Somewhat recently, CNN ran an article about Steven Spielberg and his part in the most recent Indiana Jones film. I could link it for you, but I feel the article was fairly worthless. It began something like this, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not a very good movie." I disagree with this approach (even if I sometimes make similar statements about various... things). I especially disagree with it from a source like CNN which should confine itself to objectivity (except in editorial sections). And especially since the article was not actually about the movie but about Spielberg's role in one particular scene.
My kids are... difficult... when it comes to food. Well, the oldest isn't quite as difficult as he used to be. Now that he's entered his I'm-a-teenage-boy-and-I-will-eat-anything stage, he does, pretty much, eat anything that's put in front of him. It's a nice change from when he was younger and ketchup was too "spicy" for him (anything with any flavor was too "spicy" for him). My younger boy loves spicy food as long as it's meat. Trying to get plant life into him is like trying to put a cat into a toilet (no, I've never actually done that, but I know someone who did). And my daughter... well, my daughter is a carb hound. Trying to get protein into her is almost as difficult as trying to get plants into my son (except that she'll eat almost anything if there's a "treat" on the other side of eating it). We've spent a lot of time teaching them the proper way of saying they don't like particular foods. Especially when they are guests in other people's homes.
Here's a hint: the proper way is not to say, "This food isn't very good food."
The proper way is to say something like, "I don't care for this." Let me change the emphasis a little: "I don't care for this."
I'm not here to defend Indy 4. People didn't like it. However, if people could be objective about it, I think they would realize that, pretty much, Indy 4 is just like the other 3 Indiana Jones films. I rank it #3 out of the 4, and I can even get more behind the nuked fridge than I could Indy stopping the mining cart with his feet and then evaporating the water in the puddle because they were so hot. That always struck me as cartoonish, and Temple of Doom has always been the least of Indiana Jones to me.
What I will say is this, people don't like Indy 4 because they don't understand the history behind the movie. Lucas actually captures a fairly perfect snapshot of the personality of the 50s in Kingdom. It's great. You have the "Red Threat." You have experiments into telepathy and other mind control programs that both the US and the USSR were heavily into during the 50s. You have aliens. Aliens were huge in the 50s and were a cultural metaphor for the coming communist invasion (like zombies are today for the loss of humanity to technology (which I've already done a post about)). It's really everything you could hope for in an Indiana Jones movie set in the 50s. If you know and understand the history.
As a complete aside, the article was about the fridge nuking scene which Lucas gets blamed for, because Lucas gets blamed for everything. The interviewer was really trying to get Spielberg to jump onto the Lucas-hating bandwagon. There was an exchange something along the lines of, "With all of the really great movies you've made, how could you be involved in a piece of crap like Indy 4?" To which Spielberg replied with something like, "I'd be involved in any piece of crap from Lucas because Lucas is my friend, and I believe in him." And, then, Spielberg revealed that the fridge nuking scene was his creation and that he's proud to have added the phrase "nuking the fridge" to pop culture. Yea, Spielberg!
Okay, so... now to the point:
People give Lucas a lot of crap these days over, well, everything he does. They don't like that he's made alterations to the original trilogy of Star Wars films. They don't like the prequels. They don't like The Clone Wars because it's a cartoon. blah blah blah
My response is pretty much "tough." Oh, and "shut up." I'm freaking tired of all the whining people do about Star Wars. And Indiana Jones.
Here's the thing: Lucas created Star Wars; he can do with it what he wants. It's like a house. Lucas' house. And he's invited us all inside for a visit. An extended visit. We got all comfortable in there, and we like it a particular way. But it's still Lucas' house. If he wants to add some new decorations to it, guess what, he gets to do that! If he wants to rip out some walls and rebuild parts of it, guess what, he gets to do that! If he wants to add new wings onto the house, guess what, he gets to do that, too! It's HIS house. We don't really get to complain about it, because he's sharing. Wait, let me say that again. He's sharing something that belongs to him, something that he made, with us. And he doesn't have to do it. And we don't have to participate. That's the key that people miss. If you don't like it, stop trying to keep living in Lucas' house! Go and create your own stuff!
Oh, wait... heh
I suppose this is a subject that's really close to my heart. I really believe in the right of the creator to create the way he wants to create. It's up to the audience if they want to participate, and it's up to the creator to decide how much he wants to... bend his creation to appeal to a wider audience. But, in the end, it belongs to the creator, not the audience, and the audience doesn't have the right to complain about changes the creator wants to make.
There's a difference between "I like the old version better," and "These changes you make suck." One is stating a preference, one is coming from a place of entitlement. The audience, the guests, have no entitlement. At any point, Lucas could say, "You know what? I'm tired of all of you people hanging out in my house and bitching and moaning all the time. Leave." So far, he's been a pretty nice guy, and he hasn't done that.
I hear some of you out there thinking about the fact that we have to pay to get into Lucas' house, and he's using that money to change things around on us. Still, you don't have to pay. That's your choice. Seriously. That's your choice. If you don't like the changes, quit paying the money and quit participating in the event. Just go home. Go home and create your own world/universe/whatever.
Oh, wait... heh
Part of all of this relates to how to be a good critique partner, too. See, there's a proper way: "I don't understand this part, right here." "This part doesn't do anything for me." "I don't feel an emotional connection to this character."
And there's a wrong way, "This part sucks." "You should re-write this part to be more like this." "You need to get rid of this character, because I don't like him."
As I said, it's up to the creator to decide how much he wants to bend his creation to appeal to an audience whether it's an audience of 1 or 1,000,000. The audience doesn't get to demand changes. As much as I dislike the whole Twilight thing and how silly I think sparkly vampires are, I don't get to tell Ms. Meyer how to write her books. I get to choose not read them and not to watch the movies. She didn't write "bad" books; she wrote books I don't like. And I'm not eating them. Um, reading them. Evidently, a lot of other people do like them, though, and that's okay. I don't like avocados, either, but a lot of people do.
In the end, it's about being civil. It's about making "I" statements (yea, popular psychology, too) and not trashing someone else's work. My wife and I spend a lot of time with our kids with this kind of thing, but, I think, it's not just kids that need to learn this stuff. And I'm not excluding myself here, because I love to rant about how stupid I think some things are (but I'm having to watch that, because I think my daughter might want to read Twilight, and, you know, if she wants to read it, I'm not going to tell her "no" (and it would just be rude of me to trash it if she decides she likes it (if she decides to read it at some point))). We can all learn to guard our words and make them safe for other people to hear.
Just a note:
No one has done this to me (recently), so this isn't me getting my dander up because of some bad critique I got. This all related to this CNN article and the cavalier way the writer of the article went about tearing into Lucas and his creation. This isn't about defending Lucas, either. He has more wealth than I can ever imagine (and I can imagine quite a bit), so he doesn't need me to defend him. This completely about the rights of the creator to play with their creation without other people getting pissy about it.