Orientalism in Star Wars

While Star Wars is one of the most popular and (in my opinion) greatest movie franchises in cinematic history, it still has its flaws. Nearly all of those problems are in the storyline of the most recent trilogy, but on a more serious note there are crucial flaws in the original trilogy, and one is the portrayal of different groups of people throughout the movie.

The first movie starts with Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, a sandy, desert planet. The inhabitants of the planet vary, but one of the most obvious native groups to Tatooine are the Sand People. The sand people are portrayed as an uncivilized race that steals from others and wear ratty sand robes, and this is shown clearly in the first part of the movie when they rob Luke. The problem with this is that this aligns closely with the Western view of the Middle East. The vast deserts with no civilizations represent the terrain, and the torn-up robes covering their bodies and heads closely resemble hijabs and other traditional Middle Eastern clothing. The savagery of their lifestyle emphasizes the western idea that these countries are uncivilized and barbaric. This portrayal results in westerners seeing the Middle East as insignificant, and it continues the cycle of racism that already exists in America. While some may see this comparison between the Sand People and Middle Easterns a stretch, it also doesn’t help that these scenes were filmed in Tunisia, a Northern African country with many deserts.

Later in the trilogy, Yoda travels to Kashyyyk, a dense forest planet. This planet seems to have humid, warm weather, and closely represents a jungle climate such as a jungle in Southern Africa or Southern Asia. Of course, Star Wars continues their orientalist theme, and the inhabitants of this planet are Wookies, the same species as Chewbacca. The Wookies are large, gorilla like animals that are seen as rather dumb, and mainly used for their strength. They are rarely seen as dynamic characters, and are usually one sided and cannot help themselves without a leader. Throughout the series all Wookies seem to have a master, whether its Chewbacca with Han Solo, the Wookies on Kashyyyk being led by Yoda, or Krrsantan being led by the Hutts and then Boba Fett. While this may seem to be a coincidence, it still spreads the idea that in the real world, the people from these jungle regions are uncivilized animals, and are desperate for someone to come save them. This enforces the discriminatory views associated with eastern countries and encourages racism. Similar to the situation on Tatooine, the scenes for this part of the movie were shot in Thailand, increasing the idea that the people from these regions are similar to the Wookies in the movie and have animalistic tendencies.

Overall, the Orientalism in Star Wars may not be as obvious as in other movies because the characters portraying these groups of people aren’t human, but that also magnifies it because it emphasizes the animalistic and savage tendencies. The Sand People and the Wookies are obvious examples, but the further you dig, the more Orientalism you will find. It is important to recognize these portrayals and continue to resist the subtle racism incorporated into movies.

Where’d the Fool Go?

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Fool is an important character who helps guide Lear through his loss of power and gives him important advice along the way, along with offering comedic relief. That being said, I, along with many other readers, are likely left wondering where The Fool went for acts 4 and 5.

The Fool was extremely loyal and honest to Lear, and stayed by his side throughout his downfall, which is more than many did. The Fool’s role was important, as his honesty likely kept Lear the little sanity he had, saying things such as “Thou hast little wit in thy bald crown when thou gavest thy golden one away” (I.IV.159-160) and “He’s mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath (III.VI.18-19)”. Lear let nearly no one talk back to him, with The Fool being an important exception, as he did it in a comedic manner. The Fool’s honest advice displays his loyalty to Lear, which is partly what makes his disappearance even more mysterious.

The last time The Fool was seen was in Act 3 Scene 6, when Lear is still in the process of going mad and is causing trouble for Kent, Edgar, and The Fool. This makes The Fools disappearance even more strange, as he cares deeply for Lear, and left when Lear needed him most. He dealt with Lear’s madness before, and knew how to handle it, so his sudden disappearance seems a little strange. The Fool doesn’t say anything about where or what he is going to do, which is what truly makes this a mystery. The last line he says is “And I’ll go to bed at noon”(III.vi.90). This line doesn’t exactly say what The Fool is going to, but it hints at the idea that he will die in some way, potentially suicide. This is never proved, however, and Shakespeare’s lack of stage directions builds into this mystery about what happens to The Fool, as it says nothing about what he actually does in that scene.

Finally, in the end, Lear casually mentions “And my poor fool is hanged”(V.iii.369). This line could’ve been interpreted to meaning Cordelia, as she was hanged recently, and calling her his “fool” could’ve been as a sign of endearment to her. On top of that, “fool” isn’t capitalized as the character The Fool’s name had been throughout the entire play, so that also points toward the idea that Lear was referring to someone else. However, it does go along with the fact that The Fool ominously hinted towards his death, and it would explain his absence in Acts 4 and 5, as he was loyal to Lear, and it doesn’t make sense that he would abandon Lear when Lear needed him most.

Overall, The Fool is loyal to Lear, and is one of the few characters who actually cared for Lear and gave him honest advice when he could. The disappearance of The Fool is up to the reader’s interpretation, and, just for what it’s worth, I believe The Fool hanged himself.

How does Lil Wayne Measure Up?

Lil Wayne’s song “6 Foot 7 Foot. ” on his album Tha Carter IV is a true piece of poetry, where he asserts and re-establishes himself as an intelligent, honest, hardworking and an overall superior man compared to other rappers. While Wayne was in prison serving an eight month sentence, he was disrespected and looked down upon by the rap community, but this song helped him reinstate himself as one of the leading rappers of this generation through his use of puns and contrasting personality traits in metaphors.

Mind so sharp I fuck around and cut my head off.

Wayne first asserts himself as smart and witty through this pun. Saying he is “so sharp” is a common figure of speech people use to describe themselves as intelligent and quick-thinking. Saying he is so sharp he will “cut his head off” is a clever way of saying he is very smart, especially compared to others. This use of language fits with Laurence Perrine’s interpretation of poetry, as it appeals to the reader’s sense of intelligence and understanding the pun, but also imagination as they imagine the scene of Wayne being so intelligent he actually loses his head. This fits in with his claim that he is smarter and overall superior to other rappers, because through this metaphor he not only states that he is intelligent, he also uses language to display that he is clever, enforcing his assertion on his intelligence and proving he is smart.

I speak the truth, but I guess that’s a foreign language to y’all.

Wayne continues to enforce his claim of superiority through his honesty, and he does this by contrasting his personality traits to those of other rappers in a metaphor. By saying, “I speak the truth”, he means that he is honest, which is an important personality trait for someone like him to have, as some people may believe he is dishonest because of his wild life stories or exorbitant claims he makes about his fame or wealth. Then he says that speaking the truth is “a foreign language to y’all”, meaning that many other rappers are liars and make faulty claims about themselves. By comparing himself, he asserts himself as truthful compared to many other rappers who are dishonest, and this builds his persona as superior to other rappers. This applies to Perrine’s definition of poetry as Wayne “provides a series of concrete, homely details that suggest these qualities”, which he does by giving details stating that he speaks the truth but other rappers are liars,  proving that he is superior to them. 

Bitch, real Gs move in silence like lasagna.

Wayne uses another pun to further prove his hardworking nature and superiority. In the rap community people often refer to themselves as a “G”, and it stands for gangster. In this line Wayne refers to himself as a G saying that he moves in silence, similar to how the G in lasagna is silent, but says other rappers don’t because they are not real gangsters. Furthermore, saying he moves in silence means he doesn’t brag about his work and is truly devoted to his craft, and doesn’t care if people know about the effort he is putting in. This proves his hardworking nature because he is more focused on actually working and making good music, rather than trying to appear to the public in one way or another, as other rappers might. By doing this, he claims he is more devoted to making music and more hardworking than other rappers, and proves his overall claim that he is superior to them. His writing also applies to Perrine’s claim about multi-dimensional language, as it has deeper meaning than the line conveys on the surface.

Overall, Wayne proves he is intelligent through his use of puns, honest by contrasting other rappers to him in a metaphor, and hardworking through a pun about how he handles his work. By doing this, he proves he is superior on a greater level compared to other rappers, and this solidified himself back atop the rap community.

Time can’t Heal Love

In his novel, Exit West, author Mohsin Hamid asserts love cannot be fixed by time or excitement. This is seen through Saeed and Nadia’s relationship throughout the story, and is emphasized as their relationship struggles in London and falls apart in Marin.

When Nadia and Saeed are in the early stages of their relationship, they are extremely emotional with each other, and after Saeed asked Nadia to marry him very early in the relationship, Nadia “felt great tenderness well up in her for him at that moment”(65). However, Nadia and Saeed’s relationship soon starts to deteriorate after their migration to London, and soon after they disagreed where to stay, Nadia “brought her face close to his that night, close enough to tickle his lips with her breathing, [but] he was unable to muster the enthusiasm to bridge the tiny distance it would have taken to kiss”(153). Saeed and Nadia’s relationship has fallen to the point where when they once would have felt intimate, they no longer have those feelings, and Saeed chooses to not kiss Nadia even though he easily could. This is the first sign of the deterioration of their relationship.

It becomes clear Saeed and Nadia start to completely lose these feelings after they move to Marin in an attempt to rekindle their old love, but fail miserably. Soon after moving, Nadia stands at the door with her bags packed, and Saeed and Nadia “did not embrace or kiss then, they stood facing each other at the threshold of the shanty that had been theirs, and they did not shake hands either, they looked each at the other, for a long, long time, any gesture seeming inadequate”(215). All feelings of love and intimacy between them had dissipated, and now they seem like strangers to one another.

Through Saeed and Nadia’s relationship, Hamid is asserting that love cannot be healed solely by time or change, and this is seen as their love continues to fail despite their effort and patience with it, moving from city to city and giving it over a year in an attempt to find feelings again. Hamid does this through his long sentence structure when describing their feelings, and through his use of asyndeton, using almost 20 commas in the sentence on page 215 where Saeed and Nadia finally leave each other. These literary devices strengthen the effect of his writing, dramatizing and emphasizing the harsh words between Saeed and Nadia, and leave the reader with a feeling of despair as their love depressingly fails.

The Journey is what Matters

I disagree with Camus’ argument about the constant pain in the human condition, mostly because of the extreme view he takes. To a certain extent, I do believe that life is full of suffering and the facade of hope and love is what keeps people going. However, Camus takes the stance that life is somewhat worthless, and when you die doesn’t matter.

This is seen in Camus’ novel, The Stranger, as he opens with the infamous line “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: ‘Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.’ That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday”(1). One interpretation of the quote is that it doesn’t matter what day Maman died, but on a more personal level it could mean it doesn’t matter that Maman died at all. This meaning would show that Camus doesn’t value life much, if at all, and he doesn’t value the experience of living simply because all life ends with death.

Not only is his point of view downright depressing, it also makes many aspects of life meaningless if it doesn’t matter when you die. Camus was an absurdist, and he believed that love is just a facade of life that keeps people living, but is truly worthless. But without love, there is no emotion in life, and with no emotion life would be meaningless.

This I strongly disagree with, because I think what you do with your life is what matters, not the end result. The feelings in life and what you do with the short time you have is what is most important. Therefore when you die would matter because being blessed with a long happy life is quite the opposite of dying early without enjoying life itself. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. Overall, it doesn’t matter that life will end with the pain of death, it matters that you live your life with emotion and love.

A Dog is not a Man’s Best Friend

Throughout Part 1 of The Stranger, Meursault describes how his neighbor, Salamano, treats his dog. Salamano’s dog is old and mistreated, and we see this as he repeatedly curses at his dog, screaming “Flithy, stinking bastard!”(27). On top of that, Salamano also beats his dog for the same reasons, as Meursault notes he “beats the dog and swears at it”(27). It is apparent to the reader Salamano treats his dog inhumanely, simply because the dog is old, revealing Salamano’s unreasonable and controlling tendencies.

Similar behavior can be seen through Raymond, another one of Meursault’s neighbors. When talking with Meursault, Raymond says his girlfriend had an allowance of twenty Francs a day, which is not too much money in this time period. However, Raymond found a lottery ticket in her purse, which she apparently pawned bracelets for, and Raymond assumed she was cheating for having bracelets he didn’t give her. As a result of this, Raymond beat his girlfriend more than once, getting the police involved the second time, for no apparent reason. Raymond even says “I’d smack her around a little, but nice-like, you might say. … But this time it’s for real. And if you ask me, she still hasn’t got what she has coming”(31). The reason seems to be because she is a woman and he is exerting power over her, and Raymond’s sexist and controlling tendencies are revealed.

Both Raymond and Salamano are similar as they punish the people and animals closest to them, as Salamano punishes his dog and Raymond his girlfriend, for seemingly no reason. On top of that, they both lost these people and animals at the same time, as Salamano’s dog went missing and Raymond’s girlfriend ran away from him. This builds a connection between the two characters and their lives, as they both exert their physical dominance on those weaker than them. This foreshadows these characters will live similar lives in their respective situations.