As you may know, a little personal project of mine is to tabulate and track the demographics of named Star Wars characters from year to year, so that we fans can discuss with some accuracy how diverse they are (or aren’t). If this is the first you’re hearing of it, click the series tag at the end of the piece or see last year’s entry for a more thorough explanation. It’s been an interesting year for this subject—two new films have been released since my last update, and only three original adult novels. This is a self-explanatory phenomenon, of course, because two films means two novelizations, which means two fewer original stories. Add in the final season of Star Wars Rebels and for the first time, the amount of visual Star Wars media in a given year equaled the amount of published media—at least by the methods I’ve chosen for this project.
While that’s very much out of the ordinary for the franchise—last year’s update included one film, one season of Rebels, and eight novels—it helped bring into focus something I’ve only vaguely acknowledged over these last few years: when characterizing the overall diversity of the franchise no amount of novels can really compare to the representational value of a movie star. So even though there are far more novels overall than films or television series, the latter category deserves at least equal weight to the former, debatably even moreso—and with multiple live-action television series on the way it’s only getting more important.
Another development of the past year was the dawn of the #SWRepMatters social media campaign. Short for “Star Wars Representation Matters”, the hashtag was started by a group of fans on Twitter that includes several former Eleven-ThirtyEight guest contributors to highlight different communities of underrepresented people and why they belong both in the Star Wars universe and behind the camera (or pen). It’s been a great campaign to watch (with no signs of letting up!) in part because of the diversity of participants—one reason I choose to talk about this in such a dry, academic way is because I’m not from an underrepresented community; I can’t speak about it as insightfully and passionately as fans who really do long for that representation, and I wouldn’t presume to be an arbiter of which characters are or are not “good representation”—numbers, though, I can do. » Read more..
While it’s common for long-time fans to think of the Disney purchase and subsequent continuity reboot as a big dividing line in the Star Wars franchise, what you might call the “modern” era of Star Wars actually began much earlier in the form of The Clone Wars. Blazing its own path between Episodes II and III, borrowing liberally from the Expanded Universe without adhering strictly to its details, TCW in retrospect is a perfect example of how modern Star Wars storytelling would come to operate.
It’s also a great model for what future Star Wars animated television would look like—when Star Wars Rebels came along in 2014, despite being set deep into the Dark Times, some of its earliest episodes were lighthearted to the point of distraction. An entire episode revolved around stealing fruit. Sabine, only a little older than Ezra, could waltz into and out of Imperial facilities seemingly on a lark, with little apparent danger. Stormtroopers, even in death, were treated as jokes to a degree not seen on screen since Return of the Jedi, more akin to battle droids than truly lethal soldiers of an all-powerful Empire. Looking back, though, this tonal shock seems less about any reasonable expectation of what the show would be like (and on that fair minds can differ) and more about where The Clone Wars had left off.
Like many animated shows, TCW started in a very simple place with a very limited library of assets, and its protagonist Ahsoka had all the innocence and whimsy of Ezra and Sabine put together. But over six seasons and forty-plus hours of material it became something very different, and infinitely more complex—not just artistically, though definitely that as well, but in terms of the “seriousness” of its storytelling. It’s easy to argue that Ahsoka’s existence strengthens not just Anakin’s arc but the prequel era as a whole, but the fact is you could excise her completely without losing a vital piece of the saga—if not, Revenge of the Sith wouldn’t have worked in 2005. But even people who don’t know about Ahsoka and don’t care to might very well wonder why the clones turned on the Jedi so easily, or how the whole “Force ghost” thing worked, or what happened to Sifo-Dyas, or how exactly Anakin was supposed to “Balance the Force”. For better or worse, the prequels left a lot of open questions, and in choosing to address them, TCW became a much more mature show. » Read more..
After a lengthy dry spell, welcome back to Escape Pod, our recurring series in which we choose one thing from Legends and argue for its inclusion in the new canon.
When Obi-Wan Kenobi first stated “if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”, there was next to nothing explaining what that actually meant—even after we’d heard his voice in Luke’s head later in the movie. The rest of the original trilogy implied certain things when Obi-Wan was followed by Yoda and even Anakin Skywalker, recipient of that original warning, in apparent life after death. The prequels provided the first evidence that it wasn’t just a standard Jedi thing, but rather something that had to be proactively learned, and The Clone Wars finally spelled out the whole deal by showing us Yoda’s own Force ghost training just four short years ago.
Our own Mark Eldridge recently did a deep dive into the lore—and more importantly, the principles—of existence beyond death and what it means. In his conclusion, he stressed how important said principles are to the core messages of the franchise:
…the Force ghost mystery takes us to the heart of Star Wars: the selfless choice or the selfish, letting go and finding enlightenment or clinging on and causing suffering. Future filmmakers may be tempted to introduce a form of “dark side” immortality, but should resist the thought, because it would fatally undermine the value system at the heart of a series which was designed to teach these lessons to children.
That’s no hypothetical concern, either. With more than three decades passing between the first time we saw Obi-Wan vanish and when we finally received a full, official explanation, countless fans grew to adulthood without those answers, many of them ultimately creating Star Wars stories of their own, and without a full understanding of this subject, the Expanded Universe was rife with immortality. Most famously, in one of the earliest “modern” EU stories, Palpatine himself returned in a cloned body six years after his death at Endor. » Read more..
Last week saw the conclusion of the third season of the acclaimed science fiction television series The Expanse. Adapted from the novels by James S.A. Corey (of SWEARHAT fame!), The Expanse follows the crew of the stolen warship Rocinante as they’re pushed and pulled between the far-future solar system’s major political powers and an encroaching and poorly-understood alien presence.
I’m a late convert to the show myself, having streamed the first two seasons on Amazon just in time for the third’s debut this past spring on SyFy—where it would soon be canceled, the bastards. Luckily, Amazon chose to pick up Rocinante‘s reins and continue the series, meaning that in a year or so the show will return to where my journey with it first began. And there’s plenty more to come, if the source material is any indication: the series is slated to conclude with the release of the ninth novel next year, so if the show sticks to a one-book-per-season pace (though that’s varied a bit already), that means six more seasons!
Nine seasons of television are a hell of a time commitment, and for me at least, nine novels even more so—but at the moment I have every intention of sticking around, and once the show is over I plan to spend six months or so reading the novels. What makes The Expanse so compelling, and what qualifies it for precious column inches here on a Star Wars blog? Let’s discuss. » Read more..
It doesn’t come up a lot here on the blog, but one of the things I’m known for on Twitter is being a big fan of Lando Calrissian. He’s stylish, he’s brave, he’s got one of the only four-syllable last names—what’s not to like? At first glance, though, he and I don’t have a lot in common. I’m not a slob like Han is but I certainly wouldn’t call myself fashionable, or even all that concerned with how I present myself. I’m pretty reserved socially and I don’t chase women (or men, or blobs), nor do I really aspire to. I do enjoy poker but I’d describe my playing style as chaotic neutral—and gambling in general seems pointless to me.
So what is it about this guy that’s driven me to latch onto him? Well, for one thing, I think Lando’s actually a pretty widely misunderstood character. The flirting and the gambling most people know him for, to pick a random metaphor off the top of my head, are like capes: ornamental details calculated to cultivate a certain impression while also concealing what’s really going on underneath. » Read more..