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Star Wars: The Triumph of Nerd Culture engagingly reveals how the most popular film franchise of all time sprang from the mind of a deeply insecure nerd, who then inspired and betrayed a generation of fans.
Benson, a University of Wisconsin Parkside associate professor of English, offers a readable but insubstantial review of George Lucas's work as the creator of the Star Wars series and his place in "nerd culture." At pains to define Lucas as a "nerd," in the sense of being attuned to technology and to science fiction and fantasy at the expense of his ability to interact with other people (and particularly women), Benson traces Lucas's transformation from the nerdy director of avant-garde films like 1971's THX-1138 into the consummate studio mogul who, in 2012, sold his series to Disney for more than $4 billion. In this context, Lucas's protracted battle with Star Wars fans over control of his films' legacy emerges as both a repudiation of his nerdy roots and an all-too-nerdy appeal for attention and affirmation. The accompanying psychologizing of Lucas, unfortunately, is a bit ham-handed, with Benson suggesting that Lucas is essentially asexual, as reflected in the failure of his first marriage, the "genitalia-inspired" design of many of the monsters featured in his films, and even Lucas's use of in-vitro fertilization during his second marriage. Benson's fast-paced look at Lucas's career will have some value for Star Wars fans, but those looking for a nuanced take on his contributions to pop culture will be disappointed.