The Star Wars Holiday Special (review)
Deck the Halls with Force-ful Folly
Here's what you have to do in order to survive The Star Wars Holiday Special: Don't watch it. If you must, then 1) Have alcohol or some other inebriating substance close to hand -- a rock to bang against your skull will do in a pinch. And 2) Remember that your tender 10-
This entertainment travesty could well be a public-
How appallingly wrongheaded an idea this "holiday special" was is rather neatly summed up by the opening credits, which start out appropriately enough by running down the "regular" cast -- "Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia," and so on -- but then move on to the "guest stars," and by "move on" I mean "proceed to pierce sensitive young minds with a hot poker of cognitive ruin," and by "guest stars" I mean Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, the Jefferson Starship, and Harvey Korman. I wish I could say I was making that up, but I'm very sorry to report that this is why you've been roused from fitful sleep drenched in sweat all these long years in the midst of distressing nightmares in which Princess Leia in her metal bikini is yodeling to Tim Conway on The Carol Burnett Show.
It's all such an absurdly, perfectly twisted parody of 1970s pop culture that if The Star Wars Holiday Special did not exist, someone would have had to invent it and consequently be sued by Lucas. Not for copyright infringement -- Lucas smiles benignly on fan films, apparently, as long as no one is making any money off them -- but for defamation of character. Because this is all so iniquitous that for some wag to imply even as a joke that a fellow human being might have in all seriousness put forth such a monstrosity would be an insult of the level that could only be met by a duel at dawn.
But Lucas did, in fact, actually let loose this monstrosity on the world, and hence -- being unable to sue the universe for slander since the universe has truth on its side -- now pretty much simply denies its existence. (One can imagine Lucas practicing his Jedi mind tricks: "This isn't the holiday special you're looking for. You don't need to see this bootleg VHS.") Of course, I cannot reveal how a copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special came into my hands, because then I'd have to kill you -- or more probably, George Lucas would have to kill you. And on the advice of counsel I can say nothing at all about the rumors that copies can be quite easily conjured up via the magical incantation of the words "e" and "bay."
Some superdorky completist fans believe that they do, in fact, need to see this, because it features the first appearance anywhere by Boba Fett, who shows up in a cartoon interlude of what is unfortunately a mostly live-
Very much more unpleasant, however, is the context in which this cartoon appears: it is viewed on a little computer thingie by Lumpy, Chewbacca's son, which means that Lumpy is watching a fictional story -- or at least a dramatization of true events -- about real people in his world. Which prompts all sorts of questions, like Are the rebels media stars in this faraway galaxy? Is this why Imperial stormtroopers and officers burst into Chewbacca's home on Life Day, the most sacred day in the Wookiee calendar, and destroy Lumpy's stuffed Bantha (yes, this all really happens), out of sheer jealousy because they're just not getting the talk-
The whole sorry "story" of The Star Wars Holiday Special revolves around Wookiees and the deplorable state of their media culture, actually. Maybe it's cuz it's a big day of celebration -- Chewie is rushing home to be with his family on Life Day, whatever that is -- that everyone seems to spend so much time here watching some kind of mass media (like how we traditionalists spend Thanksgiving watching King Kong and Mighty Joe Young movies). It's the quality of what they're watching that gives one pause. Lumpy watches not only the Boba Fett documentary/
And that's before all the fascist intimidation and racial condescension got mixed in with the holiday cheer! You know, the soldiers come in and toss the Chewbacca house, but thank the Maker friend-
Did I mention that lending credence to the vaudeville atmosphere is the fact that Mark Hamill is inexplicably wearing so much eyeliner that your eyes tear up in sympathy? Did I mention that Bea Arthur plays a cantina bartender and that just when you did not think this disaster could get any more horrifying, she breaks out in a song that's like Les Misérables' "Master of the House," only hideously evil? Did I mention that even that cannot prepare you for Princess Leia singing the traditional Life Day carol?
If there's a single greatest testament the power of Star Wars, it's that we all still went to see The Empire Strikes Back a mere two years after undergoing the ordeal of the Holiday Special. Maybe George Lucas can do Jedi mind tricks after all.