’o By John Leo Essay, Research Paper
Misconceive o by John Leo
John Leo is a columnist and contributing editor that has been writing for U.S. News & World Report since 1988. Prior to that he worked for Time magazine and The New York Times covering topics such as social sciences and popular culture. The thesis of John Leo s latest U.S. News & World Report article, Fu Manchu on Naboo, does not leave the reader any room to guess what his discussion is going to be about. He drives the point home from the beginning of the article. The central idea is very direct and easy to locate. It appears at the end of the first paragraph and simply states Episode I: The Phantom Menace is packed with awful stereotypes.
Mr. Leo wrote this piece not only for informative purposes, but also to convince a particular audience that, whether intentional or not, characters have taken on harmful images some may find offensive. He is not speaking only to his fairly educated, loyal readers, but also to those who may have taken part in producing the movie. Mr. Leo makes visible to his readers what he believes to be stereotypes in the film. People may not have noticed these before, so he makes clear definitions and comparisons. To the rest of the audience, those who had a hand in making the movie, he makes a plea not to redevelop these characters in future films.
Mr. Leo uses several analogies and examples in his presentation, and they are all tied to his thesis. He points out some images that strikingly resemble stereotypes that are commonly found in society today. He uses movie characters from Star Wars, such as Watto to support his claim.
Mr. Leo finds that Watto, the fat, greedy junk dealer with wings, is a conventional, crooked Middle Eastern merchant. He goes on with other character references as evidence: Jar-Jar Binks as the inferior black, the Neimidians as sinister Asians.
One of the problems with this argument is that not everyone in society identifies with these stereotypes. If the audience does not find the characteristics to be true they could shut off thought, thereby defeating his purpose for writing the article. There are no statistics presented in this article. The lack of statistics or other evidence, such as results of surveys, could lead Mr. Leo s audience to believe that these are his own perceptions. In the seventh paragraph, Leo makes references to Catholics, Asians, Republicans, and Africans. Many of these attributes would have gone unnoticed by much of the audience. But because Mr. Leo has such an easy time pinpointing these characteristics in a space fantasy movie, it appears that he may be the one being stereotypical.
While Mr. Leo uses no quotes in his argument, he does use law professor Patricia Williams opinion to re-affirm his own; he believes Watto s character is mocking a Jewish person. However this is not a direct quote. Even if he did quote the professor, it would be difficult to determine what type of authority she has because it is not identified. Also, he never exposes to his readers where the complaints or the criticism of the movie he s referring to is coming from. His argument is very loosely supported.
With a skeptical tone, Leo states that it s hard to believe that all the stereotyped imagery just happened. He touches on the fact that George Lucas is such a meticulous filmmaker, that he conducted research on a certain character to ensure that it looked realistic. Leo makes an assumption that Mr. Lucas has gone through the same process to develop the rest of the
characters and probably intentionally included the stereotypes to add humor to an already underdeveloped story. But because Lucas admitted to designing one character, one that has not been flagged with a perceived negative idiosyncrasy, Leo chalks him down as having designed them all. This too is a weak point.
John Leo is no doubt a respected writer who has been covering society and its issues for many years. He has a massive, die-hard audience that may be swayed to see things as he does. However, he does not accomplish that in this argument. He does make some points that indicate character traits in the new Star Wars film seem more than coincidental. But the failure to support his thesis with more visible evidence does little to influence the thinking of his audience.
Leo, John. Fu Manchu on Naboo. U.S. News and World Report 12 July, 1999: 14.