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4 Ways the "Star Wars Holiday Special" Was Ahead of Its Time!
Over the years, the "Star Wars Holiday Special" has become something of a punchline. Even the mastermind of the franchise himself, George Lucas, has spoken out about how if he had “a sledge hammer and the time” he would use them to destroy every copy of the "Star Wars Holiday Special" in existence. To this day, he has not accomplished that, but it has only aired on TV once, it’s initial broadcast, and no VHS or DVD release was ever made available, so I suppose that's a small victory. There’s even almost 100% confirmed rumors that Lucas had the negatives destroyed; however, thanks to a few rebels out there, bootlegs have been available for years and now is available for download on torrent sites and streaming on YouTube.
To give you some background, the special is essentially a variety show. The main cast is all back in their respective roles and alongside them are famous actors of the time like Bea Aruther, Art Carney, and Harvey Korman... Heard of any of them? If you're under the age of 50, probably not. But they’re in there because this was a variety show. It just happened to be a variety show about Chewbacca’s family waiting for him to come home for Life Day, which is basically Wookie Christmas. The wookies are Malla (Chewy’s wife), Itchy (Chewy’s ancient-looking father), and Lumpy (Chewy’s son).
Overall, this special is by no means good. I was baffled numerous times while watching it due to creative decisions and overall plot, but the special got something right -- technology. Today I will be showing you how ahead of its time the "Star Wars Holiday Special" actually was. Arguably even more ahead of its time than the Star Wars films themselves...
The Internet
Seriously, Chewbacca’s family uses the Internet to stream videos. They speak on the same Skype or Facetime-like that’s been featured in the Star Wars movies and other sci-fi media before, but the fact that they use these devices to watch a cooking show, a creepy carnival, a rock concert by Jefferson Starship (I wonder why they were brought on…) and a trippy Boba Fett cartoon (also his introduction into the series) heavily involving Luke and Chewy was unprecedented for the time. I was watching this special and in a sea of confusion as to what the heck was going on, and their streaming clips made the most sense. The only thing missing was the Emperor getting on Twitter to claim Rebel voter fraud and then realizing two tweets later that he took away the right to vote anyway.
Virtual Reality
Yup, Itchy gets a special machine that looks like a salon hair dryer that he puts on to watch… ummm... softcore porn. Actress and singer Diahann Carroll is the subject of this steamy streaming video, and while there’s no nudity or intercourse shown, everything about this is sexual. The tone of her voice, the excitement and gratification Itchy gets from seeing and hearing it, and the overall tone is, let's face it, what virtual reality technology is heading towards. In fact, one of the writers came right out and admitted that he wanted to sneak softcore porn past the censors to see if he could, and he did!
Facebook Live or Reality TV
It may not be Facebook (which is only one of a few examples today), and it may not be reality TV, but at one point they watch a live feed of the Mos Eisley Cantina. It is neither explained nor implied that Chewbacca owes a stake in the Cantina business, so there’s no way they’re watching it for security purposes. It’s just so the Empire can see if Chewbacca is there pounding back some blue milk and ingesting some death sticks with his good time buddy Han rather than celebrating this family holiday. (Classic deadbeat dad.) This live feed is streamed into their house like so many other things these days. The scripted-ness of it, though, harkens toward reality TV as somebody gets thrown out of the bar, a drunk professes his love to the bartender, a song is sung, and other wackiness that can only exist in a variety or reality show.
The Title
This isn’t so much technology as much as it is the people behind it giving the special the inclusive name of Holiday Special. Sure, Life Day is basically Christmas (what with a giant Christmas tree and all), but they gave it the all-inclusive moniker of "Holiday" at a time before the devastating War on Christmas. Luckily for them, they never put out a red cup and made everybody lose their minds. The special was already offensive enough as it is.
In conclusion, do I highly recommend you watch this special? Yes, because as a Star Wars fan, this is still important. It’s got the original cast (a feat you could never do today with, say, Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games), it shows you where Star Wars was at when it first came out, and it introduced Boba Fett for wookie sake! I will say that, when it starts, you should watch it with a fresh mind away from your Star Wars knowledge. Think about being a casual viewer in 1977 who’s never seen Star Wars before and then see if this is what would sell you on getting into the franchise. The answer is a hard no, but still, you be the judge. When you watch it in the link that just happens to be below, be sure to keep an eye out for Princess Leia’s phone call and take her advice. Even Carrie Fisher had to get drunk to get through this one, and so should you (21 and over only, please)!
(Image via Lucasfilm/YouTube)
- Kevin Donaldson, YH Contributing Writer