Ever since 2009, I’ve conducted an ongoing study of diversity in Star Wars fiction—first (and still) at the Jedi Council Forums, then here at Eleven-ThirtyEight. Over time, I developed a means of “diversity scoring” various stories based on the demographics of their casts, and began looking for trends and precedents in the franchise, for good or ill. One huge thing I’ve learned from this process is that it’s very, very hard to quantify diversity in a useful way; people inclined to argue with me will often yell “Quotas! One of everything!”, which is an easy logical leap to make but hardly a solution. Not all roles and stories are created equal, so simple math is at best a limited measure of work’s value.
This became especially clear to me a year ago, when scoring the first several works of the new Star Wars canon. While at first glance these stories had established a number of remarkable things like an all-female stormtrooper unit, a black main character for a middle-grade series, and several LGBTQ characters in a single book, these bold steps weren’t showing up in the scoring—if anything, the raw figures were slightly worse than they had been in my studies of Legends material. While the average score has ticked down a little over the last year—from 67 to 60—that feeling has mostly held up. » Read more..
Wait, I thought Rogue One was in the era of the Empire and all the good stuff, that it had nothing to do with the prequels? You may have thought that but it does not look to be so. For there is a prequel novel, Catalyst, which recently had a killer blurb come out:
War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.
Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.
After Revenge of the Sith in 2005, I thought we might get stories that drew on all six films, that the division between the trilogies might start to fade. It never happened. Oh, there were a couple of exceptions that really tried to make the most of the prequels – series like the Legacy comics, actually DHC really did try. On the whole? Nope. And we look to be heading for similar divided territory with the start of the sequel trilogy. » Read more..
The release of The Force Awakens in December saw, predictably, a wave of reflections on the Star Wars prequel trilogy: from brief, usually dismissive asides in reviews of JJ Abrams’s sequel, to a range of works defending the prequels’ artistic value. The most well known are Mike Klimo’s ambitious Ring Theory and the documentary The Prequels Strike Back, though I would also recommend these three articles as particularly eloquent and interesting perspectives on the first three episodes.
Beyond the critical response, the assumption is often that the prequels were generally received negatively by the fan community. After all, the most prominent voices in fandom had long been those of the original trilogy generation, where the response was indeed mixed, as the younger generation has taken time to grow into adulthood and find its voice. But as Abrams says:
“…if you ask someone around the age I was when the original trilogy came out, “Whats your favorite Star Wars movie?” they will tell you one of the original trilogy. If you ask someone around that age when the prequels came out, they will say one of the prequels. And it’s scientifically proven and undeniable.”
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Star Wars fandom, and this site in particular, have spoken at great length over the last year about the course charted by the New Republic from Endor through to the destruction of Hosnian Prime. Is the New Republic actually better than the old one? Is it different enough? Should it be different? We have an unusual frame of reference for these questions, because aside from a few hints in Aftermath, pretty much the first thing we saw the New Republic do was get blown up in The Force Awakens. Since then, both stories have gotten a lot of new elaboration and context, but we’re still debating the big question—could the destruction caused by Starkiller Base have been prevented somehow?
Way back in March, before we had either Bloodline or Life Debt to consider, Ben Crofts tackled this question head-on in his piece Fantasy Foresight—basically arguing that it would have been impossible for the New Republic to eliminate the vein of Imperialism that became the First Order without becoming just as bad as the Empire itself.
Surely they could have acted differently than they did, though, right? In last week’s guest piece What the New Republic Should Have Learned From the Old Republic, Chris Wermeskerch looked specifically at the example of Kashyyyk, whose liberation Mon Mothma argues against in Life Debt, and cites several examples where even the Old Republic, corrupt and bureaucratic as it was, managed to act in the interests of small, oppressed populations. Isn’t there a big grey area, Chris wonders, between absolute pacifism and rampant militarism? » Read more..
Any good government should learn from the mistakes and the successes of its forebears: in this case, after the defeat of the Empire, the New Republic should have copied the successes of the Old Republic without copying the mistakes that allowed Palpatine to take control so easily. The Old Republic, mired in controversy and stalemates, was easily manipulatable and powerless to stop its own corrosion, even though it was easily seen by every party involved. When all of the supplementary material for The Force Awakens was launched, I was shocked to see that the story of the New Republic was closely mirroring the story of the Old Republic. Stuck in a stalemate, the New Republic couldn’t decide how to move forward in terms of dealing with a shadowy organization that posed a pretty clear threat to it. I was afraid that we were seeing that the New Republic hadn’t learned the lessons it should have from the Old Republic and might prove itself to be in just as bad a place as the Old Republic. Bloodline seemed to explore the New Republic more critically, from Leia’s point of view, asking: what can a stagnant governing body do? For Leia, the answer was rebel against her own government…again. Which lessons did the New Republic not learn, and fail to learn so disastrously that Leia had to leave that which she helped create? And did their failure to learn these lessons make the New Republic worse from the start?
It may not come as a shock, but the biggest issue to address in the New Republic is its view of the military: what should the role of the military be in the new government? Should it be as large as it was under the Republic? An idealistic Mon Mothma begins demilitarization efforts on Chandrila only a few months after the Battle of Endor! I don’t think that this type of thinking can save the galaxy. Eventually, the fighting must stop and some sort of treaty has to be formed—you can’t kill an ideology just by killing a lot of people (something Leia has learned by 34 ABY). It is my opinion, though, that the New Republic reduced their military far too soon. Remember: this effort started before the Galactic Concordance was signed, so the Imperial Army and Navy was still intact! Between Endor and Jakku, you’ve got at least the four invasions of Naboo, the heavy blockade of the Anoat sector and Kashyyyk, and the continued plight of Ryloth. With these as just a few examples of Imperial aggression, it’s hard to figure out what made Mothma confident in de-escalating the war so early. » Read more..