My friend Jonathan V. Last ably laid out the pros of the Empire and the cons of the Galactic Republic more than a decade ago for the Weekly Standard in a piece entitled “The Case for the Empire.” As Last notes, on one side of the ledger you have a meritocratic force for order and stability led by a more-or-less benevolent dictatorship that seeks to maintain galactic unity, facilitate trade and head off a nasty intergalactic conflict before too many people can die. On the other, you have a band of religious terrorists whose leaders include a drug smuggler in the pocket of slavers and a pair of incestuous twins working to restore a broken republic held hostage by special interests that tolerated its citizens being treated as chattel.
I don’t know about you, but the good guys and bad guys here seem pretty obvious to me.
So true. Star Wars has always been an obvious example of Victors' History.
He goes on to argue that:
Alderaan was a legitimate military target. Was the level of force used against it justified? It’s a tricky question, but it seems the least bad of all the alternatives. Consider another option the Empire could have taken: invading Alderaan, removing its leaders and installing a pro-Empire regime. However, putting boots on the ground in this manner would likely have destabilized not only the planet but also the entire region, creating a breeding ground for religious terrorists and draining blood and treasure for decades. It’s not hard to imagine a Jedi State of the Alderaan System (JSAS, for short, though they’d likely prefer the simpler Jedi State (JS)) arising from the ashes of some ill-conceived invasion and occupation.
This was probably just the sort of catastrophe that Grand Moff Tarkin was trying to avoid when he devised his Death Star-centered defensive strategy. The Tarkin Doctrine, discussed here, is one based on deterrence and the threat of force rather than the use of force. Granted, you have to use force once for the threat to be useful, but it’s easy to see the appeal of such a tactic, which is designed to save lives in the long run. Imagine the human toll — not to mention the enormous fiscal cost — of launching invasion after invasion of breakaway systems. The utilitarian calculation is complicated, but it’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which fewer people died as a result of the destruction of Alderaan than would have died in a series of costly invasions.
Let us accept arguendo, however, the claims of Princess Leia and her apologists that Alderaan was peaceful and had no military targets.
Even so, one could argue that the destruction of Alderaan was not inconsistent with just war theory. To be sure, many just war theorists claim that the tradition requires both discrimination between civilian and military targets and proportionality. Yet, as LTC Peter Farber, an instructor at the Academy, has written: "there is no single, coherent just-war position. Rather, there are clusters of ideas that have waxed and waned through time, and they have not evolved into a transhistorical system of simple moral rules." Hence, as Farber notes, theorists long defended strategic bombing within the just war tradition:
... 1) it preserved and protected the just against the criminal (note the Augustinian emphasis here), 2) the civilians supporting their national leadership were equally responsible for the decisions made by that leadership, and 3) the vigorous prosecution of the war prevented an even greater loss of human life.
While the destruction of Alderaan may be regretable, it seems clearly defensible under this understanding of the ethics of strategic warfare. Indeed, as Tarkin noted, the very purpose of destroying Alderaan is to end the war more quickly. Hence, just as was the case with strategic bombing in earlier times, "the vigorous prosecution of the war" could be justified as an effort to prevent "an even greater loss of human life."
Personally, of course, I find the notion that just war requires discrimination and proportionality morally and ethically attractive. Indeed, I regard that understanding of just war vastly superior to the norms of strategic bombing. My defense of the Alderaan incident thus is mostly by way of playing devil's advocate. Yet, after reading Farber's essay, I must acknowledge that people of good will can and have differed on this issue. Hence, I am not quite as prepared as I might once have been to concede that the Alderaan incident is as morally straightforward as the New Republic's apologists claim.
Are you ready for another edition of io9's March Madness? In previous years, we've crowned the best movie, the worst movie, and the best TV show. But this year, we're going bigger. The most famous series in science fiction and fantasy will battle it out, to see which genre reigns supreme! ... As for the bracket itself, you can click on it to expand, or click here to zoom in on a really big version.
For your amusement and edification, I attach my choices for the entire tournament. To be clear, these are not the series I think will win but the ones I think should win.
Most of the choices were pretty easy. The most painful one was Terry Pratchett's Discworld series' early exit at the hands of Tolkien's/Jackson's Lord of the Rings. If Discworld had been in either the Magic and Monsters or Dystopia brackets (albeit not a good fit for the latter), it would have cruised into the Final Four.
There are some curious omissions, which are probably due to io9's preference for "orks that have proven their staying power either by developing into a huge series or by being adapted into other media." Even so, I would have opted for Heinlein's Future History series instead of Starship Troopers (I fear that decision was tainted by the execrable Paul Verhoeven film and its evil progeny). How about John Scalzi's Old Man Universe, which probably is today's hottest SF series? Or Charles Stross' wonderful Laundery Files? Or oldies but goodies like Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium series or Gordon Dickson's Dorsai books? Any of them likely would have made my Sweet Sixteen or even Elite Eight.
This modern trailer recut for "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is just about the most awesome thing that happened on the Internet this week. Because, come on. It's not every day that someone goes and makes "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" seem like a high-budget medieval Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster.
“We are watching capitalism destroy itself right now,” [Whedon] told the audience.
He added that America is “turning into Tsarist Russia” and that “we’re creating a country of serfs.”
Whedon was raised on the Upper Westside neighborhood of Manhattan in the 1970s, an area associated with left-leaning intellectuals. He said he was raised by people who thought socialism was a ''beautiful concept."
Socialism remains a taboo word in American politics, as Republicans congressmen raise the specter of the Cold War. They refer to many Obama administration initatives as socialist, and the same goes for most laws that advocate increasing spending on social welfare programs. They also refer to the President as a socialist, though this and many of their other claims misuse the term.
This evidently frustrates Whedon ....
It is, of course, the classic limousine liberalism that pervades my hometown of Hollywood. Indeed, most of my immediate neighbors are Mercedes-driving putative social democrats.
But why? At a Hollywood social event, I once had a lefty in the entertainment business tell me that it was because liberals are creative and conservatives aren't. But surely that can't be right. After all, conservative capitalists have created more jobs, goods, and useful services of far greater social value than any of the ephemera that flows out of movie studios.
No, I think my late friend Larry Ribstein had it right. In his classic article Wall Street and Vine: Hollywood's View of Business, Larry argued that filmmakers are down on capitalism because they resent "capitalists' constraints on their artistic vision."
In other words, Whedon's socialism comes not from any real thought or intellectual inquiry (as anyone who has suffered through one of his films can attest). Instead, it's just because he's pissed off that the suits have final cut.
The Highlander films (except the especially execrable Higlander 2) and the live action TV show havealways been among my guilty cultural pleasures. Ryan Reynolds will doubtless make me feel even guiltier about loving the franchise. Cool.
The freedom-loving rebels against the fascist empire.
From the empire striking back, to a ragtag group of serene space-western characters, to a guy who has a fetish for the letter V, this has to be the most popular storyline. I know that those who trade security for freedom end up losing both, and movies show that very well. The problem is, before you get to the point where you lose both, it's still a trade-off. And the term trade-off means that both concepts have value. To the rebels, the fascists who run their world have gone too far. What if there was a movie where, from some perspectives at least, they hadn't?
Isn't there someone on the Death Star who just wants to keep order in a massive system of planets, all filled with Cantinas in which people get shot regularly? Maybe this guy doesn't understand why people keep trying to blow up his workplace. What about the Alliance, which fought a war to try to organize and supply a sprawling galaxy full of colony planets, and is rightly annoyed by people randomly stealing from them? And while it's clear that the intolerant government that V railed against supported monsters, they also kept their country together when others were falling apart. How would a person working in that government react to a guy who takes hostages, shoots cops, and blows up buildings? The rebels want freedom, which sounds good in pop songs, but is that always the best idea? A look at the other side, for once, might make a good movie.
Action heroines are rare creatures. The earliest were female versions of pre-existing male heros, like Wonder Woman, BatGirl and SuperGirl. Some more recent heroines have their roots in fantasy or sci-fi, like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Selene from Underworld, or Alice from Resident Evil. But while there are plenty of realistic male heroes who run, jump and fight without being cartoony or existing in a vampire realm - think Jason Bourne, James Bond or Ethan Hunt - there are very [few] female counterparts.
Maybe so. But I think there have been some awfully good ones. Off the top of my head and in no particular order: Sarah Walker. Samantha Caine. The Bride. Mrs. Smith. Evelyn Salt. Nikita. Erica Bain. Sydney Bristow. Grace Hanadarko. Mary Shannon. Pretty much every character Michelle Yeoh's played. Ditto re Pam Grier. All wonderful action characters at least as "realistic" as Jason Bourne or James Bond (and most of them could probably kick Biond's butt).
And what's wrong with SF heroines? The iconic Sarah Connor. The great, great Ellen Ripley. Emma (be still my heart) Peel. Xena. Trinity. Starbuck (reimagined). Abby Maitland. Dana Scully.