Do or Do Not: Anthony Bourdain, Star Wars, and Failure

Like so many, I was deeply saddened by the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. He produced many great TV shows and pretty much created modern food culture with Kitchen Confidential. He was a once in a generation influence.

I was watching one of his final interviews where he made a point that I’ve been thinking a lot about ever since. (I highly recommend watching the full thing.) He said, “I’d much rather not make TV at all or make unsuccessful TV than competent television…I detest competent, workman-like storytelling…I’d rather fail.” At the face of it, attacking competency seems wilfully ignorant, but what Bourdain means here by “competent storytelling” is by the numbers acceptable mediocrity.  He’d rather take a chance at something different and fail. “There are shows where people are just going to hate it. They don’t like the style, they think it’s self-indulgent. But that’s the kind of failure I like. A powerful reaction one way or another is infinitely preferable to pleasing everybody.”

Bourdain’s preference for an interesting mistake as opposed to passable dross made me think about the controversy surrounding The Last Jedi, a film that has been heavily criticized for taking too many liberties with the source material. Many irate fans have gone so far as to start a fundraiser to remake the movie.

I agree TLJ has some issues, but how it deserves a remake as opposed to Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones boggles my mind. I mean, yes, the stuff on Canto Bight was a slog and it was frustrating that the series set up some red herrings with Snoke and Rey’s parents, but I loved what they did with Luke’s character, which is what seems to have pissed off most of these fans. And what I loved about it is that they totally subverted my expectations. And so ultimately, I would say that I prefer TLJ to The Force Awakens because while TLJ is in many ways a failure, it is an interesting failure, whereas TFA is just middling fan service.

And I think Bourdain would agree with me.

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