It isn’t hard to see that with a 24 hour news cycle and a nearly global awareness of almost every horrific act committed safety and security have become a preoccupying factor in the lives of people everywhere. But in the growing quest for peace of mind, have we fallen victim to very fear and anxiety that the western world has long stood defiantly against, and how far into our daily lives has this intruded.
How do your feel about rules imposed for movie goers
After 9/11/2001, many Americans graciously accepted the added inconveniences they faced at Airports and other travel terminals as necessary evils to combat the threats of international terrorism. Most even found some small solace in the added security. But global religious and geopolitical terrorism isn’t the only threat that citizens face. Increasingly we are barraged with images of random acts of violence perpetrated by seemingly average people. While some may hesitate, these are in effect nothing less than domestic acts of terrorism yielding the same results — a fearful reactionary society unable to enjoy the simplest individual liberties trapped by timidity into accepting almost any action aimed at providing a sense of safety.
How pervasive is this phenomenon? One needs look no further than the highly anticipated and almost exalted launch of the latest cinematic installment of one of the western world’s most beloved pop culture film franchises — Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
With just a little more than a month until this instant blockbuster is set to hit theaters, various theater chains including AMC theaters, which is closely linked to Lucas Films new parent company, The Walt Disney Company, have already announced plans to restrict audiences famed for Cos-Play to costumes that won’t hide their faces and do not include items that could be mistaken for or hide the presence of weapons. This is bad news for both movie goers who enjoy dressing as their favorite Star Wars villains such as Darth Vader, Darth Maul, storm troopers or any number of supporting aliens as well as many who enjoy the visual spectacle that Star Wars has become in its 3 generations.
Many find the new rules little more than an inconvenience that helps provide a safe movie going experience, especially in the wake of public shootings at theaters, schools and even public recreational events like the recent Orlando Florida Zombie Walk. But they also represent a significant intrusion into the fundamental liberties of individuals to express themselves creatively.
It is perhaps true that no one wants to be injured or assaulted while simply enjoying a recreational expression of pop-culture fandom, but at issue isn’t only the visual spectacle created by fun-seekers, but the increasingly limited opportunities for people to escape the ever growing toil and stress of professional, political and an increasingly socio activist world to express their humanity and their communal joy.
Is that an extreme interpretation of a benign pragmatic approach to public safety? Perhaps.
But, consider this lesson Star Wars has taught us:
If the rational purpose of terrorism is to promote terror (fear) to attain power, and it can be agreed upon that power can be defined as the ability of a person or group to effectively alter or facilitate the behavior of another person or group of people; then the objective assessment of the success of a terrorist — domestic, religious or geopolitical, can be made by the resulting effects of an act or acts to facilitate a specific behavior as a direct or indirect result the fear (Terror) caused by the terrorist’s actions.
Thus: terrorists destroy, kill and injure to promote terror and alter societies behaviors through fear and intimidation. A society alters it’s most basic behaviors to accommodate the presence of a terrorist or the threat of terrorism. Said acts of terrorism can be objectively judged as successful.
Since it is most notably the goal of western society to render terrorism innate and inevitably extinct, and success encourages future similar behavior, the above assessment poses a specific and undesirable question. What does a society do to promote safety and security, while denying individuals and groups using terrorist tactics success, and balancing the rights and privileges of lawful citizens?
It appears to be a catch 22. One that individual revelers are facing every day in America and through out the western world.
This most recent quandary created by the additional rules imposed by theaters upon paying consumers to a highly anticipated social and cultural event may help to illuminate the fundamental problem inherent in the situation.
In the original Star Wars trilogy a group of renegade rebels fought and eventually defeated an oppressive galactic empire. In 1977, just one year after the 1976 bicentennial of the United States, there was perhaps no more American interpretation of the classic heroes journey. In 1999 Lucas Films returned the pop culture phenomenon to tell the story of the geo political forces that led to the emergence of the evil and oppressive empire and it’s most infamous villain, and movie goers young and old, despite a sometimes distinctive distain for many of the prequel trilogy’s elements saw the democratic galactic senate under siege by an elaborately choreographed set of terrorist forces independently maneuvered to force senators and citizens to vote their own security and safety above the individual liberties prized by the old republic. By 2002, the second installment of the prequels hit theaters, carefully sidestepping any direct allusion to the horrific events of 2001 by focusing more heavily on the much-needed spectacle of a good space yarn.
“So that is how democracy dies, to thunderous applause,” lamented the young heroin of the trilogy, Padme Amadala, the mother of the original trilogy’s most beloved brother and sister rebels.
Now, as this epic celebration of fierce rebelliousness and individualism and the growing sense of freedom for all humanity is set to launch a new generation into the annuls of galactic universal rebellion and the ongoing struggle for freedom from oppressive forces, it is perhaps most ironic that the business interests and geopolitical strife of reality should force the hands of societies most individualistic and pervasive counter culturists, who celebrate their passions with creative and elaborate costumes to be tied and their creativity to be limited by said same fear that befell the very heroes and scoundrels that they revere.
Young Anakin Skywalker, determined to govern away freedoms inherent strife, the elder Darth Vader bent on service to an ordered empire, the emerging Kylo Ren, determined to maintain the order of tyranny opposed upon his foes, all surely would revel in the surrender of their rebellious fans to the fear and trepidation that forced the sublimation of their expressions.
But, if we are those rebels, celebrated on celluloid for three generations, what are we to do to ensure the safety of our children and grandchildren as they become the newest generation of fans to this awesome cinematic spectacle? How can we keep them safe without teaching them fear?
I accept that few will read this and fewer in positions to take these questions and consider seriously more defiant but equally safe balances. For that to happen, the force must be strong with theater owners and patrons alike. The collective energy fans create to surround us, penetrate us and binds us together in fandom would need to also awaken us to the watch out for each other.
I will end this diatribe with an observation. The most effective governance in a free society is invisible. It secures us without intruding on our lives. It accepts that free people bear inherent risks and sets consequences for those who take advantage of freedom to commit evil. The most effective governance of a free people does not punish the masses for fear of the actions of those evil forces, it must wait its turn to punish evil accepting that it may always exist within the body free. That is the challenge that will always face free people — to risk in order to be truly free.
Isn’t that what Han, Leia and Luke taught us all?