Jay: So guys, we’ve had a chance to digest From A Certain Point of View for a little while. This was always an interesting project — a book commemorating the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope, but trying to avoid well-trod ground. It was a huge undertaking to get 43 authors involved, and even more so to accomplish all of that for a charitable cause. Here at Eleven-ThirtyEight, we’ve been extolling the virtues of short stories for a while — both as a way to introduce new authors into the mix and to experiment with different kinds of stories. After all, I think several of us would agree that there is no one right way to tell a Star Wars story — that we can think beyond the expectations of Jedi, space battles, past tense, all of that, and get something different that still feels very much like Star Wars (the original movie was, after all, experimentation based on the familiar).
FACPOV gave us that — and it gave us a large variety of stories, catering to various different perspectives and interests. I’m sure that between all of us, there was at least one story that we knew we’d love as soon as Del Rey announced the story subjects. But what I want to get into first is…what surprised you? We’ll have time to talk about expected favorites later, but for me part of the joy was finding several stories I never expected to be my favorites, but they were. Was it the same for you?
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The common parlance (taken, of course, from a line the first film and applied liberally by fans) for the period between the fall of the Republic in Revenge of the Sith and the rise of the Rebellion in A New Hope is “the dark times”. This is when the Empire is at its zenith, with the Jedi long dead and any other opposing forces deep underground to avoid being summarily crushed. For many, especially when Star Wars Rebels was first announced, having a kid-friendly show about the adventures of a precocious teenager set in a time that should be the hallmark of an oppressive authoritarian regime was a perfect example of the “Disney-fication” of Star Wars as a whole. A show like Rebels, with such a light, comedic tone, would never be able to properly show the extent of the Empire’s oppression.
How easy it is to forget that when the Rebels media blitz was getting revved up and the series itself was finding its sea legs, we got a glimpse of the future, of how the show would handle that very subject. Various supplemental sources, like the Servants of the Empire series, hinted that the Empire was going to start to strip-mine Lothal for its natural resources, turning it from its idyllic pastures and rolling hills into yet another cog in the Imperial war machine. As Rebels itself left Lothal in the second season, we lost sight of that vision a bit. On periodic return visits, everything seemed relatively fine aside from the gradually increased Imperial presence, though sources outside of the show like the Thrawn novel touched back on the planet’s mining riches as general background.
Now, though, after the time-skip between the second and third seasons of the show, we’ve finally returned to Lothal proper in “The Occupation”. We go back to familiar locales first glimpsed all the way back in the show’s pilot shorts, now seeing the wind-swept McQuarrie-inspired grassland covered in heavy industrial smoke and dust. We hear that the friendly Ithorian bartender Old Jho, an early ally featured across multiple episodes of the show and even some of the books, was evicted from his establishment and summarily executed by the Empire for treason. The once-friendly locals don’t even dare brave the streets after dark anymore, with all motorized transports impounded and Imperial patrols everywhere. Lothal may have been under Imperial rule before, but now it is under true Imperial occupation, with all efforts being taken to stamp out any further potential rebellion. » Read more..
One in three named Star Wars characters is a straight, white human man. Three in four are male.
I know that because I’ve done the math—both before the reboot and ever since. If you’ve followed this blog for a while you probably know that, but I find it helpful every so often to restate my case for people who haven’t kept up with this particular project of mine (though the older pieces are of course still available). Once a year, I take it upon myself, with a big boost from Wookieepedia, to tabulate every named character from the previous twelve months of Star Wars novels, films, and television, and calculate how many are straight, white human men (hereafter WHMs), and separately, how many are males of any kind.
The percentage of a story’s cast that does not quality as WHMs is what I call its diversity score—for example, one WHM in a cast of ten would means a score of 90. The percentage of non-male characters I call the parity score, with an implied “ideal” score of around 50. Diversity scores have much less of an objective “ideal”—the occasional story with no WHMs would hardly be the worst thing to happen, but in a perfect world I’d say an average score in the high eighties/low nineties would be pretty good.
That said, we are nowhere near either of those targets, and that’s why I do this. The numbers can of course be broken down much further and endless productive discussion can be had over how intersectional the human cast should be, the ideal amount of LGBTQ representation, the ideal amount of aliens and droids, and most important of all, the strength of the characters as conceived and portrayed—but the bottom line is we’re not where we should be, and this is my way of looking at the big picture of representation and whether things are moving in one direction or another, so that we might decide how to move forward. That is a question with many, many good answers, none of which I claim to offer here. » Read more..
Jay: This two-part episode really did a great job highlighting the Mothma-Saw conflict and presenting their opposing viewpoints in the clearest way, while simultaneously developing Saw in a way that didn’t make him look like a two-dimensional cartoon character (lol). But this episode’s strengths highlighted the weakness of its handling of Kallus, who has somehow transformed himself. I don’t mean the Hot Kallus thing, that’s mostly funny (and people are allowed to be fans of characters even if they aren’t the purest). What I mean is that Kallus, formerly Fulcrum, formerly ISB Agent Kallus, is now important enough to the Rebellion that he’s present in councils with Mon Mothma and General Dodonna. He, a former genocidal Imperial agent, gets treated better than a fellow Rebel, Saw. He also gets more trust than Jyn, a person who’s been anti-Imperial her whole life, and more trust than Bodhi Rook, another defector who is in fact distrusted by the Rebel high council.
This is problematic, not least from an optics point of view. Saw, Bodhi, and Jyn are mistrusted (POCs and a woman) while Kallus (white male) is implicitly believed. This disparity is a bad look, even though it is obviously not the intent of the writers (indeed, it’s easy to justify the contrast between Bodhi’s treatment and Kallus’s–Kallus’s Fulcrum stint has earned him credibility, and Bodhi is an unknown quantity). But it doesn’t look good, and I think people are noticing the troubling optics there. But leaving that potentially controversial point aside, it’s hard to see why Saw’s extremism makes the Rebel leadership so uncomfortable with him when they’re apparently fine with Kallus.
It’s possible there will be story repercussions for Kallus, and a treatment of his war crimes just hasn’t shown up in the show yet. That’ll satisfy the need for it to be addressed, but it makes me ask — why put it off until later? Kallus was, more than any other character, the main antagonist for the Ghost crew. His defection is a big deal, and the consequences of it and his addition to trusted Rebel staff deserve to be addressed before we suddenly see him as one of the good guys. I have enough faith in the writing team to believe that it will be addressed, but the fact that it hasn’t been addressed yet bothers me. » Read more..
Since the release of The Last Jedi‘s theatrical trailer last week, two years of theories and speculation have at last begun to collapse into a rough shape of the movie’s plot. Not the overall structure, really, but certain moments are depicted very clearly—Luke in awe of Rey’s strength, Finn versus Phasma on a First Order base that may be the Supremacy—and a couple others strongly suggested: Kylo preparing to fire on Leia, and later offering his hand to Rey. Do those scenes really happen in the film? Lord knows we should be used to the trailers not being 100% indicative of the final films by now, but I’m inclined to believe that the essence of those two scenes does indeed happen—even if the footage used here isn’t quite right.
Kylo working up the nerve to fire on Leia is a pretty logical thing to happen post-The Force Awakens (and not especially suspenseful given that we know Carrie Fisher was meant to have a big role in Episode IX), but the suggestion that Kylo and Rey might be remotely cooperative for any reason whatsoever was like a bomb going off in the fandom: does Rey turn, fed up with Luke’s refusal to train her? Does Kylo turn, unable to follow orders and kill another parent? Or is this more of a détente, a brief setting aside of hostilities in order to reach some common goal? Personally, I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve been hoping for something along those lines to happen and I will gladly seize the thread this trailer offers and hold on tight for the next couple months.
I do think, though, that fans should try to open their minds to a much wider range of options than simply “Rey goes bad” or “Kylo becomes good”. This trilogy may have started with a defection, but I don’t see either Kylo or Rey really operating as members of the militaries they ostensibly represent—Force users rarely do. Kylo may have second thoughts, may even work actively against Snoke, but that hardly means he’d be welcomed with open arms by the Resistance or the New Republic. And Rey may well be tempted by Snoke, but we don’t really know his actual goals, do we? The First Order could simply be a means to an end for him, and if that end involves Rey, her cooperation could change his larger game in ways we can’t begin to guess—but I’m excited to see these lines blur a bit, for the movie to ask questions that the previous saga films haven’t prepared us for.
With the trailer and all its lovely possibilities now swirling around in your heads, what’s one scene, or moment, you particularly want to see in The Last Jedi? Is it a plot event or more of a character beat? And why is it important to you? » Read more..