Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Star Wars was probably not "brutalizing children" in 1983

With its Disney-fication complete, the Star Wars series has become embraced (or begrudgingly accepted) as a family-friendly sci-fi adventure series. That wasn't always the case. Not that the series was ever adult or hyper-violent – it was meant for kids! – but at least a few cultural critics still objected.

Specifically, watch this bizarre, recently popular clip from a 1983 episode of Nightline where film critic John Simon, noted for his acerbic reviews, decries the Star Wars as empty special effects showcases for "stupid children" that stunt growth and encourage violence. His critique is shockingly rude, calling the stars "lousy" and the script "ghastly" while simultaneously insulting Walt Disney's entire body of work.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert then provide a terrific counterpoint: "I feel badly," Siskel says, "that [...] John Simon didn't have a good time at these pictures. That's too bad for him." Ebert follows up, agreeing that "it made me laugh. It made me thrilled. And that's what a movie like this is for."

There's no retort to that. Sorry, Simon.

That snottiness aside, the conversation is relatively interesting, especially Siskel's discussion of whether we should reward films "for aiming low and hitting that mark." It's great to see two of the most renowned popular critics defending the gold standard of Hollywood blockbusters.

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