Archive for Opinion

Burden of Empire: The Complex Relationship Between Star Wars and Fascism

hux-blackseriesOur fandom is rarely without some kind of controversy. It’s been like this since the times of message board wars and it feels like social media has only exacerbated this tendency towards grabbing pitchforks and torches that we often show. Sometimes these controversies become full-blown online wars (just look “Reylo” up on Google), sometimes they just fizzle down after a couple of annoyed grunts, and sometimes they actually become polite discussions. A couple of weeks ago one of the latter happened when Florian from Jedi-Bibliothek revealed that then-upcoming book Leia: Princess of Alderaan (since then positively reviewed by Jay and Sarah in this website) had a very disconcerting scene: at one point, Leia happily speaks of an old Alderaanian proverb, strength through joy. For those not in the know, Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude) was the name of a Nazi leisure organization; our friends at Jedi-Bib, a German fan site, were understandably puzzled, so were I and many others, especially European fans (I wonder why!). The fan reactions were multiple if muted, from the fans that suspected that it was intended to be a sarcastic commentary on the reach of the Empire to the fans that thought that it was not that big of a deal because to American readers it was an obscure reference, to even a few that said “STJ was just a tour operator, not a big deal, get over it.” I personally thought that the obscurity of the reference was what made the reference complicated, as it meant that in practice it worked like a dog whistle. Anyway, the strife lasted just one day: author Claudia Gray was horrified when she found out about the phrase’s origins, explaining it was just a coincidence, and everyone seemed to accept it and move on (although word is still out on what’s going to happen with future reprints and especially with the upcoming German translation). It was obvious from the start that it was most likely just an unintended reference: if George Harrison can accidentally copy one full song, the chances that Claudia Gray had referenced Strength Through Joy without knowing of its very dark origins were not small.

Yet the reaction of some fans who were just unwilling to contemplate the possibility that a Star Wars book could somehow have an intentional Nazi reference—while understandable because the author is well-liked and the book is really good—highlighted the sometimes complicated relationship that fandom has with both the representation of fascism in the Star Wars saga and the influence that fascism itself has had on it. I’ve mentioned before that I personally find the commodification of Imperial chic to be slightly disturbing, but this time I’d like to dig a bit deeper and to talk about the very tortuous relationship that Star Wars has always had with the concept of fascism itself. Is Star Wars a fascist dream? Is Star Wars actually anti-fascist? » Read more..

Like Mother, Like Daughter: Breha and Leia Organa

the organas

This article contains some plot spoilers after the intro

Leia: Princess of Alderaan is a true coming-of-age novel about one of the franchise’s most iconic characters, and seeing a sixteen-year-old Leia struggling to find her place in the world makes for a poignant and emotional story. We’ve seen Leia as the fiery leader of the Rebellion who’s wise beyond her years. We’ve seen her as the somewhat more jaded senator of the New Republic. And we’ve seen her as the Resistance general, who brings gravitas to every scene she’s in. But this Leia is younger and more untested. She is unsure of her place in the galaxy, both as the heir to the throne and as a person in her own right.

Last Friday, Jay did an excellent job detailing Leia’s struggle to make a difference in the lives of those hurt by the Empire. And even though the reader knows what lies in store for Leia, that doesn’t make it any less emotional to see her trying to do the right thing against a system she knows is unfair, to see her anguish over the sudden distance her parents are keeping from her, or to see her try to establish her own identity outside of “future princess.” It’s Leia at her most relatable, for who among us has not felt unsure about our place in the world or the identity we want to be?

But perhaps the greatest strength of the book is the depiction of the relationship Leia has with both her adoptive parents. We’ve seen plenty of Bail Organa in Star Wars before; Leia mentions him as a part of her plea for Obi-Wan’s help, he plays a major role in Revenge of the Sith, and has popped up in several books as well as the Rebels TV show. We have ample knowledge of how close he and Leia were and, of course, we know he trusts Leia with his life. But so far Breha hasn’t gotten nearly the same treatment; we know almost as little about her as we did when she first appeared on screen almost fifteen years ago. Fortunately, Claudia Gray stepped into that gap and wrote the mother/daughter story that Star Wars has sorely needed.

(some plot spoilers under the cut)

» Read more..

Gray Matters III: Leia’s Atypical Teenage Rebellion

(this article contains spoilers after the intro)

It’s a good thing I’m writing an analysis and not a strict review, Leia_-_Princess_of_Alderaan_-_new_coverbecause it’s hard to be objective about Leia: Princess of Alderaan. I’ve long wanted a young Leia book, and there were only three authors that I trusted to write it: Martha Wells (Razor’s Edge), Alexandra Bracken (The Princess, The Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy), and Claudia Gray (Bloodline) — and we got Claudia Gray! From the moment this book was announced at Celebration Orlando, I knew I’d love it — and my sky-high expectations were met. What expectations were those? Well, I wanted a story that did credit to my favorite Star Wars film character and showed us the development of her political heroism that ends up being the driving force of the rebellion. And that’s what we got.

Leia: Princess of Alderaan is a coming of age story: the narrative is book-ended by a particular Alderaanian rite of passage for the royal heirs, and it’s Leia’s relationship to her homeworld, her parents (Queen Breha finally gets a chance to shine, and gets developed in depth!), and Leia’s nascent awareness of a growing rebellion against the Empire that forms the framework for this story. It’s about relationships, and Leia maturing as a person and as a political leader. You’ll hear from Sarah Dempster on Monday about Leia’s relationships with her parents (particularly her mother) — today I’d like to talk about Leia’s political awakening and her involvement with the rebellion.

This isn’t a Star Wars book with moral gray areas. The Empire is clearly the villain in this story, whether we’re talking about Leia’s point of view or the Empire’s role in the story. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy question whether the Empire should be fought, because fighting carries consequences for Leia and those she loves. While the audience knows about the fate of Alderaan, Leia doesn’t. For her, the dangers are hypothetical — but they’re no less certain.

There are spoilers under the cut — do NOT continue if you haven’t read this book!

» Read more..

Brace Yourselves – Luke Skywalker Needs to Die in The Last Jedi

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Note: The speculation about The Last Jedi in this article is based only on official sources – behind the scenes footage, interviews with the cast and director, and merchandise.

It’s been lurking in the fandom subconscious for some time; we’re just afraid to confront it. Surely they would never kill Luke Skywalker in the very next film after offing Han Solo? The childhood hero for millions, forced by his own guilt into a lonely, tortured exile, returns to the galactic stage only to shuffle off its mortal coil for good? That would be absurd, wouldn’t it?

Lisa Schap already speculated, long before details of the story were known, about the necessity for Luke to be written out of the sequel trilogy. Didn’t everything change, though, with The Force Awakens? Didn’t Han’s unexpected (yet quite wonderful) role as Rey’s mentor/father figure, and his tragic death, mean Luke dodged this particular bullet?

I’ve felt that way for a long time. I’ve lived happily in denial. I’m sorry to say, though, that knowing what we now know about Luke, I can no longer deny the truth. TFA only prolonged the inevitable. Luke dying in The Last Jedi is not just a very real possibility – it might also be best not just for the story of the trilogy as a whole, but also for Luke himself.

» Read more..

Quick Years: What Star Wars Novels Have Been Getting Wrong

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One of the first adult Star Wars novels of the new canon was Tarkin, by franchise veteran James Luceno. Many of Luceno’s books have been “biographical” in nature, choosing a subject and covering a large swath of their existence in one story. Sometimes this works well, as in Darth Plagueis, which had a pretty open canvas to work with and, perhaps most importantly, a definitive climax and resolution that had never been told in detail. Other times, notably when alternating between backstory and events in the “present day”, Luceno has had trouble maintaining a balance between the primary plot and the wide-ranging flashbacks (do you even remember what Millennium Falcon‘s framing story was? I don’t).

This was the case with Tarkin, I felt—“the central story of Teller and his group of renegades stealing the Carrion Spike and cutting a swath through the Empire with it was actually pretty interesting,” I wrote at the time, “but ultimately I think I would’ve preferred a novel of just that.” Unlike with Falcon, I was more interested in the present than in the past, but the issue was the same—an imbalance wherein the thing I really wanted to read was constantly being interrupted by something far less interesting and only nominally related.

I thought then that a good solution would be to just jettison the alternating structure and tell overtly biographical stories, but wouldn’t you know it? Over the last few years, Star Wars has repeatedly followed that very advice—and I’ve come to see things very differently. » Read more..

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