But even in 1983, when this clip was aired on ABC’s Nightline, it was already going out of fashion to treat popular entertainments as infantilizing forces. John Simon of National Review tells Ted Koppel that the Star Wars movies “are completely dehumanizing,” adding, “Let’s face it, they are for children, or for childish adults, they’re not for adult mentalities, which unfortunately means they are not for a lot of my fellow critics, who also lack adult mentalities.” Among other complaints, he says, “You have three lousy actors in the main roles who don’t contribute much flesh and blood.”
Robert Ebert and Gene Siskel have good fun with the Grinch trying to steal Star Wars, and why not? They not only easily won the argument about Star Wars, but also the meta-argument, one that is unchallenged today: that childish entertainments are also serious entertainments, that low-brow and high-brow are increasingly meaningless distinctions, and that liking something is itself evidence of artistic merit. But there was a time when that was not the case—which coincided, perhaps not coincidentally, with a time when such matters were discussed, semi-seriously, on television.