Archive for Mike Cooper

Inward Eye, Outward Hand – Chirrut Îmwe, Han Solo, and “Force Sensitivity”

chirrut-scarif

Baze was terrified. Chirrut was not. In the instant before he’d risen from the bunker, he’d questioned his own wisdom: How might be separate the will of the Force from his will, his ego, demanding action where action was unneeded? But there was no doubt in his heart now. The Force expressed itself through simplicity, and all it asked of him was to walk.

I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.

Is Chirrut Force-sensitive?

The more we learned about him prior to the release of Rogue One, the more people found themselves asking this question. Cassian Andor even comes close to asking the question himself within the movie, and the answer Baze Malbus gives him isn’t much more definitive than the one Rogue One offers viewers: he’s no Jedi.

That much is clear—Chirrut is not currently, nor was he ever, a Jedi Knight. He’s part of a new group called the Guardians of the Whills; devout followers of the Force, but not necessarily wielders of it. Baze certainly seems content with his giant-ass cannon. But that’s not usually what people mean when they ask, is he Force-sensitive? What they mean is, could he have been a Jedi? Is the Force warning him when a blaster bolt is about to come his way? With training, could he levitate things, perform mind tricks, and so on?

Personally, I doubt it. But to look at what Chirrut can do and ask “what if?” is to miss the point of Chirrut’s abilities entirely. » Read more..

Star Wars is Ridiculous and We Are All Ridiculous For Liking It

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Eeeeevery once in a while, Reddit produces something good. About a week ago, a user in the Star Wars subreddit posted a gif highlighting a particular background Mon Calamari actor in Return of the Jedi who was apparently given the direction “look confused“, and stuck with that strategy throughout the Battle of Endor. The gifs quickly jumped to Star Wars Twitter, and we all had a good laugh. Totally pointless little detail, but it brightened everybody’s day for a moment.

It called to mind an old memory of mine from way back when The Phantom Menace came out. As the first, and weirdest, Star Wars prequel, TPM was notable for just how little context we had for everything that was happening—far more so than for The Force Awakens, even. So it was that I (or maybe a friend I was with?) noticed the little PK droids in the background of the Trade Federation battleship and said “oh look, baby stormtroopers!” Obviously that wasn’t the case, but the notion that stormtroopers began life as these little dudes who did grunt work for the Trade Federation has stuck in my head all these years. To this day, I can’t help but notice them in the background and smile to myself, though no amount of explaining could ever really get across to somebody why I find them so amusing.

Star Wars is rife with little things like that; moments of whimsy, as George would say. And with all the weighty developments both in- and out-of-universe lately I thought it’d be fun to lighten up for a moment and ask the others: what’s the one little detail in the films that cracks you up every time? » Read more..

Rebels Revisited: Small Ball vs. The Long Game

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Mike: While last week’s two-parter obviously had a much more overt link to the larger narrative of the Rebellion in the form of Saw Gerrera, this episode struck me as having much more to say about the war itself, via the Empire’s differing approach to finding rebel bases here compared to the opening of The Empire Strikes Back. At first I wasn’t crazy about the idea of an Imperial probe droid stumbling upon Atollon so soon, and I’m still not a fan of the possibility that the Phoenix cell will eventually flee Atollon for Yavin (though that’s another topic entirely), but as the episode unfolded I caught lots of key details that changed how I saw what was happening.

First of all, of course, it’s not a probe droid—not technically. This thing is designated an “infiltrator” droid, and rather than immediately report its findings, it’s designed to blend in at any potential base for an indeterminate amount of time. While both it and the probe droid have self-destruct mechanisms, the infiltrator’s is substantially more powerful. I could be wrong, but this suggests to me that it may well have been designed to transmit its findings to the Empire and then go ahead and detonate itself anyway.

Why wouldn’t they want the standard probe droids to do that, too? Paradoxically, I think the more bad-ass infiltrator model implies that the Empire, even Thrawn, isn’t taking the rebels as seriously yet as they are in ESB. Where probe droids appear to be more basic models built to cover huge areas of space without actually engaging in hostilities, the infiltrator plays a more delicate game, and could have taken Chopper Base out all on its own—or at least, that’s what it’s designed for. » 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

ro-dsbridge-whiteguys

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..

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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