The Prequelist: Joseph Scrimshaw on Star Wars

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Veteran podcaster, writer loves Episodes I – III “like family”

Scrimshaw

MakingStarWars.net —Every Star Wars fan has heard (uttered?) the statement, “Love Star Wars. Hate the Prequels…”

Agree or disagree, it’s a defining declaration, setting up dispute or commiseration.

But on either side of the argument, opinions on the Prequels make one trait essential to Star Wars fandom – a sense of humor.

That’s where Joseph Scrimshaw comes in.

Geek Flavored

Joseph Scrimshaw and friend

Mr. Scrimshaw’s website announces him as “Comedian – Writer – Geek Flavored” all of which makes him uniquely suited to discuss the Saga in its many incarnations, but particularly the Prequels.

“People disliked the prequels for a lot of reasons,” began Scrimshaw who recently released a Star Wars comedy album. “Their flaws are right there on the surface – some stiff acting and some rough dialogue. While their virtues, the big themes, and ideas, are under the surface.

“A big part of it is the generation who grew up with the Original Trilogy came in with a lot of preconceived notions. The movies answered questions that fans never really asked or even wanted to be answered.

“I think fans just weren’t prepared that this was going to be something different.”

Scrimshaw — an avowed prequelist — put his finger squarely on that distinction.

George’s Intent

Lucas

George Lucas

“The Prequels are the story Lucas always planned to tell: a political and personal tale of a society that is torn apart from within,” explained Scrimshaw.  “Lucas expanded this very personal adventure series to tell the bigger story of the galaxy, with all the moving parts of politics and business and failed systems.

“Fans prepared to get the thrill of a swashbuckling adventure were immediately met with [a crawl] about taxation,” adding, “Nobody was expecting that.”

And “nobody” once included Mr. Scrimshaw, himself.

“When the films first came out, I had a lot of the mixed to negative reaction that a lot of fans of my generation did,” he admitted. “But I bought The Phantom Menace the second it came out on VHS. Then on DVD. I read the novelization, got the toys, the Taco Bell cups; did comedy sketches about it. And I did the same for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

“At one point a friend asked me why I kept watching the movies if I knew they were bad,” continued Joseph. “I answered, ‘They’re just Star Wars. They’ve got lightsabers. I just like them.’

“So I think there is an element of seeing Star Wars as a family member or a best friend. You see their flaws, but you love them regardless, so you concentrate on their good parts,” he said.

Given more viewings, Lucas’ intended vision outdistanced Scrimshaw’s original critique.

“Over the years, I just kept thinking more and more about the movies,” he said. “I think the flaws can cause fans to overlook the many good parts of the movies.

“Some of them are just plain great, and some are great ideas with flawed execution.”

The Other Star Thing

Force Center

ForceCenter panel (Scrimshaw, Landa, Napzok, and fan) at LA Comic Con

The Star Wars galaxy has been a part of Scrimshaw’s universe since his own beginning.

“My earliest memory of Star Wars is anticipation,” recalled Joseph. “I already liked superheroes, and I watched Star Trek with my Dad and brother.

“One day my father said, ‘Hey you like watching Star Trek with me, so I’m going to take you to this other Star thing.’

“Then everything was Star Wars all the time. I got the Escape from Death Star board game and would play it with my teddy bear when my brother wasn’t around. Often, the bear would even win.”

Scrimshaw never did escape the Saga, however. Joseph — who lives in Los Angeles — currently hosts podcasts called “Obsessed” (on Feral Audio), “Headcanon” a pop culture comedy show (on Anchor), and, most importantly, co-hosts a Star Wars podcast called Force Center alongside Jennifer Landa and Ken Napzok.

Star Wars Prequel Headcanon

prequelists

Family Portrait: Ken, Episode I, Joseph

Force Center is an eclectic look at the Saga, including segments like  #DatabankBrawl, #StarWarsRanked, and #SWCounseling, all of which take particular items/characters/theories and explain/dissect/deconstruct (or reconstruct) them.

As such, Scrimshaw’s personal headcanon holds very particular facets of the Prequels in high esteem.

  • The overall story. “Anakin’s fall and the destruction of the Republic from the inside.”
  • Ewan McGregor’s performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • The world building and design of the Prequels. “The movies massively expanded the palette of what the Star Wars galaxy looks and feels like. They opened up so many ideas. Even if you don’t like them in the movies, it created the opportunity to explore them in the Clone Wars Animated Series as well as the larger prequel era.”
  • Gorgeous shots. “Qui-Gon waiting behind the energy shield while Maul paces. Anakin riding through the desert of Tatooine as the suns set. The documentary-like war footage of the first Geonosian battle of the Clone Wars.”
  • The lightsaber fights. “Most of them are very cool.”

But to Joseph, it’s the overarching themes of the prequels that make all the difference.

Everything Rhymes

“People make fun of George Lucas for saying ‘everything rhymes’ [explained convincingly, succinctly in whoispablo’s video above], but the first half of the story does make the second half even stronger for me,” said Joseph. “Regardless of how well executed they are, the Prequel Trilogy is layered with themes and ideas about the failure of institutions, both the Republic and the Jedi Order.

“[The films explore] duality and mentorship, using the contrast between the Jedi/Padawan relationship and the Sith rule of two; the attempt to be truly selfless, comparing Shmi sending Anakin away with the Jedi versus Anakin falling to the Dark Side because of his selfish desire to hold on to Padme. The moral gray areas explored by the ‘certain point of view’ theme; and, ultimately, the contrast between Anakin’s journey and Luke’s.

“[The Prequels depict] Anakin and the rest of the Jedi Order wrestling with the idea of attachment and it ultimately leads him to fall,” continued Scrimshaw. “In the Original Trilogy, Yoda and Obi-Wan continue to direct Luke away from attachment, from rescuing his friends on Cloud City, even from attempting to bring his father back to the light side.

“But ultimately, it’s Luke who finds a way to make his love and his compassion and his attachment to his friends and his father his greatest strength.”

The Auteur Theory

Definition of "Auteur Theory"Beyond the films themselves, Lucas’ unique vision also remains tantamount to the films’ theme as he defends his obsession with Episodes I – III.

“I’ve come to appreciate the prequels simply because they are bizarre,” he said. “I truly believe George Lucas fits the auteur theory. Everything that is going up on the screen in those movies — the good, the bad, and the weird — is his vision.

“We’re used to the auteur theory being applied to very artsy films. However, Star Wars is a big budget, action-adventure, blockbuster about space wizards with laser swords. However, these movies are clearly the product of this one strange, idiosyncratic human being.

“I think we make art to help show other people how we see the world,” added Scrimshaw. “When you look at the prequels as George Lucas saying, ‘This is what I see; this is what is real and fun and thrilling and funny to me.’

“You may not agree, but at least you see something pure, true, and unique.”

Luke’s Journey

Star Wars, skywalker, twin suns

Twin sunsets…

Scrimshaw is truly, purely unique, too. But, like many fans, he points to Luke Skywalker as a personal touchstone.

Scrimshaw, Yoda

Scrimshaw listens to Yoda…

“I really related to Luke and his journey. So I’ve seen those echoes in my personal and professional life,” he said. “When I was very young, I was staring at the twin suns waiting for adventure to begin. But as soon as I started doing artistic things, all the lessons that Luke learned, resonated with me: be calm, be mindful, trust your feelings.

“I played drums in a high school rock band with a name so stupid my computer actually rejects it if I try to type it out. We got a gig playing at homecoming. I remember thinking about Yoda’s assurance that everything would flow better if I was calm and focused. And I did a much better job playing the drums imagining Yoda riding on my back while I played.

“That was the first of countless times Star Wars started affecting my real life.”

“Let go of your hate…”

comedy album

Scrimshaw recently released a Star Wars comedy album.

Taking Luke’s advice to heart — “Let go of your hate…” —  as “The Prequelist” Scrimshaw works to reduce the hurt many fans feel in regard to Episodes I – III.

“I have had a million conversations about what’s wrong with the prequels. And, at this point, what’s good about them is just a much more interesting conversation to me,” he said. “Ultimately, Star Wars is about resisting the call of the Dark Side.

“When it comes to the Prequels I’ve found great personal joy in letting go of my hate and embracing the light.”

A graduate of Boston and Northeastern universities, John Bishop became the beat reporter for BostonBruins.com prior to the B’s 2006-07 hockey season. While with the Bruins, “Bish” traveled North America and Europe to cover the Black & Gold’s every move via laptop, blog, and smart phone. The co-author of two books, Bygone Boston and Full 60 to History: The Inside Story of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, John covered the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver in 2010 and the B’s 2011 championship run and banner raising before taking a faculty/communications position at a prep school outside Boston in 2013. He lives with his wife Andrea and sons Jack, Scott, and Luke in central Massachusetts.