The Moral Failure of 21st Century Film

I’ve been engaged in a really interesting debate about why and how Star Wars’ most recent film(s) seem to be fading in terms of being a major cinematic force today.

The current debate says its due to bad directing, bad writing, too much PC influence, too much cultural inclusivity, a failed moral relativism between the opposing forces behind the Force, etc. etc.

As some of you know, I’ve written blogs saying Star Wars was only great in the first movie because of the “fairy tale” myths layered into the story. Later films would never capture that glory. It’s why there are rising numbers of people now looking for the original Lucas 1977 film untouched. It stands as a reflection of Western Myth in all its adventuresome glory. And I have predicted more and more people would search for the untouched first film from years ago in as it not only encapsulated the ancient myth of Western Culture but the value system of America in 1977 without the morally ambiguous struggles and realism of later Star Wars movies and culture.

But here is something more I posted recently in this debate that relates to myth and morality.

I think this “new” struggle we see in recent Star Wars films, and all films the past 5 years, is simply the that younger is generation now questioning, fully, the complete fairy tale that is Star Wars from the perspective of the ardent Realism and Metamodern view they have now adopted. This idea that they see something morally perverse in recent film with the Jedi falling to the dark force raises questions in their mind of some deeper failure to resolve the fact that:

A. They claim we are all both good and evil thus this conflict is meaningless, or

B. Star Wars should be an allegory all the way or be stripped of all allegorical farce of good vs evil which they see as meaningless

Where these argument all fail is that we are good or evil, we are not morally relative. We choose and by choices help Creation or further its destruction. It’s that simple. And Star Wars was never an allegory though it rested on broad assumption that there were good and evil characters. In later movies that assumption got “muddied” not by actors but by the shades of gray culture we have created today!

The key is understanding that the first Star Wars was made from the mythology of the hero-journey that’s been told for thousands of years. It’s simply a retelling of an old Western Trope. That fit perfectly with the Postmodern generation that made the first Star Wars in 1977 and which readily embraced the current structure of good and evil as a trope reflective of the counter culture, anti-government, anti-war rebellion that was taking place.

But the cultural phenomenon today is based on a younger generation that has had no authority or Vietnam War or Postmodern angst to challenge. This younger group is imbibed with a deep connection to Realism and the promises of technology as a savior to Mankind’s ills. And the old trope of good vs evil and Postmodern moral relativism has been replaced with the horror of evil rugged individualism versus the goodness found in a global view of cultural onenes, resolution of conflict through non conflict, and multicultural acceptance.

There’s a strong emphasis in this latest Star Wars on inclusion, you will notice, with resolution of conflict being more important than heroism. There is thus a complete Rejection of The Hero-journey in this new movie by young people today as valuable like it was in the 70’s, a time when self discovery and later self improvement of the individual was mored valued.

Kids today are thus rewriting Star Wars, as they are all movie tropes, in the vein of a new “groupthink”, of one world belonging, of multicultural equivalency, the new value of good government that serves all, and pulling of opposition into a middle ground of peace and understanding….the opposite of who their rebellious, anti-authority parents were in the 1960’s.

It’s simply culture changing as it will in cycles, reacting against the previous one as today’s is doing so strongly. And that’s exactly why the latest Star Wars is about them and their changing cultural views, not about Star Wars original premise. But it is not about some new truth or Myth either, but a Metamodern reflection and rejection of the movies past, as well as the new Modernism of the Milliennials new cultural value systems that soon will replace our own.

It’s why we should listen to this new theme as alien as it is, as its valuable and has its own cosmology yet to be revealed in future fantasy movies.

But I think the solution they seek is completed wrong. Kids today are rejecting the influence of Myth and Faith as valuable in art, denying the power of a Creator, assuming everything that triggers emotion or force in movies derived from some obscure allegory. They misunderstand the power of the irrationality of Fairy Tale in film of the past as they simply don’t understand it or the power of Mythical tropes found in Western Culture. Instead they seem to be looking to construct some failed allegory again in art or deny it ever needs to exists, both perverse views of which great artists like Tolkien rejected in his views of how to create imaginative works.

Maybe I’m off a bit on this idea, but for some reason I don’t see moral relativism in either Tolkien or the first Star Wars. I see it much more in recent film, including this latest movie. It is quite obvious in RR Martin’s Game of Thrones work….where he has said that in his study of history for his books, he discovered Hitler loved dogs and therefore was not such a bad guy.

This encapsulates the fallen moral relativism of the Baby Boomers perfectly and why we have film like this today. This view is very much a recent phenomenon of more modern Postmodern generations today and the movies they create to explain away Mankind’s morality and evils. But it fails. I see in the first Star Wars a definite separation of good and evil in the first movie, with moral relativism cropping only up in later ones simply because a generation ago there still were valid ethical and moral construct left in society, as flawed as they were.

The first Star Wars accepted the premise in 1977 that a Death Star meant death of life and plants and therefore was Evil. No the Force was not a yin and yang but a moral separation based on choice not necessary unity. I think that makes the first movie closer to Tolkien’s Christian view of Melkor in the Silmarillion as a Lucifer-like, fallen angel who was but an agent of Illuvatar sent to temp the Noldor and by their failed choices meet their doom and retreat from God.

Art of the past saw choice and myth and faith as not artificial philosophical constructs to be debated or debunked but Human Truths to be joyously revealed through film and books.

But all this begs the question why are we seeing this change now?

I think the irony of people seeing and questioning all this today is that Western Culture is more morally corrupt and confused than ever today, though we have more money, a safer society, and more educational choices. We see this problem in our current American President right now and in lots of political movements, radical religion, and fiction.

Its a very decadent time for artistic expression today. There is a lot of devolution going on spiritually, I think. So I dont think that process of moral relativism had fully evolved in 1977 as it has today. We seem to be ok shucking religion for science, but have then lost our way in the power of art to spiritually and emotionally move us because of a loss of the construct that our faith gave us.

I think it’s why as writers we feel trapped….we long for an easy answer to morality but cannot naively go “back” to the Tolkien world-view, that there is a Christian line drawn in the sand between what is right and wrong in the world (there being truly evil people). The world we have today shows we have evolved to a point that we are all accepting of our own “Shades of Gray” and yet not really fallen from the Garden, fully. We seem to have tasted of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but are ok not choosing the path having gained that knowledge. Thats the opposite of what forms the basis of Christian freewill and choice in many stories of the past but which seems questioned today. Evil and Good to many reside on the same muddied plane though they accept the moral legal structure and laws that channel their behavior.

That is why I both celebrate yet shudder at the new generation questioning Star Wars today….they see the flaw in the yin and yang of the Force and the Jedi story now, but the answer they pose to that conundrum just leads us closer to being even more morally gray.

They thus rationalize everything in the past as some failed Christian allegory, or as being moral perverse, without seeing the context within which those plays were written years ago. They miss the spiritual freedom of choice in past characters. That choice to join or fight against evil to them is hypocritical. But they don’t see its power compared to today’s suffocating groupthink where popular pop cultural opinion and judgement has contained all their artistic and imaginary powers to write good story built on the viable conflict of good versus evil that exists in all human hearts.

So many now refuse to see the old Myths that gave life to the first movie, but instead desire to tear down such ideas as immoral artifacts and art of the past without seeing the inner beauty and cultural messaging of that era, instead stripping all moral or religious questioning from all art as if they were judges, priests, or God.

Without knowing or seeing their own flaws (which a coming mid-life crisis will reveal) they condemn film and writing without letting art stand as art on it own flawed feet. They then push new films that are even more confusing by this new moral relativism and demand resolution when they have created the very unimaginative raw paradigms in movies and books today they seem to hate.

Refusing to see the universe as moral choice and themselves as moral beings, they hide from life and all faith which exists if not for its own purpose, some greater one. Denying all this they destroy artistic expression which now falls under the realm of science not faith or under the power of an act of expression or Creation.

Morality and Myth exist in the same universal breadth of Human experience. If kids today want to assign them to the scientific explanation free of philosophy then they exist in psychology. For they tune the Human mind toward understanding of itself and his actions, if not its art and survival. They then through magical movies and books draw in others to the wonder of life.

Stripping religion, morality, and myth from Humanity thus strips power from that medium and leaves it unfulfilling forever.

Therefore, until we return to irrational fairy tales and myths in film and the Arts, respecting the spiritualism of the past in seeking to understand our own symbols, psychology, and depths, we will never create another powerful fantasy film ever again in today’s culture, I sadly predict.

And that’s dangerous….we are drifting away from the spiral culture we once had in 1977. And no one yet can see the spiritual gutting and destruction we are doing today by both judging works of the past unfairly while continuing to create new unimaginative writing, film, and art free of Myth and Morality today.

– the Author

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