November 24, 2017

Trump’s Vs. Princess Leia’s World

I enthusiastically accompanied my wife, Julia, to Washington over this past weekend to participate in the Million Women March, and I’m so glad I did because it was a thrilling and surprising experience.

Thrilling because I have never seen so many peaceful, friendly, joyous people in one place. We were packed in like smiling sardines on the Metro and in the streets. Surprising because of the makeup and mood of the throngs. The makeup of the crowds was amazingly diverse, yet harmonious — of one mind — and that mind was resistance to President Trump and his words, actions and policies.

There were contingents of women from Wellesley, Smith and other colleges. There were mothers with their young and old daughters, there were young men pushing old women in wheel chairs and there were a surprisingly large number of men — fathers, husbands, boyfriends and sons gladly supporting their daughters, wives, girlfriends and mothers and grandmothers. It was inspiring.

The mood of the throngs I saw at 3rd and C Streets S.W. and within a several-block area were warm, friendly and fun. The costumers and signs were as diverse as the crowds were, and many of them were hysterically funny. At times I felt like I was back at Burning Man, a similar non-judgmental, harmonious, accepting and giving atmosphere.

Julia admired the gold-painted shower caps (“golden shower”) worn by a family, and one of the men in the family promptly gave her a shower cap, which she wore the rest of day — a gift just like at Burning Man.

One of my favorite posters (there were many of them) was a large (maybe 4′ X 3′) one that had an image of Princess Leia from Star Wars: A New Hope holding a blaster on it with the text “WOMEN BELONG IN THE RESISTANCE” over the image.

The Star Wars films are the most popular series of films in the history of movies.  The latest film in the series, Star Wars: Rogue One, had a monster opening weekend this past December of $155 million in North America and $135 million globally to make it the second highest grossing movie that ever opened in December, second only to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This stupendous opening completely thwarted attempts by a right-wing group on social media (#DumpStarWars) to boycott the movie, which prominent conservative conspiracy theorist Mark Dice called “feminist propaganda.”

The final scene of Rogue One shows a CGI image of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia looking at the stolen plans of the Death Star and saying “hope!” I have a wild guess that this message of “hope” may have inspired the “WOMEN BEONG IN THE RESISTANCE” posters of Princess Leia at the Million Women March.

What is not speculation is that Donald Trump is most unpopular president in the history of the country. And contrary to the claims of the new president and his wooden puppet (Pinocchio) Sean Spicer, the crowds at the Million Women’s March were much larger than the crowds at 45’s inauguration. Therefore, referencing Star Wars and its feminine hero the day after 45’s inauguration was appropriate because it put in context the stark contrast between the crowds at the inauguration and the protesting crowds the following day and it put in contrast the difference between the popular Star Wars female hero and the unpopular male president.

How satisfying it must be to Carrie Fisher’s family and friends that her Star Wars character, Princess Leia, is more popular than the president of the United States and that Carrie’s immortal character has become a symbol of resistance.

George Lucas’s creation of the Star Wars world was driven by technology, computer-generated graphics (CGI), which changed the way movies were made. The Million Women’s March was driven by technology, too. Without the ability to coordinate protest marches world wide via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms and without world-wide media coverage, a protest in which an estimated three million global participants, such a massive, diverse mass of people could not have gathered.

The media, particularly social media, made the world-wide protest possible. And as Clay Shirky writes in his ground-breaking book, Here Comes Everybodya revolution in social organization has commenced, and in today’s world connections are more important than media content, as posited in The Content Trap by Bharat Anand of the Harvard Business School. Donald Trump took advantage of this revolution and direct connection when he used Twitter to communicate directly to America without a traditional media filter. He connected, but so did those who oppose him. Therefore, the new communications and connection technologies cut both ways, help both sides.

What alternative world will most Americans want to live in? Trump’s surreal world of anger, of hate, of America first (and only) and of female denigration or the Star Wars unreal world of anti-authoritarianism, of honoring diversity, of galaxy-wide justice and of female empowerment? Both worlds seem surreal, are post-reality, alternative truth worlds where villains become popular idols and where evil empires rule. We don’t  know the end of either story yet, but we have to develop a new hope that the resistance will eventually win. However, it will probably take at least four years.