The latest installment of the Star Wars saga is rife with racially charged insinuations that have no place in a family movie, a panel of moviegoers tells The Detroit News.

Latino critics say Episode II: Attack of the Clones plays on American paranoia about Mexican immigration with its army of lookalikes marching in lockstep by the tens of thousands. The fact that the soldiers are bred on the planet Kamino — which sounds like the Spanish word "camino" — is a dead giveaway to the bias, the critics say.

Bounty Hunter Jango Fett even looks Latino, the critics say. The movie was like "those Reagan ads in the 1980 campaign, that suggested if Nicaragua went communist, you'd have wild-eyed Mexicans with guns running across the California border," says Wayne State history professor Jose Cuello.

But Arab-Americans seized on the fact that Jango's son calls him "Baba," Arabic for father, as proof that Lucas is actually denigrating Arab-Americans, not Latinos. "I frankly think the bounty hunter is Arab," college counselor Imad Nouri told the paper. "He's basically a terrorist."

A flabbergasted Lucasfilm spokeswoman, Jeanne Cole, said it was the first they heard of these complaints. "Star Wars is a fantasy movie filled with creatures and aliens from all different planets and universes and galaxies," she said. "There is no basis for this."

Ad-verse Reactions

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority is out with its always-amusing annual report, and this year's most-complained-about adverts are rife with ageism, sexism and prejudicial language.

The sixth most-complained-about ad is from Burton's Biscuits Ltd., and was said to "denigrate travelling showmen and misleadingly reinforce prejudicial stereotypes about fairground businesses." It featured a carnival-style poster with old-fashioned lettering promising "No Rigged Games Run by Dodgy Looking Blokes With Hats" and "No Goldfish That Die as Soon as You Take Them Home."

The ASA concluded that the ad was tongue-in-cheek and unlikely to be taken literally.

The seventh most-whined-about ad featured two older ladies attempting to cross the street with a truck approaching in the distance. The ad, for Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, showed betting odds superimposed next to the ladies, and was said to be "ageist, offensive and demeaning to the elderly."

The ASA concluded the poster was likely to cause serious or widespread offense and told the advertisers to withdraw it.

Italians Under Attack

Another roundup of 2001's worst offenses comes from the Italian-American One Voice Coalition and describes dozens of instances of "defamation, discrimination and negative stereotyping" of Italian-Americans.

Much of the group's complaints center on HBO's Sopranos series. (Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's refusal to denounce the program earned him the designation "Pasta-Tute of the Year.")

The non-Sopranos related complaints focused mainly on advertisements. Among the offenders were a Red Lobster commercial featuring caricature mobsters talking about "breaking the legs" of lobsters, and one by the International Dairy Association featuring two stereotypical Italian-American thugs (one named Vinnie) trying unsuccessfully to break the bones of a milk drinker who owes them money.

The group also complained about a restaurant at the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas serving sandwiches named after infamous gangsters, and an online game at the TGI Friday's Web site called "Moofia," in which a cow named Jimmy Hoofa mows down barnyard bad guys named Tony Piglioni, Da Rat, Busta Chops, and Frankie Fowlmouth.

Marketplace of Ideas, Chapter III

A white journalism student at Iowa State University was banned from class and likened to a white supremacist by his black professor because he criticized the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and defended racial profiling, reports The Des Moines Register.

Jay Gardner said he was merely defending against a constant anti-white attack because his classmates were afraid to. "If you're going to make claims that white America is intentionally suppressing, holding down, oppressing African-Americans ... you have to let some students give their opinions on it, and that wasn't happening," he said.

But the professor, Tracey Owens-Patton, complained that Gardner turned the class, "Ethnicity, Gender, Class and the Media," into a racial battleground, harassed her and kept other students from learning.

The university backed the professor, but Gardner is fighting the decision. 

Furling the Flags

A university in the United Kingdom banned students from flying the flag of St. George, the flag of England, before or after the World Cup because to do so might cause racial tension, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Warwick University, which issued the edict, said more than 100 nationalities are represented in the school's dormitories, and they might take offense at the flag.

Julie Kirkbride, a Tory legislator from the area, called it "outrageous that students, or anybody else, should not be able to display the flag for the English football team. The authorities at Warwick University should get a life."

After criticizing the complaining students as being "childish," the university eventually relented and allowed them to fly the flags of those teams that qualify for the soccer tournament.

Mailbag:

Cpl. William M. writes:

I would just like to say that, this Memorial Day Weekend, hundreds of marines and sailors will be enjoying tasty hamburgers shipped in from the USA. I, for one, would just like to raise my savage, cruel meal in a salute to starved vegetarians everywhere. If not for you, there wouldn't be enough for me.

Mandi S. in Houston, Texas, writes:

I am usually in agreement with how bizarre some of the PC is. However, I see nothing PC-ish about changing athletic equipment to be cruelty-free. If it works as well and no one suffers for it, then how on earth is that PC?

Phil H. in Yankton, S.D., writes:

Two days after PETA issued their news release, the NCAA issued one saying the switch to basketballs made of synthetic material had nothing to do with PETA's stance on the issue. The NCAA had already decided to switch to basketballs manufactured by Wilson, and PETA just showed up to try to take credit for the switch.

Terry G. writes:

Doesn't anybody actually use dictionaries before they propagate this stuff? A quick glance at the Merriam-Webster indicates that the term nitty-gritty is of "unknown origin" and dates from the mid-20th century. And just to be sure, I checked the Oxford English Dictionary, which agreed with Merriam-Webster--unknown origin and mid-20th century. That's a little late in the day for slave trade origins.

David S. writes:

There is no question that rape in the public jail system is not something to be made light of. It is indeed a travesty of American justice that this sort of behavior occurs in the prison system. It is "cruel and unusual," and not a part of the punishment or rehabilitation process. That something so emotionally and physically devastating is used for comic relief in a soda pop commercial is despicable. Would it be appropriate to use a skit where altar boys are all nervous around catholic priests? Of course not.

Byron W. in Chattanooga, Tenn., writes:

The "Adventures in Etymology" piece clearly illustrates why homosexuals should not be allowed in the military. Homosexuals are admitting that there is "sexual tension" when they have same-sex roommates; the same sexual tension that exists between heterosexual different-sex roommates.

Jason R. writes:

So, PETA thinks the nickname "Pickers" would be better than "Packers" since it would promote a healthier diet? Well, I for one am shocked and offended by their suggestion, as I find it's ignorant of and insensitive to the plight of migrant workers who come to this country to do work that the average American citizen views as beneath them.

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