A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… People used to behave in a decent respectable way towards each other.
There has been a tonne of furore of late regarding ‘Star Wars’; the films and the fandom. More specifically, the treatment of talented actors, directors, producers and crew behind the latest installments in the ‘Star Wars’ legacy since it’s sale to Disney. Particularly post ‘The Last Jedi’, and pre the release of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, the atmosphere has reached toxic levels. The treatment of Rian Johnson, Kelly Marie Tran & Daisy Ridley, amongst others (but who I see targeted the most) is nothing short of disgusting and shameful. The idea to boycott a ‘Star Wars’ movie to prove a point and hurt the company and talent producing it is sad, especially from so called ‘fans’, who in truth are only doing themselves out of seeing a fun ‘Star Wars’ film on the big screen.
The reality breaks down like this; it’s absolutely fine to dislike a film, to criticise a story, character or a performance. It’s not ok to harass, bully and abuse hard working people who worked on those films.
Yet all this got me thinking, what really are the issues the fandom has with the Disney iterations of ‘Star Wars’? The answers are complex and varied. A common criticism of ‘The Force Awakens’ was that it was a rehash of ‘A New Hope’. One of the most common criticisms of ‘The Last Jedi’ was that it was too different, a total disregard for the structure and lore of ‘Star Wars’. Another common theme amongst those who dislike everything Star Wars has done since TFA, is that “diversity and ‘social justice warrior-ism’ is being forced down our throats”.
A female protagonist? A black protagonist? An apparently sexually-ambiguous character? A female stormtrooper captain? A feminist, equal-rights focused droid? Asian and Mexican characters?
Well, that’s crazy, unrealistic and only included to force diversity upon us, let’s go back to the original films where all was good, men dominated the screen time and the Admiral of the resistance army was a fucking fish. Seriously, it’s a movie containing all kinds of Alien races, so let’s not get caught up on the race, gender and sexuality of the characters being unrealistic. It’s tiring, and while you aren’t racist or misogynistic if you dislike these films, you probably are if your reason for disliking these films is because of the inclusion of POC and female actors getting bigger, more important roles.
The most disappointing thing about all this, in my opinion, is that ‘Star Wars’ has always had deep-rooted messages and themes about society, politics, inclusion, failure, redemption, balance and inner conflict. It always had an overriding message of hope. The newer films take these themes and crank them up further than their predecessors. That’s a good thing; and reflects that society today is more open-minded, inclusive and accepting. George Lucas’ original vision was to create something that could provide moral guidance, a sense of spirituality that could transcend religion;
“I see Star Wars as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct […] I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people”
Obviously, mentioning George Lucas brings up an important point in the discussion, ownership. Now, as fans, we’re all important. As people, all of our opinions matter. None of that gives you ownership of ‘Star Wars’. IT’S NOT YOUR STAR WARS. ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t exist to be what you want it to be, it exists to be what the creators wanted to be. ‘Star Wars’ owes you nothing, so boo-hoo if the story hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to in your own mind.
Now, I was born after the OT, saw them and fell in love with them as a kid. I’m old enough to remember ‘The Phantom Menace’ being released in cinemas, the line going all the way down the road, everyone in costumes, a full 16 years after the release of ‘Return of the Jedi’. 16 years. And it actually wasn’t very good. None of the prequel trilogy was actually great, and that was George Lucas telling the story George Lucas wanted to tell. 16 years! So spare me the talk of Disney ruining SW with its story direction and release schedule. We’re getting great ‘Star Wars’ movies almost every year. It’s a huge galaxy, there’s a million stories to tell, as long as the films are good and fun, there should be no issue. Who cares who makes them, so long as they’re good. George Lucas gave us three amazing films, followed by 3 average films and Jar Jar Binks.
So let’s look at the aforementioned issues; TFA being too similar to past ‘Star Wars’ stories. Lucas himself said that the stories always repeat, because that’s human nature. That was his vision for the expanded ‘Star Wars’ galaxy over time; and they do. Luke, a poor boy from nowhere, had incredible Force powers, and rose up to become the galaxies great hope against the evil of the Empire. In the prequel trilogy, Anakin, a poor orphan boy from nowhere, had incredible Force powers and rose up to become the galaxies greatest hope before succumbing to the Dark Side and becoming the greatest evil in the galaxy. TFA, Rey, a poor orphan girl has incredible Force powers, rises up to become the next great hope against the evil of the First Order. You could even make a prequel trilogy about Ben Solo’s rise and fall into Kylo Ren. That’s how in-sync the stories are. AND IT’S EXACTLY AS GEORGE LUCAS INTENDED IT.
Yet, it’s different. The themes of balance are much more present. Internal conflict, not only in force-sensitive people, but in a stormtrooper? The mindless soldiers of the Empire/First Order. That alone raised so many exciting new questions and possibilities, the exploration of the moral compass and conscience of Finn has been fantastic and fresh. Kylo Ren explores the inner conflict and pull of the light and dark more than any other character in previous ‘Star Wars’ films. It’s different because it’s more in touch with modern world views. It’s different because it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been or what you’re past is.
“Let the past die, kill it if you must”.
That line, apply it to the original films. The Skywalkers? The last of that bloodline is now Kylo Ren. Rey? A nobody. Snoke, unimportant, didn’t matter. Bold new steps in the way we tell ‘Star Wars’ stories, yet in line with how we tell Star Wars stories. It completely drives the saga in new directions while being faithful to the original ideals. Good vs bad, balance, inner conflict and redemption.
In terms of Rey being a ‘Mary Sue’, why does nobody ever mention that Luke is the biggest Mary Sue of them all? He’s amazing at everything and quite easily dispels the pull of the Dark Side without a tonne of effort or sacrifice. I love that ‘The Last Jedi’ particularly explores the idea of Luke as a failure, to himself and to Ben, and the wider universe by his self-imposed exile. I love that there’s redemption for Luke, and his death is a sacrifice after finding inner peace and faith in the force again, knowing that Rey will restore balance and be the light vs Kylo’s dark. A large part of why I love that is because it’s such a fresh take on a central ‘Star Wars’ theme, failure. Obi Wan failed Anakin, and ultimately, he paid the price. His death was sacrificial, but willing, as he had found inner peace, and knew Luke would take up the mantle for the light vs the darkness.
Ultimately, ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t owe anyone anything, it’s not your ‘Star Wars’, and people should be grateful that we get so much good SW content so often these days, whether it matches how it should of been in your head or not. Trust me, its better than waiting a decade and a half for a movie that didn’t match what you expected. But even when the prequel trilogy didn’t hold up in quality compared to the OT, that was fine. Agree to disagree, discuss what you’d have preferred and your critiques by all means. But, above all, be a decent person and resist the dark side of online abuse and bullying.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or discuss with us over on Twitter – @JUMPCUT_ONLINE