"Angry 80's Nerd" Roland D. Pierce's letter to George Lucas on Empire Strikes Back
Years ago, when ATTACK OF THE CLONES came out, a friend of mine who works at Lucasfilm Archives sent me a copy of this letter to George Lucas. It was a sprawling 9 page, hand-written letter from Roland D. Pierce. I had forgotten all about it until THE LAST JEDI came out and some of the criticism of it sounded familiar. For brevity, I’ve edited it down to its essential points. There was a long tangent/theory about how Obi-Wan was Luke’s grandfather. Another tangent/theory of how Star Wars represented Disco and Empire represented New Wave Music. I didn’t fully follow it and ultimately it felt irrelevant. Also, the story of how high school kids stole his Artoo action figure and repainted it red to prove that it was a “commie” felt unnecessary. I do mention it, because my friend and I theorize that Roland was anywhere between 15-18 years old at the time of the EMPRIE's release in 1980.
At the time, my buddy sent me this letter, he couldn’t find any other letters to Mr. Lucas from Mr. Pierce. I feel like there must have been more and intend on calling my friend up and resuming the search. We always referred to him as “80’s Angry Nerd, Roland D. Pierce.”
NOTE: I have added these jpegs.
Dear Mr. Lucas,
I’m the biggest Star Wars fan in the galaxy but maybe no more. I just saw Empire Strikes back and am writing to you now to let you know that because of your movie, I don’t want to play Pac-Man anymore, Rubik’s Cube doesn’t capture my imagination anymore and I’m putting away my Kenner action figures. Empire Strikes Back ruined everything for me. You took all that was great about Star Wars and threw it into the trash compactor. If you want to keep the fans of Star Wars, I have a list of questions for you Mr. Lucas and I demand some answers.
Let’s just start with the big question. Luke Skywalker is Darth Vader’s son? How does that even work? Darth Vader doesn’t even have a zipper in his pressurized space suit. When I saw Star Wars, I felt like I could have been Luke Skywalker, a nobody farm boy who dreams of more. But now he’s the descendant of the biggest evil in the galaxy? He went from the every-man to some kind of chosen heir of the force? I guess we everyday people just have to wait to find out that we’re somehow special.
I don’t understand how Ben can suddenly be a ghost now and just show up to move the story along. How does the force work anyway? It doesn’t make scientific sense. Maybe it’s back to the drawing board on that. Develop some laws of the Force and stick to it. For example, Star Trek does this to perfection with Spock. He has no emotions, he has the Vulcan Neck Pinch and has to go through Pon Farr. It stays constant! So, the audience can follow along. It’s not a bunch of made up in the moment fantastical super powers.
Which brings me to Yoda. Who the hell is Yoda and where did he come from? In Star Wars it is clearly stated that the Jedi's light has been all but extinguisded from the galaxy. Except for Ben...and Yoda. This undermines Darth Vader, becaue if he hunted down the Jedi, he didn't really do a very good job of it. Also, if Yoda is such a powerful Jedi Master, why doesn’t he just go fight Vader himself instead of hiding out in a swamp? Seems unrealistic to me that someone so wise would send Luke off to fight Darth Vader. And he barely teaches Luke anything. He can lift some rocks? Where’s the lesson on controlling the weak minded? Where’s his light saber training? And what’s going on with that cave Luke goes into? That scene made me think that Luke had a twin brother who was Darth Vader. That would have been interesting. Not, as I’ve already covered, being Luke’s father.
The AT-ATs are really neat, but where’s the big Death Star type of weapon the Empire always has? I kept expecting Cloud City to turn into a super-laser that Han and Leia would have to destroy before it was turned on Hoth or Tatooine. But there was nothing like that. Just a hallway gun fight and a light saber fight at the end. Here’s a suggestion, instead of freezing Luke, why doesn’t Darth Vader just put him in a force choke hold like George “The Animal” Steele putting a sleeper hold on someone. Seems like Darth Vader could just force choke Luke to sleep. Instead he has some overly complicated plan that doesn’t even work. As an audience member, how can I even believe Darth Vader is at all powerful when his ACME Ice Maker doesn’t even catch the Road Runner? When I get my Kenner Cloud City playset, it’s going to be a super laser and Darth Vader will choke sleep-hold Luke.
Speaking of Cloud City, Lando betrays his best friend Han? Then Lando has the audacity to try and help Leia save Han? Chewbacca should have strangled him right there and then. How can they even trust Lando in the future? No can do, Mr. Lucas. Star Wars is about good and evil, dark and light. Two distinct sides. There are no shades of gray in Star Wars.
And that ending. What a downer. The good guys are supposed to win. I guess I have to wait and find out just like I have to wait find out who shot JR. Unlike your movie Empire Strikes Back, I know Dallas won’t let me down.
Which leads me to this, which isn’t a question Mr. Lucas but a statement of fact. There were too many cooks in the Death Star kitchen making blue milk. Who are these people Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett and Irwin Kirshner? To answer for you, only the people who completely destroyed the beautiful universe you created. I saw you on TV you say Star Wars was a nine episode cycle. In that case, Empire Strikes Back will go down as the worst movie ever in that cycle, if people even remember it. Could you maybe just do it all yourself and not let any more people ruin your vision?
At least with Han out of the picture, I can look forward to the Luke and Leia relationship finally heating as the last image of Empire Strikes Back clearly hints at!
The Force will be with me, Always,
Sincerely the biggest Star Wars fan,
Roland D. Pierce
PS - Luckily, I have Flash Gordon to look forward to this December. That definitely will be the spark that reignites my love of science fiction.