The more I read about the departure of George Lucas’s neofuturist storage unit, that unsightly blob of a building meant to house his movie posters and Yoda holograms, the sorrier I felt for the guy. He’s 72 and he just wants a museum. “A legacy piece.” Billionaires need their trap houses, too. This is America.
But by op-ed and column No. 100—each, by the way, with their own sophomoric Star Wars lead (“What was he trying to build over there, the Death Star?”)—the happier I found myself.
First, that people actually preferred a vaguely lunar parking lot to a movie mogul’s spaceship should, at the very least, make us all laugh. Rahm Emanuel and George Lucas were beaten by a group that calls itself “Friends of the Parks” fighting to protect a parking lot. This sounds like a real Chicago story, or in Star Wars vernacular, a saga. But it’s really a postmodern political power play, a rollicking side-plot in a Pynchon novel come to life.
Truly, though, the most hilarious bit to emerge from this entire situation was when Father Michael Pfleger compared Friends of the Parks to a notorious street gang.
“Where I live, a self-appointed group that starts making calls for the neighborhood, they’re called a gang,” the reverend said. “They’re a gang of self righteous elitist people. . . Tell me the difference between Friends of the Parks and the Gangster Disciples?”
There’s clearly no difference, reverend. Both groups have only the best interests of Chicago’s children in mind. As for the parks and recreation crew being elitists, the Reader thoroughly exposed the irony of that argument in May.
Seriously, though. There is real cause for celebration: the defeat of Rahm and his fleet of self-interested, neoliberal stormtroopers.
What Rahm called our city’s loss is actually a big win for Chicago’s discontented citizenry. It’s a win against the creditor/debtor relationship constructed by billionaires and exploited by politicians, a win that shows that the real elites in this saga have lost their ability to dictate outcomes on the political stage. Let’s celebrate that.
But what about all the jobs, the tourism, the celebrity, the field trips, you say? By now you’re pigeonholing me as an anti-capital, pitchfork wielding, Bernie brocialist out for billionaire blood. That’s fair enough. But the notion that this museum would come remotely close to solving any of our economic and social woes was and always will be a political chimera. Lucas’s vanity project masquerading as an economic boon was merely a shiny Band-Aid our mayor could point to as an achievement.
But aside from the whole thing being a grift, Rahm’s current political capital amounts to a mathematical zero. Rahm is so detested that anything he tries to sell us right now would be given the smack down. Everything he touches looks ugly.
The project was politically tainted, simply because his name was attached. Yes, even too tainted for the “young black and brown children” Lucas’s wife, Mellody Hobson, invoked to tug at our heartstrings.
Had Lucas and Hobson—a Chicago-native and financial exec—attempted to court us, had they even tried to explain what the shit Narrative Art is and why we should want it on our shores, maybe there would have been some capitulation.
Or maybe the result would have been more favorable for Lucas if Rahm had stayed out of the fight so he could instead focus on reforming a police department powerful enough to cover up murders.
That no one is willing to play ball with Rahm and his friends is what we’re celebrating.
And so, this museum is going back to California where it belongs. San Francisco previously quashed the project the same way Chicago did. Looks like it’s all you, LA! (A city more enlightened to both the whims of billionaire celebrities.) Meanwhile, all of us backwards Chicagoans will be waiting for real poverty-alleviating change that doesn’t come in the form of a supposedly magnanimous gift.