The Kessel Run argument

It started innocently enough. It involved a dress … an Ewok/Wookie dress, to be specific.

The headline about it read, “This Dual-Action Dress Flips from Wookie to Ewok in Under 12 Parsecs”.

If you’re unsure about what this means, chances are you are not a Star Wars fan and would have no interest in checking out that dress anyhow. But if you are familiar with it, you remember that after Obi Wan asks Han if his ship is fast, Han says something like, “Fast ship? You never heard of it? It made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs!”

A simple enough line … one that should not cause any kind of debate. Except a parsec is a measure of distance, so it was kind of laughed at by the casual fan.

But then there are the Lucas apologists who say “NO! HAN WAS RIGHT TO SAY IT LIKE THAT!”, and offer an explanation. And as a twitter friend pointed out, there are numerous sources and wikis and such that support this view, because it’s “what Lucas intended.”

I have a word for that: “Bullshit.”

“This whole argument is a pointless trap!”

OK, I’ll admit it: For a Star Wars fan, I’m not really all that hardcore. Sure, I will absolutely own you in Star Wars trivial pursuit. I have framed movie posters. I have my original action figures. But I have never read the books, never heard any of the writers or Lucas talk about “intent,” nor will I. Here’s why:

1. Intent is bullshit. Long long ago, in a state far, far away, I was sitting in on a friend’s creative writing class. A guy was feeling kind of nervous about the poem he wrote, and before he read it, he started explaining it. “Well, see, you have to understand … I was trying to envision this man trying to describe this beautiful woman and …” Me, being the jerk that I am, interrupted him. “I don’t want to be rude, but don’t explain it. Read it, and let the piece speak for itself.”

And that’s the way I feel about any movie. When someone says, “Well, you have to read the book” about a movie, or refer to an interview that the director gave, then the movie has failed. I don’t want footnotes to explain the shit that made no sense in order to cover a flub. So, when I’m talking about Star Wars, I’m talking about the movie as it stands as a piece of work. I refuse to take footnotes into consideration.

Side note: I think Lucas said he never intended for Han to shoot first.

2. Admit it, Lucas Fucked Up. Let’s take a look at the dialogue. I’ll even go so far as to look it up.

Obi Wan: “Is it a fast ship?”

Han: “You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? … It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”*

According to the apologists, here’s what’s what’s going on according to the writers and Lucas’ intent: While making the Kessel Run, Han flew close to the event horizon of a black hole, which shortened the distance he actually had to fly, which makes “less than 12 parsecs” accurate, and shows how much of a kick-ass pilot Han is for pulling it off.

But without that knowledge, let’s look at what’s going on. Obi Wan is clearly asking about SPEED, the logic being that if the ship is really fast, they’ll make it to Alderaan in less time (t = d/r). Han responds that the ship made a specific run in terms of DISTANCE (d = rt), not in TIME or RATE.

So, if we apply this conversation to our daily, non-space traveling lives, it goes like this:

Me: “Is your car a fast car?”

Han: “Fast car? You’ve never heard of the Chevy Nova? I made it from Cleveland to Pittsburgh in 134 miles.”

Me: “Yeah, so I have I. HOW LONG DID THE TRIP TAKE?”

Han: “134 miles.”

Me: “You’re an idiot. NEXT.”

Now sure, the apologists can argue all day long that space travel isn’t the same as travel on earth. I get that. But it still reflects piss-poor writing. For example, if doing the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs is such a big accomplishment, shouldn’t Obi Wan be asking “In how many parsecs will it take you to get to Aldaraan?” (distance) instead of asking about how fast it is (rate)?

Also, the “kick-ass pilot” logic that the apologists bring up isn’t reflected in Han’s answer. He didn’t say, “With me flying, we made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” He talks specifically about the ship (again, a “rate” issue), not how his flying skills saved the day.

Later on, Han talks about how he “outran those Imperial slugs.” Again, he’s talking speed (or rate), not distance.

So, clearly, Lucas and the writers fucked up, and the conversation is horribly flawed.


*And yes, I know this isn’t fully accurate. Refer to above picture.


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