Star Wars Rebels has just wrapped up its third season with the biggest Empire-versus-Rebellion showdown we’ve yet scene from the show. Prior to the episode, speculation swirled around the promised battle, with many wondering just exactly how the rebels we know and love are going to make it out of this one. And, inevitably and tiresomely, spirited discussion sprang up around which Ghost character would die in the ensuing conflict.
It’s not the first time there has been speculation around a major character dying in the show. Like clockwork, the closer we get to a season finale, the more discussion there is about why someone on the Ghost needs to bite it. Rex and/or Zeb needs to go out in a blaze of glory. Kanan needs to die for pathos and so the fandom can make tragic fics about Hera. Ezra needs to die because of a thousand and one reasons (the main one being that the majority of the older fanbase finds him irredeemably annoying). They all have to die because we don’t see or hear anything about them in the original trilogy. Inevitably, it all comes down to fans wanting to see that things are different, that the rebels have finally faced a serious threat and come up short and now have to find a way to overcome.
And yes, that’s certainly a good (and necessary) narrative to explore. After all, it’s not exciting if your heroes never face any serious challenges or defeats. But why is it that we automatically go to “major character death” as the best way to show the severity of a threat or to shake up the status quo?
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About one and a half years ago, we got the first cast picture for Rogue One, and the general consensus (myself included) was celebration of the ethnic diversity, followed almost immediately by dismay at the heavily male cast. But after the first trailer surprised us all with the appearance of Mon Mothma I was hopeful for Rogue One and optimistic that there would be more women. Unfortunately, my fears were proven right when I finally sat down in the theater to watch the movie and it turned out to be a pretty big sausage fest. An ethnically diverse (and quite attractive) sausage fest, yes, but still a sausage fest.
It’s disappointing because I had high hopes for a movie whose cast represented a range of countries and ethnicities. I was hoping it would continue in the thread of The Force Awakens and make a concerted effort to show a wide range of women as well; I’ve written before on the lack of women of color in Star Wars and I was hoping Rogue One would prove me wrong. But it goes to show that allyship in one area doesn’t always translate to allyship in another. We should definitely celebrate when Star Wars does well. But we should also accept that it will make mistakes…and as fans we should hold it accountable when it does.
It’s hard to admit when things we love aren’t as perfect as we’d like them to be. I’ve found this to be especially with something like Star Wars, where people tend to structure their entire identity around the fandom. So I understand wanting to rationalize away the flaws rather than admit that our favored franchise didn’t put its best foot forward. And there’s been a rash of rationalizations as of late: Leia’s slave bikini is empowering because she uses it to kill Jabba. Padmé didn’t die of a broken heart, Palpatine actually drained her life essence to save Anakin. Rogue One doesn’t show a lot of women in the Rebellion because they were trying to be faithful to how it looked in A New Hope. » Read more..
At first glance, it seems a bit ridiculous to pit the Star Wars sequels against the prequels. The easy comparison is between The Force Awakens and the original trilogy, since the former is a continuation of the latter and features many of the same characters. The prequels are basically just extended backstory while the sequels are passing the torch forward to tell something new. TFA was pretty universally loved while the prequels were…not quite as admired. Surely there’s nothing the prequels could offer in terms of advice for the sequels.
It is true that both trilogies have differing relationships to the original trilogy. For the prequels, the originals are the endpoint while for the sequels, they’re just the start. You can’t approach them the same way from a narrative and creative point of view. However, I think it’s worth looking at what the sequel trilogy as a whole could learn from the prequels. After all, both trilogies are basically reaching for the same goal: continue the story of the Skywalker family while living up to the high regard of the originals. That’s not an easy task.
And yes, I’m aware that this may seem counterproductive since pop culture at large tends to have a less than favorable view of the prequels. But there is a lot that the prequels did well, and even where the prequels didn’t succeed there’s something to be learned. When you’re making a sequel, what better way to do so than to look back at what came before to see what worked and what didn’t? And so, there’s three areas in particular where I think the Star Wars sequels would do well to take notes from the prequels.
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This article contains spoilers for Bloodline.
If you are one of the greatest heroes of a rebellion against a tyrannical empire, what would you do if you found out that one of the most evil people in that empire was your father by blood?
That is a question that haunts Leia Organa in Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. How would you deal with knowing that the person who tortured you and cold-heartedly destroyed your planet while making you watch is the same person with whom you share half your genes? Can you?
While the main plot of Bloodline is an exploration of how obsession with ideological purity causes democracy to fail, it is also about the dangers of extremism. More specifically, the dangers of a black and white worldview where people are either an ally or an enemy. It is also about the dangers of taking that “with me or against me” attitude to its extreme, where people can either do no wrong or do no right.
So again, how do you reconcile being a galactic hero who is the daughter of one of the most infamous galactic villains in recent history? When you subscribe to a worldview where there are no shades of grey and everyone is a villain or a hero with no in between, you can’t. Vader and Leia are both larger-than-life figures who are put up on these pedestals. One is demonized and the other revered and neither is really seen as a person who is as fallible as the next.
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Like the rest of Star Wars fandom, I am eagerly anticipating next week’s release of Claudia Gray’s Bloodline. And while I am excited for a Leia-centric political novel, I can’t help but think of the other Skywalker family politician: Padmé Amidala. While I have always loved Leia, as a kid I latched onto Padmé in a way I never did with her daughter. I loved Padmé because she was both someone I looked up to and someone who was relatable. Padmé was a kid who ruled a planet and foiled Sith machinations due to sheer stubbornness and quick thinking, and yet was still totally a teenage girl. She pouts when she doesn’t get her way and makes friends with funny little boys in junk shops. I was enamored.
But sadly, most of the EU apparently doesn’t share my fondness for the galaxy’s most fabulously dressed politician. For a character who makes up one third of the prequel trilogy, she doesn’t get a lot of love outside the movies (or even within the movies, if we’re being honest). But she’s intimately connected to most major players in the saga; she’s close colleagues with Palpatine (at least at first), she’s married to Anakin (and indirectly one of the reasons for his fall), and she’s mother to Luke and Leia. She’s firmly entrenched within the Skywalker family and yet this is rarely acknowledged.
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