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In which John discusses the astonishing lack of amputated hands or arms in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the common criticism that the movie is merely a rehash of the original Star Wars. Also discussed: the fact that Marvel's Phase Two films all featured de-arming as a tribute to Star Wars, and some general thoughts on the relationship between creator and audience and the challenges of letting go of things you've made.

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Good morning, Hank; it's Tuesday. So I saw the Star Wars movie again this weekend and on my fourth viewing I noticed something really troubling.

By the way, this video contains no significant spoilers unless you go to the movies primarily to see people separated from their limbs, but even then: very mild spoilers.

Lots of people have complained that The Force Awakens is just a rehash of the original Star Wars movie, right? Even the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, said "They wanted to do a retro-movie. I don't like that."

Now I think that view of the movie oversimplifies it, but here's the thing, if it's such a rehash, where are all the severed hands!? I severed my own hand by accident over here but I still got it! Don't worry.

So Hank as you pointed out in a video more than five years ago, the first six Star Wars movies contain no fewer than 13 severed Hands. Like Anakin Skywalker, despite having two total hands, manages to get one of his hands cut off three separate times. There's even a phrase in the Star Wars Universe for using your lightsaber to amputate an opponent's hand: cho mai.

So Hank 3750 years ago the Babylonian King Hammurabi developed a legal code that famously uses an eye for an eye approach to legal retaliation. And the Star Wars Universe is kind of similar except it's a hand for a hand. Like it's no coincidence that over the course of the movies Anakin Skywalker also chops off three hands. In Star Wars the number one way to risk amputation of your own hand is to amputate someone else's hand. Well, unless you're Obi-Wan Kenobi who, by my count, removes nine separate limbs from people while somehow managing to remain a tetrapod - which yes, is the word for animals with four limbs.

So anyway, when George Lucas has been asked about this he always just says "Well that's what happens when you play with swords!" Which you know, fair enough, but there's plenty of swordplay in The Force Awakens and yet EVERY SINGLE HAND remains attached to it's body for the entire movie! IT'S UNCONSCIONABLE!

Meanwhile, Marvel movies have begun chopping off hands as an homage to Star Wars and no, I am not making that up. In fact Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said that it's because of Star Wars that all the so-called "Phase Two" Marvel movies feature an arm amputation. Captain America: Winter Soldier definitely, Guardians of the Galaxy check, Iron Man 3 yes (and then they burn it) and Ant-Man kinda... insofar as somebody loses an arm just before losing the rest of themselves. Nobody's harshing on those movies for their nostalgia.

Hank, as previously noted, I really liked The Force Awakens. It is at times nostalgic but I don't think nostalgia is all bad. In fact I'd argue the original Star Wars was also nostalgic, it hearkened back to American Westerns and to some nonexistent bygone era when good was really good and evil was really evil. Really if it hadn't been for the inexcusable failure to chop off any hands, The Force Awakens would have been a great movie.

So Hank I think some of the blowback is just due to the movie's commercial success, most people are never comfortable loving something unironically, especially when it becomes quite popular.

But I think George Lucas's feelings about The Force Awakens are probably about something deeper and not directly related to its lack of severed hands. Basically I think it's really hard for creators - even very successful ones - to see their work go out into the world and be loved for reasons they didn't intend. Like I've found that one of the pleasures and terrors of writing for an audience is that the book someone reads is never quite the book you wrote. Inevitably people bring their own experiences and expectations and desires to a story and in that process they change it.

To use an extreme example, when I was in high school I read The Great Gatsby and I thought it was crap. That wasn't The Great Gatsby's fault. On the other hand, Hank, when we were little kids we watched the movie Grease 2 over and over and over again on VHS. And by forging that mediocre movie in the smithy of our souls, we were somehow able to make it great. Now of course that isn't to minimize the responsibility of creators to their creations, it's just to say that once you've done your best and something is out in the world, you have to let it go.

Basically Hank to me making stuff is like a Wookiee. If you try to hold onto the stuff you make with too tight a grip, it'll rip your arms right off. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.