Paris just redeemed itself by allowing me to do something unbelievably American and dorky, which turned out also to be fascinating and valuable. It was a great reminder that behind every blah façade, there’s a nook or cranny you’re bound to love. (Cue the Parisian outrage.)
Twenty years ago, I didn’t make it to the New Year’s Rave at DV8 before it hit capacity. Shut out of the fun for a couple of hours, two friends and I wandered south of Market Street in San Francisco (before it was posh, had a W hotel, or was called SOMA). We happened upon a black tie mafia wedding in a hotel, and stood before a cigarette machine in the hallway, paying homage to that device in the last moments of its legal life in California, as hours earlier it had been outlawed, and would soon be removed. And then….then we struck gold.
Coming around the corner of the newly-opened Yerba Buena Arts Center, I looked up and saw a Storm Trooper on a Speeder Bike, the kind that is ridden heart-racingly among the redwoods in the Ewoks’ forest (aka, Marin). It was the Star Wars exhibit: costumes, robots, models, storyboards – every little thing my Star Wars-loving heart could want. Three days later, we returned to drool over all of it.
So when I looked up on the Paris metro and saw this: You can imagine my glee. I mean, Louvre, Rodin, Orangerie, blah blah blah. But storm troopers? Darth Vader? Bring on the nostalgia! Bring on the original trilogy crush! Bring on the hive of villainy, the nerfherders, and “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
I bought tickets online, and the site was in French. Since I don’t speak French, I actually wasn’t sure exactly what I was buying tickets to. Unlike the original exhibit, this one went far beyond displaying the makings of a movie. Instead, it was an investigation of the creation of identity. At the entrance, I was given an earpiece and smart wristband. The earpiece activates automatically in areas of the exhibit that discuss the physical and emotional development of the characters and of humans in general, either via costumes and storyboards, or short movies about aspects of identity.
The smartband, when held up to 10 octagonal pads along the exhibit, stores information I put into it based on choices I made as I learned more about certain facets of identity. It started with simple concepts, like choosing your gender, home planet, and occupation, and moved toward more complex ideas, like how you respond to certain situations, to help demarcate ‘your’ personality along the Big Five – the five broad categories: openness, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Not at all surprising: C3P-0 scored off the charts on neuroticism, and Darth Vadar is highly conscientious (which is defined as being a planner – something may be lost in translation here). (Pardon the poor images – hard to take an image of a screen with twelve people pushing you.)
Discussion topics in the exhibit included parenting style (on a two-dimensional scale with control or demand on one axis and responsiveness on the other; mentors
which included noting how it’s been physiologically determined we are in fact never too old for new tricks, using painting as an example and I’m 99% sure using a Bob Ross sillouette as the mentor; influences, i.e., your friends, and I’m sad to say Jabba the Hut has only two – Boba Fett and someone else;
pivotal experiences (like losing your mother); and your values, of which there were ten, including stimulation, power, benevolence, hedonism, and self direction. Don’t worry about Jabba, though – the discussion of his layer was titled “Gangster’s Paradise,” so at least he has a sweet pad. Again, no surprises: Darth values Power, Han Solo needs stimulation. “Don’t ever tell me the odds.”
I loved this exhibit for the way it addressed theories we all know are behind the original trilogy – the influence of eastern philosophy, Native American culture, and the values of equality and diversity that were persistent in a movie that presented non-humans as completely normal participants in our daily existence. Between two drafts of the film, Lucas debated transitioning Luke to a female character, and his refusal to let go of the female character is in part what led to Luke and Leia as twins.
I imagine this exhibit was headier than most of the parents present bargained for. How do you explain to your five year old that his mom could die soon, or that later in life, her friends may need to be ditched in favor of better influences? “Mama, what’s neurosis?” I felt for them. Yet as much glee as I get out of seeing models of the Millennium Falcon
and an imperial cruiser,
it solidified for me that Lucas wimped out in the sequel series. How can a creator who was so committed to diversity, to the complexity of human spirit, to exploring the forces that guide us, how can that man create Jar-Jar Binks?
No, seriously…I don’t get it.