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The Case Against Mara Jade Skywalker

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When Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire hit the shelves in 1991, it brought us out of a long drought of Star Wars material and gave us an idea of what the post-Return of the Jedi Empire might have looked like. It also gave us two characters that grew very popular over time: Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade.

Mara was introduced as the “Emperor’s Hand”, who could hear his voice anywhere in the galaxy and did his bidding. She was tough, ruthless, one not to be crossed.

This characterization is good. Star Wars has always done well with strong female characters, was in fact one of the first franchises to do so. Lucas took a lot of criticism in 1977 for giving Leia strength, sarcastic wit, a feisty attitude; for making her into a person who would rip the blaster out of her incompetent rescuers’ hands because “someone has to save our skins” instead of just saying “Thank you, you wonderful men, for risking yourselves to rescue me off this battle station.” Read More

Star Wars: for all ages, all of the time?

Star Wars is meant for kids. George Lucas agreeing to take the rights to sell T-shirts and lunchboxes and plastic snowtroopers in lieu of a pay hike is proof of that. Star Wars has always been meant for kids. But it was its ability to draw in everyone else that made it one of the most commercially successful films in history. Adjusted for inflation, only Avatar and Gone with the Wind fare better. Despite its monolithic cultural influence, no other Star Wars movie comes close to beating A New Hope.

Far more intelligent people than I have tried to explain why the prequels were seen by so many as a disappointment, but it was never really the children that it disappointed. There’s a complicated discussion to be had about whether that’s because kids will accept anything as long as it’s shiny or whether adults are just cynical and greedy, but I think it’s fairly uncontroversial to say that the prequels focused more sharply on that younger demographic. The Phantom Menace, in particular, set the tone, with its Roger-Roger tin-can comedy bad guys, a nine-year old protagonist and everything to do with the Gungans. But even Revenge of the Sith, the only movie in the trilogy not to be granted a fully family-friendly rating, spends its opening see-sawing between Artoo’s slapstick cargo bay antics and Anakin’s adventures in dismemberment and beheading. Read More

Star Travel and You – Why It Probably Shouldn’t Look Like That

Star Wars is perhaps the most iconic mythology of the last century. Even if someone has never watched one of the movies, they know what a stormtrooper looks like. They can recognize a lightsaber. And moon-sized superweapons and the Force pervade every-day references. And yet, despite the impact of this great science-fiction epic, Star Wars has made a lot of mistakes in the “science” part of “science fiction”.

In fact, many of the trappings that we know and love are more for visual effect rather than practicality. And this is not limited to the generic details of the world, but the entire way that we perceive the culture of Star Wars functioning.

Some parts are far more obvious than others. Any Star Wars fan is used to great armies traversing the galaxy on a whim, fighting battles on planets halfway across the galaxy from each other in the same week, or even the same day. And yet, real space travel is prohibitively expensive. Like any technology, the price will eventually become more affordable the more advanced a society becomes, but that barrier will never be totally removed.
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The Smaller Star Warriors – Why Average Soldiers Fight for the Cause

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We all know Luke, Leia and Han. They were destined to save the galaxy and lead the Rebellion. Palpatine was determined to take over the galaxy and ensure permanent domination. This is the fundamental basis of Star Wars as we know it. But one large factor is often overlooked, or rather an innumerable number of smaller details that add up to make the difference. The average soldiers who serve both sides of the conflict. Risking their own lives and taking the lives of their enemies.

By why? What does TK-421 gain by guarding the Millennium Falcon in the Death Star’s hanger bay? Why did so many Bothans die to ensure that the Rebellion could learn of the Second Death Star? The motivation behind these numerous, yet faceless, characters is often ignored in both the movies, and the Expanded Universe. In fact, the only armies that can be accepted without considering their personal feelings are those of the Separatist Alliance or Xim the Despot – droids who are programed for war.

As soon as an army utilizes living, thinking beings, emotion and reason enter the equation. And so the question must inevitably follow, what possible reason could they have to put their lives on the line for something that they may not even benefit from, even should they survive.

It’s the same question that real-life political leaders must grapple with, and historians forever analyze to understand the rise and fall of empires. And in the fictional world of Star Wars, there is no less a role for this. In fact, many of the militaries we see are nothing more than a reflection of our own history.
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