Apr. 20th, 2017

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Returning to the regular chronology, let's take a look at our heroes' trip to Otoh Gunga. I remember being absolutely enthralled by this sequence upon my first viewing. I'll never understand the crabby nonsense about how special effects ruin everything and we should have real settings and practical effects and blah blah blah. Now, shoddy effects can certainly be distracting. But the idea that something has to really be there on set to be convincing? Bah. Why can't we have more faith in an audience's imagination? And the actors, for that matter. I love being transported to bizarre worlds that couldn't possibly exist here. That's part of the fun of the saga.

And we'd never been treated to something like this before. An underwater city, with peculiar bubble-like walls that kept out water but allowed entry if you slowly passed through them. A race of proud, amphibious beings who look down on outsiders with contempt. An imposing tribunal who passes judgement on wrongdoers with an arrogant assurance of their infallibility, who dismiss the invasion aboveground as completely irrelevant to the Gungan people, safe in their hidden refuge.

And then we get Obi-Wan's line.

"You and the Naboo form a symbiont circle. What happens to one of you will affect the other; you must understand that."

We've already seen hints of the overarching theme of symbiosis, but this is the first overt reference. I like that it's spoken by Obi-Wan; it shows that he has worked hard to understand his master's teachings of the Living Force. I also think the half-pleading, half-chastising tone is fitting for a younger, more impetuous character. Qui-Gon would certainly like the Gungan bosses to understand their interconnected role with the Naboo, but he's not going to demand that they listen to a lecture when there are more immediate urgent concerns. Obi-Wan is a little less patient with them. To him it's so patently obvious, and therefore quite frustrating, that their complacency will be their undoing. Qui-Gon is content, meanwhile, to use a little mental manipulation to expedite their journey. Always the pragmatist.

But any wise audience member won't dismiss the line as quickly as Boss Nass does. First of all, it provides some useful foreshadowing to the moment when the Federation's invasion does, in fact, disrupt the haven of Otoh Gunga, leading at last to their alliance with the Naboo. Secondly, what a beautiful and universal concept it truly is! This weird alien world and the vastly different human civilization above share an intrinsic bond whether they are aware of it or not, and certainly whether they like it or not. There are many real world versions of this concept, from John Donne's "No man is an island" to the Circle of Life described in the Lion King. Who we are, and what we do, will affect those around us, and the reverse is just as true, whether we're considering our fellow humans or other life forms or the very planet on which we live. We will only discount the wellbeing of others at the expense of our own wellbeing.

Notice that the blame for the rancor between the two peoples can't be laid entirely at the feet of the Gungans. Boss Nass expresses disgust at the Naboo's superior, arrogant attitude, and I don't think he's entirely fabricating. I can easily imagine humans, with their preconceived notions of what an advanced civilization looks like, would see the Gungans and immediately assume they're primitive, simple-minded, even child-like. If only they hadn't needed an extreme situation like an invasion for both groups to finally overcome their prejudice and embrace their symbiont as an essential part of life! At the risk of being extremely cheesy, I hope we can all find our place in the symbiont circle without being compelled by such extremes.

Next time, one of my favorite lines from Qui-Gon...


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