I am something of a fan of the Star Wars films* and indeed the Star Trek TV series and films; however recently there has been an ugly tendency which has vexed me somewhat. Not limited to these films, but certainly promulgated by them, is the idea that some people inexorably rise to positions of authority or demonstrate excellence merely by their innate characteristics without apparent hard work. Their talent alone, for lack of a better word.
Allow me to demonstrate.
In Star Wars: A New Hope the hero Luke Skywalker learns of the force and serves a brief apprenticeship with Obi Wan Kenobi and learns of the force. In the Empire Strikes back our hero serves his journeymanhood with the Jedi Master Yoda on the planet Degobah. Only in the fullness of time does he master the force and himself to defeat Darth Vader and the Emperor. While his journey is abbreviated by the necessities of the narrative form and the limitations of film media, it is clear that he has to work at his craft.
Let us compare this with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens: our apparently-orphaned*** heroine Rae, who has had no training in the force, is awakened through psychic contact with the force-sensitive Kylo Ren. Despite her youth, naivete and lack of training she soon demonstrates advanced Jedi skills such as controlling the mind of a storm trooper and moving objects by force of will alone. She is shortly thereafter able to defeat an (albeit wounded) force sensitive individual (Kylo Ren again) in a lightsaber duel. Consider James Tiberius Kirk in the reboot of Star Trek. Ditto.
In short, these films represent the epitome of the new millennial Dream: not the triumph of the will so much as the triumph of the innately brilliant, and while it is possible that there may be a small number of people for whom life is like that; however the chances are that it isn't for you. It certainly isn't for me:
- Fencing: It seems apposite to talk about sword fighting, given the context of this post. I fenced at school for several years and eventually learned not to suck completely at it.
- Running: It has taken me three years to get from miserable to mediocre. On a good day. I am not noticeably lazy about training: I run four to six time each week(except recently, work has got in the way) do a good mix of training and yet it has taken that much hard work even for me to be able to run a marathon at 7 minutes fifty seconds per mile, more then 50% slower than the best runners in the world. And yet it has taken me this much work to get that far.
- Shooting: I'm actually quite good at shooting sometimes, but it has taken a lot of work to get there; 27 years and counting. I spent a lot of time on the 22 range at school but really found my metier on the fullbore range at Kibworth. I wasn't great at it, but got a bit better. I continued shooting after school and eventually cracked mediocre; however it wasn't until I went beyond practice and into training before I achieved a reasonable level of competence.
I had originally completed this post with a somewhat trite homily "At the end of the day, if you're not already at the top of the game or even if you are but want to stay there, do you want to trust to your innate brilliance or are you willing to train? Do you really have any choice?" but feel that this is not really what I want to express.
I have said those words before, but what I really want to express is how depressing a thought that this is. There are indeed some things at which you will forever suck regardless of how much you train, but what effect does this have on people who watch it? It has been said that it takes about five years to build a good shooter. Will the next generation of shooters stick at our sport or any other long enough to get to be any good?
* Please Note - Many Star Wars fans believe that there are only three or potentially four Star Wars films; they are correct in principle but wrong in practice in my humble opinion. There are precisely four point two: Episodes I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII**.
** I understand that you're thinking at this point that Gaz cannot count; however I assure you that I can. Episodes IV,V and IV are worth full value; episodes III and VII are 50/50; and episodes I and II aren't really worth shit, but are given fractional value on the basis that they provide details which are otherwise essential to the storyline.
*** NB - If your hero or heroine is an orphan it's fantasy and not science fiction. Pop quiz time: What do The Belgariad, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and of course, the original reference work, La Morte d'Arthur have in common? Answers on a postcard please.