Movies

The Star Wars Holiday Special Never Should Have Existed

Movie Review (with Spoilers):

Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Rating: 1 out of 10 stars

Overview

This article is co-written by Paige Wilson, Ashley Ostrowski, and Finch Pierson.

Pros

  • None that we can think of.

Cons

  • Use of blackface
  • Racism
  • Transphobia
  • Sexism
  • No subtitles for wookies
  • Pornographic

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

Review

The version of the Star Wars Holiday Special that we watched started with “The Incredible Hulk will not be presented this evening,” which is a shame, since if it had been offered instead we would have been spared a great deal of discomfort.

This movie, like the other Star Wars movies, starts with “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away.” The movie begins with Han Solo telling Chewbacca that he’ll take him home to celebrate Life Day, a holiday that appears to be celebrated primarily by Wookies.

That is basically the objective and only important part of the plot, so now we will go into the issues.

Star Wars typically celebrates diversity, which is shown in the way the rebels include many races while the stormtroopers usually do not. Leia says they’re all fighting the same fight, but she is being a hypocrite. In this movie, women and people who are not white human men are prevented from doing anything of value, harassed, sexualized, and treated poorly.

Whenever Mala was on the screen, people asked to speak to someone else. The soldiers are supposed to be rude, but Luke and the other humans do this too. Even when people had a translator or could understand Wookie speak they still wanted to talk to another person. It is sexist.

The man pawning off objects to Wookies specifically gives the grandfather a viewing machine to show him space porn. The grandfather enjoys it a bit too much and is visibly gaining some significant pleasure from this while in the middle of his living space and near a small child. The video features a woman named Mermeia Holographic. She sings and is given lines like “I am your fantasy” and “I am your pleasure.” She is overly sexualized, and the Wookie is made to watch. For a film made for families and kids, this feels very inappropriate and uncomfortable. The man gave it to the grandfather purposely without explanation. Did he know that the grandfather had this porn addiction? Was he trying to tailor to that or feed that? The whole thing was very painful.

While people say this generation is on computers or phones all the time and that people are barely connected to each other, the characters in the Star Wars Holiday Special spend a majority of their time looking at separate screens. It is not about families who truly care about each other. Everyone is addicted to the technology and garbage that this film promotes.

If you’ve ever heard of the whore/madonna trope, this rings true for the special. The women on the videos are portrayed as overly sexual and exist for a male audience’s approval. Mala is a mother figure, she is maternal and cooks for the men. She is ignored in all of the important conversations. Leia is like a madonna figure. She is the beloved woman who appears when it serves the men in the story’s purpose. Like when she sings randomly for the male audience and takes over the Wookies celebration. The straight male gaze is the only one that is satisfied. People are looking for Han Solo, the stud of the series, to be sexy, but he actually sexist. He barely acknowledges Mala.

The scene in the bar is particularly problematic. Ackmena is a bartender and a man named Krelman follows her around creepily. He grabs her body inappropriately and follows her behind the bar. He will not leave her alone until she gives him alcohol to subdue him. She feels as if she has to give him free alcohol to get him to leave her alone. She pretends to be cheery to appease him and the other men won’t leave the bar either. She buys them free drinks and sings for them and they finally leave. The only one left is Krelman, who still won’t take no for an answer.

The entire scene is uncomfortable, and the movie makes their behavior seem okay. The Star Wars Christmas Special was a mess. The woman running the bar was threatened with a gun. Groped by a random man who made extreme sexual advances without consent. The entire time it was painful to watch because this woman had to smile and be polite for her safety and try and convince the men to let her go and leave her alone because she was helpless. They treated her like trash and she couldn’t do anything so she had to flatter their egos just to defend herself. They threatened her with guns, grabbed her body, refused to leave her place. The level of misogyny was distressing. This woman was placed in a terrible situation and was left alone to deal with it all.

The women in this film were constantly prevented from doing anything of any importance because of the stupidity of the men around them. They were treated like trash. Dismissed. Anytime anyone called they asked to speak to someone else instead of Mala in an incredibly demeaning way. Even when the others could speak the Wookie language and/or had a translator. Leah was given even less of a point in the plot than Luke. One of the biggest issues I had was the transphobic, racist food show thing. Where a man dresses in traditionally feminine clothes and wears full BLACKFACE, which is horrid. I shouldn’t need to explain how terrible and racist this is. How stupid this is. The fact that this aired and someone agreed to do this, that this made it past so many people before being shown, is horrible. The choice of attire for the character and presentation read as a mockery of transwomen. Did no one try to stop this?

The production was terrible, there was a barely coherent plot. It seemed to be trying to mirror the holiday of Christmas, the whole thing gave off uncomfortable religious vibes. The over-use of the word “friend” was jarring as well. As someone who has ingested quite a bit of Star Wars-related content, I can attest that the word “friend” is rarely used. In the Star Wars Special the word friend was used excessively to the point of being extremely noticeable. The way Boba Fett said “friend” every other sentence just seemed so unnatural to the world itself.

The stormtroopers were of course sexist and racist, as they were always portrayed in the Star Wars universe, but in this film the protagonistic group was also demonized. Instead of the rebellion being the accepting, inclusive group dedicated to freedom and equality for all, they became just as messed up as the empire. There was no break for Mala, and there clearly wouldn’t be a break for that bartender. I’ve always read Star Wars as an idealized fantasy of the “American Story.” The sterilized history of America translated into fantasy. In this film it became even closer to the American story, full of hypocrisy, brutality, racism, and white privilege.

One of the main issues I have is with Leia and the ways the Wookies were by her treated, they were treated like trash and as second class. In the end Leia came in as the “white savior” taking over their special religious holiday to sing a song clearly trying to ‘teach’ them the meaning of their own holiday. Her arrogance in treating the people as though their holiday was just a game to her, where she could take the sacred holiday and use it as a publicity stunt was disgusting. Not to mention the power difference preventing any of the Wookies from saying or doing anything to stop her. She also had several armed people in other higher areas of privilege standing around her. Not to mention she is a literal princess with an army at her back.

I also hated that the Wookies were helpless in that if they raised a fist they would be killed. While Han Solo and the other straight white men were able to get away with literal murder. Their excuse was immediately believed while the Wookies had been treated as untrustworthy. The Wookies were treated as inherently aggressive and dangerous while throughout the film and the Star Wars franchise they are repeatedly shown to not be. This is clearly racism. And it was painful to watch. The imperial soldiers also were running around in their privileged senses destroying and hurting others for their own pleasure. It can be clearly seen that they are justifying their treatment of others by seeing them as lesser, in this case viewing the Wookies as a lesser race. Boba Fett makes it clear that he does this as well, when he mentions that he would never put himself in danger for the sake of a lesser being. All the power in this film is disproportionately placed in the hands of a few white men. Everyone is waiting for Han Solo to ‘save them’ from something they could have saved themselves from. The Wookies were treated as incompetent and as though they needed this random man to save them from other random men.

Overall, the holiday special was very hard to watch. We found ourselves checking how much time was left every five minutes or so, and had to force ourselves to keep staring at the screen. The directing of Steve Binder and David Acomba was terrible for this movie.

Have you seen this abomination? What are your thoughts? Comment below.

Links

  • Men’s behavior toward women in The Star Wars Holdiay Special is part of a larger cultural problem. Harrison Ford contributed to a problem of men ignoring women’s “no” and forcing consent in his roles. These include Star Wars and in Indiana Jones. Looking back on Han’s treatment of Leia in Star Wars, it always felt uncomfortable, but the movies played it off. If you’re interested in learning more, Pop Culture Detective talks about Ford’s roles in this video.

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