Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Best Stupid Questions About "Star Wars" (And The Best Internet Sites They Lead You To.)

I give up, Internet.

Once, I named Paris Hilton "The Best Gossiple," and then later tried to revoke that status only to set off a maelstrom of Hilton publicity that threatened to destroy us all. (That series of posts is enshrined forever in my book, "Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?", which I'd tell you to order but which I know you already have it. On the offchance that you don't have it, go ahead and click that link to order it.)

I didn't learn my lesson then, but I'm awfully close to learning it now, as I reap the whirlwind (am I using that right?) of my decision to chide society for relying solely on "Star Wars" as our cultural touchpoint.

In the 2 weeks that post has been up, the floodgates have opened and even more "Star Wars" references have been created than ever before, so many that I have trouble keeping up with them all.

The most recent of these are the Star Wars Occupation Flowchart:

A Breakdown on Birth

...which bloggers latched onto as cool without realizing that it's also an ad for online schools, so I guess that proves that "referencing Star Wars" is an even more cost-effective way of getting everyone else to do your advertising than getting banned by the Super Bowl.

That was not the most unusual Star Wars reference that cropped up recently, though. The honor for that particular title goes to the California Green Bay Packer fans who combined heavy construction equipment, a constant misspelling of the name of the city their team plays for (it's "Green Bay," not "Greenbay"), and, of course, Star Wars into a video that's almost hypnotic:

They also misspelled "caterpillar."

I know when I'm beat. I can't stop the Star Wars referencing, any more than I could stop Paris Hilton from nearly destroying the world. So I'm not going to fight it anymore. I'm going to use some judo on it and roll with the changes and get to what's real, but I'm going to do it in my own way, via an entirely new feature that'll be worked into the mix here on The Best Of Everything:

Stupid Questions!

I'm not one of those people who says there's no such thing as a stupid question. There are plenty of stupid questions out there, questions so irredeemably dumb that they deserved not to be asked, at all, and yet, people do ask them.

And now I will be one of those people, asking the stupid questions. (It's almost like I've joined the Tea Party!)(Except I know the questions are stupid, and I'm not racist.)

But I'll do more than simply ask the stupid questions. I will, as the title promises, find the best internet sites those questions lead you to. Once again, I'm doing your work for you. Don't thank me; it's the least I can do to avoid doing my own work.

Then again, do thank me. With $10s and $20s.

Enough with the California hicks riding construction equipment intros! Let's move on to the questions!

1. Was Darth Vader a human?

The first thing you have to know about Darth Vader is that he was not "a" Darth, he was named Darth. Remember, early on in Star Wars, one of the Imperials calls Darth "Lord Vader." If Darth was a title -- as Lucas/geeks would have you believe based on the inclusion, later on, of people like Darth Maul and Darth Sidious (titles that prove that Lucas wasn't just bad at dialogue, he was bad at naming characters, too) -- why call "Darth" Vader "Lord" Vader?

Not convinced? How about if Obi-Wan calls Darth by his first name?

At about 0:30: "Only a master of evil, DARTH." Why would Obi-Wan call Darth only by his title? Think about how that would play out if we all did that.

George Washington: And that's why we declare independence from you, England.

King George The Whateverth: I will send redcoats to shoot you.

George Washington: You can't do that, King!

Anyway, beyond the fact that Vader's first name was Darth, there's also the question of what was Darth Vader, and what were the rest of them, anyway? Were they human? Were they aliens who happened to look exactly like humans? Does everyone understand how phenomenally unlikely that is, that alien lifeforms would have evolved in a far-distant galaxy "a long time ago" and that they would look just like us, so closely resemble us that we would be unable to distinguish them from us?

And, if they are aliens and not humans but they happen to look just like us, does that mean that there could be human-Star-Wars-people hybrids?

Or are they human and we're descended from them, with that storyline inevitably waiting to be ripped off from the new Battlestar Galactica, which would be only fair since the new Battlestar Galactica ripped off The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy?

I've led with this question because it was actually raised by a debate between The Boy and Rogue Mutt. But it deserves to be thought about... and to be Googled.

The best site I came up with after googling the question "Was Darth Vader a human?" was a site called "Maybenow," which seems to be one of those sites where you can go get advice or help, a great idea provided that you don't care if the advice or help you get actually works and/or is given to you by people who might be completely insane. These are the kind of sites, after all, where someone asks what flavor a white jellybean is, and people respond with answers like "they all taste the same," and nobody types in "why don't you just eat it and find out?"

On Maybenow, I didn't find out whether Vader was a human, but I did find out that there's a robust debate about how powerful Vader would be if he hadn't lost the duel with Obi-Wan-- with people putting a lot of thought into their answers, and using math, to boot:

Vader already was stronger than Palpatine on mustafar GJ also tell that if he wouldn't be in suit he could become 4x times like palpatine
That certainly seems scientific. Life-support suit= powers/4.

The reference to the duel between Obi-Wan and Darth brings up Stupid Question Number 2, which is this:

2. How did Obi-Wan know Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker?

According to the Wookiepedia -- yes, that's a thing -- and my memory, which turns out to be accurate, this is how Revenge of the Sith ended:

As Obi-Wan watches in despair, Vader, now only being kept alive by his hate, tries in vain to pull his crippled, smoking body up the embankment with his remaining mechanical hand. Obi-Wan is overcome with disgust and sadness at the pitiful fate of "The Chosen One", and is reduced nearly to tears. He angrily shouts that Anakin has failed in his life and destiny, and has hurt all those who loved him, including Obi-Wan himself. Vader, now completely helpless and consumed by his dark-side emotions, can only scream in pain and powerless rage, cursing his former friend and Master. The lava below Vader then catches his leg, setting him on fire. Obi-Wan, not willing to watch his former pupil and best friend die, takes Anakin's lightsaber and leaves. He then leaves with the badly injured Padmé and her droids on the star skiff.

So Obi-Wan walked away from his former apprentice's burning, half-missing body, and from there went directly to Tatooine where he hid out in the desert for approximately 20 years.

Presumably, during that time, there was at least news of the Empire, and even Obi-Wan could get it -- kooks living in the desert get news, after all, and Obi-Wan didn't seem surprised by how things were set up when he finally came out of hiding with Luke and the 'droids.

But also presumably, the Empire didn't go around broadcasting Darth's secret origins. I very much doubt that it was common knowledge that Vader was half-cyborg, let alone that he'd gotten that way by getting a whupping from a Jedi; that kind of information might have led people to question whether he was really so invincible after all.

And, of course, Vader's face is completely deformed plus hidden by a mask when Vader and Obi-Wan meet on the Death Star. But when Vader says they meet again, Obi-Wan doesn't say "WTF? I've never met you before in my life, and I'm pretty sure I'd remember meeting a six-foot-tall half-robot who sounds like my CNN commercials."

So how did Obi-Wan know Vader was Anakin Skywalker? Let's Google it and find out!

Over at the Jedi Council Forums, where people who would've been playing D&D with me back in the 1980s hang out now, there's an actual serious discussion of just this question, proving that convergent evolution (which is how Leia might be able to make out with you) works on Stupid Questions, too. Judging from the 10 or so comments I was able to read before deciding that even I am too cool for that kind of stuff, there's an actual answer to this one: The Emperor named Vader before Anakin Skywalker was left for dead.

Or, as one puts it:

Didn't Obi-Wan and Yoda hear the name Darth Vader in the Holo recording at the temple? I could be wrong. But if they did, then they probably knew Anakin survived, since it is inevitable that at least Obi-Wan would hear the name Darth Vader even as far away as Tatooine.

Which still doesn't answer the question, it just raises another stupid question, that of how Obi-Wan knew Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker at any point. Is there some kind of code for converting people names into Jedi or Sith names?

Which brings up the third question:

3. Was Obi Wan Kenobi his real name?

In the early going of Star Wars, Obi Wan is referred to as Old Ben, or Ben, and that's what Luke calls him throughout the movies, as I recall.

But in the first three movies, he's always Obi-Wan, and he pals around with Qui-Gon, and the similarities between those names make me think that Obi-Wan might have been his real name (and maybe he and Qui-Gon were from the same planet?). But then there's the part of me that thinks that Obi-Wan was a title, only it couldn't have been because Anakin, and Mace Windu and Yoda never got Jedi titles, right? That must have been a Sith thing, putting a title in front of your name.

But it's not up to me to decide it. It's up to the Internet, which has nothing better to do than answer Star Wars questions.

Like the How'd he know it was Anakin question, this is one that predates this post, too-- and it was discussed on, under the question "Why did Ben Kenobi's name change?"

Which, before I get into what they say there, I'll point out appears to have it wrong: It was Obi Wan who changed his name to Ben when he went into hiding. He tells Luke that he hasn't heard the name Obi Wan in a long time. (And the Empire, as has no doubt been noted before, must have been looking for an Obi Wan, not a Kenobi, as "Old Ben" didn't bother changing his name... and didn't bother living more than a few miles from Luke, which is amazingly stupid given that if Vader ever had gone looking for the two surviving Jedi, and had looked in the White Pages under Kenobi, he'd have found Obi Wan and then been near enough to Luke to sense him, too. Why not set a trusted pal to watch Luke, while you live a couple planets away, "Old Ben?" Apparently, there were some classes you skipped as a youngling.)

Anyway, here's what the Killer Movie thread says about the name deal:

ben is his birth name

heres a funny thing you'll like.

in episode 3 and this is true anakin and obiwan are in a new ship and are taking down other fighters.

anakin learns of obiwans name and calls him ben.

obiwan says dont call me that.

and anakin asks did quigon ever call you ben?

That's from "Sacrifise666." I'll assume that's true (why would I doubt someone who hides their anonymity behind a satanist moniker?), and go with most of the rest of the commenters who seem to assume that "Obi Wan" was a Jedi name that he got when he became a Jedi, but all that does is raise the question of Then what was Yoda's real name?

I'm going to say "Todd."

And, finally, to get off the Kenobi-Vader train of thought, I'll finish up with something that's always bugged me:

4. Why have an octopus in the trash compactor?

That makes no sense. Assuming it has a place to go hide when the compactor's being compacted -- as I recall Lucas took the time to show -- what purpose would the Trash Monster serve? The stuff that was thrown into the trash compactor didn't seem to be organic (other than the water that seemingly was there to let the monster swim around) and it's not clear how stuff got into the trash compactor in the first place -- given that Luke and Han had to shoot the grate off to get into the chute to get there, making the door the only obvious way to get stuff into the roomful of water and monsters, and it's not clear why the Death Star would need a trash compactor anyway when it would seem simpler to just throw the stuff out into space before compacting it. Think about how inefficient it would be to have people hauling trash to the compactor, risking their lives with the monster in there, then using energy to compact the trash, then hauling it somewhere else -- probably to throw it into space then, something we know that the Empire does before jumping into hyperspace because in The Empire Strikes Back Han Solo hides in the debris the Star Destroyer jettisons before making the jump to lightspeed (something that actually makes sense because it would lighten the load, using less fuel to propel your ship up to the speed of light)--

so if you're going to dump it into space anyway, why compact it first, and why have a Trash Monster on board at all? Is it some kind of Space Pest that got in there without anyone knowing? If so, how? If not, then it's there by design, but for what purpose?

Tell me, Internet...

Or, don't tell me, but put on a musical about Star Wars featuring the song "The Walls Are Closing In."

This is the first Stupid Questions post, so if you'd like to see a list of every other thing I've ever discussed on this site, click here.

Update: Check out the Four Best Cultural References You Should Slip Into Conversation Today to give you something to talk about besides Star Wars.


Rogue Mutt said...

I hadn't ever thought of the "Darth" question before. Though I think the real reason Obi-Wan uses it in Episode 4 (original Star Wars) is because Lucas hadn't worked out all that other stuff yet. But now we have to go back and come up with a reason like in Star Trek with the Klingon brow ridges; we know the real reason Klingons didn't have ridges in the original series was because they didn't have the money/technology as in the movies, but then we have to come up with a geeky fan reason to which a whole episode of "Enterprise" was dedicated.

About Obi-Wan knowing Anakin is Vader, maybe he just applied common sense. He knows A) He left Anakin half-dead and B) All the Jedi but him and Yoda are dead, so deductive reasoning would make it pretty obvious that Vader is Anakin. Or you could just say he "felt it through the Force" and leave it at that.

As for the "Ben" thing, I just assumed he changed his name when he hid on Tatooine. Though this brings up a stupid question of my own: Why didn't Vader know Luke was on Tatooine? Think about it, he goes by Luke Skywalker. Surely A) There aren't that many Skywalkers running around and B) The Empire has to have census records, right? Or some kind of galactic phone book? I mean he's on Vader's home planet and Vader and Palpatine never realize this? Really? Maybe it's like Poe's "Purloined Letter" where it's best to hide in plain sight. And Part Two: Vader has the Force but when Leia is on the Death Star and Cloud City and he's inches away from her he never realizes that he's standing next to his own daughter? What good is the Force then?

The trash monster is a good point. Maybe it started out as just some small parasite on some medical waste or something and then grew into an octopus monster later and somehow figured out how not to get smooshed when they compacted the trash.

With the prequels, something that I noticed is that Anakin/Vader for the "Chosen One" is a wimp. In lightsaber fights he's something like 3-3. He lost the first round to Christopher Lee, then beat him the second time around, then lost to Obi-Wan the first time, beat a decrepit Obi-Wan the second time, beat Luke the first time, and then lost the second time. That's your great, powerful Chosen One? Since apparently clone soldiers killed all the other Jedi, instead of Vader hunting them down as I'd always imagined, he really isn't that great. But he did kill a bunch of younglings and Sand People, so I guess he can beat kids, old people, and primitive Sand People. What a badass!

Rogue Mutt said...

I had another thought about the Trash Monster that with some work I could shop to Seth Green for the next "Robot Chicken" Star Wars special. It'd be like a stormtrooper gets sick and pukes into the trash hole and some little organism ends up down there and evolves into the Trash Monster.


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