“For the Moment, Let’s Call it Home” – Embodying Queerness in The High Republic Adventures

It was the dress rehearsal dinner for my cousin’s wedding. Casual clothes for everyone in attendance; it was a hot California day, with a grimy rock outcropping just beyond the grassy seating area.

I’d managed to play chicken with my mother to get my hair cut shorter than my jawline. My shirt was baggy enough to conceal the growing chest I fought by way of multiple sports bras. And so as a gaggle of boys scrambled their way to the outcropping to play, I raced after. It was the age of cooties and “no girls allowed”, so my name I kept locked behind my teeth. They never asked and they never noticed.

I bounded up to my mother afterwards, saying how much fun it was that they all treated me like a boy.

Things like this were what made adults in my life terrified that I’d grow up to be a lesbian. I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair like the boys because People Would Think Things™. “I’m not gay”, I would say years later to gasps of relief, only to add, “but I don’t want to be perceived as a girl.”

Oh, the reassurances rushed in – there’s so many ways to be a woman, you don’t have to be girly – but the fact remained. Young or old, gathering with extended family or browsing the feminine product aisle at Walmart, being mistaken for a boy felt like home.

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What Will Star Wars Mean to the Next Generation? 

For a franchise that began almost fifty years ago when the Baby Boomers were barely adults, Star Wars remains incredibly popular. Now, as a fan who has recently become a father of two children, I have been taking some time to ponder the question of what I hope Star Wars will mean to them. While my children are still quite young—two and a half years and ten months—I’ve already enjoyed the opportunity to introduce them to some Star Wars characters via children’s books, cartoons, and kid-friendly clips from the films.

It’s an interesting balance though, because while I love Star Wars, I don’t want to force my kids into a hobby they aren’t interested in, and because I want to be careful about what exactly they absorb from Star Wars. Besides scary images or intense themes, there are moral questions that the series raises. For example, there are fair concerns one can raise about representation (or lack thereof) in the broader Star Wars universe. Additionally, I recall a pacifist mentor of mine who deliberately kept his preteen children from watching Star Wars because it arguably portrays violence as a solution perpetrated by the good side and bad side alike. As a pacifist myself, I once wrote an ETE piece specifically reflecting on the question of violence in Star Wars, but it’s become a bit less of a hypothetical question now that I have to warn my son not to swing his toy lightsaber at me, nor to pretend to point blasters at people. 

But even aside from these specific questions, I think it is important to be thoughtful about any movie series that is likely to be watched ad nauseam by children, for the simple reason that these films may become some of their foundational blocks of understanding. Philosopher and theologian James K. A. Smith argues that more so than our specific ideological or moral beliefs, it is the activities that we love and the habits that we practice which shape us at a foundational level. He argues that when it comes to our inner identity, it’s not so much a case of “We are what we think”, but instead “we are what we love”. 

So if I raise my kids to love Star Wars, how am I hoping it will shape them? What are the core values that I hope it communicates to them? I have three in particular. 

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On Disobedience and The High Republic Adventures

St. Augustine is one of the most influential figures in all of Christian history. His writings have impacted Catholicism and the various scattered denominations of Protestantism alike. Even in my charismatic and evangelical faith, Augustine was a name to be respected.

Augustine believed in the theology of “original sin” – that the choice of Adam and Eve to disobey God in the Garden of Eden created an inherent corruption in all of humanity. That we are born with that original sin still within us and, if left to our own devices, will gravitate toward evil. Augustine therefore placed an immense amount of importance on hierarchical authority and on obedience thereto. [1]Tokar, Nicholas. Augustine on Obedience and Authority. 2012. Such a theology also gave Augustine himself the ability to assert authority on and demand obedience from those lower in the hierarchy. Augustine’s sermon “On Obedience” was written in-part to shame a congregation who had been expecting an apology for his arrogant behavior. [2]Brown, Peter. Through the Eye of a Needle. 2012. If God created all earthly authorities, than disobeying anyone in authority was the same as disobeying God.

Within such a theology, obedience itself becomes the paramount virtue. It takes precedence over courage, compassion, and justice. It is better to obey than to right a wrong.

I use this example from Christianity in this matter because that’s my house; this religion is where I make my bed. It was the first and loudest place that I encountered this lesson as a child. But the virtue of obedience was not spoken of just within church boundaries. Many of our fairy tales are designed to teach obedience. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother get eaten because she disobeys. The children in Pinocchio are turned into donkeys for not being “good.” Beauty and the Beast was used at one point in its long history to encourage the obedience of young girls with regard to arranged marriages. How many boogeymen in our cultures exist specifically for the purpose of scaring children into obeying their parents?

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1 Tokar, Nicholas. Augustine on Obedience and Authority. 2012.
2 Brown, Peter. Through the Eye of a Needle. 2012.

If You Want New Star Wars Films, Give Star Wars Films Up

Late Monday night, a website named Above the Line reported that writer Damon Lindelof had “exited” the untitled Star Wars film project he’d previously been reported to be working on alongside Justin Britt-Gibson and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

I’d never heard of Above the Line before this week but they style themselves as a “trade”, akin to much more established publications like Deadline or Variety. I don’t know if they’re anywhere near as reliable as the more familiar trades, but I do know that their Twitter account only dates back to October and as of this writing they have exactly 898 followers. Just last week Lindelof himself openly expressed doubts about his desire to move forward with the project at the South by Southwest festival, so for him to have officially stepped away now is certainly a plausible notion.

But I’m not here to raise any doubts about the report—one that, by midday on Tuesday, had been backed up by Deadline itself. What’s interesting to me about this news is that, Lindelof’s own comments notwithstanding, he was never actually announced to be writing a Star Wars movie in the first place.

No, this saga began in the trades and was developed further by the trades, so I suppose it’s only fitting that a trade should end it. My question for you, beloved reader, is: did all this reporting produce anything of value for us, as fans, in any way?

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The Function of Laughter in The High Republic Adventures

I’m going to confess something: comedy is not my thing. I don’t dislike comedy; I don’t dislike laughing. I don’t think everything should be grim, dark, and edgy. But I have a hard time understanding comedy, on a technical level. I have a hard time picking it apart, peering inside to see how it functions. I’ve tried. I’ve read books and articles on how to write comedy, but it’s still this black box in storytelling that eludes me. Maybe it’s the autism.

I think this is why I took so much longer to put words to issue #2 of The High Republic Adventures than issue #1. Because everyone already said it. From the early reviews to the general reader response: it’s a laugh riot. I myself howled, out loud, a multitude of times. It’s hilarious. What more is there to say?

Comedy is not my thing.

But I also know that comedy itself is a form of storytelling. It requires pacing, setup, payoff, emotional buy-in. It’s why it’s so common for good comedic actors to also be good at drama. It’s why Jordan Peele, who made his name in sketch comedy, delivers quality horror again and again.

So I didn’t want to just dismiss this issue from analysis because it was funny. As much as I struggle with understanding the way comedy functions, issue #2 is still art. It’s still craft. There’s still an entire creative team that put effort into making this a cohesive story, that moves the story forward and reveals elements of our characters. There is still a function…

…a narrative function. Now that is something I do understand. I can’t break apart a joke and tell you how it works. But maybe I can tell you where the jokes fit with the other story elements. And I see three narrative functions that comedy plays in The High Republic Adventures issue #2.

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