about Andor: don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining

piss on my leg and tell me it’s piss! how i respond will depend entirely on you, not on piss.

i just watched Andor, and now i’m having thoughts, and even opinions. i knew it was a bad idea. up til now, after a bone-deep enthusiasm that didn’t really last past 1988, i’ve been immune to the siren song of lucasville (aside from the visual design, which always looks great and makes no fucking material sense of any kind).

i know that makes me odd. but let’s get real, here.

the only hint of insurrectionism, or of anarchism, is the kid who gets killed off in the first reel, just like the dismissable-but-inspiring idealist always does. this time in an accident, too, so they can’t be accused of shooting the cutie, and maybe get some OSHA points (“and that’s why we always strap down our loot properly after an ex, pioneers!”). usually the only anarchist (if there is one), too, like in Robbing Mussolini (or whatever it’s called). that way they can be quoted and admired, but don’t actually get to say Killing The People You’ve Organized Is Wrong.

the rebels are the usual straight-up sectarian Chain of Command fetishists (sorry, i mean “democratic centralists” – the whole party gets to vote to approve the year-end reports! much democracy! very central!). ready to sacrifice however many grunts they have to, if it saves the ass of the future head of the secret police – they’re gonna need him later! and ready to tell another commander that they’re doing it, just in case he hasn’t realized they can blow his cover any time they want, so does he really want to tell today’s sacrificial lamb who’s on the menu?

led, of course, by space agnes gund – – i mean this as a compliment, really: there actually are plenty of more immediately deadly things that someone with that much money could be personally doing than ruling an art museum and shaping the highbrow sensibilities of several generations (and my dershowitz-fan aunt shares an ex-husband with her, so i feel connected); the real point, of course, is that luthan is inexplicably dykey in a delightfully new-england-WASP-heiress potter-turned-grave-goods-plunderer-in-assyria kind of way: i just wish that they’d actually thought things through enough to cast and direct her as the roz kaveney firestorm she could’ve been, instead of a poached egg – – who seems to be in charge mainly because she’s got a pair of rockefeller scions keeping her afloat. to which end, of course, they’re willing to hand over their only descendent for an arranged marriage to a classic postcolonial-national-bourgeois rising powerbroker (milosevic? assad? ghaddafi? the ANC’s banker?) within a fundamentalist national(ist) religion that they’ve abandoned the poor kid to find her only community in.

there’s no syndicalism in here either. the entire point of the prison is that it doesn’t matter what they’re making or whether they’re making anything at all. first off, we have no reason to think they’d be making anything strategic, or even of any meaningful importance. would you give prisoners the job of making munitions? arms? crucial industrial parts? fuck no. maybe parts for building more prisons – maybe just interstellar licence plates. but more important is what the kapo tells cass at the very start: it’s playing. it’s shaped like a shop floor, but that’s purely formal. it might as well be sports, or video games (the whole thing smacks a bit of Ender’s Game, right?), or competitive photorealist painting.

and cass himself is the very portrait of a textbook lumpen. he has an innate “peasant outlaw” / “noble savage” sense of justice that moves him to act. he has reason to hate the empire, but despite being raised by radicals following the genocide of his original home culture, he’s somehow supposed to find it impossible to see things systemically. until – o road to damascus! – he’s Disciplined by being Punished, reaching the spiritual level of True Proletarian, which we can see because he’s ready to put himself right with space agnes gund. (who as a treat will let him pretend what he’s doing has anything to do with the ethics of the dead kid with the manifesto – who if he’d lived would’ve been shot right before cass, or dumped with the volatile [was everybody darkskinned either volatile or icy in this?] commander to be disposed of in a suicide mission later)

what’s fucking wild, though, is that this is such a specific portrait, with such a specific fantasy revisionist ending.

cassian is space sam melville. hard-luck big-talking dude with a couple close friends and a jack-of-all-trades handiness. bit of a taste for smoke and fire, not so much for blood. got political, pulled some folks together with undeniable charisma, but the Real Politicos didn’t like the cut of his jib. did some successful and effective high-profile hits in a free-cell decentralized and unaccountable way. already narked out by someone in another affinity group by the time the groupuscules with Serious Cadre who wanted A Line and A Bureau In Charge decided to adopt his tactics.

and then he got murdered at attica. as part of the revolutionary committee in the uprising.

Andor is “what if sam melville had lived to join the RCP?”

(this, incidentally, also explains why the whole galaxy appears to be in the 1970s, aesthetically speaking.)

the best possible version, which might also be the worst possible version, would be that cass turns out to be victor serge. a guy who pulls himself into the bolsheviki because they look serious about winning and stays there by main force, against his better political judgement. and is right in the absolute center through the absolute worst of it. a guy whose memoir of the best years of his life doesn’t have anyone in it with a year of death that isn’t 1919-22, 1936-38, 1952, 1956… a guy who to his dying day remained loyal to a party and state that killed every comrade he ever cared about or respected (except for the handful fascists killed first). why? because he believed the revolutionary state justified itself through its existence, even if it betrayed the revolution. it’s not that he thought the ends justified the means: it’s that he thought the means – the party, the state – justified the means – the murders of his closest friends. believing that is not a fate i would wish on anyone.

i hope cassian’s writers let him do what katniss did. before not doing it rots him.

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