Escape Pod: Mistress Mnemos and the Storytelling Framing Device

One of the cleverest, most self-referential character arcs in the original Star Wars trilogy is C-3PO’s ability as a storyteller. In the first movie he claims to be “not very good at telling stories,” but in the final film he recounts the heroes’ adventures to the Ewok village with a delightful blend of humanlike charisma and droidlike sound effects. Either modesty or a lack of confidence was holding our anxious droid back, and as masks fall, it turns out that Threepio can make stories interesting (to everyone except Han, anyway). Vader is actually Anakin; lightsabers are actually useless; and Threepio is actually very good at telling stories.

But what if he isn’t?

Mistress Mnemos is a room-size supercomputer whose mission is to store all the Rebel Alliance’s data, whether entertaining or not. She debuted in Russ Manning’s newspaper comic strips in 1979, and has never even been referenced since. This in spite of her incredible potential as comic relief, femme and non-humanoid droid representation, and commentary on the nature of storytelling itself. As she is built into the walls of a secret Rebel stronghold and literally plugged into the story’s narrator, Mnemos is the platonic ideal of a captive audience.

As brilliant as she was back then, I think Mnemos could serve an even more important role now. She protests Threepio’s excessive, self-centered tangents — “My banks are overflowing with trivia as it is!” — and that was in 1979, decades before “Star Wars trivia” was the subject of board games, parties, and masters’ theses.

Even her name has aged in a fantastically relevant way: the prefix “mnemo-” means “memory,” one of the most vital themes for a franchise so rooted in nostalgia, so backwards- and inwards-looking, with even its freshest new stories haunted (and frequently visited) by the ghosts of the Expanded Universe. Every spinoff of the original trilogy must contend with its audience’s presumed memories, and that presumption often bleeds into the stories’ themes and the struggles of their characters: Revan’s amnesia, Anakin’s dreams, Yoda’s burnt library. As the audience, we remember the story, while the characters can forget, or try to stop it, or need to move on. But Mnemos must remember, too, no matter how unhappy it makes her.

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How Lucasfilm Games Can Be a New Era For Everyone

After eight years and five new games, the divisive era of EA Star Wars exclusivity has come to its conclusion. On January 11th, Disney signaled a change, launching the “Lucasfilm Games” brand, and promising “a new and unprecedented era of creativity”. Two days later Ubisoft announced a new open-world Star Wars game was in development, confirming that EA’s grip on Star Wars gaming had ended. The death of EA’s monopoly was long awaited and long called for by fans and prominent gaming personalities. The EA era wasn’t necessarily awful, or even a failure, but it was limited in its offerings. 

With their Star Wars titles, EA chased trends and the lowest common denominator. Their flagship entry was Battlefront, which chased the success of Call of Duty, and attempted to revive the glory of Pandemic Studios’ beloved LucasArts-era shooters of the same name. Instead they became mired in controversy over loot boxes and season passes. Battlefront 2 finally found a true audience years later, only to have support cut off shortly after the release of The Rise of Skywalker. Many fans had called for more story from their Star Wars games, so EA responded with Jedi: Fallen Order, a Dark Souls/Tomb Raider hybrid. Fallen Order received acclaim, and with the following year’s Squadrons, EA responded by attempting to serve another audience: fans who love flying.

Fallen Order and Squadrons were steps in the right direction. Attempting to appeal to more than just the most mainstream shooter fans, EA realized there were other audiences out there. Yet both were bound by the paradigms of mainstream, Triple-A studio gaming. With a new frontier on the horizon and the opening up of the Star Wars license, perhaps there is the potential for more?

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This is the Way: Anti-War and Anti-Colonial Lessons to Learn from The Mandalorian

Star Wars has always been known for strong anti-imperial themes, and these powerful political messages are particularly apparent in The Mandalorian. In this piece, I’ll explain how Din Djarin’s interactions with the Tusken Raiders, an Indigenous alien race, could provide important lessons to consider regarding the treatment of native communities. Even though Star Wars has tended to depict the Tuskens as being dangerous and monster-like, The Mandalorian shows they are actually a complex, dynamic and even vulnerable species. I’ll go on to explore how the show demonstrates the importance of coalition building, and shows the dangers of imperialism and war as embodied by those who lead the Empire.

Last year, I touched on the mistakes of the Republic as depicted in The Clone Wars – how its indifference to the suffering of ordinary people, and insidious expansion of imperialism, helped to create the Empire. Before that, another piece on colonialism by Abigail Dillon (that every fan should read) discussed why the role of Ezra in Star Wars Rebels was so powerful because he served as one of the first main heroes to firmly position themselves against the dangerous colonial points of views embodied by other characters. Like Ezra, I think Din is a continuation of fan-favorite characters representing a more recent tradition of Star Wars, particularly under the direction of Dave Filoni, that critically engages with themes of colonization at the narrative’s core in ways we haven’t seen before.

The first main interaction with Indigenous communities in The Mandalorian is in the fifth episode of season one, “The Gunslinger”, where Din works with Toro Calican, a young, naïve bounty hunter on Tatooine. In their trek the characters come across the native Tusken Raiders, whom Toro describes as “filth” that were standing in their way. Din, on the other hand, explains that they are Indigenous locals and the two of them are considered trespassers in the view of the Tuskens. Rather than engaging with them in a way that would antagonize the native race of aliens who had resided on the land for thousands of years, Din negotiates their passage using sign language and trades safe passage in return for equipment.

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The Necessity of Detours: How Ahsoka Taught Me that Separation and Self-Discovery are Healthy

“I have to sort this out on my own, without the Council, and without you.”

– Ahsoka Tano

There comes a time in your life when the views and beliefs you were raised with are stripped down, shaken, or even uprooted at their very core. It took me submerging myself in Star Wars, its fandom, commentaries, critiques, costumes, and new friends to understand what had taken place since I moved out on my own. Similar to how Ahsoka Tano left the Jedi Order and the hypocritical structures of their religion in order to discover who she was in the Force, I left a conservative upbringing that prioritized strong social adherence to tertiary aspects of Christianity rather than the overarching values the religion preached. I’ve been on my own “detour” arc ever since then. In this article I will highlight why I relate so strongly to Ahsoka’s character development throughout the seventh season of The Clone Wars and what her relationship with the Jedi could evolve into beyond what we saw in Star Wars Rebels.

At Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019, I ended up doing a mad dash through the convention center and across the street (in the snow!) to catch the Clone Wars panel so I could see the sneak preview. I shed quite a few tears as I watched the scene of Ahsoka seeing Rex and the clone troopers with their helmets painted to show tribute to her. Their respect for her reminded me of how much my own opinion of Ahsoka had changed from finding her annoying in the first season to becoming one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters.

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“Who’s Ever Ready?” – Poe’s Leadership Development in the Sequel Trilogy

As someone who works with college students through a campus ministry, my favorite part of the job is leadership development. Every year I try to guide students to take steps forward along a leadership “pipeline”: taking risks, sticking with commitments, inviting others into a vision, being honest about past mistakes, and dealing with failure—all while doing so with a measure of humility. That’s why I’ve loved the recurring theme of leadership development in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, particularly as it relates to passing the baton to the next generation. There are many ways that we see characters grow in this trilogy, but perhaps the clearest development arc of a leader is that of Poe Dameron.

Whether it’s his risk-taking in The Force Awakens, his lessons learned the hard way in The Last Jedi, or his final maturation in The Rise of Skywalker, we see a continued path of development for Poe into a leader far beyond just another stereotypical flyboy or lone ranger. Poe’s steady growth as a Resistance leader, under the guidance of Leia and other mentors, is a stirring model for anyone looking for a clear picture of a leadership pipeline in action.

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