So you may have heard rumors of all kinds of drama involving Star Wars and the fans of Star Wars…you think….who cares? If you are not a fan of the Star Wars Universe, then that attitude is understandable. You are not going to understand or care about what is going on. But I am a big fan of Star Wars, and I am not sure I understand what is going on.
I have been trying to piece it together and understand what exactly is happening. Some of it seems fan driven while other aspects seem more like a marketing department’s tactics. Much like our modern day politics in the US, I am suspicious of so called grass roots upswing of unrest. The surge of almost violent hatred is curious since my past experience with Star Wars fans has been very positive. No matter what costume you wear, even opposing forces, have been positive. The fans are often like a big family.
So what is the problem? It seemed to start with the Star Wars Solo movie, but in reality stripping away the marketing nonsense…it starts with The Last Jedi film. What was wrong with The Last Jedi? Okay, this topic could require me to write a book that a non Star Wars fan would not be interested in reading. (I am assuming I have an audience of fans and non-fans.) The first problem with The Last Jedi is probably no George Lucas involvement. He was the guy that invented the whole Star Wars thing and worked with many creative minds and put together an amazing Universe of characters, settings, and concepts. So this stuff was established. People loved it. The next problem is probably the set of films referred to as the Prequels. The three Prequel films explain how we ended up with the most iconic bad guy in our current pop culture. Darth Vader is known throughout the world, and probably parts of distant galaxies by now… So what was wrong with the Prequels? No much. Some superficial problems with too much CGI, comic relief character Jar Jar Binks a bit too stupid, a child actor that seemed too young to play the role believably, and of course the Midichlorians. I think I hate the Midichlorians the most because they alter they way the established story worked. The other stuff did not affect the story line or the quality of the story telling. The acting and artwork was great. So what happened? I suspect with the blossoming of social media popularity and everyone wanting to share their opinion whether it was worth listening to or not, came a great deal of complaining and whining about the Prequel movies. I liked them. Sure, those items above were what I thought was less than perfect, but the stories were still good. I imagine that it must have been very difficult to play Anakin Skywalker as a young adult. Hayden Christensen had to make someone be appealing to an intelligent love interest enough for marriage and children to happen while slowly being turned into something dark and sinister. Not an easy task. I have noticed that he tends to avoid media contact and the child that played the young version of Anakin, Jake Lloyd, actually ended up in jail for a while. The young actor left acting due to the fact that he was being bullied by classmates. We live in dark times. I think the complaining about the Prequels opened the door for more aggressive behavior.
Imagine now, being in George Lucas’s shoes and being harassed by these strange so called rabid fans of Star Wars. I have my doubts as to whether one could actually call them fans. The toxic nature of their behavior is curious. What has happened to people? In the old days when people didn’t like something, they just stopped watching and buying stuff. The creators either fixed things or gave up. The business people simply move on to something else that will make money, but it is a bit harder for artists to simply walk away. Most art is created out of love and the desire to share. So when the fans became toxic, it actually hurt the artists involved. Some decided to move on to other projects while others needed to separate themselves from what was causing them pain.
So what does this stuff have anything to do with current Star Wars and what is happening now? One needs to understand the history behind the fandom before understanding what is happening now, and that is what I am attempting to do. I don’t understand why Disney and their writers decided to do what they did with the story line. It feels more like marketing a product than creating something out of love and a desire to share. What they have put together lacks soul and appeals to current dramas being played out in current events here in the US while still trying to make a quick buck off a very popular franchise. This is not the mindset of a person who wants to create an amazing story wrought forth from the very depths of their soul and heart. If you don’t understand what I am saying…then you are not a writer or an artist. And that’s okay. We are all different, but I am trying to explain what I think is going on. It bothers me because I do love Star Wars, and I have written work that is based in the Star Wars Universe. And mind you not simple fan fiction. Lots of research involved in this process. Lots of effort to be mindful of previous artists’ work. One does not ignore the foundations established by earlier artists. Respecting established character development and setting development is important and vital for a work to be truly part of an already established fictional Universe. One does not simply make Captain Kirk into a black woman because they think she will appeal to people and make a lot of money. One develops new characters if you need to. One does not destroy the beloved heroes and villains that fans have been enjoying for most of their lifetime. It pisses people off, and to be honest I think it is lazy. If you see a need for a particular hero or villain from a portion of the population, you don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. You make something wonderful and original.
So when I watched The Last Jedi wanting those amazing moments with Han, Leia, Luke, Chewy, C-3PO, and R2D2….I did not get them. They killed Han Solo off in The Force Awakens and painfully ignored a major cinematic moment when Chewy and Princess Leia should have embraced each other in tearful grief over the loss of their beloved Han Solo. Instead, Chewbacca and Princess Leia walked past each other and Leia embraces Rey, a girl she barely knows. It didn’t make sense. Strangely enough, I was actually hoping that Han had been rescued miraculously somehow by Mara Jade or Lando Calrissian and would show up in The Last Jedi. That didn’t happen. Why would I think that? Well, you see there are books that have been written about the years after The Return of Jedi movie that have been very popular with fans. The Mara Jade character was one of the new characters added along with Grand Admiral Thrawn. People love these characters and wanted to see them. So understandably they were disappointed. I think Star Wars fans were hoping that something awesome would occur with their favorite characters. I think they still had open minds to the possibilities even with the obvious changes made in The Force Awakens. Curiously, in the new movies most of the original characters are kept separate of each other or having been given such minimal parts that they are barely noticed. So the super hero trio was basically kept apart. Weird considering their on screen chemistry was part of what made the films so enjoyable.
So what am I getting at with all this stuff about character development? Well, Luke Skywalker is an iconic hero, or at least he was. The boy next door who has a heart of gold and tries to do the right thing. I think Finn is supposed to be one of these characters as well, but he keeps wanting to run away all the time, which is weird. The dark nature that the Disney writers placed upon Luke was as if they were trying to take advantage of Mark Hamill’s successful depiction of the Joker, the Trickster, and Fire Lord Ozai. Luke Skywalker is a pure hero, not a fallen one like Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader. To change a character so drastically was disrespectful to all the artists who had worked on the 40 years of Star Wars Universe films, books, and comics. And like I said, we live in dark times. We don’t have many heroes. For example Bill Cosby being a sexual predator, Matt Lauer being accused of inappropriate behavior in the work place, and the too numerous antics of sports icons behaving in less than admirably such as the Olympic star -Ryan Lochte. And these people at Disney decided that it was okay to rob people during dark social times of a hero that people looked upon as a role model. I wish we had more people like the original Luke Skywalker. We need them. People from all walks of life loved Luke. Contrary to marketing people’s thoughts, you don’t have to be a straight white male to love, look up to, or aspire to be like Luke Skywalker. This is fiction and we can escape and be whomever we want while watching these movies or reading these books.
I was actually depressed for two months after seeing The Last Jedi. I didn’t say anything because I thought people would laugh at me or say I was being silly about finding joy in fictional stories. But in dark times, we need inspiration that lifts our hearts so that we can continue on. We need those heroes whether they are Captain America, Captain Sisko, Wonder Woman, the Airbender Aang, or Doctor Who….we need our heroes and the inspiration they inspire within us.
I think this is just one of the reasons why there is so much angst going on within the Star Wars fan community. We need our role models even though they may not be real people that look exactly like us. It is their actions and journey of transformation that inspires us.
G. Winkler © 2018