The following editorial is solely the opinion of MetalSucks writer and editor Chris Krovatin, AKA Emperor Rhombus. It reflects his views and his views alone.
A NEW SACKLESS MORALITY PLAY
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, some teenage virgin is contacted by a Roomba vacuum and a clockwork gay stereotype that his dad built, who ask him to save (and let’s be honest, probably fuck) a princess who’s actually his sister. He enlists the help of the telekinetic Scientologist who mutilated his father, but because no one in the future-past can rent a car, the virgin, the priest, and the two wind-up toys walk into a bar, where they meet Vesty McFucksSoGood, the anti-virgin, and his psychotic teddy bear. Together, they liberate a universe of stupid musical amphibians from the clutches of Disco Frankenstein (secretly the virgin’s disfigured papa), a Black man who was once an emo white boy before he went batshit insane after having sex with one person.
Things progress from the plains of Ice Level to the forests of Jungle Level, where the virgin learns hopscotch from Space Kermit. Meanwhile, Vesty gets put in a chocolate bar by the Rocketeer thanks to the conniving business moxie of the only other Black dude in the galaxy. Things climax when the virgin battles the Lightning Scrotum in the Spaceticle, and the flannel grampa gets paid.
Does this tired, sanctimonious bullshit sound familiar to you, reader? It should, because it’s the plot of Star Wars, which for some reason seems to be every metalhead’s favorite intellectual property. And hey, as a combined piece of cinema, as a fictional universe, as a cultural landmark, Star Wars has a lot going on for it. Original character and world design. Detailed lore and history. Great stuff.
But Star Wars ain’t metal. There are bits and pieces of it that are metal, but overall it falls way short of being worthy of that description. And it’s certainly not as metal as a lot of metalheads want it to be.
I get why heshers like Star Wars. Hell, that combination of sci-fi and fantasy is what a lot of metal imagery uses as its basis — a world where magic and chivalry are still alive, even if we’re surrounded by evil mutants and synthetic drugs. On top of that, I understand why concepts like laser swords and planet-sized star destroyers were revolutionary at a time when metal was in its infancy. Metal and Star Wars grew up together; Hell, I’ll go so far as to say that metal would look and sound entirely different if not for Star Wars.
But the universe of Star Wars relies on one vastly un-metal principle: a defined moral compass. According to Star Wars, there is energy flowing through all things, and that energy tends either towards the Light or Dark Side (like McSorley’s Tavern). Go with the Light and you get feathery hair and high boots. Dark, you get facial tattoos. Even if you are not actively allied with one side or the other, you exist in a world beholden to that dichotomy. And that’s not life, where everything is nuanced. It’s a comfortable lie, and one that every harmful religion holds dear — that the world exists in black and white, without question. Make sure you follow the right path, or you might lose a hand.
Let’s not forget that. Hands chopped off, the stumps instantly cauterized. Laser fire that leaves a deadly black smudge. The Lucas Universe is based on a fairy tale understanding of battle where people fall or are slain but never truly engage in warfare. When people die in Star Wars, it’s always with a blast or a swipe or an explosion. Even the cold, unyielding vacuum of space seems doable in that world. We never see a Stormtrooper get sucked out of a depressurized cabin, his eyes exploding and the blood jetting from the sockets freezing almost instantly. We never see Vader slice open someone’s stomach, so that Chewbacca has to frantically try and help that dude stuff his intestines back in place. Worst thing that happens, there’s a flicker of lightsaber, and then, Oh no, the younglings!
Speaking of which: Darth fucking Vader, man. Maybe if it weren’t for the prequels — maybe if it weren’t for that moment floating over the lava, where Obi-Wan’s like, “Jedi are cool!” and Little Orphan Annie is like, “I personally disagree!” — he would be metal. Hell, the dude space-chokes motherfuckers who refuse to defend the faith. That’s raw. But you cannot undo Hayden Christiansen. You will never erase those beaded braids, or that speech about sand. And even if you could, you can’t deny that while Vader is an imposing figure, he’s kind of a lumpy, unimpressive warrior, dressed in a wrinkled duvet with a guitar pedal at its center. Much like the black knights of myth, he’s cool to look at until you have to watch him move around in that outfit.
Also, this shit.
Here’s my concession: Boba Fett. If there’s one thing about Star Wars that’s truly metal, it’s that among the endless struggle of light and dark, there exists a criminal underworld in which dwells a deformed weapons expert who lives by the almighty dollar and is now the heir to Jabba the Hutt’s throne. His mask is cool, his voice is cool, and his backstory wasn’t made entirely unpalatable by the prequels. All of the bounty hunters are pretty metal — I remember reading that Tales of the Bounty Hunters book as a kid and thinking, ‘Fuck yes’ — but Boba Fett takes the cake.
The Lucasfilm people know this, too. That’s why Disney immediately made a TV show about a Mandalorian bounty hunter that led to a show about Boba Fett. There’s sort of nowhere to go with the Empire storyline after Jedi, except that the Empire comes back, or sort of does, or is maybe still around. The new trilogy kept tripping over its own feet with that. Who’s the bad guy? An evil deformed leader. What’s he leading? Isn’t he just the Emperor again? cue everyone looking at their fucking feet.
And hey, look, as you can see, I’m not entirely immune. As you can probably tell reading this piece, I’m pretty well-versed in the series. In Sixth Grade, when the Special Editions came out, I was obsessed with Star Wars. I brought a plastic lightsaber to the theater and made my poor parents buy me every book there was about that universe. But I like Star Wars in the same way I like Journey: sometimes a big, polished, easily-digested singalong is a lot of fun. There’s a pleasure in kitsch. But metal should be about more than that. It should be about the primal urges that drive us whether we like them or not.
There’s nothing primal about Star Wars. Its understanding of the basic human principles, of love and hunger and sex and rage and belief and fear, are couched in this carefully-tailored world of order. At its core, even the most polished sci-fi requires brutal honesty to be true to its audience. The best sci-fi stories, from Dune to 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Thing, excite our intellects and tap into our most basic urges. But not Star Wars. Star Wars holds itself to a lofty standard that over-stylizes these concepts to a shallow degree, so that we end up with a handsome hero, a black-clad villain, an ugly henchman, and a fanciful romance where no one ever has to apologize for farting or suggesting a threesome. That shit is false.