Episode 335: Why Would The Millennium Falcon Blow Up the White House?

The Overthinkers tackle the Star Wars Episode VII Teaser Trailer and Band Aid 30’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas? (2014).”

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, Jordan Stokes, and Matthew Wrather overthink the Star Wars Episode VII Teaser Trailer and Band Aid 30’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas? (2014).”


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24 Comments on “Episode 335: Why Would The Millennium Falcon Blow Up the White House?”

  1. Arden91 #

    I haven’t finished the podcast yet, but on the topic of the supposed failures in design of the new Sith’s lightsaber, Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatoria Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) school questions the backlash against the sword design in the two latest videos on Youtube page.



  2. Tulse #

    There are two major aspects to the new Star Wars trailer that I think are ripe for overthinking, or at least comment, and I’m surprised they weren’t mentioned.

    The first is how prominently diversity is featured in the trailer. There are literally only two people whose faces are visible in the teaser, a man of colour and a woman. After all the kerfluffle about the unpleasant racist undertones of the prequels, it seems to me that Abrams is really planting a flag by making the very first image of the trailer a person with dark skin. And while Star Wars has done a better job with its portrayal of woman, I use the singular intentionally, as apart from Leia there aren’t any major female characters in the original trilogy, and only Padme has any significant part in the prequels. I think the choice of showing these two characters in the trailer really says that Abrams wants us to know that some of the sins of the past will be addressed.

    The other notable thing about the trailer is that we don’t see space. We see space ships, but they are curiously all flying in the atmosphere of planets, rather than in space. I don’t know what to make of this, whether it was intentional (as I presume the diversity portrayal was), or just a happenstance, but in any case, it again seems a parting of the ways with the prior work.


    • Margo #

      The Stormtrooper we see in the desert may be a regular non-cloned guy disguised as a Stormtrooper who has lost his helmet and is now exposed, which is why he is running about looking scared.


    • Crystal #

      Sorta off topic, but last time I was at Target, I went to look at the Star Wars Legos. They had about 25 lego characters, only two women–Padme and Leia. Both were in their “sexy” costume. Padme was in the torn white now a crop top with white leggings thing from Episode 2 and Leia was in the gold bikini.


  3. Connor Moran #

    Obligatory couple of thoughts on the trailer:

    The scene of the Stormtroopers in the drop ship seems to me a very conscious inversion of one of the very first moments in Star Wars–the rebel troopers eyeing the door on Princess Leia’s ship waiting for the door to blast open and Stormtroopers to come out. In this trailer, we kind of see something that might have been on the other side of that door.

    The handheld-type shots of the Millenium Falcon make me think more than anything of Firefly. Given that Firefly is in many ways Millenium Falcon: The TV Series, that’s kind of a circle of reference coming back home.

    Although the trailer does seem to hit the “future is old” and “setting is the frontier,” it does (rightly, in my opinion) fire a shot across the bow of “Star Wars is not cute” in the form of the adorable ball-droid guy.


  4. Lemur #

    On Band Aid, the thing I thought was missing from the discussion of the problem with the song is the patronizing aspect. Of course everyone in Africa, including non-Christians, is perfectly well aware that it’s Christmas. Not only is American pop culture as dominant there as everywhere in the world, there’s also the whole history of colonialism. First Europe shoves Christianity down Africa’s throat, then thoughtfully wonders whether they might ever have heard of this Christmas thing? The opportunity to fix the song would have been with something like “Do They Know What Christmas Means to Me?”


    • Tulse #

      Yep, it would be like if in the aftermath of Katrina, there was a charity single from India called “Light Up Louisiana’s Diwali”, or if an Arabic supergroup recorded “Give the Big Easy a Happy Eid”, or Zoroastrian pop stars had put out “It’s Nawruz in New Orleans”.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        Obviously the dynamic isn’t symmetrical (in particular there’s the question of whether the people in the affected area even hear the songs in another country, which is different depending on what country it is), but I don’t think those things would be all that poorly received as long as they provided relief money.

        Or, rather, they would be lashed out against and be poorly received by certain offended people, but those wouldn’t be people I would want to associate with. I’m not particularly interested in Americans saying that it’s not appropriate to celebrate and cherish the holidays of other cultures, because we have our own holidays.

        I may not be a huge advocate for swinging it the other way, and I see the problems, but I also wonder if maybe the people in the local majority, wherever it is, who get angry and refuse to acknowledge a foreign or minority holiday are the ones on the wrong side of history and the future, wherever it is.

        The Japanese Katrina relief song “All Hands Together” is fairly interesting — there’s I think this idea that the people of New Orleans can’t speak for themselves (my translation is a little wonky), and there’s a reference to rolling down the Mississippi and “crying out to the cotton fields with love.” Which is pretty cringy and awful but not a cause for rage I think.


        • Tulse #

          I agree the dynamic is different, but I honestly wonder how many folks in the affected parts of Africa heard “Do They Know It’s Christmas” — surely it wasn’t as big a hit there as in the developed West. In any case, I think what makes “Christmas” cringy is not how the recipients of its charity respond, as I imagine that when one’s circumstances have one fairly low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one isn’t too hung up that aid is coming from clueless privileged Westerners. The cringe is from us, as part of the culture that produced it react to its assumptions of Christianity and colonialism.

          (Speaking of Katrina, of the total $854 million in cash and fuel offered from foreign nations to the US following the storm, apparently only 4.7% was accepted.)


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      I’m pretty sure we brought it up, although we probably used the term “paternalistic” rather than “patronizing.”

      Charity as a concept is, as we discussed it, linked to patronizing (somebody who gives to charity is, by definition, a patron). And we definitely discussed the problem there — how you can see the structural problems with charity, and how it can provide moral cover for social and economic injustice and structural problems, and yet, with a ready solution to those injustices and social problems unavailable, do you still refuse or turn down charity when people are suffering?

      It’s a difficult question in theory, but not really in practice.

      Remember that the U.N. reached out to Geldof originally because the governments of the world were failing to respond quickly or significantly enough to funding needs. This was not the first option anyone considered; it was a backup plan.

      I am particularly interested in hearing a better idea for how to rewrite this song that is both catchy, resonant and interesting, and addresses both sides of the culture gap here between those who are being solicited and thus expect praise and affirmation in exchange for their generosity — or at least to engage in pity — and those who are being patronized and wish to preserve their dignity while at the same time requiring the help of others.

      Maybe that will be the challenge in this week’s newsletter.


      • Lemur #

        You’re right – you did bring up the paternalistic/patronizing aspect of it, but I don’t think you quite addressed specifically the cringe-inducingness (cringe-induction?) of the “do they KNOW” part. To fail to realize that of course everyone is *aware* of the holiday exhibits, I think, a lack of knowledge about Africa on the same level as “there is no rain.” Even leaving aside the question of whether Africans would want to celebrate Christmas (as a Christian holiday) – it’s always been the “do they know” that offended me personally, especially given that so much of history is about how mightily the Christian tradition has *made sure* everybody in the world knows all about its concerns.


        • fenzel OTI Staff #

          I’ve talked to a lot of people online about this today, and I think one thing I’m really coming around on is in line with what you said about making more subtle changes — they really needed to change the title of the song.

          In the new song, they never say in the song, “Do they know it’s Christmas?” They specifically changed it to “How can they know it’s Christmas?” With the idea being that Ebola is driving people away from their loved ones.

          They should have gone farther with that, and since they knew the original lyric was one of the “bad” ones (like the ones about snow and no rivers) enough to change it in the lyrics, they should have also changed it in the title.

          And even then, I’m not sure based on the people I’ve talked to and relistening to the song that the lyrics are clear enough about what is changing. I heard they did a bunch of different recordings of different proposed changes, and that the final song came out of the editing room as much as if not more than the studio. I’d be curious to see what other ideas people had.

          I’ve really been touched by the earnest effort to remake this song and address its previous problems in the interest of raising money, but it’s obvious that a whole lot of people don’t know or care that the song cares about these things (this makes me sad – it seems a lot of writers ripped it apart without even listening to it, which is always a bummer) — probably at least in part because it has the same title.

          A change in title would have indicated a change in posture right from the headline down, which might have made it less of an obvious target for the commentariat.


  5. Nat #

    An interesting part of the Band Aid discussion is how a few pop stars (most prominently Adele) were singled out for not participating but then fought back by saying they donated money themselves rather than trying to get others to do this. While I believe that charity and raising awareness are important, all the people involved could have donated a signification portion of the money they were trying to raise, what with being millionaires and all. That being said I do love the song because I grew up with it, so nostalgia wins for me. I also think it’s interesting how young they skewed with their selection of singers, and how few actual musicians featured in this version of the song.


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      I feel like 1DThinking It week rubbed off on me a bit too much, but I wanted to point out that last year DoSomething.org collectively ranked One Direction as the second-most charitable entertainment celebrities in the world, behind only Taylor Swift (Beyonce was #3, OTI fave Paul Walker was #4).

      At least Harry Styles manages to make a pretty public showing of being generous with various causes. Maybe it’s all an act, but I’m not sure I’d be justified in such a cynical assumption. Regardless, reading about a few of their charity drives among fans (like raising $800,000 for cancer research over a couple weeks), it seems safe to say they can raise a lot more money from their directioners than they could give themselves, at least over a long time.

      And then while a bunch of these singers are rich, they’re not _that_ rich. Sinead O’Connor and Seal probably each have about $10 million, including illiquid holdings like homes, mostly saved up from money they made a long time ago.

      Bastille has only ever sold about 8 million records — yeah, they make money off touring, and they’re doing very well I’m sure, but probably not well enough to write million-dollar checks, or even hundred-thousand dollar checks. Ellie Goulding has only sold about 4 million albums.

      I think that’s a common misconception particularly around athletes and performing arts celebrities — that because they make a huge and highly produced impression in the public eye, and because their public appearances are subsidized by the businesses they represent — and because they often get their lifetime income in a very condensed time frame and often spend it foolishly — they are themselves seen be among the most wealthy of people.

      But if you really want to raise money, you don’t really want it from Phil Collins. You want it from a Chairman of the Board who likes Phil Collins. You don’t want just to sit Ellie Goulding down at a charity dinner. You want to sit Ellie Goulding down at a charity dinner next to 20 lawfirm partners and senior accountants.

      Also, for reference, George Michael was only 21 in 1984. Bono was only 24. Boy George was 23. Bananarama were all in their early 20s. Geldof himself was only 33.

      Today, Ellie Goulding is 27. Dan Smith from Bastille is 28. The One Direction guys are younger, but Sinead O’Connor is pushing 50 and Seal has pushed it.

      The singers aren’t getting younger; we’re getting older, my friend :-)

      And yeah, there are a lot fewer of them this time, and I think more of the people involved in this song than in the first one have current personal commitments to philanthropy and activism.

      I think you see it in Geldof’s own lack of enthusiasm for the song — this isn’t really something a lot of people actually wanted to be part of in an artistic or publicity sense; it was done very specifically and very quickly to address this particular current issue.


  6. Tulse #

    To address the question of the week, I propose “Lightsaber baseball”. The sport would involve a “bat” that is a lightsaber, a “ball” made from a device that projects a spherical “lightsaber shell”, and “lightsaber gloves” to catch said ball. I think this equipment would greatly enliven the national pastime, as it would give much more weight to being hit by a pitch or directly tagged out, and a foul ball into the stands would cause quite a scramble. (I suppose that there would be a problem with the balls going directly through the outfield wall, however.)


  7. Andrew #

    Glad none of you guys suggested the bread lightsaber from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Zooey Deschanel makes it sound so great because it toasts the bread perfectly while slicing it…but it also toasts the loaf that you leave behind, resulting in days-old toast the next time around.


  8. Mark Lee OTI Staff #

    Can anyone spot the music we used in the intro bit? One million nerd points to anyone who can.


  9. Emil #

    Now I forgot, who proposed the “lightsabre as a baton”? I think it was Pete. Futurama, like the Simpsons in South Park episode (we need to go deeper), already did it.

    And BTW, the BandAid was much better. You can’t really extract much from minute or two of a video, a video, I might add, that was humourlessly dissected by the whole Internet and at least 3 BBSes. But the BandAid story was new to me, the discussion was lively.

    I will agree with “who is going to consume it?” POV. If the goal is extracting money from x-mas loving, upper-lower-middle-class people, then x-mas is what the desert country of Africa needs. Art is utility here, and you can see it because the band is build from “famous artists” not “fitting artists”. The singer is a big B brand, so is x-mas. It’s cultural short cut to people’s wallets.


  10. Margo #

    The Canadian response to Band Aid is the also cringe-inducing “Tears Are Not Enough”


    As a palate cleanser, I recommend South Park’s “Merry F*cking Christmas”


    Which Space Weapon is more obviously not designed by a weapons expert: The lightsaber or the Klingon bat’leth?


  11. Hannah #

    Being English, I can speak to my own experience of British Christmas. It’s the only holiday where you’ll find everywhere closed (apart from vital services). I know people of lots of different faiths who all celebrate it, as it’s very much secularised over here now.

    I think Jordan’s right that it encompasses a lot of what Thanksgiving means to Americans; although still an orgy of capitalism, there’s a big community aspect to the holiday. Most people will travel to celebrate with extended family and friends. For lots of people it’s the only time of year they’ll go to church.

    Working in a theatre, I’m also familiar with the strangest British Christmas tradition – pantomime. Look it up, honestly it’s a treat. Lots of schools bring groups and families come who would never otherwise think that theatre was ‘for them’. It very much emphasises the importance of audience participation, laughter and feeling part of a group of people enjoying an experience together.

    (As a side note: Love Actually is oddly accurate in that the climax takes place at a school nativity; I think everyone remembers their childhood Christmas plays. When I was ten years old I played a singing donkey. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the Buzzfeed breakdown of all the turtlenecks in Love Actually, do yourself a favour and look it up.)

    I think this feeling of community is what Band Aid was trying to tap into, as well as Christmas traditionally being a time for charity. Lots of other charities use a similar message, about sparing a thought for people without family and friends. In this case ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ isn’t asking whether the people in question have accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and saviour, but whether they have that feeling of warmth and happiness that comes from sharing festive experiences.


    • lemur #

      I think I know what you are getting at, but on first blush there does seem to be a bit of a disconnect in “it’s very much secularised…. it’s the only time of year they’ll go to church.”

      Panto is fabulous. The astonishing thing to me, in this era of globalization, is how universal it is in Britain and at the same time how unknown elsewhere (well, at least in America anyway, where I grew up) – hence your exhortation for us to look it up, as you are probably correct in assuming that most readers will have never heard of it. To their detriment, IMHO.


      • Hannah #

        You’re right – of course that’s a complete contradiction. What I meant is that as the holiday has become more secularised, I think Christmas church services have become more about feeling that sense of community. Even avowed atheists like myself will go, just to have a shared experience. And for the pretty music.

        What I love about panto is how completely baffling it is to everyone else. I took an American friend and she just couldn’t get her head around it: “Why is there a man in drag in this kids’ show?” “How does everyone know when to join in?” “Why does the bad guy always enter from the left?” JUST BECAUSE.


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