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The Saga Concludes – The Minority Report, Year Five

Welcome, one and all, to the final Minority Report, my annual(ish) update on diversity in Star Wars’ screen and printed content. As discussed in my last report, I’ve reached the conclusion that this new era of the franchise has brought us to a point where it’s better that the raw numbers, which have been my bailiwick for more than ten years now, take a backseat and that representation—what types of characters we’re seeing and how they’re used—becomes the primary focus of these conversations. While I still plan on running said numbers for my own edification, I’m going to refrain from these regular updates and save my commentary for when and if something really noteworthy happens.

I first took on this project way back in the days of the Expanded Universe, where most new characters were coming from books and their demographics were both more uniform and harder to notice; now that movies and television are steering the ship, Star Wars has responded to this increased scrutiny with a boatload of new female characters, characters of color, and even a small but not insignificant population of queer and nonbinary characters. But while the weight of focus has shifted drastically away from the usual parade of white guys, there’s still a lot to discuss about exactly how characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, Holdo, Val, and L3-37 are used, how they intersect, and what messages their stories are sending.

The thing about that, though, is that I see my own role in those conversations to be much more that of a listener—and ideally, a promoter of great voices from within the relevant communities here at this blog. When I started tracking diversity it felt like no one else was paying attention to it at all (at least in the not-very-diverse forums I was hanging around in back then), so having real numbers to throw around was my way of holding up a flashing neon “PROBLEM” sign. Now that diversity and representation are a huge, flourishing topic of discussion, I see how much I still had to learn, and while I still believe sheer volume is a big part of the solution, this is about much more than which types of people we see walking by in the background and who they happen to be kissing.

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Shadow Fall: Where Will Alexander Freed’s Starfighter Story Go From Here?

The novels of Alexander Freed focus on the trials and tribulations of frontline soldiers in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Both his original works and his novelization of Rogue One center on characters’ experiences on the periphery of main galactic events. His latest novel, Shadow Fall, Part II of the Alphabet Squadron trilogy will be released next month. This piece will take a dive into what I’m expecting from Shadow Fall based on the contents and themes of Freed’s previous novels, Twilight Company and the original Alphabet Squadron.

Alphabet Squadron, as the first novel in a planned trilogy, is a bit hampered by the need for setup; some of the things that Freed did best in Twilight Company were therefore not expressed in Alphabet Squadron. For Shadow Fall, my hope is that Freed will more fully realize his vision of the galaxy at war. The post-Operation Cinder, pre-Battle of Jakku timeline that Freed is exploring contains vast narrative possibilities. With the Empire reeling as it loses control of the galaxy, there is massive room for conflict.

In Twilight Company, Freed deftly balanced between covering events around Hoth and telling new stories. I expect Freed will continue to cover his niche of the galaxy, while also tangentially including Chandrila, Kashyyyk, and perhaps eventually Jakku. One of Freed’s major strengths is how he tells established stories from new perspectives.  Part of Twilight Company covers the fall of Echo Base from the trenches, and I would be pretty excited to see the battle of Jakku from a similar perspective. 

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“Die Well, Mandalorian” – The Chance of Escape That Maul Didn’t Take

If there is one thing that Maul cannot shut up about, it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. If there are two things that Maul cannot shut up about, it’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Maul’s abandonment by Darth Sidious.

It was one of the first things he discussed upon regaining lucidity, “…such is how you found me, brother. Discarded! Forgotten!” And it’s the story he draws from to gain Ezra’s trust on Malachor:

The Sith took everything from me. Ripped me from my mother’s arms, murdered my brother, used me as a weapon, and then cast me aside. Abandoned me! Once I had power, now I have nothing…nothing…

Maul, “Twilight of the Apprentice”

He snarls at Sidious directly for it in the Son of Dathomir comic, and in the latest episode of The Clone Wars, “The Phantom Apprentice”, Maul makes sure to work it into his monologues, both overtly and as subtext. He will bring it up to anyone who will listen – and those who won’t, he will make listen.

Beyond his ongoing monologues on the subject, we do see that abandonment is a constant theme in Maul’s arc, and I appreciate what “The Phantom Apprentice” adds. It makes explicit Maul’s complicity in the cycle of his own abandonment.

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Clone Wars Celebration: Siege of Mandalore Kicks Off

The Clone Wars starts the Siege of Mandalore by throwing itself a party.

Ahsoka’s theme plays over a retro-styled Lucasfilm logo. The John Williams fanfare blares over a screaming red logo of The Clone Wars, calling back to Maul’s return. The fortune cookie is replaced by a declaration of “Part I – Old Friends Not Forgotten” in the same font as the Lucasfilm logo, calling back to the serials that had inspired the original Star Wars in 1977.

The visuals of Season Seven – already leaps beyond the Lost Missions of Season Six – are left in the dust. The shot with Aayla and Bly passed before my brain registered that it wasn’t live action. The cinematography of Cody’s assault on the bridge had me alternately on the floor and leaping atop the couch to pump a fist into the air.

“Old Friends Not Forgotten” was a celebration of everything that The Clone Wars had become. Look at us! We finally made it! Look at how far we’ve come in our animation! In our writing! In the Star Wars canon – why, we’re in the Revenge of the Sith timeline!

But what I think I love most about this party is that The Clone Wars makes no attempts to apologize for where it started: a weird little movie released in 2008 to poor reception from critics and audiences alike.

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May The Force Be With You (And With Your Spirit) – When Religion Fails the People it’s Meant to Help

For those of us who grew up in the church and those of us who are a part of it now, it’s incredible how much Christianese can bypass our filters as being normal, everyday terms. I like to think I’m fairly good at not dropping lines like “let’s fellowship with each other”, or “called to [insert ministry here]”, but just the other day, I had a friend stop me with a “wait, what’s a spiritual gift?” Whoops.

There is a very distinct subculture of American Christianity (with its own sub-sub-subcultures) where this Christianese language lives, and much of it is intended to be something good. “Fellowship” is meant to be about deep community. Being “called to” a ministry is about seeing God’s heart for a particular need. But when you live in an echo chamber of this language without grasping its heart, it can devolve into empty platitudes.

It can become Luminara Unduli’s words to Rafa Martez.

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