Rewatching Star Wars: The Phantom Racist

Oh dear. Have we really moved on so far that the lazy national stereotyping in The Phantom Menace is now so obvious and yet didn’t spark mass protests and boycotts way back when it was released? I knew it was there of course and I’d re-watched the movie not that many years ago but whatever had been going on their just festered worse and worse as the DVD sat in its box.

There are three basic elements to it for anyone who has wiped it from their memories:

  1. Gunray and the Trade Federation are fishy Japanese stereotypes
  2. Jar-Jar is a West Indian/Caribbean stereotype
  3. Watto, the trader who own Anakin’s mother, is an Anti-Semitic stereotype right down to a big nose and a shallow greediness

It isn’t even subtle and it is like watching some awful relic of a previous century.

Oddly the rest of the movie seems to have got less worse but not much better. The story is poorly focused and wanders around to much and the Pod Race really serves no good purpose. What you get is the various kinds of scenes a Star Wars movie is suposed to have all cobbled together but without good dramatic connections.

The midichlorian bit though wasn’t too awful. The young actor who played baby Anakin was fine I thought. He’s a kid. Anakin is a kid. He acts like a kid. Seems reasonable. The final duel with Darth Maul was still fun.

R2D2-Sith Lord observations:

  1. R2 avoids getting blown to bits when stuck outside the Naboo spaceship – unlike all the other astromech droids because they are just crappy droids rather than a master of the force
  2. R2 manages to get himself into the inner circle of Naboo royalty/government. A point that apparently is picked up in Darths and Droids
  3. Anakin has a super high midichlorian count? Sure or R2 rigged the findings somehow. Probably put extra midichlorians on his salad.
  4. Finally for the doubters, young Anakin gets into a spaceship (having only ever driven a pod-race before), flies through a battle to attack the heavily defended command ships, penetrates the impenetrable shields and ‘accidentally’ destroys the central reactor and then flies out unharmed. R2 is, of course, in control of that ship from start to end.

One thought on “Rewatching Star Wars: The Phantom Racist

  1. I won’t defend TPM either, although as an actual story it is probably better than RotJ. But it does suffer badly from having to be the “happy ending” of the story but at the start, which makes it feel weird (and a strong reason for skipping it entirely.)
    The Pod Race worked far better on a cinema screen than it ever does on a television, although a good sound system can make up for a lot – it’s got astonishing sound design to the point that you can almost identify each racer just from their engine even as it zips past you in microseconds. And the final duel with Darth Maul may still be peak sabre.
    But yeah, the stereotypes are definitely bad. Not that they get any better…


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