Because no one can do anything on this planet anymore without putting someone’s knickers in a twist, the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria has filed an official complaint with Lego that their Jabba’s Palace playset is racist and not appropriate for children. This has led to the set being replaced at one toy store, the one that sold the offending playset to the offended parent, and there is the promise of future legal action being taken against Lego.
Their first complaint is that Jabba’s Palace resembles an iconic Istanbul mosque, the Hagia Sofia. Actually the iconic structure, known as an example of the height of Byzantine architecture, hasn’t been a mosque since 1931, and now serves as a museum. And from the mid 4th century to 1453 it served as a cathedral: in fact, the central and most important cathedral for the Eastern Orthodox Church, analagous to St. Peter’s in Rome, especially during those periods of time when the Christian Church was led from Constantinople (not Istanbul… or, wait, the other way around?).
But apart from getting upset over a fictional building resembling another building that for the vast majority of its history was not a mosque and is not currently a mosque, they do somewhat have a point:
Wait, you mean those weren’t all the same building? I’m sooo confused. </sarcasm>
But even slight resemblance of a building does not racist a Lego playset make. Let’s go to the tape, where the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria lays out exactly what is wrong with this toy.
Oh, I see the problem. It’s very clear from their circles and arrows and labels they added (and the fact that I read perfect German). Let me explain the problem in my own diagram here:
Seriously, people. You know what other buildings in Star Wars have Byzantium dome structures? Well, let’s start with the Theed Palace on Naboo:
And then there’s the Jedi Temple on Tython in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Look, Star Wars draws on classical and ancient design structures to give its signature look and feel. And just because something has a Byzantine dome doesn’t make it a mosque.
Oh, but the minarets do? I grant you, minarets are a design structure usually only associated with mosques. And those are obviously minarets on Jabba’s Palace? Take a look again. Especially at the actual picture of Jabba’s palace from Jedi. That’s not a minaret. That’s a tower. A single tower. Minarets are generally characterized by being laid out around the central building, usually in a square. In the case of the Hagia Sofia, you have four minarets. In Jabba’s Palace you have not four towers, but one. You know what building in Star Wars does have structures resembling minarets?
That’s right. The Jedi Temple on Coruscant. The bright center of the universe for a thousand generations. If you want your building that looks like a mosque, I’m afraid that’s it. And far from being racist, that’s a pretty high praise for that design element.
But let’s say you still don’t understand any of that, and, like the sand people, are easily startled. How else might you react to this child’s playset? From their press release, because I can’t make this stuff up:
“It is apparent that, for the figure of the repulsive bad guy Jabba and the whole scenery, racial prejudices and hidden suggestions against Orientals and Asians were used as deceitful and criminal personalities (slaveholders, leaders of criminal organizations, terrorists, criminals, murderers, human sacrifice).”
Yes, obviously when I look at Jabba’s Palace, the first kind of people I think of inhabiting it are Asians and “Orientals” (I thought that term was offensive?) not Gammorreans, Biths, Trandoshans, Quarren, Twileks, robot spiders carrying non-ethicized brains of former monks, and white humans. Seriously, among the human and human-esque residents of Jabba’s palace, who wasn’t white? Rancor keeper? White guy. Boba Fett? I guess technically Temuera Morrison is Maori/New Zealander, but Jeremy Bulloch, who wore the suit in Jedi? White guy. Bib Fortuna? I know he was a Twilek, but come on-- total white guy.
And Jabba himself is supposed to be Middle Eastern? Their logic is he smokes from a hookah. Ummmm, well, technically, if we want to talk about who spends more time smoking stuff through water pipes these days, I gotta go with:
There’s your Jabba the Hutt. Also, by their logic that since he smoked from a hookah he must be Middle Eastern, doesn’t the fact that he eat frogs make him French?
There is some suggestion that Jabba the Hutt was inspired by Baba the Turk in Igor Stravisnky’s opera The Rake’s Progress, in which case, I guess you have something that resembles a connection between Jabba and Turkish people. But let’s think about this for a moment. Lucas has never said that himself, and he’s been incredibly forthcoming about comparisons between Star Wars and Kurosawa’s films, Flash Gordon serials, and old World War 2 movies and westerns. He’s never mentioned Stravinsky nor opera, so it’s a little out of character for him. Second, Baba the Turk is a bearded lady, not a gangster. And third, and perhaps most convincingly to me, “Jabba” is Russian for “toad.” That’s a more plausible origin for his name than a Stravinsky opera.
If anything, the stereotype of the overweight gangster crime lord sitting in his palace, surrounded by slaves, seems far more possibly offensive to white people, especially, possibly, Italians. Jabba is far more Tony Soprano or Don Vito Corleone than anything else. Nilo Rodis-Jamero, a costume designer on Jedi, said the following: ”My vision of Jabba was literally Orson Welles when he was older. I saw him as a very refined man. . . But Phil Tippett kept imagining him as some kind of slug, almost like in Alice in Wonderland. At one time he sculpted a creature that looked like a slug that’s smoking. I kept thinking I must be really off, but eventually that’s where it led up to.” Orson Welles. A smoking slug (nee caterpillar) reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. American. British. White guy. White guy. White guy.
Oh, and there’s this: the original scene Lucas shot of Solo and Jabba. And Jabba is played by a fat white guy.
Jabba the Hutt: white guy. Don’t get offended if you think he fits some other stereotype. He’s a whitey. I promise.
Another thing they’re offended at? “Shocking red and black devil’s scowl at the top of the box packaging on the right, which is at least an obvious signal that the toy should not lie under the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.” Wait, wait, wait… so, Muslims celebrate Christmas now? And I don’t know about the rest of you, but Star Wars is a Christmas tradition around my house. Yes, even Phantom Menace and Darth Maul. You don’t like the packaging? Don’t buy the present and put it under your tree. But don’t tell me that I can’t celebrate my holiday how I want to because you don’t like something aesthetically. And, again, if you don’t know who Darth Maul is, why would you be buying a Star Wars toy? Especially one that costs over $100?
They continue their screed that “rockets, cannons, weapons like laser pistols, guns and Samurai swords (serve as feet of the B’omarr monk) and trap doors in the LEGO fortress buildings are pedagogically questionable. The combination of temple building and bunker facilities where shots are fired cannot be appropriate for children between 9 and 14 years old, most of all with respect to a peaceful cohabitation of differing cultures in Europe.” Yes, you’re right. Europe was always so peaceful and full of friendly cohabitation of peoples-- until that damn Jabba’s Palace playset came out!!! There were never crusades, holy wars, ethnic cleansing, sectarian wars, world wars, or anything like that. But now that Lego made a playset where the characters have guns and swords, Austria has become an ethnic and religious powder keg ready to go off.
“One would expect more empathy and responsibility from a manufacturer of toys that has produced toys and models that are good for teaching for decades.” You know, one would. One would also expect more logic and tolerance from the culture that invented algebra, sheltered the collected knowledge of ancient Greek philosophers in your libraries and helped advance civilization for hundreds of years while Europe floundered through a Dark Age. I have utmost respect for Turks and my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world in general. But you, the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria? You are a bunch of retards. You know nothing about Star Wars, and imply a lack of knowledge or understanding even about your own culture heritage. You see offense where none is intended. You see similarities between buildings that are not similar. And, most of all, you are expressing outrage over visual iconography that was released 30 years ago in 1983. So you’re beyond late to the party to be offended about this. You make my brain hurt, and the human race is collectively stupider for you having lodged your complaints against Lego.
If you don’t like it, don’t buy it for your kids. Period. But you don’t, uhh… have to make a federal case out of it.