Humansplaining: Star Wars From the Aliens’ Perspective

rr-heracham

Human diversity in the Galaxy Far, Far Away has been a major focus of this site, and myself personally, over the years, but there’s been a parallel conversation running alongside that all along in the representation of droids and aliens: how many, which kinds, what are they doing? While real people seeing themselves directly and fulsomely represented in these stories—in the films especially—is certainly a higher priority, Star Wars is arguably not very well equipped to address things like racism and sexism in a direct fashion, and instead normally chooses to do so through subtext and metaphor.

The Mos Eisley cantina is notable for being not just the first major showcase of the galaxy’s alien demographics, but for the first instance of “metaphorical prejudice” in the form of Wuher banning the droids from his establishment. That moment coupled with an Imperial officer describing Chewbacca as a “thing” not long after makes George Lucas’s view of prejudice quite clear—even if the overall whiteness and maleness of the film’s protagonists does him no favors.

Droids and aliens, then, have never been there just for texture, but for metaphor as well—a way for the story to comment on real human biases without overtly importing them into its universe. While Solo‘s recent efforts to engage with droid prejudice were, well, inconsistent at best, the fact is that the films have never even attempted to put nonhuman prejudice on the front burner.

Lack of foregrounding, however, doesn’t equate to silence: if you choose to take the demographics seriously and not just as texture you’ll find that the films have been saying quite a bit. The goal of this piece, then, is to do just that—assume every human role and every nonhuman role is one hundred percent deliberate, and extrapolate accordingly. To be clear, this is very much a thought experiment, and not a suggestion of intentional messaging on the part of the creators.1 ILM and Lucasfilm’s creature shop (whew, just calling it that in this context is awkward) have done a lot of amazing work over the years, but how that work is distributed throughout the story tells a story of its own. What messages do we come away with when we treat that subtext as text? » Read more..

  1. Though it does seem to be in some cases, as I’ll discuss later. []

The Phantom Menace is Innocent: We’re to Blame for Modern Cinema Culture

jar-jar-binks-fall-mouth-open-star-wars-phantom-menace

Ah, clickbait. “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is To Blame For Modern Cinema Culture” is a wonderfully clickbaity headline, and I was baited to click. Now I’m going to add my voice to the silliness. The article, by Hannah Jenkins, caused a bit of a stir in the digital gazebo known as Star Wars Twitter, arguing as it did that TPM was responsible for many of the trends in current popular cinema, the good and the bad. Most of these arguments were not particularly convincing. The true legacy of TPM, and the lessons we can take from it, can be found when we look not at the industry or at the movie itself, but at ourselves.

Jenkins argues that TPM’s trailer was a defining moment in the marketing of movies, and there’s truth in this. Suddenly the advert was an event in and of itself, and following the “illegal” sharing of it across the internet, studios quickly had to catch up with this new digital way of consuming these things. I remember spending anxious hours downloading each Attack of the Clones trailer via dial-up on QuickTime (an ironic name if ever there was one), and being irritated by Warner Bros.’ attempts to force us into the cinema to watch Scooby Doo by releasing only a thirty-second trailer for the trailer of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets online. Maybe TPM did lead the way to the era of big simultaneous Super Bowl/Twitter trailer reveals. And Jar Jar Binks was certainly a leap forward when it came to motion capture, though this can be overstated: he was hardly the first fully CGI leading character in a movie, with Casper, Dragonheart and Mars Attacks all preceding him.

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Eye of the Beholder – In Celebration of Star Wars Fans

Luke looking out on the two suns before he dies on Ahch-To

There was one element of Star Wars Rebels‘ “Twin Suns” that eluded interpretation. Over the course of my multi-part close read, with every ridiculous theory I crafted for the episode’s name, I could not place it. Why were there so many shots of eyes that looked like the suns?

Maul’s eyes were the right color. Obi-Wan’s were similar to the blue of the twin moons, which served as a stand-in for the suns at night. There was a close-up of Ezra’s eye that made the pupil and the dot reflection look like the suns across the blue “sky” of his iris. Even Chopper had a moment where he was cropped by the frame so that only two of his optics were visible. “Twin Suns” did use eye close-ups and point-of-view shots to establish whose perspective the audience was to engage with, so these decisions were not wholly without reason. And yet I still could not make the connection to why these eyes resemble the suns, almost deliberately so.

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What The Clone Wars Can Teach Us About Racial, Social, and Economic Justice

tcw-talz

Throughout discussions of The Clone Wars, little has been explored surrounding the intersections of race and class. In this piece, I will show how The Clone Wars includes the narratives of those affected by social injustice, and why it’s important to tell the stories of those who are the least visible. While the show delves into the disastrous repercussions of escalating militarization and war, and the political machinations constantly at play, it also centers many of the underrepresented communities that are most directly impacted.

We see that in the season one episode “Trespass” surrounding the Talz, an alien indigenous community who are caught in the middle of the imperialism and hyper-nationalism of Pantoran leader Chairman Cho. The Chairman presents a “clash of civilizations” between Pantora, the Republic, and the Talz, calling for genocide and an “extermination” of the indigenous race, leading to needless violence and death. Cho declares that the Pantorans have a sovereign right to Orto Plutonia, and the Talz must either submit to their rule or be entirely erased as a population.

In “Trespass”, it’s clear how this is part of a larger process of alien groups being cast and constructed as the racialized Other. Not only does Cho describe the Talz as inherently barbaric “savages” who are “little more than animals”, Anakin also echoes these sentiments, referring to the highly intelligent species as “things”. Indeed, the episode shows that the real costs that come with war are not just lives lost in senseless violence, but also barriers standing in the way of agency and social justice for the universe’s most marginalized communities. » Read more..

On Age of Republic and Fatherhood

Obi-Wan attempts to arrest Jango Fett on Kamino

Writer Jody Houser continues her incredible work in making these dual-and-dueling Age of Republic issues rhyme with each other. The December releases focused on the public misconceptions of Jedi as warriors, using Qui-Gon and Maul to provide counterpoints on the topic. When the Obi-Wan issue was released, January’s focus was clear. Like Ryan at Mynock Manor I had anticipated the common theme between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett’s Age of Republic issues to be fatherhood. As someone who delights in familial themes in fiction, I was ready to tackle this head-on!

Unfortunately, despite my enthusiasm and the excellent work by Houser and her teams, I was hamstrung in my analysis. I found myself unable to go as deep into the characters as I had with Qui-Gon and Maul. Understand, I am about the farthest thing from a father as one can get: a childless woman.

Now that doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion about fathers and fatherhood, but Obi-Wan’s (“Mission”) and Jango’s (“Training”) comics were focused very much on these men’s internal lives as fathers. That’s an area I am unfamiliar with, and I could not do these issues justice on my own. Fortunately, I happen to know some fathers. My own dad and one of my brothers were able to take the time to chime in with their own experiences.
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