Last week, in San Francisco, the Presidio Trust, a federal agency that oversees the former military base-turned-national park, made George Lucas an offer. For several years, the group and the movie mogul have gone back and forth over plans for a proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum featuring his collection of art and memorabilia. After rejecting Lucas' first location choice, multiple sources reported, they offered him another spot in the area. But, that's not where the story ends. According, to a recent New York Times article, there is talk of taking the museum to another city. Chicago was the only one mentioned by name. Perhaps Los Angeles should be in the running as well.
You might think this is ridiculous, particularly if you're a Lucas fan reading this from some city other than Los Angeles. A museum in San Francisco makes sense. Lucas has lived and worked in the area for much of his career. The Bay Area isn't just the traditional home of Lucasfilm – its cities served as locations for American Graffiti and parts of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hollywood was what Lucas escaped.
But if San Francisco is going to be a pain about this museum idea, maybe the project should land in a city where people really care about Lucas' contribution to filmmaking. Theoretically, that could be anywhere. The museum could end up on Hardangerjøkulen, the glacier in Norway that functioned as Hoth, and people would still visit it because the Star Wars legacy runs that deep. Los Angeles is a little different though. In L.A. the museum wouldn't be a destination so much as a part of life.
In the New York Times article, writer Deborah Solomon notes that the museum would put the emphasis on “visual arts in their most popular and critically ignored form,” citing comics, illustration and animation as examples. L.A. is this city where those art forms aren't just accepted, but are exalted, both as part of the city's daily business and at crowded, Saturday night gallery openings. Need proof? Check out a show at Gallery 1988 or GR 2.
Moreover, L.A. is where Lucas' work has had a long-standing influence. How many folks in our creative industries can cite Star Wars as the beginning of an obsession with film or toys or even puppets? Think for a second about the Star Wars parodies that Adult Swim series Robot Chicken did, parodies made with some much love and attention to minutia in the franchise that they could only come from the most hardcore of fans. They were made in Burbank.
His influence on L.A. has also been felt directly, at USC's film school. Lucas went to school there, and it remains a big deal for him: Back in 2006, Lucasfilm donated $175 million. Part of the film school is now named the George Lucas Building.
Let's go beyond the obvious, though. Los Angeles is for the Luke Skywalkers. It's a place where young dreamers land after escaping the boredom of their personal Tatooines. It's for the Han Solos, the rebels with a rickety set of wheels looking for their next paycheck. It's for the Leias, the ones for whom home no longer exists.
Sure, we've got your Darth Vaders and Emperor Palpatines too. That's part of the struggle of L.A., the rebels vs. the Empire. On one side you have your artists, the people who want to make ends meet, the ones who want to make a positive change in the world. On the other side, you have the ones who don't want to let go of power. L.A. is where creators with strong visions – writers on their laptops, indie filmmakers, YouTube stars – somehow find a way to survive, even when big Hollywood's stranglehold seems a little Vader-ish. Sometimes, the pressure to turn to the dark side is intense. Many will flirt with it. Some will find no way of return. Certainly, this is a city with its fair share of Anakin stories. Others will fight the urge. They'll become our Lukes. With age, they are our Obi-Wans, maybe even our Yodas, the elders who help guide us through this weird place.
It's not just about L.A.'s art scene or the presence of the entertainment industry. We are the characters that have packed Lucas' most famous work,