by | Apr 11, 1999 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

For years, the most insensitive people I know have been screaming that we need to get rid of the street people. I finally agree.

Not the homeless people. Not the poor people who have real reasons for sleeping on the sidewalk. No. The street people I have in mind are sitting outside Mann’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, and soon will be doing the same at the Zeigfield Theater in New York and dozens of other movie houses around North America. They will go weeks without bathing, sleeping against walls. And for one reason:

The new “Star Wars” movie.

It is called “The Phantom Menace.” It does not open for a month. By that point, these people will be in a mouth-frothing frenzy. Thanks to that wonderful invention the Internet. Luke Skywalker groupies all over the world have been E-mailing one another since last year, counting the hours, making travel plans, getting all goose-bumpy.

When the first preview of “The Phantom Menace” appeared, they stormed the theaters, paying $8 to watch the two-minute trailer, then leaving before the movie began in order to race home and E-mail other geeks about the life-altering experience.

Now they are lining the streets, with pillows, potato chips, and (hopefully) toothbrushes, taking a month out of their lives to sit in breathless anticipation of a film about make-believe spaceships.

Take us, Lord. We’re done down here.

All this for a movie?

Did you know there are already nearly 7,000 Web sites devoted to this “Star Wars” movie? In message boards you can find testimonials from people who have seen the previous films hundreds of times. They know every line. They worship George Lucas, the director. They collect every piece of minute trivia about droids, sand people and Jabba the Hutt.

And now they are on the move. One site organizer who lives in Australia wrote about the trip to America the way our forefathers must have gushed about the New World:

“I am running around in circles, up and down walls, I am WAAY excited! In just over 48 hours I’m booked on a plane leaving for Los Angeles….

“While I’m flying across the ocean, Ayaz will update the site should any big news hit the ‘Star Wars’ universe….

“I might have to explain to the flight attendants why I keep babbling,
‘Invasion!’ …’Wipe them out, all of them!’ …Wooohoo! …Episode One, here I come!”

OK. Somebody get me the stun gun.

Now, the frightening thing isn’t that there are loonies like this Aussie out there. It’s that there are so many. And, what’s worse, the American media are buying into this as if they owned stock in Lucas’ production company.

USA Today is printing a regular Star Watch item, listing how many days until
“launch” of the film. And those “infotainment” shows can’t get enough of this stuff. Countdown to Darth Vader! Can you wait? By the time May rolls around, there will actually be hundreds of thousands of spectators, reporters, publicists, salesmen, merchandisers, photographers, men, women, children of all ages, swirled into a pulsing, heaving, sweaty mania over …

The opening of a movie.

The opening of a movie?

Money for nothing

Let me ask the people on-line a question. Do you think George Lucas gives a fraction of a damn about you — the way you do about him? Do you think the actors who played Han Solo and Princess Leia have any interest in your interest? Do you think they’re going to dub you a Jedi Knight one day and make all your problems go away?

The move is not a religion. It is not symbolic. The purpose of “Star Wars” films is 1) to make money and 2) to make more money. This latest installment cost $115 million — more than twice the amount the United States sent to Kosovo recently for relief efforts. The producers are hoping to make back close to $2 billion.

None of that will be given to the people on-line.

Maybe the saddest part of this whole thing is how many of these “Star Wars” sheep are young people in their early 20s. Isn’t that the most exciting time in life? When everything is possible?

Instead, their lives are so empty that they spend days in front of computers, E-mailing strangers about a movie.

The critics were right. We should scoop up these pathetic people, send them home to Mommy and Daddy, tell them to start over, giving them a life.

Repeat after me: Darth Vader is not real. R2D2 is battery-operated. And the only thing The Force is interested in is your eight bucks.


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