Archive for David Schwarz

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The ETE Special Edition

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Last Tuesday, January 31st, was the twentieth anniversary of the release of the Special Edition of Star War—ahh, I mean A New Hope. While the exact date I saw the thing is lost to history, this anniversary is doubly important to me, as it’s the twentieth anniversary of my own Star Wars fandom. Being a contrarian, I’ve always had a special appreciation of the fact that the thing that got me into Star Wars was seen at the time (and still by some) as controversial, even sacrilegious.

Can I appreciate the argument against Greedo shooting first? Sure. But if George Lucas hadn’t been nitpicky enough to want to make that round of changes—not the first round, but definitely the most high-profile—who knows if I’d ever have found an excuse to watch the original trilogy at all? Who knows if I’d have gone to college for Visual Effects, a decision to which I can trace almost everything about my life today? And of course, who knows if this blog would exist?

I did eventually learn how it felt on the other side of the fence, though—when Hayden Christensen was added to Return of the Jedi, it bugged me not so much for philosophical reasons, but because Hayden doesn’t seem to have any idea what’s going on in the take they used (the rumor is he didn’t realize what he was being filmed for) and it takes me out of the moment. I can’t stand the blu-ray version of Obi-Wan’s krayt call, and the less said about Vader’s “nooo!” in the blu-ray version of Jedi, the better. » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Trials and Revelations

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Jay: THIS WAS THE EPISODE I WANTED SINCE SEASON ONE.

Let me explain. I always wanted a Sabine-centric episode like this. We got a few, but I wanted to learn about Sabine the same way we learned about Ezra. We got her story teased instead: Imperial Academy references early on, and we knew she was a Mandalorian, and something happened with her family. But that’s it. The episodes were as tight-lipped about Sabine’s background as Sabine herself was. And despite our impatience, it makes perfect sense: Sabine doesn’t just volunteer this information. It’s a slow burn, once she gets to trust you.

But here there was a payoff and boy was it a payoff. This episode was elegantly simple: the training was the entire plot, so it could focus on character work. It meant there was room for it to be an ensemble episode: Ezra, Kanan, and Hera all got great character moments in addition to Sabine. And we learned a ton about Sabine, featuring some of the finest character work yet seen in this show. For my money, this was the best episode in the series to date.

We saw the characters engaging with their histories and biases, engaging with each other — having flare ups and drama. And goodness, if there was any episode to get on the day of the Women’s March, this was it. In addition to Sabine’s history, I love that Hera both called Kanan on his crap and also helped Sabine out as well.

Goodness, what an episode. » Read more..

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

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Check in every day this week to see a new, ah, old piece back on the front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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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..

Second Look: What Will You Become: Saw Gerrera and Armed Revolution

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Check in every day this week to see a new, ah, old piece back on the front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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The Star Wars universe, despite originally depicting a very Manichean struggle between good and evil, has become in the decades since the original movie a very morally nuanced place. I’ve mentioned before that if I look at the current status of the franchise, I’m tempted to consider Star Wars to be more of an anti-war story than a war one, but that’s a debate that we’ve had on this website very recently. Personally, I feel that although the original trilogy no doubt romanticized armed insurgency, George Lucas’s point of view on war and violence had evolved and become considerably more pacifist by the time the prequels and The Clone Wars rolled in.

Behind the curtain of space fantasy, George Lucas told the audience about things like false flag operations, the military-industrial complex, and factionalism in insurgencies. The heroes of the story, the Jedi, lose because they get involved in war. War itself is bad. If we look at the totality of the material that Lucas himself produced under the banner of Star Wars, behind all of the heroics and the swashbuckling, it sure appears to tell us that war sucks. But is there a way to add a bit more nuance to this message without negating it?

Enter Saw Gerrera: the only Rogue One character appearing on the big screen for the first time while remaining an original Lucas creation, having been originally developed for the never-filmed Star Wars: Underworld TV project and first seen in animated form in The Clone Wars, Saw Gerrera is played by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and is set to make a big splash in the galaxy. The Databank describes him as “a battered veteran of the Clone Wars as well as the ongoing rebellion against the Empire, [who] leads a band of Rebel extremists. Saw has lost much in his decades of combat, but occasional flashes of the charismatic and caring man he once was shine through his calloused exterior.” Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that Saw Gerrera is “on the fringe of the Rebel Alliance. Even [they] are a little concerned about him. […] He’s off on his own” and Whitaker says that “he really believes that what he has done is right. He understands that […] worlds could be destroyed if he doesn’t succeed. And he’s one of the only people who will do everything to make sure the Imperial forces don’t.” Saw Gerrera is set to have been of the original architects of the Rebel Alliance, but one who is not in good terms with Mothma, Organa, and the rest. He has his own faction of extremists (called “partisans” in Bloodline) and he appears to be fighting his own fight against the Empire. And that is something that history tells us has happened over and over.

» Read more..

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 mental illness 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..

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