Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Forcing The Issue

Are you sports minded?

That question was asked in a classified newspaper ad. A company sought sports minded people for employment. When someone went to the interview, he discovered an insurance company had placed the ad.

So what does an interest in sports have to do with selling insurance? Simple. Strike up a conversation with a stranger about the latest big game, win his confidence, and then work your way into a pitch for updating his insurance with a new policy from your company.

Are you Stars Wars minded?

Submitted for your approval: a little booklet called The True Force, published by the American Tract Society of Garland, Texas. This item was lost in my debris collection until it recently reared its head. Copyrighted 1999, it talks about Star Wars, mentioning that Episode One, The Phantom Menace, has re-ignited interest in the movie series. On the cover is a light saber battle scene that does catch the eye, especially the attention of a young kid.

I remember how this tract came my way. There was a summer event downtown and a friend’s tweenage daughter was handed a copy. She showed it to her father who eyed it with suspicion. No, he wasn’t upset with SF movies; he enjoyed them. It was the message of the tract that was disturbing.

The friend wanted to toss it out but I saved it from the trash bin, adding it to my collection of stuff to be X-rayed later.

It’s common knowledge that George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, used religious themes in telling his saga. The Force was his science fictional distillation of all religions.

The True Force has it own take on this. To quote the tract: “George Lucas seems to have genuine concern for people—particularly young people—and a deep commitment to do what he thinks God wants him to do.”

The tract then explains that the Force can be used for good or evil; it has no morality of its own. Then it adds: “God, of course, has only a good side; He is holy and righteous. And Jesus never committed a single sin.”

But there’s a way of finding a real force, a positive one, in everyday life. The True Force can be found in The Bible. The reader is asked to invite Jesus into his or her life with a suggested payer. Then the tract wraps up with:


Then there’s a checkbox to indicate that the reader has received Jesus as savior after reading the tract.

So the work of George Lucas has been used to lead a young mind to Jesus, albeit one church’s interpretation.

Lucas, a self-described Buddhist Methodist, has been quoted that doesn’t view Star Wars as “profoundly religious.” I wonder what he would think about The True Force.

To me the tract smacks of Sith mind tricks.


X. Dell said...

Seems as though the art of persuasion can be as derivative as any other.

As someone who never liked any incrnation of Star Wars, I don't know how this tract would affect me, but I see what disturbed your friend about it. And I agree that perverting the actual message of this narrative to claim one religion as the only true one sounds a bit underhanded. Almost cult-like.

Not that I know anything about cults.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

In trying to keep my post short I didn't mention how George Lucas is known to zealously guard his creations. He's really keen on copyright and trademarks. The tract has images from Phantom Menace and all I can find for info is "Photos by Shooting Star Int'l." I don't know what rights, if any, were granted.

The only copyright info I can find is in tiny print, a statement that the tract is adapted from Unlocking the Mystery of the Force, (C) 1999 by Frank Allnutt.

Allnutt? How did I miss that one?


X. Dell said...

Lol on Allnut.

You inspired me to do a bit of snooping, for you raise an interesting point in response. Apparently, you're right. Lucas does guard rights to licensed characters and images vigorously, although he has encouraged non-commercial parody and fan fiction based on the narrative.

Frank Allnut is a self-published author of Christian books. As someone who has taught media studies, I thought his usage might constitute fair usage, for he's actively commenting on it (almost identical to "The True Force" tract in its tone and usage--for all I know this company and Allnut are one of the same.)

Most importantly, on his legal acknowledgements page, he claims that what he has printed has not only gotten permission from 20th Century Fox, but also its assistance, writing:

"Grateful acknowledgment is made to Charles Lippincott and Twentieth Century Fox for supplying photographs and information for the book, 'The Force of Star Wars,' some of which is incorporated in that book's updated and expanded edition, 'Unlocking the Mystery of the Force.'"

Curious, huh? I wonder if I could get an answer out of 20th Century Fox as to licensees? I've done that before with music, and it's damn difficult.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

ThanX for the link and info.

I didn't see any mention of copyright regarding Star Wars (R) in the tract.

Here's an example of how protective Lucas can be with his SW empire:


[Tuesday, 31 July, 2001, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK

Lucas' legal light saber duel

George Lucas has filed a lawsuit against a medical instrument manufacturer for borrowing a trademark from his Star Wars films.

The lawsuit claims that medical company Minrad Inc infringed Lucasfilm's copyright of the Light Saber name when it chose the name for its new laser-guided medical tools.

"Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Light Saber mark," the suit says. "This confusion is likely to result in loss of revenues to Lucasfilm and damage to its reputation."

Both companies refused to comment on the legal action.]

I'm not an IP lawyer but I thought that the same name could be used in another field or business area, a situation when there isn't direct competition in the same market. So in the world of entertainment, George would have control of light sabre, but not in medical tech.


Doug said...

These aren't the God droids you're looking for.