Archive for Simple Tricks

Second Look: Who Are the Hostiles? – Star Wars and Colonialism

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In the Star Wars Rebels finale, there’s a masterful use of Kevin Kiner’s score, which flips its meaning on its head.

Grand Admiral Thrawn is once again pontificating on his art collection, explaining to Ezra Bridger that even though his homeworld of Lothal is about to be destroyed, at least some of the culture will be preserved. It will be safe in the hands of the Empire. Ezra is less than grateful, and counters Thrawn immediately:

You think you can take whatever you want. Things you didn’t make. Didn’t earn. Things you don’t even understand. You don’t deserve to have this art or Lothal.1

As Ezra erupts into this speech, Thrawn’s theme begins building in the background. This track is primarily used to highlight when Thrawn is closing in on victory, usually as a result of his deductive capabilities. Here, it’s building to Ezra’s victory, a moral voice slapping down Thrawn’s entitlement to cultures not his own.

It’s a re-appropriation of art on a meta level, as Ezra stares into the face of colonialism.

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  1. “Family Reunion and Farewell”. Star Wars Rebels. 2018. []

Admiral Holdo: A Fan Discussion

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Dragon Con is somewhat unique among large conventions in that despite its size it is still entirely fan-run, meaning you don’t really see the industry presence (read: exclusive merch and reveals) that you would at a SDCC, NYCC, Celebration, etc. However it also means that there’s an emphasis on a wide breadth of tracks to cover almost every tangentially geeky topic there is to talk about, from the obvious sci-fi/fantasy titans (Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, etc) to more niche interests such as puppetry or LAN gaming.

The Star Wars team in particular always puts on four days of incredibly high-quality programming and discussions, and as a frequent panelist with the Star Wars track my goal this year was to bring some of that fantastic discussion to Eleven-ThirtyEight. And in a year where the fandom at large has dealt with some serious discussions around toxicity and representation, it seemed fitting to put a focus on one of the more controversial elements from The Last Jedi: Vice Admiral Holdo.

So I now present to you the latest in ETE’s Aggressive Negotiations series: a transcription of the Vice Admiral Holdo panel from Dragon Con 2018, featuring myself and three other panelists unaffiliated with ETE. For those unaware, Aggressive Negotiations are raw, largely unproofed live chats among our staff and occasionally others. They are more off the cuff and unscripted with the goal being to present fandom in its most raw form.

The panel discussion originally took place on Friday, August 31, 2018. This transcription has been slightly edited for clarity.

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Second Look: Doing/Talking: The Importance of Being Rose

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

rose-speeder

“The biggest problem in the universe is that no one helps each other” are words uttered by one of the more barbaric characters in the Star Wars canon. But freed of their heavily ironic context the sentiment remains at the core of what drives the story: conflict and action. That’s not unique to Star Wars by any means, and neither is the quote attributed to that character’s daughter in the original film’s novelization: “They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.” Both thoughts, however, would serve as highly appropriate taglines for Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, particularly when it comes to the newest addition that roster of heroes, Rose Tico.

Much has been made of The Last Jedi’s shunning of the typical conceits and objectives that drive people in Star Wars — this is of course done knowingly by Johnson as he comments on motivation and character throughout the feature, across all story lines. With Rose, he starts with as little as possible: she’s stuck on the boat with everyone else, her remit is extremely narrow (don’t let people inspect escape pods from the inside) — she has just lost her sister, yes, but there no natural outlet for action or resolution in the way that, say, Luke has Obi-Wan waiting for him back at the sandcrawler, or Rey has First Order troops hunting for BB-8. In establishing Rose’s involvement in the plot, Johnson inverts a key moment from The Force Awakens: the meeting of Poe and Finn. In that instance, individuals from opposing sides band together for practical purposes, in the interest of survival. There is of course the gag of Finn liberating Poe because “it’s the right thing to do.” Poe cynically sees through this and recognizes it for what it is, identifying Finn’s true need immediately.

Rose, on the other hand, is drawn into the fight because it is indeed the right thing to do. Her insight and knowledge grant her the opportunity to go along for the ride, rather than the luck she sheepishly attributes it to. Whether she or Finn are fit for purpose with regard to the mission they eventually go on is material enough for an entirely separate piece, but for her to earn her seat at the table on merit rather than potential, duty, or coincidence is a refreshing change. There is a lure of the swashbuckling derring-do that she (initially) so breathlessly admires Finn for, but her core drive is an idealistic one. This makes her a fine counterpoint to Johnson’s transformation of Kylo Ren into an ideologically-driven big bad for this particular trilogy, and lies at the heart of how this film propels the saga out of its dynastic dogfight and into something more essential.

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Second Look: In Defense of Bad Decisions

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

poe-transports

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the real world, a human being exists in a superposition. Their capacity for love or hate, honesty or guile, can evolve wildly over the course of their lives, or even from day to day. The second you try to nail someone down, best-case scenario, all you’ve really captured is an echo. Worst-case scenario, it’s an outright fabrication.

Star Wars has a reputation for grabbing an extra-thick Sharpie and drawing hard, clear lines between good and evil, but I would argue that that’s a function of aesthetics more than storytelling—you know immediately that Darth Vader is evil, until suddenly he’s not. You know immediately that the Republic is a good thing, until suddenly it’s an Empire. You know immediately that stormtroopers are bad guys, until one of them has second thoughts.

So when two “good guys” come into conflict, who exactly are we supposed to root for?

The Last Jedi delights in forcing these questions on us, making us second-guess who the hero is and what that role really requires of them—but while Luke Skywalker is the marquee Questionable Hero, the one who has engendered far more interesting debate, for my money, is Poe Dameron.

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Second Look: Luke Skywalker is a Fallible Hero and That’s Okay

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting pieces from recent months. Every day this week you’ll find a different older piece back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

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“Luke Skywalker has vanished.”

The opening line of the crawl for The Force Awakens was like a gut punch to Luke fans everywhere. And not only was Luke gone, he’d apparently gone missing voluntarily, as a result of Ben Solo falling to the dark side and becoming Kylo Ren. For two years the fandom theorized not only on why Kylo became evil but why Luke Skywalker, Rebel hero and Jedi legend, has apparently given up. In The Last Jedi, we finally get those answers. Luke takes Yoda’s advice to “pass on what you have learned” to heart, but a split-second mistake on Luke’s part brings the whole thing crashing down. And as a result Luke decides to exile himself on a remote island and leave no trace of his whereabouts. By the time Rey finds him, he’s an acerbic, sarcastic hermit who in so many rude ways tells her to leave him alone and that he refuses to help Leia fight the evils of the First Order.

This seems a sharp contrast to the bright, shining figure we see in the original trilogy. Luke had hardships and made decisions that backfired on him, but he was never one to run away from a problem. So at first glance this seems like a long string of extremely out of character moments meant to create drama and difficulty for Rey and Kylo. However, when taking a deeper look at Luke’s character and personality in the original trilogy, his circumstances in TLJ are a natural extension of his character.

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