Just when you thought the most offensive thing about Star Wars was Jar Jar, along comes a claim that a LEGO set from Return of the Jedi is racist. Really.
The LEGO set in question (pictured above) is the "Jabba's Palace" playset, released last June. It depicts, as you can see, the familiar palace exterior and throne room from Return of the Jedi, and it comes with figures of Jabba, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Salacious Crumb and even a Gamorrean Guard to keep watch in the tower (but no Boba Fett, because the world is full of disappointment). Jedi was released in 1983, which means it turns 30 years old this year, but all that time hasn't stopped the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria (TCCA) from deciding that now's the time to complain about Jabba's Palace.
So what's the beef? Well, according to the TCCA, the palace bears an uncomfortable resemblance to both the Hagia Sophia (a 1,600-year-old former basilica and mosque that's now a museum in Istanbul) and the seventh-century Jami' al-Kabir mosque in Beirut. But so what? After all, George Lucas had a variety of influences for his creations, and the point was to make the palace look exotic. What's wrong with that? Well, the TCCA concern isn't what the building looks like, necessarily. It's who lives there.
"It is clear that the figure of the ugly villain Jabba and the whole scene [exemplifies] racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against … Orientals and Asians as sneaky and criminal personalities (slaveholders, leaders of criminal organizations, terrorists, criminals, murderers, human sacrifice)…," the group wrote on its website.
In other words, if you design a building that looks similar to one of our buildings, then make it the home of a bad person, you're saying that anyone associated with our buildings is a bad person. The group also took issue with the Gamorrean Guard in the tower, and with the various blasters and turrets mounted on the palace, because that seems to suggest that anyone who would live near the Hagia Sophia is violent ... or something. The group also calls Jabba a "terrorist" who "likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed," apparently to claim further stereotyping.
And yes, someone could point out to the TCCA that Jabba's a gangster, not a terrorist, and that he was being so mean (in part) because Han owed him money, but it's probably more important to note that they're about three decades late in crying foul at the palace architecture. Still, maybe J.J. Abrams can call them in to consult on Episode VII?