You’re Allowed to Disagree with Pablo Hidalgo

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If you have any involvement whatsoever in the loose-knit community that is “Star Wars Twitter”,1 Story Grouper Pablo Hidalgo is hard to avoid. While several other prominent Lucasfilm employees have Twitter accounts, Pablo almost certainly has the biggest profile among major (read: obsessive) Star Wars fans, due to his status as one of the company’s “continuity experts” and his willingness to answer, or at least respond to, even the most inane and redundant questions. Needless to say, those questions are exactly what he gets, and while he must find it rewarding or amusing on some level, the intensity of the reactions he can provoke occasionally seems to frustrate him—over the last couple months, he’s made a series of lighthearted attempts to rebrand himself as a Transformers artist (which, okay, he technically is), a Revan stan, yours truly, and as of this writing, a lovable kitten.

But I can’t read his mind; his social media personae are his own prerogative and he owes us nothing. What I do want to unpack is something he’s mentioned once or twice in the last few weeks—that he prefers Rogue One to The Force Awakens. This is no great surprise, in my opinion, as Pablo is an “old school” fan and RO is very much an “old school” kind of Star Wars story; if not for the fact that it directly overwrites around a dozen stories from the Expanded Universe, it would fit in very neatly with that brand of storytelling, which is where Pablo largely cut his teeth as a Star Wars professional (and as a fan). We’re largely the same type of fans here at Eleven-ThirtyEight—the site was created in part to act as a bridge between the EU and the larger fandom—and without having asked, I’d venture to guess that most if not all of my staff writers also prefer RO to TFA. But after giving it a lot of thought over the last couple months…I don’t think I do.

Truth be told, I suspected as much from the minute my first viewing ended. I loved the movie in that moment, and I continue to love it.2 But sure enough, I love it in the way I love the best of the EU; it’s like an amazing behind-the-scenes feature about the all the work that went into the real story that is A New Hope. It’s an excellent and vital supplement to the Star Wars saga, but it’s a supplement nonetheless.

This is not a point of view I came to easily, or ever expected in my wildest dreams to arrive at. The first question I asked after seeing the original trilogy for the first time was “okay, and what else happened?”, which is what led me to the EU to begin with. When D-Day finally arrived, I met the news of a sequel trilogy the way you might view a series of inoculations before a big vacation—a necessary evil to get to the really good stuff. The spinoffs, I felt, would be an opportunity for the wild experimentation of the EU (and, to be fair, The Clone Wars) to really take off and go nuts, to provide a freshness Star Wars in that moment sorely needed. With Rogue One, that hope very much came true. But what I never saw coming was how much The Force Awakens would capture my imagination first.

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That’s not to say TFA is a perfect movie; I might even grant that RO is better on a technical or creative level. The Han/Leia banter on D’Qar was a smidge too cute for me, and Starkiller Base turned out to be that necessary evil I was worried about, the unfortunate thing we had to endure to kickstart the stuff that really mattered. But I don’t really view Star Wars movies as movies in a technical or creative sense; they’re a visceral experience, two-hour expressions of a much larger unseen mechanism—and RO just doesn’t tap into that for me. I love that Jyn Erso exists, but nothing she does feels as gripping or as consequential to me as the moment Anakin’s lightsaber snaps into Rey’s hands. The real test of how much I like a Star Wars movie is how much I want to rewatch it as the years unfold, and I enjoy TFA as much now as I did a year ago—while I can already feel RO becoming more of an analytical experience, something I rewatch to count the female background characters or to study the makeup of the Rebel fleet. I neither know nor care how many capital ships are in the shot of Hosnian Prime because that’s a canon thing, and the canon matters of TFA are secondary to OMG REY AND FINN AND POE.

But look at me veering off-course again—none of that is the point of this piece. The point is, when Pablo mentioned that he likes Rogue One better, and it hit me (right then and there, really) that I didn’t, I saw no problem with that. I didn’t leap from that to “Pablo hates the sequels”, or “Pablo and JJ Abrams didn’t get along”, or “Pablo has a vendetta against Kyle Katarn”. I also didn’t intuit from our disagreement that he’d think less of me as a fan for this.

But beyond even that, why should you, as a lone fan out there in the wild, even give a shit what Pablo thinks? He’s just a guy. His tweets are not 140-character excerpts from the Journal of the Whills; his books go through the same editorial process as everyone else’s. He has an incredibly awesome day job, and his tastes and sensibilities certainly influence what comes out of this franchise to some degree, but he’s not even in charge of anything—Kiri Hart is the head of Story Group, and I’ve never seen anyone fret over whether she thinks Dash Rendar is a stupid character.

(PS, I like Shadows of the Empire too)

Star Wars puts out a shit-ton of product because it has a shit-ton of fans and Lucasfilm endeavors to satisfy a variety of interests; nobody is expected to like everything, and as long as our support allows Pablo and Kiri and Leland Chee and Rayne Roberts and Matt Martin and Whoever I’m Forgetting to keep those awesome jobs of theirs, they’re not going to judge you for refusing to buy EU books with Legends banners on them, or for still not being over 1313‘s cancellation, or for being really, really into Reylo. It’s great that Pablo makes himself so available to us fans, even if it’s only a by-product of his weird compulsion to draw robot dump trucks, but you don’t need his input on every thought that crosses your mind—and you damned sure don’t need his approval. So just this once, maybe don’t bother with that tweet you’re planning.

  1. And if you’re not, fair warning—parts of this piece may not make much sense to you. []
  2. Though I’m still not crazy about the CGI Leia, which means each viewing ends on a tiny sour note. []

7 comments

  1. Mario A. Escamilla says:

    I still don’t get it. If you ask a question, you have to be prepared to NOT like the answer you will get.

    And as you repeat, he is a person too, he has his own tastes and preferences like anyone of us. I never gave a damn about Yuuzhan Vong and that’s when I stopped reading Star Wars… so, what then? Does that make me feel less a Star Wars fan? Certainly not.

  2. RO is a fun and fine movie but better than TFA? Not to me. When the only death that affected me was the robot’s, I feel the movie hasn’t connected with me on any deep level. I could not care any less about the plot of TFA… all I care about is every single new character and what happened and will happen to them. Every. Single. One.

  3. John says:

    If you like Shadows of the Empire, I’m not sure I can read this website anymore.

    Kidding, of course. Excellent piece. I wish more people had a sense of humor about Pablo’s writing – I see it as a sort of Star Wars standup routine most of the time.

    Plus, I also enjoyed TFA more than RO (though I enjoyed RO a great deal). I wonder how much of my own enjoyment has to do with the “continuing adventures” of the main TFA cast – for the time being, part of the excitement of TFA (at least for me) is the nearly-unlimited potential of where and how that story might evolve. By comparison, RO is a finished product; although I enjoy it for what it is, it does not fire my imagination in quite the same way. No doubt my perspective will be different five or ten years from now, as we learn more about the Sequel Trilogy; given how tied it is into the larger mysteries of the Sequel era, I could imagine any number of second and third acts that would in fact make me like TFA *less*. Yet another reason for humility in fandom, I suppose.

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      I think that’s exactly it—eighteen months ago I’d have guessed that I’d prefer SW films to be self-contained stories because it gave them more freedom, but I didn’t predict how invested I’d get in the serialized story. Since the prequels’ ending was largely known the only time I’d really had this experience before TFA was during the couple months it took for the SEs to come out. I’d forgotten how powerful it was.

  4. As someone who enjoys Dash Rendar… Half the fun is mocking the shit outta him and his whole Rob Liefeld’s Han Solo thing. Admittedly, my Dash Rendar enjoyment is fueled largely by a mixture of N64 nostalgia and pure irony, sparked by a Let’s Play where the whole SotE multimedia project was viewed through the lens of “the novels/comics is what really happened, while the game is what Dash claims happened to make himself sound cooler.” (I’ll link that one in the website field, it’s a pretty good time.)

    Really, I’m surprised anyone could get legitimately angry at Pablo mocking Dash, cause, like… Just look at him! Everything about him is ridiculous!

  5. Hallie says:

    Lol can we agree to disagree as fans? Of course our tastes will vary. Some of us preferred RO rather than TFA. Some will prefer J.J. Abrams over Gareth Edwards film. In my case, I consider them two different things, and I like them differently. There are certain aspects of the old EU that I’m sad it is not part of the canon, and some of them that I’d gladly pretend they’d better not existed at all. And Pablo is entitled to his own opinion, same as we are.

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