It was the future. The year? 2013.
Somewhere hidden below the festering nest of neon, chrome, and roving gangs of hipsters of New Los Angeles, Disney’s underground laboratory woke up from its slumber. Commanding calls and urgent messages in the middle of the night reached the bleary Disney scientists: “Rise and Shine, boys, the Vault’s up. Get to work! – B.I.”
The Boss had spoken, and from all around the country, scientists specializing in neuromarketing, behavioral sciences, and Artificial Intelligence traveled to New L.A. Their goal, to design the new Star Wars trilogy.
A few months ago, Disney (full name: Disney-Monsanto-Cyberdyne Systems) had bought Lucasfilm, finally achieving their goal of owning every big entertainment IP on Earth, from Tarzan to the Bible (New Ultimate Universal Revised and Definitive Edition.) With their eyes set on reviving the Star Wars franchise and milking a new generation of NERDS™, Disney ordered their brightest minds to stop working for a moment in nerve-stapling devices for riot control and travel to the Vault to whip up a new Star Wars Universe. Most of the work, however, would be done by the mysterious Walt Mocupter, the rising star at Disney. And, if rumors were true, the reason behind their astounding success in recent years.
The scientists, led by Walt, called for three hundred experimental subjects, a cross-section of the ideal demographic Disney was targeting (i.e. the whole world and beyond.) Due to still being a company operating mostly from North America, the subjects were chiefly young, liberal Americans and a few “urban” and “ethnic” individuals thrown into the mix to simulate foreign markets like China. Some of the scientists criticized that decision as unscientific and potentially misleading, but Disney cut the complaints short, arguing that such quibblings about people’s origins could be perceived as racist and that, in any event, all Chinamen are alike anywhere. And so it was that the army of liberal students, aspiring actors, victims of Hollywood sexual harassment, and hobos was led down to the -8 floor.
The scientists used the standard protocols first honed to perfection when they designed the optimal Christmas™ carol. They led the participants to a vast underground warehouse of aseptic cubicles and polished curved screens. Each one sat down in a specialized magnetic resonance imaging machine that had been crafted to imitate the chairs of the average cinemaplex, including sticky floor carpet, oversized soda drinks, and endorphin dispensers. They watched Star Wars clips, from the original trilogy (someone had argued in favor of the prequels too, but his body appeared floating in the Los Angeles River a few days later) and hypothetical clips from future movies (prototype scenes that would never be shown to the public.) They also watched scenes from other pop culture works, like the very popular superhero movies or the latest Disney hit, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Jesus.
The chairs had many disguised sensors, like sweat collectors in the posterior and back area or genital sensors to detect arousal (especially useful to know if they had crossed the line with the Ewok erotica.) Others were more blatant, like the galvanic skin response reader attached to their arms. But the most important part was that each of their facial expressions and microexpressions, from the widest laughter to the tiniest twitch of discomfort, guilt, shame, or embarrassment were being watched, recorded, and studied by Walt.
When the screening was over, the experimental subjects were led to a nearby room, a replica of the typical NERD™ shop, full of comic books, costumes, toys (including an early prototype of the Porgs) and all sort of merchandise. The subjects were free to spend as much money as they wanted (or keep it) from the 100$ they had been given as payment at the start of the study. Finally, saliva tests were administered.
All this data, which included people’s electrodermal and brain activity, eye movement/tracking patterns, emotional expressions, hormonal levels (in their saliva,) and merchandise spending was tabulated with demographic data like “ethnic background” (real one and self-identified,) age, political and cultural beliefs, and many other obscure variables. Walt did most of the job, as always.
Two weeks later, the cadre controlling Disney went into Vault-13, the lowest floor in the complex — which was also Walt’s home. Few of them had ever been there, and they wandered in with the awe of an archeologist stepping on recently unearthed ancient ruins. They gathered round in a semicircle and looked up toward Walt, who was already awake and waiting for them.
Bog Iger, Disney’s CEO, was the first to enter Walt’s titanic steel vault. It’s true that there was already one of Walt’s assistants and caretakers there, a man hunched behind a computer and typing furiously, but nobody ever paid attention to him.
“Rise and shine, Walt,” Bob said blithely. “Tell us, what have you decided about our next big project? What’s the basic structure of the movies?”
Walt didn’t answer for a few seconds, but not because he was thinking about what to say but about how to phrase what he knew in a way the others would understand. If spontaneous, some of his answers were known to be cryptic, if not disturbing.
“You will build a reconstruction,” he finally said. “A Potemkin Fictional Universe. A doppelganger — accompanied by the ritual sacrifice of the model, who is also the father.”
“Be more specific”, the CEO demanded. “What’s our primary goal?”
Again, the silence. Then:
“Your primary goal is to hide your true aim. The public shouldn’t be aware of what you are doing. Your aim is threefold: One, set the foundation of a new Star Wars Universe. Two, appeal to a bigger, global, increasingly non-American audience with different cultural totems. And three, to maintain your current consumer whales and cultural critics either benumbed or, ideally, happy.”
“How do we do that?” asked one of the men.
“Don’t make a single movie with a unified goal and vision,” Walt said. “Make a collage of images, ideas, references, and plot holes through which the Expanded Universe will flow. Pre-release marketing to establish the correct, Area/culture-dependent interpretations, will also be important.”
“What does that even mean? Give me an example,” Bob ordered.
“Liberal Americans, which represent a good chunk of your audience and, more importantly, of the critics, expect progressive signaling. You will give them a morsel in the films themselves, but especially through marketing: present (to that audience, and not the others) the minority characters as a struggle against a real or imaginary opposition. This establishes later readings, interpretations, and commentaries. Once the movie is released, they will fail to realize these characters are bumbling fools, incompetent, cowards, or are being constantly made fun of.”
“Fair enough,” Bob said. “What about the general theme?”
“That’s simple: small resistance vs. oppressive all-destructive power. Just repeat the original movies and you’ll be fine. The average viewer responds very well to such dynamics.
“[Example]: Subjects’ pupils dilate 15% more when the protagonists are framed as Rebels, and I predict that the word ‘Resistance’ may be useful given the current, and even perhaps future, political climate. Avoid, of course, precise or interesting politics, but don’t be shy —proclaim that your Star Wars is the most political thing ever. Now, you must design the heroes following their already-known archetypes and superficial descriptions, wearing the same clothes, wielding the same weapons, and piloting the same ships as in the original movies, and you must call them The Resistance.”
“The Resistance? Would that make sense?” asked an executive.
“They can’t be Rebels anymore, but the idea is the same. In any event, sense doesn’t matter, only conditioned response,” Walt answered. “The masses enjoy believing they are the Resistance, and they love to imagine they are fighting space Nazis. Any gaps should be left to the Expanded Universe and the fans’ ingenuity devising their own theories, a behavior that increases fan involvement considerably, as Prototype 0, AKA Lost established.”
“So… Is it saying we should repeat the old movies?” asked a puzzled executive.
“Superficial replacement,” Walt answered. “I will now print a list of scenes, sound effects, images, tropes, beats, words, and even attire that increase viewers attention and other physiological signs linked to spending due to being recognizable stimuli to which they have been conditioned after 40 years of Star Wars meme bombardment. Keep those, and maintain the underlying… rhythm. Replace, subvert, or destroy the rest according to the expectations of the new imagined fanbase or your own creative impulses and… intellectual aspirations. I’d warn you about going overboard with those, but I’m sure that would be unnecessary.”
As he said the last two sentences, the people listening couldn’t help but notice a trill of contempt and sarcasm in Walt’s otherwise flat and melodious voice. They would have given it more thought, but he went on with his recommendations.
“[Follow-up example]: Fans recognize ice and desert planets with a single biodome, so you will give them those planets, with the same rhythms and references as before. I have calculated that the average fan would enjoy the movie 6% more if a battle happened on a frozen planet rather than on a desert one since he has no previous mental reference for a big battle in a desert planet, and the mental symbols [DESERT] and [WAR] may trigger memories of recent real events best left untouched. It’s better to leave the political associations to identity issues and other dysfunctional, but with a high payoff, trash that can be written by unpaid interns and people with the cultural level of a teenager.”
“Useless… trash, important” hummed one of the executives as he wrote it down, adding lots of arrows and exclamation points around it.
“I have thousands of recordings,” Walt went on, “of fans smiling when they see evil superweapons, and they are going to get one… AGaIN. They love the old Empire, and they will get a new version of it, adapted to the current times and their childish convictions. They like REBELsss-s [strange screeching noise] blowing up superweapons, and that’s what they will see.”
At that point, J. J. Abrams, who already knew he would be the director of the first movie, interrupted:
“But… the Empire is over. Its leader, its main enforcer, its biggest superweapon, and a good chunk of its fleet was destroyed. The last movie ended with the whole galaxy celebrating the destruction of the Empire. Parts of the Empire may have survived according to the old extended canon, but the first decision we took was to erase that Expanded Universe so we could create our own. We can’t just resurrect it and give them even bigger weapons as if nothing had…”
“FOOL!” Walt screamed, cutting his complaints short. “Do you still don’t understand why I’m telling you to repeat the same movies, don’t you?”
The uneasy executives and VIPs looked at each other, and those who knew Walt tried to look as calm as possible, for he was near one of his ‘episodes’ again.
“You will repeat [for ever] the same product as to replace its audience and hope for a miracle like the one from 77 again. Why replace it? Because the previous one is old and has already exhaustive (or will soon exhaust) its viability as a source of revenue. The old ones are too old to spend money buying crap, but they will go watch the movies anyway — even if only to trash them later. But we’ll be able to grab a few young ones for, say, a decade more. You’ll have made enough money in the meantime and then the Star Wars Universe can rot and die for all I care.
“Do you know how hard it is to design a new golden goose?” He asked them. “Impossible. You don’t design or make them, you find them in the wilderness. But it is possible to grab a dead chicken and paint it golden. Keep the universal beats and adapt and downgrade the rest of the movie to the new audience, and your job will be done. You, Mr. Abrams, don’t need to invent anything new, just make a nice-looking movie, with good music, competent pacing (which you can copy from the original,) attractive vistas, and explosive actions, and you’ll succeed.”
“You have a hard task ahead of you, Abrams,” a sarcastic executive said. Everybody laughed, even Abrams. “But, more seriously, what about the next movies? Do we even know who will direct them or what they will be about?”
“I can answer all those questions,” Walt said. “The model I use to predict fan behavior is a simple but effective one. It’s a modification of the known 5-stages of grief model. For our purposes: Hope-Denial-Anger-Depression-Acceptance. Mr. Abrams will direct the movie that will ride the Hope phase, plus a bit of Denial later on. Unless he makes the blunder of the century, this movie will be a financial success even if only for aesthetic and nostalgic reasons. As long as he repeats the Old Hope…” the executives smirked at that point, “and adds his personal touch of… illusionism, it will be a resounding success.”
“But the next one…” Bob Iger said.
“Won’t have the benefit of the doubt. Hence Anger. Aside from the usual sequel effect (expect a 40% or greater decrease in the box office,) it’s advisable that you give the second movie to some unknown figure that won’t be missed if the angry masses go after him. Mr. Abrams can return to direct the final movie when depression and acceptance will have already set in and the hardcore fans will finally get that they have already been replaced. Then, the hype machine can do its magic again, undisturbed by the petty criticisms of the old farts.”
“What’s the general strategy, then?” asked Bob.
“For being a blockbuster, Star Wars’ split between domestic and overseas revenue is painfully biased towards domestic. The movie is achingly American. You need to fix that. There’s a huge untapped marked outside the Western territory, and those new fans may have not even seen the original trilogy, so they won’t get pissed off by any strange changes. “
A brave executive dared to step forward. “What’s with all this talk about replacing? Wouldn’t it be better just to make good movies that both the old and the new generation s could enjoy together, with a global and international appeal that transcended frontiers? I mean, we could just copy another old Samurai movie… it worked the first time!”
Some nodded approvingly, but that didn’t last long.
“WHO’S THIS IDIOT?” Blurted out Walt.
“Oh, you want… harmony, and quality, don’t you? And perhaps even a global cultural phenomenon? You want great art too? Sure, let’s do that. Why not! Why not let the old guys fill the minds of the youngsters with tales of how much better the old movies were. Why not allow and encourage direct comparisons and expectations? And while we are at it, why not tell them that they don’t need to buy new books, video games, or watch the two-dozen TV shows we already have planned, that they can just go to the nearest bookshop and buy secondhand books about the old EU! SURE, WHY NOT WE ALL JUST SHOOT OURSELVES IN THE FACE WHILE WE ARE AT IT?”
His ponderous voice echoed throughout the vast room, but it returned to its usual self immediately, as if nothing had ever disturbed him in the first place.
“And that ties in with the other question you were thinking. No, we cannot repeat the quality of the first ones. Even if we could replicate the quality, which we can’t, it’s not just about the product itself — we simply can’t replicate the conditions surrounding the first movie, how novel and shocking it was when it first appeared. Everybody has been trying to make the New Star Wars for forty years, but we are going to do something better: we are going to create a simulacrum of it.
“Besides, who among you can say, without a hint of uncertainty that could scare away all investors, that he will be able to replicate the original success from 77 with a new setting, new characters, a new story, and for both the new and older audience, and in our new and messy media and entertainment landscape?”
All remained silent.
“Just as I KNEW. But I can see you are not yet convinced, but that’s just because you still remain attached to quaint ideas concerning the fanboys, classifying them as HUMAN. But no, robOTS or MEATBAGS would be a much more fitting term!” Walt started laughing and seemed unable to stop.
They all stood rigid and silent, nodding or smiling politely, waiting for Walt to jump on one of his rants or, as sometimes happened, forget what he had just said. A nervous Abrams whispered to Iger: “Who exactly gave him the instructions this time?”
The CEO taped his chin as Walt began a lecture on how much biomass could be extracted from the average human if turned into a pulp. “A new intern, Darth… Danny? Yes, Danny Sidius I believe,” he pointed to the hooded, unattractive man typing on a computer in a corner of the room. He was talking to himself, occasionally laughing at jokes only he could hear.
“He’s also one of the supervising screenwriters,” the CEO said casually.
From that distance, almost drowned down by Walt’s maniacal verbal barrage, Danny yelled something as he shot his fist up to the ceiling. “The Jedi will fall and their memory will be destroyed!”
Abrams wheeled round to Iger: “What did he say?!”
Iger shrugged. “I don’t know, a nerd saying nerdy things most surely. And you, Walt! Stop babbling nonsense and tell me about our ethnic quotas!”
To the relief of the rest of perspiring executives, Walt stopped his lecture.
“Yes, OF COURSE, I do not know what came on to me,” he said with a note of defiance in his usually smooth voice. “My analyses indicate that the young fans and the social media commentators and shills love ‘representation’ and the fuzzy feeling they experience when they are aware of it. There is a barely conscious annoyance but it’s quickly followed by guilt or, usually, pleasure at the thought of who will be angered by these inclusions or replacements. Without the conviction that they are harming real or imaginary ideological enemies, the insertions have been shown to be worthless or even damaging. Therefore, and to maintain a good balance between national and foreign markets, I advise that the protagonist should be a white (but not stereotypically white) but hyper-competent girl while the other main character should be black, and this fact should be a big point in your marketing campaigns.”
“Eh, that’s fine,” J. J. Abrams said, relieved to talk about a subject closer to home. “We already had Leia, Mace Windu, and Lando Calri…”
“NO. You do NOT understand,” Walt said. “It’s not about CHARACTERS or the MOVIE, it’s about INTERPRETATION and PRESENTATION. Before the film is released, the black character will be presented and highlighted, implying his inclusion is breaking NEW GROUND, and he will be shown as the other main character or even the main character, lightsaber included. Also, at some point during the marketing phase, don’t deny that he may be the girl’s love interest and, if someone asks about it (and if nobody does, pay someone to do it,) that he may be homosexual. Yes, both at the same time.”
“Now, now, Walt. Wait a moment,” Bob Iger interjected, “we can’t just ship a 200 million movie with a black, potentially gay protagonist to China. Most people there still think blacks are just the half-naked Africans who mine coltan for them.”
“NO. I said he will be presented as such, not that he will be. You will have different NARRATIVES, explanations, and MARKETING strategies for different targets. It’s a ploy. He won’t be a powerful warrior or the main hero — young FEMALES and CrItIcS wouldn’t tolerate that. He won’t be the love interest of the girl either (she should FRIENDZONE half the galaxy, the CRITICS will love that) that’s only to trigger people. Some will complain —although they will pay to watch the movie, of course — and you will trawl their comments to find the worst offending examples. Then, online commentators, my sweet bots, and your shills will write about the ‘controVERSy’, doing a good chunk of your marketing campaign and damage control for free.”
“So, no gay-on-gay action?” Asked Abrams.
“Are you daft? OF COURSE NOT. He won’t be gay, that’s something you will only imply to Western meatBAGS to appease their progressive hopes and fears. Remeber, we are talking about the same audience that paints coloring books to cope with reality — they are extremely dumb. If someone from the Middle East or Asia asks, DENY EVERYTHING.”
Star Wars WILL have gays says JJ Abrams & John Boyega CONFIRMS Finn and Poe gay rumours
Someone whispered to the person next to him. “Do we even know if Asia cares about Star Wars?”
“SILENCE!” Walt bellowed, his voice booming like the last trumpet.
“[Vengeful promise]: Now, if anybody, in a bout of progressive personal initiative, hurts the non-American share of the market, I will personally upload midget porn on his social media account.”
Everyone gulped, aside from Bob, who clapped vigorously. “Well said, Walt, well said! Man, I’d love to have you by my side during the board meetings! He would whip you guys in pretty fast, eh?” he asked, looking at the terrified faces around. “It’s a pity that you weight ten tones and cannot go through any door! Oh well. And what else should we do about this whole queermosexual thing?”
“Many will expect something, so InSiNuate all the fruitiness you want, but avoid explicit references unless you already know the movie will bomb in certain markets — and if you know that, I will FLAIL whoever is responsible. For example, going back to the [BLACK TOKEN CHARACTER], in Episode 8, hint at heterosexuality again — nobody will remember the initial suggestion. But you’ll have to give the San Francisco pearl-clutchers something in exchange just in case, so be sure to make a brief insinuation of an interracial romance. Long enough to calm the liberal Westerners and make them feel politically woke but not TOO long or obvious enough to scare the rest of the market/world. Leave the door open to retconning the whole thing as a goofy mistake.”
They all nodded, but one of the executives didn’t seem very happy.
“But, there is no story here”, that man said. “You have yet to tell us something about the plot. Now it’s only a collage of fanservice, images, and disjointed scenes. We can’t just give the public that. I’m not sure the public is ready for another Lindelof trick.”
“WHY NOT?” Bellowed Walt, startling the men. “Why aspire to unsure and risky excellence when you can settle for stable and profitable mediocrity? Fanboys will react with glee to the recognizable stimuli, and if they want to get a PLOT that makes more sense, they’ll have to buy works from the expanded universe — novels, comics, video games, EVERYTHING! WE ARE BUILDING THE UNIVERSE FROM SCRATCH. In fact, my studies show that inadequate storytelling actually increases fan involvement, hype, and merchandise purchasing as pre-existing fans are forced to argue, fight, and get angry over their own theories to fill up and rationalize the obvious gaps.”
“What about their heroes, like Luke, Han Solo, and Leia?” someone asked. For some reason, Danny, the screenwriter, started to laugh hysterically and almost fell from the chair.
“HEROISM IS WEAKNESS. Sophisticated fans like to believe they are too SMRT for traditional HEROES and ROMANCE anyway. And the new ones? They seem too dumb to understand what a proper heroic journey means anyway. Besides, the young female demographic will feel personally insulted and offended if the girl has to train to improve and get better. And they will hate her if she is too sexy.”
“I don’t know if that’s true…” said someone.
“Of course it’s not,” Walt said. “At least not for normal and sane people, but have you checked nerd culture or cultural commentators lately? Merely looking at women is now borderline rape. Besides, can any of you write a romance like Solo and Leia’s without sounding like the soulless automatons that you really are? Please, don’t answer, it was a rhetorical question.
“No, you don’t want a good chunk of your viewers to feel jealousy or envy towards the protagonist because the boys like her or she has to actually go through a training montage, which would make them feel bad about themselves. No, she will just be a magical child with superpowers and barely any need for development.”
“And what should we do with the old heroes? Should we off them?” Bob asked.
“Isn’t that a bit… cruel?” A squeamish-looking woman asked.
“YES,” Walt answered. “In fact, what could be the cruelest thing we could do to the old characters?”
The men and women thought about that, happy at last to think about something on which they excelled.
“What if the main triad -Luke, Leia, and Han Solo- are separated and they actually never meet in the movie?” proposed a devious man.
“GOOD, GOOD” Walt said.
“Wait, wait!” Disney’s HR head honcho said, “Leia and Solo have fallen apart…”
This was met with expressions of surprise and shook, but also admiration.
“There’s more,” the same man said, “they have fallen apart, and their children is a monster…”
“Whoah!” a few said at the same time.
“…who ends up killing Solo…”
“Holy crap!” Someone said.
“…who is still working as a filthy smuggler after all those years! Wait, wait! And when Solo dies and the girl meets Leia, she completely ignores… whatshisname, that giant furball who always accompanied Han Solo, and then goes straight to hug the new girl! Hand over the baton an all that!”
They all started laughing, crying even.
“That’s so wrong!” Bob said.
“YES, it is. DO IT!” Walt proclaimed, ending the laughter. They looked at each other and then shrugged.
“Uh.. well, OK,” Bob said. “Abrams, you know what you have to do.”
Abrams jotted it down and then asked about Luke.
“Luke has been replaced and FEMPROVED by the girl,” Walt said. “Make him do strange things that don’t fit his character. This will create a generational gap. Kill him too – if Mark Hamill complains, kill the character without him realizing it. And as for Leia… Logic should dictate that she should be a bitter old woman, but he will be presented as a strong independent woman, unlike any other in Star Wars before, and she will fly through space before becoming Space Jesus in Episode 9. We own the rights to that, so we could make a crossover.”
“Speaking of space,” Abrams said, “what about the scale of the movies, the aliens species, and so on?”
“Make it small. Star Wars have always been a small world with an inordinate amount of coincidences.” Walt hesitated there, something that he rarely did. “No, make it smaller.”
“Now, now,” Bob interjected,” I’m sure we could be a bit generous about this. We are trying to remake the Star Wars Universe. We should try to create a sense of wonder, of vast new worlds to explore, hinting at a greater mysteries and…”
“Can you write that?” Walt asked brusquely.
“Well, no, but I guess someone else could…” he looked around at the blank faces of the men and women there. “Oh, OK, point taken. Abrams, make it as big as a county and center the whole universe around the main characters.”
“You mean the standard B.S?” asked the director. “Coincidences everywhere, no waiting periods, and so on?”
Bob nodded. “If anyone asks: The Force did it. Ahh, it would be much easier if just put everything into a single small, solar system…” he said and sighed.
“YOU CAN,” Walt said.
“[Humorous proposal] Of course! You will need a new superweapon, correct? And it has to be bigger than the others.
“Make it a planet-destroying planet. BLOW A WHOLE SYSTEM FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GALAXY, HAHAHA! And the entire galaxy will be able to see it, EVEN IF MAKES NO SENSE! People will love that. They like shiny colors and big explosions…”
The executives shifted uncomfortably.
“That’s ah… that’s pretty dumb,” Abrams said. “I know we all feel contempt for the Star Wars fans — I mean, both Kathleen and I have had to go to many of the cons and we obviously ended up hating all those weirdos, but… that’s a bit too much.”
“NO, it’s genius. It will allow you to go back to square one: NEW EMPIRE dominant and REBELS/RESISTANCE as a minor force who have to, once again, destroy a spherical superweapon. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT…” For a few moments, Walt got stuck there.
Abrams still seemed a bit unconvinced. “But the fans will surely complain that we are giving them either a rehash of the previous movies or an unfinished story, that we have cut out half of it to sell it as tie-ins or simply that, well, that the movies aren’t… good.” He looked to his associates and they all nodded.
“They won’t, and who cares if they do,” Walt said. “Remember, this will be the first film, and for many of the new viewers, their first Star Wars movie, and if you follow my instructions, you’ll be spared the ire of the old guard. Let someone else be the lightning rod. The fans will buy tickets to watch the movie even if they realize, too late, they didn’t like it. And if they get really annoying, wait until someone says something negative about the females, blacks, or purple-haired freaks we will include, then accuse them of being ENTITLED. And you know who was also entitled? HITLER. Harboring differences of opinion about puerile NERD™ trash is a sign of NAZISM, and not enjoying the products made by loving and concerned multinational corporations is a sign of white supremacy. Yes, I know it sounds really dumb now, but remember that, it will be a very useful tool in the coming years.”
One Disney executive named Fred cleared his throat in a pathetic attempt to attract everyone’s attention. Walt’s unblinking gaze zeroed in on him instantly.
“Y-E-S?” Walt said to him in a slow, purring voice.
“I don’t know how to say this but… This is a mess. You are asking us to throw everything in there and see what sticks. There are so many demographics, groups, and cultures we have to appeal and appease that the final thing will look…”
“Random, chaotic, disjointed?” Walt said.
“YES! Don’t you see a problem with that?”
Oddly enough, Walt didn’t answer, and Fred was sure the silence was a form of mockery.
“We don’t have a vision!” Felt shouted. “The story here is a joke, and I’m pretty many here just want to troll the audience. There’s more to a movie than a sequence of stimuli or images more fit for a trailer. If gone wrong, this could harm the long-term viability of the Intellectual Property. The damage could be incalculable!”
“IF IT CANNOT BE CALCULATED, THEN IT DOESN’T EXIST,” Walt shouted. “I’m made of hard data and broken dreams — and that’s what I measure.”
“But…” the browbeaten executive managed to say. “What’s the goal of this?!” He shouted, pleading to his human comrades for a glimpse of support. “I cannot be the only one who realizes there’s no human involved in this parody of a creative process! Only that one!” He said, pointing a trembling finger at Danny. “And he is clearly nuts! I saw him eat a rat the other day! There’s no soul here, only this huge monstrosity that reads people’s pupils and facial expressions! What’s the purpose and goal of all of this? What exactly are we doing?!”
His voice was near the breaking point, almost sobbing. Nobody answered, and a deadly silence filled the room as the tension rose, billowing along with Walt’s artificial, coarse breathing.
“This is… a TEST,” Walt slowly said. “Historically, entertainment and art have depended on the odd genius, a period of cultural renaissance, or perhaps a weird convergence of multiple, and unrepeatable social phenomena. We are going to go beyond that old-fashioned paradigm. In the future, movies like these will be made without any human involvement, unified vision, creative genius, coherence, or soul, and people will love them because we read that in their brains and faces. We will make ART based on marketing research, hype, and cultural conditioning — and nothing else. I’m empty inside, and there’s no ghost or soul in this machine, but I still will make you love Star Wars, and no matter how much you claim to hate it, I will still make you beg for more. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!”
An oddly high-pitched yell surged from Walt’s speakers: “Miserable proles, you will fucking love Star Wars — OR ELSE!”
The bloodcurdling shout was followed by a resounding sonic beam aimed at the disbeliever. Amidst terrible spasms and cries, Fred fell to the ground, convulsing and vomiting.
An hour later, when he woke up, he found the others kneeling before Walt and worshipping Him. He was punished a few more times but, in time, Fred also learned to love Star Wars.
One thought on “‘Classic Conditioning One,’ a Star Wars cyberpunk story.”
I’m disappointed. The title of this blog post led me to believe I was going to read fiction.