Robert Tracinski, Rich Hoffman and Matt Clark on WAAM: Why ‘Star Wars’ is better than ‘Star Trek’

Matt Clark had me on his show to actually co-host with him as we spoke to Robert Tracinski who writes for The Federalist. He had written an interesting article about how it was unlikely that J.J. Abrams could screw up the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, so long as he stuck with the formula. There were some condescending aspects to Tracisnski’s article which I was willing to overlook, because he was right about a lot of things. But more than anything Tracisnski had been dismissive of the original trilogy as not being very good—which I thought was odd. So I was eager to talk to him. It only took a few moments into the interview however to learn the root of his issues—he was a Star Trek fan and had only come to Star Wars through his children. His position was that Star Trek was philosophically superior to Star Wars and that these new movies were kid stuff that he was enjoying with his children. Listen to that interview here:

I don’t care much for Star Trek, to me it is the United Nations in space. While Robert Tracinski is not a liberal and is a pretty committed Objectivist, which is Ayn Rand’s philosophy—it was clear to me quickly why Robert didn’t like Star Wars much in his article. I disagree with him on a number of topics regarding the formula of Star Wars, or its appeal. I think the Star Wars films are deeply philosophical; especially The Empire Strikes Back—much more so than Star Trek. I mean, people are not lining up across the world to see the latest Star Trek movie, and Star Wars isn’t as popular as it is because it’s just adults living out their childhoods once again through a movie. It’s more complicated than that. As we were talking to Tracinski, because of his background with Ayn Rand I kept wondering if I had met him someplace before, so I wanted to cut him some slack. Everyone comes to things in their own time and if he came to Star Wars late in life through his kids—so be it. One aspect that Tracinski got right in his article was the perception that Han Solo is the key to the franchise—so I stuck to that topic in our conversation.

Matt and I spent the first segment of his Saturday WAAM show talking about Disney and their progressive activism with a gentle warning about messing with the formula of Star Wars and the impact that might have on their massive investment. Matt and I love Disney—the Uncle Walt version. I love that Disney is a family friendly entertainment group—so I am willing to overlook a little of their liberal activism. Something that Robert Tracinski did bring up on his show that was true.  George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were the best conservative filmmakers coming out of the 80s. I personally think they were both seduced by Bill Clinton in the 90s and have lost their minds since. The reason their early films were so successful was because they all had conservative leanings to them. Once both directors had achieved their monstrous success and essentially stepped away from the Objectivist roots of their film careers, their movies started making a lot less money. Without question George Lucas was at least attracted to Ayn Rand in his early days—when she was at the height of her influence—and Han Solo was a character that represented that struggle within George. As he become more liberal with age and success—perhaps feeling a little guilty that all his liberal employees were constantly berating him for his capitalist tendencies, he softened up on his stance for individualism and began to accept collectivism to a much higher degree, which was clearly represented in the prequel  films—which were noticeably absent of the Han Solo type of character.

Where I disagree with Tracinski about the prequel films is that I don’t think George Lucas ever intended those films to be successes. They were dark movies about the failure of a Republic—and have great political merit to them. They are very philosophical from the position of how poorly constructed philosophies can destroy a body of government. Even though Lucas had been moving to the left—politically, his message about the failure of groups to detect evil, and how institutional failure is indicative of all government cycles is powerful stuff that set the stage for some pretty deep storytelling. As much as people dismiss the prequel films as silly, they are important in the larger scope of the intended message. The movies did lack heroics on the scale of a Han Solo, but that was on purpose. A lot of characters including Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi made mistakes that they spent the rest of their lives correcting. So the films were never supposed to be heroic repeats of the original trilogy. For that story Han Solo was the savior, he kept Luke alive, married his sister Leia and that set up the events of these new films. Solo is an Ayn Rand character and Disney even with all their activism against conservative causes—can’t ignore that the magic of Star Wars isn’t Luke Skywalker, or anything about the Force—it’s about Han Solo’s position against hooky religions and ancient weapons not being as competent as a good blaster at your side.

Just a few days before Matt and I had our radio show together Harrison Ford was on with Jimmy Kimmel dressed up for Halloween as a hot dog. It was a funny segment and of course Ford was asked about the new Star Wars film. I thought his comments were interesting to say the least. He stated that nobody would be disappointed—at all. That was a remarkable statement considering what’s at stake. He knows the potential cost of over-anticipated hype—so his comments had me very curious in relation to Disney’s strategy going forward. Han Solo is going to be playing a larger role in Star Wars than he has in the past largely because the character tests well demographically. His children will without question be the subject of the new stories but Disney will find every opportunity to insert a younger Han Solo into the movies at every juncture. To be successful at that, Disney will have no choice but to adopt the obvious aspects of Han Solo’s Objectivism view points—his natural conservatism and love of capitalist endeavors if they want Star Wars to continue being successful.

After Matt’s show I spent time at my children’s house going trick or treating with my grandkids—and kids. Late into the night my oldest daughter and I spent time talking about Han Solo and how it seems obvious now that Disney will find a way to put him in the stand alone films as much as possible just to use him as a springboard to success. Like Robert Tracinski and I spoke about on Matt’s show, without Han Solo, I think the Star Wars saga crashes and burns. If they try to turn him into a sacrificial collectivist Disney will lose a lot of money because people will reject the premise. The ticket buying public will only accept the Objectivist Han Solo—and nothing less—the hero who acts in his own self-interest. Even though the moment at the end of A New Hope was intended to show that Solo was able to act for others, the need to save Luke at the last moment was out of Solo’s self-interest because he was starting to like the kid. Like I said, Star Wars is a lot more philosophical than people give it credit for, and I’d think that as much as Tracinski likes Ayn Rand, that he’d prefer Star Wars over the United Nations in space—Star Trek and all that “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” crap. Screw Spock and his pointy ears—he’s a damn collectivist. Solo is a rugged, gun slinging individualist who acts out of his own self-interest. That’s why Star Wars is better than Star Trek.

We’ll see what happens, time will tell. It was a good conversation that was worth listening to, especially given what Star Wars will mean when it opens in a few weeks. There will be no escape; the opening of The Force Awakens will impact just about everyone no matter where they live. It will be impossible to not notice something about it as the merchandising around Christmas will be everywhere. Just watch the Duracell commercial shown above. Star Wars will literally be everywhere in just a few weeks of this writing. There will be nothing like it ever—history is being made both commercially and philosophically. The question will be whether or not The Force Awakens will be as anticipated on the 19th of December as it was on the 18th after people start seeing the movie. To be as successful as Disney needs it to be people will need to see the film several times. And to have that kind of power over the mind of fans—Han Solo will have to be a part of it with an Objectivist approach—otherwise the whole thing falls apart. It’s not the lightsaber battles and space antics that make Star Wars so great—it’s the Objectivist leanings of its basic premise:

Han Solo—“marching into the detention area is not what I had in mind.”

Luke Skywalker—“but she’s rich.”

Han Solo—“How rich?”

Luke Skywalker—“More wealth than you can imagine.”

Han Solo—“I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.”

Luke Skywalker—“you’ll get it.”

Han Solo—“I better!”

Luke Skywalker—“You will!”

Han Solo—“Alright kid, what’s your plan?”

That’s Star Wars—it’s an Objectivist love fest designed before George Lucas was overly liberalized. It’s also why twice during the broadcast with Matt that I uttered to his millions and millions of listeners—“Han shot first!” When Lucas changed Star Wars in 1997 to have the bounty hunter Greedo shoot at Han first in the Mos Eisley cantina fans were angry. It was a liberalized mistake for Lucas to cave under the pressure from the liberal film community to make Han Solo not appear as such a blood thirsty killer. But Solo acting out of self-interest shot first because that is the nature of his character—he’s an Ayn Rand survivalist and the heart of what makes Star Wars great.

Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

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