George Lucas’ crypto-racism may have finally been laid bare in ‘episode one’ with the inexcusable Jar-Jar Binks, but the helmet-haired hack had been at it for some time. It’s well known that the whole ‘Jedi’ thing was a half-arsed reading of Japanese samurai ‘jidai’ (period-piece) dramas, and Yoda? Basically, Lucas and Henson just got together and painted their imagination of a ‘Master’ green, and accentuated the ears. Work it did. Successful it was. Rich are they now. Hrrrn?
But along with the Karate Kid’s ‘Mr Miyagi’, the image of Yoda the ‘wizened and small, yet wise and powerful’ master with ‘eerie powers’ has had a nasty effect on a whole generation of nerdlingers convinced of their psychically-enhanced martial arts abilities. One guy at my school suddenly started wearing a trenchcoat and a wrist brace. There were even rumours about that he could cast fireballs (hence the wrist brace, I suppose). I kept pestering him to do one for me, but he said he ‘wasn’t allowed’ to show me. By whom?! The scariest thing of all was that he was obviously deeply sincere.
There are other examples. Take this classic monologue from the Office’s Gareth:
"You know the phrase ‘softly softly catchy monkey’? …I could catch a monkey – if I was starving I could. I’d make poison darts out of the poison off deadly frogs. One milligram of that poison can kill a monkey. Or a man. Prick yourself, you’ll be dead within a day. Or longer. Different frogs, different times."
Gareth’s whole imagination is a little different – it’s all about ‘survival of the fittest’: SAS manuals, assassination fantasies and so forth. The Yoda complex is unlike this, due to its strong ‘spiritualist’ undercurrent. People with a Yoda complex are often convinced that they can ‘see’ ‘feel’ or ‘do’ things that you and I can’t. Like the Jedi mind trick. Or casting fireballs. And don't be fooled by their small stature, you see? Fireballs, I tell you. You've been warned.
I blame Ueshiba Morihei, the founder of the Japanese martial art Aikido (you know, the ones who wear skirts and flip each other). Ueshiba was a crackpot, involved in a religious cult that considers the inventor of Esperanto (invented as a ‘universal language’) a God. After beating up a guy with a wooden sword one day as a young adult (without harming him, of course) Ueshiba confessed that he felt the following:
“Suddenly, the ground began shaking. A golden vapour wafted up from the ground and enveloped me. I was transformed into a golden image, and my body felt as light as a feather. All at once I understood the meaning of creation: the Way of a Warrior is to manifest Divine Love, a spirit that embraces, loves, and protects all things.”Yeah right…
But no wonder – as a kid, he’d watched his father get the living crap kicked out of him. This was a guy who was deeply traumatised about his feelings of helplessness and insignificance. Steven Seagal is an aikido follower, which is interesting, because by all accounts he’s a nasty bully who enjoys hurting people on set. Or he did, until (Judo master) Gene LeBell put him in a choke hold on the set of ‘Under Siege’ (the one where Erica Eleniak comes out of the cake). Apparently Seagal ‘bet’ leBell couldn’t put him in a choke hold, as Seagal would be able to use his ‘ki’ (force) to prevent it having any effect. Well, leBell did, and Seagal went down like a big sack of jowls… falling unconscious and soiling himself in the process, apparently. Seagal claimed later that his ‘ki’ wasn’t flowing that day. I’ll bet.
Seagal is proof that you don’t have to be literally ‘small’ to have a Yoda complex, but it is something that affects people (mostly guys, but not always) who are worried about being small and helpless, and who feel the need to overcompensate as a result. Violent computer games, HSVs, Hummers, bodybuilding, the ability to cast fireballs – these are all ways for people who fear impotence to feel omnipotent. It's the small man's fantasy of bigness. You can see this happen every time you’re standing outside a nightclub; being stood over while you’re having your ticket checked on public transport by some fuck-knuckle (who thinks he’s in the Matrix ‘cos he’s wearing a trench-coat and Oakleys); or being ‘dressed down’ by your (Warcraft-and-anime-porn-addicted) ‘team leader’ at the call centre. What should one do when confronted by someone with a Yoda complex? My advice? Play up to it. Make like Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi, and ‘fall for Skywalker’s trick’:
Skywalker: “You will take me to Jabba now!”
Fortuna: “Aku takyu du Jabba, now.’”
Or if that gets tired… go the leBell.
© Peter Chambers 2007
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
- ► 2008 (29)
- ▼ June (5)