust as opposed to the people who don't and (if I may be permitted once again to invoke Orwell) the Party as opposed to the Proles.
So where does Joseph Campbell fit in to all of this? Well, Alexis suggests the possibility that Campbell may have been misquoted. This is a valid observation and if we expect Alexis to provide proof of his assertions, we should practice what we preach. However, it doesn't really matter what Campbell said because, according to Alexis, Classicist academia considers Campbell to be “something of a whack job.” Thus, the elitist/populist dichotomy is at work again, academics versus the mythology of pop culture. Whether whack job or uncultured dolt, we are back to where we began.
I find Campbell's insight to be fascinating and educational. Without further ado, here are some quotes from Campbell's The Power of Myth.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think...that a movie like Star Wars fills some...need for a model of the hero?
CAMPBELL: I've heard youngsters use some of George Lucas' terms – “the Force” and “the dark side.” So it must be hitting somewhere. It's a good sound teaching, I would say.
CAMPBELL: Well, you see, that movie [Star Wars] communicates. It is in a language that talks to young people, and that's what counts.
CAMPBELL: ...Star Wars is not a simple morality play, it has to do with the powers of life as they are either fulfilled or broken and suppressed through the action of man.
CAMPBELL: Certainly Lucas was using standard mythological figures.
I think these quotes give us a good idea of Campbell's attitude about Star Wars. This movie may no longer 'speak' to Alexis' view of life, but it 'speaks' to a great many others' view of life.
As this post draws to a close, I pose a question. With regard to “social wish-fulfillment,” isn't that the basis of mythology after all?