(Editor’s Note: comments on Part I of this piece have been disabled—feedback is welcome here on Part II, though readers are strongly encouraged to read both halves before commenting.)
Why should people NOT be upset about the reboot? Because not everything new is bad!
Despite my personal position on the severe mishandling of the Expanded Universe, there’s one thing that I’ve come to find significantly more annoying over the last few months: many of the other fans!
A lot of the arguments start off as “I don’t like what Disney/LFL/other power-that-be is doing”, and I start to think, oh interesting, why doesn’t this person like the reboot? Then they go off into “they changed this minor detail and it sucks because they changed it”, even though if the exact same decision had been made in the Classic EU they’d have loved it.
Though the reasons behind rebooting the universe are questionable, not every decision that has been made is a bad one. With anything that is created, either in the Classic EU or the new Canon, things will change. In fact many of the things that are complained about are not an issue: 1) Cosmetic Changes, 2) EU Accurate Characterization, 3) Respect for Existing Material, and even if you ignore all that 4) Constructive Criticism is better than directionless whining.
1) Design Evolution is NOT a bad thing
One lengthy topic of hate has been the new Episode VII X-wing design. For those who haven’t seen it (differences in italics), rather than the classic X-wing with two wings on each side, each with its own circular engine cowling that stack on top of each other when folded, the new version has two wings on each side, each with its own hemispheric engine cowling that line up one behind the other when folded. The central section is more streamlined but otherwise identical. And in fact, many of the newer EU designs of the X-wing also featured hemispheric engine cowlings and more streamlining.
Oh. My. Quay! Without even going into the aerodynamic logics of the design change, it’s been thirty years since the movies, I would expect that ship design had evolved somewhat. The EU introduced many new ships during its time, A-wings and X-wings were upgraded to E-wings, though modernized X-wings (which also were modified for those who looked) stuck around, B-wings changed to K-wings and Alephs, and the Corellian Corvette was supplanted by the Bothan Assault Cruiser. Ships evolve.
Also, while we’re on the topic of radical departure from an original trilogy ship design, the Twintail:
Things change over time. This change is far from the most radical we’ve seen. At least that one LOOKS like an X-wing.
Similar hate has been present in other groups for the design of the new Imperial ships in Rebels, the new stormtrooper helmet and other myriad design concepts that have absolutely no impact on anything other than cosmetics. Many actually would make a heck of a lot of sense if introduced in the classic EU. There were dozens of different trooper looks throughout the EU for stormtroopers and various other armored divisions of the Empire. Had this design been introduced in say, the Legacy comics, it would have been championed. Why is it criticized now? There is no logical reason.
2) One of the most disliked characters of Rebels is the best Classic Expanded Universe transplant
The one complaint that has come to annoy me most is the hate-on for Sabine of Rebels because ‘she’s not a real Mandalorian’ or ‘she’s a Disney princess’.
In fact, Sabine is one of the most Classic EU-accurate elements of Rebels (in fact quite counter to their portrayal in The Clone Wars). Don’t believe me? Let’s see:
- she’s a Mandalorian warrior trained from birth to fight and kill, which separates her from almost all of the TCW Mandalorians
- she shares her life with her adoptive family (in this case the Ghost crew) despite the death of her biological parents
- she wears armor that is of a colour that is of personal significance to her (though some colours have specific meanings, the available options have never been limited to that) and
- despite the fact she’s a teenager, after the first five episodes, she has the second highest confirmed kill count behind Kanan. Possibly higher depending how many Imperials died when she, you know, BLEW A HOLE IN A STAR DESTROYER!
Sure, she wears pink, and she paints stuff. So? Go back and re-read the Republic Commando novels. You’ll find plenty of shopkeepers, bartenders and farmers too. Mandalorians do more with their spare time than kill people and wear armor pretty much every conceivable color. Even Boba freaking Fett only got his murder on when he was getting paid. She’s a little over-emotional, but that’s hardly a crime.
If your graffiti is blowing holes in battlecruisers, I’m pretty OK with the graffiti, and I really don’t care what you’re wearing. You want to criticize fashion? What was Leia wearing when she strangled the galaxy’s biggest crime lord again? Oh….right….
3) The authors love and respect their own work
Imagine that. While fans have spent years devouring the goings-on of the Star Wars universe, there is another group that values the works equally highly: the people who wrote them. While fans have developed wide ranging emotional connections that stretch through the Expanded Universe the authors have even deeper emotional ties with that which they have created, and while that work may no longer be explicitly part of the Star Wars ‘canon’, they have no wish to destroy it either.
In his interview with SUVUDU regarding A New Dawn, John Jackson Miller stated “I showed Zayne Carrick and the Gryph infiltrating a Mandalorian War Forge in the Knights of the Old Republic comics. And while those elements are now legends….the reasons I included war forges back then would still obtain.” Although his previous work may not be part of Canon, a small oblique reference in a new book doesn’t prevent them from existing, and serves as a nice nod to readers about material past.
James Luceno elaborates, “I think going forward what may happen is you may see writers writing around some of that older material that’s now classified as Legends – writing around it rather than trying to overwrite it.”
And it won’t just be their own work they protect, it will be others’. As the old adage says, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
This isn’t to say that there will not eventually be conflicts between ‘Canon’ and ‘Legends’, that will doubtlessly come soon enough if Episode VII takes a radically different approach to the future of Star Wars. But even if the Classic Expanded Universe is not directly acknowledged, many of the men and women who worked to make it great are still there and at least intend to minimize the direct casualties for as long as they can.
4) Be part of the solution, not part of the problem
Certainly Rebels, the main example of new canon, may not be the next Citizen Kane, but it’s a decent kids’ cartoon, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be. It may not be groundbreaking, but that’s not its job. However, it does have a myriad of flaws, from the art style, to Aladdin, er, Ezra, to the fact that “Who is that [pronoun]?” was somehow said by four people in the space of 100 seconds in the premiere.
Those are reasonable things to critique. For example, something that does actual damage to the classic EU is the appearance of droids in the Lothal camp and helping unload the disruptor crates that are clearly based off the Iron Knights but are now simply used as loader droids. Yet somehow I have not seen anyone else even mention this problem. By contrast, recent complaints about the Inquisitor’s lightsaber have been focused around it being “stupid” and “unoriginal” because it is based off a toy released a few years ago. So? That impacts neither the classic EU nor current canon in any meaningful way. Using material from the classic EU in a new and unique way is something I would certainly encourage, but taking something just to make it completely different without reason is not.
Things that actually contradict classic EU continuity (the Rebel Starbird, alien Inquisitor, etc.) certainly exist and are reasonable topics of criticism, but many cosmetic changes are not. I encourage my fellow Classic EU lovers to be critical of the direction Disney has taken things, just as we were critical of The Old Republic, the Legacy Era and many things before. But that doesn’t mean “hate every decision regardless of what it is”; all that makes us is petulant whiners.
There was an instance where people were up in arms about a (fan art) rendering of a Rebels-style Boba Fett because the colour scheme of his armor had been radically changed. That is, until someone posted a helpful link showing it was the armor from his Holiday Special appearance. Different and bad are two different things. It is pretty easy to see why behaviour like that gets dismissed by other fans who are willing to give the reboot a chance, and by the powers-that-be. If fans of the Classic EU are going to defend it and push for its continuation, then they need to both recognize what they’re fighting to protect, and to have reasonable and realistic criticism of what they’re opposed to.
Take time, analyze what the problems are, and speak to them by giving constructive criticism. Saying “using the Iron Knights in that scene is inappropriate because…” will get a lot more attention, understanding and respect from casual fans and the powers-that-be than “I hate that new stormtrooper helmet design,” and will actually explain WHY people are dissatisfied rather than simply appearing inflexible to change.
Why I feel the wrong decision was made
Disney has made the decision to focus on drawing in new fans to the Star Wars saga. It is a reasonable business decision but it created a significant rift in fans. Many vehemently opposed the new direction, while others were puzzled by this vehemence.
Even long-time, and well-loved Star Wars author James Luceno has publically questioned the wisdom of the decision.
“There’s always this notion… about bringing new readers into the franchise…. saying ‘We’re starting fresh’, so you don’t have to know anything to be able to jump into the franchise at this point. I suppose there’s some logic to that from a marketing point of view, but I worry about alienating the fans and the readers who have been with this franchise for however long it’s been, because it’s a large group and they’re very loyal.”
The IDEA behind movements like #GiveUsLegends is a fair one, asking for a continuation of the longstanding story of Star Wars. Though certain of the complaints are indeed misguided and inappropriate as other fans have pointed out, both sides have ample reason to be emotional about their opinion of the direction of the franchise. Sadly, because of the actions of a few, a reasonable desire by many long-time fans to continue almost four decades of history has been portrayed as something more sinister.
As much as I hate to say it, though I agree with the premise of continuing the classic EU, even if it is an alternate universe, certain comments from members of the #GiveUsLegends campaign have been quite counterproductive, in either illogical complaints or attacks on Disney, LFL, and Del Rey staff—though some fans who defend the new direction have been comparably bad with ad hominems in recent weeks. While these comments are limited to only a few vocal individuals, no side of the fandom is free from blame.
It is worth noting that less than two years before the decision was made to reboot the Star Wars Universe, on July 20, 2012 Leland Chee wrote a piece on StarWars.com explaining the Holocron Database in which he said “Star Wars had proven itself over the years to be a singular universe. Everything outside the films…serving as an extension of the same universe….If something happened in a book or comic, it could potentially affect everything else that happened in the universe….In the end, my ongoing vision is that as long as there’s the Holocron, Star Wars will not reboot.”
In a short few paragraphs, one of Lucasfilm’s most prominent members shows that the “Expanded Universe” was intended to be exactly that, the expansion of the universe created in the films. Not an alternate universe.
A decision was made that goes against what the franchise stood for, namely a single, integrated, and extremely consistent universe. Few other major franchises have managed to maintain a single unified continuity for so long. What is being done with the Story Group’s oversight is not something new and miraculous, it’s the same thing that Lucasfilm has been doing for the last twenty or more years, but starting all over again from scratch without good cause.
That decision has been made, and it engenders emotional reactions from fans. It is sad that it has split the fanbase of a wonderful franchise as it has, but a more optimistic person might point out that at least people care enough about Star Wars to fight about it. I’d be far more worried if they didn’t.
So what do I think Disney and Lucasfilm should do? By now it’s too late to recanonize the classic EU. That is the decision that I firmly believe should have been made in the first place, but if it is to be written off as an alternate universe, why not simply continue it as such? Those are the stories, the characters, and the experiences many grew up with and will always cherish far above anything that may come after and replace them.
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was created, the rest of their dozens of comic lines weren’t abruptly cut off to fall into line with a single continuity. Therefore, why should everything in Star Wars be forced to do so? Even if the focus is on the new “canon” material, much of the vehement debate between groups would be dissipated by something as simple as devoting twenty or twenty-five percent of Expanded Universe publishing to “Legends” material. And Disney might even be able to earn back much of the lost good will, and not-inconsiderable spending power from dissatisfied fans, and heal the rift that has formed between the different groups.