The Sweet Diaries

Sweetness is an opinion, not a fact. You may have heard on an activist website that you are entitled to opinions, but not facts. But choosing to write “sweetness” here multiple times is a very sweet fact, which lessens its factual status slightly, if not sweetly.

A sweet diary would not be a diary of machinations, but aesthetics. Diaries, in their mission, are at their core, a chronicle of values, and sweetness should not be excluded from this jolly old club.  Sweetness is not a foodstuff of political tact, except when it is embraced by weary, cynical republics looking for change. I think it is true that Canadian presidential candidates are more cordial than their American counterparts, and I hope, one day, that American politicians too, will ban cynical dialogue from their campaign platforms.  This diary post was not originally about politics, but it leered into that land. Next order of business is the sweetness of wisdom, since the topic is related, and too brief to add to another post, is that of a very uber pop culture reference that, while a hot topic, is cool enough to simmer without rousing any corner of the internet on a month-old film release, Star Wars.

 

I will write here about Yoda. I have never been a huge Star Wars geek, but with a little growing up and a little free time, I felt it worthwhile to watch the latest Star Wars film, having watched the other six films either from the local library VHS archive or at the movie theater, as with the Phantom Menace (Episode I). What I like about the newest addition (Episode VII), is the mystical Maz Kanata:

Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata:

A wise and perceptive figure operating a somewhat shady cantina on the peaceful forest planet, Takodana.[20] J.J. Abrams said Kanata has “lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole … and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.”[21]According to Abrams, the character was based on his former high school English teacher, Rose Gilbert, who lectured at the Palisades Charter High School from 1961 to 2013. Abrams said the team “really wanted the story to feel authentic, despite being a wild fantasy. I mentioned Rose in an early story meeting as a sort of timeless, wise figure that I’d actually known in my life.”[22]

Researching this little fact while writing about it has left me a slightly perturbed. Because Star Wars has always appeared to have a great story- a believable fable in essence. There is a word called Mytheme, which is the “irreducible kernel” of a myth, the shorthand language for what is truth in otherwise legend. Much of Star Wars is a well-knit story, despite being 9 episodes long, and unfinished. Then why the outreach to the “authentic” if the whole of the fantasy could pass for fact in some corner of the galaxy? Some are unwilling to suspend disbelief until there is an element of the now, or the here, as opposed to the “long time ago…galaxy far far away.” That pre-conditioning, seems essential to the fantasy accessibility that is impossible even when teaching the 3rd world to the 1st world. This, I think is why Maz Kanata is so inviting. She represents wisdom, a “wise, perceptive figure who has lived over a thousand years, with a watering hole.” Those last three words, “watering hole” necessarily divert attention from her exceptionally blinding intelligence, and drags the myth back down to Earth.

If I could invent a new theory that never existed in Star Wars, or was adopted from another realm- of matriarchy, I would, but it would be more interesting to discover that the writer or writers of The Force Awakens actually had this subliminal conspiracy in mind or in vault and nowhere to be admitted at least or a very long, long time, and in a galaxy, far, far away. Why? Because in Episode VII, Yoda is deceased, and there is no wise equivalent in the Force Awakens, although it becomes open to changing gender roles. The protagonist is black, and opposing that change is silly, since all roles should be equal opportunity- wisdom is no exception- thus Maz Kanata’s eligibility as a “Yoda figure.”. I watched Star Wars because I was a Yoda fan, and while I understood he might not be around biologically in Episode VII, some acceptable or enhanced substitute spirit might be. And I think Maz Kanata fits the part primly. So what if we have a female president?

[Update 1: This disqus discussion clearly shows the divide between belief that Maz is capable and incapable as a wise sage: http://collider.com/star-wars-the-force-awakens-maz-kanata-problems/#forgettable (While the article makes its points, the comments make greater points).

Update 2: This article speculates more]

Yoda has always retained power in the Star Wars Universe (from Episodes IV-VII), but only in non-defacto, non-de jure ways- soft power, of influence and guidance, rather than of binding obligations (in contrast to his dueling roles in the tacked-on prequels). Perhaps he appears to be one who achieved the most through the least resistance, and thus represents an ideal, if not imperfect and incomparable figure. Yoda has a leisurely sanctuary, much like Maz Kanata. Plotwise, there is no push-pull dynamic to have lead any revolution, except for one of nonviolence perhaps. It’s not clear what the role of the sage is, without some impartiality. And impartiality, most suggestively, involves nonviolence. A warrior does not have much in common with a pensive sage.

Maz Kanata says, when looking at Finn in the eyes, “Different eyes have seen the same things” She is looking at Finn when she is challenging him until she recognizes his firmness in implying what wrongs the Empire has done, and it becomes very clear what he then tries to communicate via his eyes alone: one of the very first scenes in Star Wars- Finn witnesses the orders of Kylo Ren to execute all the villagers harboring Lor San Tekka.

Maz Kanata keeps a light saber in the cellar of her watering hole. Was it intended to be ever used, or only for defense? I think the latter, because there is no indication she is a warrior like Yoda was in Episode II and III. But I think the the similarities are too glaring to ignore. She is a “Yoda figure”, much like a “father figure” is not necessarily an actual father- she has become an emerald for those who can’t distinguish quartz from diamond, and she is right to profit from guiding them.

Her character is not only wise, but most familiar even if in a strange way. Most Star Wars characters are, even if well-intentioned, following a much more involved time-crunched conflict in the galaxy, and that makes most of the characters 2-dimensional. A “timeless” character, citing the writer and a “thousand years” has some very unique aspects in the Star Wars Saga- deep freedom, not just from the “Empire” but more so a Buddhist level of practiced, mindful liberation, from iterations of perceived and real bounds of the world. Is Maz simply  the most down-to-earth character, or the most distant one? The answer depends on how much you want the truth. And the truth is often a sweet thing.

 

 

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