Only Han Shot: Rewriting History To Make It Nicer

How the re-editing of a pivotal scene in Star Wars mimics the real-world problem of rewriting history.

So, who shot first, Han Solo or Greedo? Well the fact is, neither. In the original cut of Star Wars, we only saw Han shoot. George Lucas changed it in subsequent releases simply because he didn’t want Han to come off as a cold-blooded killer. The problem is, in changing that scene, we lose a key point in the arc of the character.

Even as a kid just shy of 11 years old sitting in the theater when the movie came out, I understood that Han was hired by Luke and Obi Wan exactly because he was a low life. They needed someone with questionable morals to help them in their quest. It was the reason why they went to that cantina in the first place.

Mos Eisley spaceport: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

Sanitizing the character’s traits to make them more socially acceptable, ultimately makes his transition at the end of the the original trilogy far less impactive. He’s no longer this dangerous drifter who is transformed upon finding the goodness in his heart. He’s now simply another hero in the annals of movie history. White hat. Two dimensional. The character arc is damaged and inconsistent.

And this is what happens to the arc of America’s character if we were to gloss over the horrors that punctuate our history. Suddenly the civil rights movement was no big deal. The sacrifices of so many men, women and children who died because of or fighting against the atrocities of the past several centuries suddenly seem trivial. Gay marriage, equal pay, child labor laws and so on also seem inevitable. The opposite of what they were and continue to be. Struggles.

The history of this or any nation is not some blip in pop culture. It’s not a film. It’s reality. Every nation on the planet throughout time has done horrific, shameful things to others in defense of their own view of progress. It continues to this day. Whether it’s the holy wars raging in the Middle East or the oppression of Black Americans in our country, it continues. To sweep it under the carpet in the name of sparing our fragile children the nasty details of the truth is ludicrous.

Yes, it’s true that the originators of the latest movement to rewrite history based in Oklahoma have since come out saying the rest of us misunderstood what they were intending. The cynic in me feels they’re just backpedalling because they were called out for their idiotic motion.

OK, just for a moment let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they were misunderstood. It doesn’t change the fact that this sort of thing is going on all over the country. For example; Florida Governor Rick Scott wants to restrict the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from using the terms ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Global Warming’ in any official correspondence. As if that will make the problem facing his own state’s coastal regions go away.

Simply altering a word or omitting a detail is not a permanent solution. The ostrich method of dealing with problems doesn’t even work for the ostrich. Burying your head still leaves your body exposed.

So let’s all grow up, put on our big boy (and girl) pants and admit it. Only Han shot and America has done some pretty shitty things. It’s only then that we can see the greatness of how we have — and continue to — overcome.

Forgetting or prettying up the past won’t make things better for the children. It’ll just make the fight harder for them. Isn’t it hard enough?


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