Here’s another bit of arcana I love: The 1980 review of The Empire Strikes Back by Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners.
Any contemporary review of a future classic is sure to demonstrate an amusing lack of perspective, but one by the last bastion of an increasingly defunct cultural order is particularly charming. She likes the movie, but is uneasy about liking it, and feels the need to defend the position that it is not and cannot be really good because, after all, it’s only a science fiction film:
But when light entertainment is done well, someone is bound to make extravagant and unsupportable claims for its being great art. You will hear that this sequel to “Star Wars” is part of a vast new mythology, as if it were the Oresteia. Its originator, George Lucas, has revealed that the two pictures are actually parts four and five of a nine-part sage, as if audiences will some day receive the total the way devotees now go to Seattle for a week of immersion in Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle.
Ah, the delicious sound of irony. Take a moment with me and estimate how many people have seen the entirety of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, versus how many have done a Star Wars marathon. I haven’t done either, since college plans for a Star Wars marathon fell through, but I have done a marathon of another bit of, no doubt, low culture of Wagner-worthy epic scale, which coincidentally also involves a ring.
I, however, can do so without acting defensive about it, because I don’t believe in high culture. I don’t think that Star Wars or anything else need be placed on the back seat so that Wagner can reign without threat; if Wagner is so weak as to be threatened, then perhaps it deserves to be dethroned. More on this later.
Image from Wookieepedia.