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Carrie Fisher: 1956 – 2016

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Mike: Well, the most obvious thing to do is talk about how beloved and inspirational Carrie Fisher was. The second most obvious thing to do is talk about how obvious it is to talk about how beloved and inspirational she was. So I’m gonna do what Carrie herself would probably do, and speak immodestly about my brain for a minute.

I’m unhappy about her passing on an intellectual level—it’s unfortunate and unfair and I recognize how it could drive one to despair. But on an emotional level, I don’t really feel it. I rarely feel death emotionally; it’s inevitable, so why be sad over something you can’t control? Again, I understand that this isn’t typical, but it’s just how my mind works. I cry at the end of Apollo 13, and I shed tears six times during my first viewing of The Force Awakens, but now? Nothing.

Over time I’ve come to understand that I just don’t connect with other humans that way—I can feel enormously passionate about people on a demographic level, but not as individuals. It’s possible that I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of Asperger syndrome—especially when I think back to myself as a child—but I’ve never had any interest in a diagnosis; I’ve led a pretty normal and comfortable life so it would feel presumptuous to seek out the banner of a mental disorder for something that has never really harmed me beyond a reputation for being aloof. After all, it could be that I’m just an asshole.

After a youth and adolescence of scrambling to figure out how I was “supposed” to connect with my peers, and wondering if it was worth the trouble, I eventually discovered that you can say anything you want if it’s funny enough. Where I didn’t have the skill set for a polite lie, I found that the truth was okay as long as it made people laugh, so that became my means of making a direct impression on people. It was the next best thing to a sincere connection: say something appalling that people laugh at in spite of themselves. Read More

In Praise of Qui-Gon Jinn: The Quiet Rebel

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Slowly, Yoda nodded. “A very great Jedi Master you have become, Qui-Gon Jinn. A very great Jedi Master you always were, but too blind I was to see it.”

He rose, and folded his hands before him, and inclined his head in the Jedi bow of respect.

The bow of the student, in the presence of the Master.

Revenge of the Sith novelization, by Matthew Stover

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn appeared in only one Star Wars film, but few characters have had such a profound influence on the direction of the story. For a generation of fans, including myself, he was the mentor, our old Ben Kenobi. Liam Neeson’s return to the role in The Clone Wars was, for me, the highlight of the series: I had been desperately disappointed in 2005 when Neeson’s lines were cut from Revenge of the Sith, but the two TCW story arcs involving Qui-Gon made up for that and then some.

Qui-Gon’s role has also been mildly controversial. Some lay the blame for everything bad that happens – from Anakin’s fall to the rise of the Empire – at his door. Others argue that the character should never have been included at all, and that Obi-Wan should have discovered Anakin Skywalker himself.

For me, though, not only is Qui-Gon the definitive Jedi, he is also crucial to our understanding of what they are, and what they should be. His philosophy and quietly rebellious nature is inspirational, and by exploring his relationship with the Jedi Council, we can learn everything we need to know about the Order and its mistakes. Read More

Is the Empire a “White Supremacist” Organization? Should It Be?

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Mike: Many, many moons ago, before The Force Awakens and before the Expanded Universe reboot, our own Jay Shah wrote a piece entitled Senseless Sexism in the Galactic Empire. His premise, in short, was a) that the Star Wars setting offered no logical explanation for an Empire that actively discriminates against female officers, and b) that in practice the EU’s attempts to engage with the issue had been flawed to the point that it would have been better left out altogether.

Jay was reacting to the simple fact that because Imperials are the bad guys—and more importantly, stand-ins for real-life oppressive governments—many are quick to ascribe any and all bad qualities to them. Surely there’s an anti-alien contingent, as witnessed in A New Hope and further supported by the prequel trilogy, but does the Empire actually discriminate against women, or people of color, as well? It’s easy to get that impression when every Imperial in the original trilogy is a white man (though the Rebels in ANH and The Empire Strikes Back aren’t much more diverse), but looking at their successors in the First Order complicates the issue—as do prominent non-film characters like Rae Sloane, who has largely been met with joy from fans for making the overall setting more inclusive, and demonstrating that anyone can be, well, “the bad guy”.

With all this serving as prelude, in the aftermath of last week’s heated US presidential election, Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta, two writers attached to Rogue One, tweeted the following:

Chris Weitz @chrisweitz
Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization

Gary Whitta @garywhitta
Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.

While nothing tossed off on Twitter (and since deleted) should be taken as canon, and it certainly can’t undo the existence of the powerful, serious black woman who becomes the nominal leader of the Imperial military after Palpatine’s death, I thought Weitz and Whitta’s comments (and let’s be real, the current events that prompted them) merited a revisiting of this topic. So I’ll put the question to all of you: as a separate matter from the “reality” of gender and race discrimination within the GFFA, which can never really have a definitive answer, is there value in explicitly, rather than allegorically, linking the Empire to misogyny and white supremacy? Can there be a sliding scale of interaction with real hate, or is it all or nothing? Read More

Luke Skywalker: The Hero Who Ran Away?

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“Luke Skywalker has vanished”

So begins The Force Awakens. Hold on, though – shouldn’t Luke be fighting with Leia’s Resistance against the First Order, taking on the villainous Snoke and his fallen apprentice Kylo Ren, rather than running away from his problems? For many fans, to whom Luke was a childhood hero, this narrative choice seemed at best out-of-character, and at worst a betrayal of everything he stood for.

Luke’s disappearance is indeed a long way from the swashbuckling young hero we saw in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. But Luke’s journey in the original trilogy is to become a Jedi, the Jedi – the one to correct the mistakes of the previous generation. From this perspective, his choices following Return of the Jedi make perfect sense.

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How Much Technology in Star Wars is Too Much?

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With the recent return of Star Wars Rebels, we’ve finally been exploring the aftermath of Kanan Jarrus’s blinding last season. Kanan’s existing doubts and fears were only amplified by his handicap, and he spent months in apparent isolation before finally learning from Bendu how to use his Force senses in place of the real one he lost.

“Warrior learns how to see without seeing” is a time-honored trope that was all but made for Star Wars, and I loved seeing Rebels‘ take on it—I see the value in telling that story, not just for its own sake, but as a means of growing Kanan as a character and opening his mind to new paths. But at the same time, I admit I have a little suspension-of-disbelief issue with it: couldn’t the guy just get new eyes? Forget the ample prosthetic limb technology that we already know exists; if they can clone an entire army of dudes and age them at double their natural rate, surely they could clone him new biological eyes?

Well, maybe, but maybe not. Post-reboot, there are far fewer examples of cyborgs in Star Wars than there used to be, and the ones that we do see often are often portrayed as faulty or not quite optimal–so it’s unclear whether a robotic eye, or a cloned one, is actually possible, as counter-intuitive as that might be. The reality is, Kanan doesn’t have new eyes because that story wouldn’t be as interesting—just like Return of the Jedi wouldn’t have been as interesting if Luke had to duel with his left hand only. Read More