Two Camelots: On The High Republic’s Lofty Aspirations

In Star Wars, it feels like democracies are always corrupt and republics always fall. It’s been a perverse message in a franchise about light and dark, freedom and oppression. From the Expanded Universe to the prequel trilogy to the sequel trilogy, we see that senators and politicians are untrustworthy and democratic systems are unequipped to survive. Always our plucky heroes defeat the big bad enemy through force and firepower. It felt absurd by the late EU, where the message seemed to be that only soldiers got it done: rely not on elected governments, but on the military. One of the reasons why democratic republics seem doomed to fail in Star Wars is that we’ve never really seen them in their heyday, only in their rough early days or their corrupt final days.

We’ve known since the original A New Hope novelization that there was an “Old Republic of legend” which “throve and grew” “under the wise rule of the Senate and the protection of the Jedi Knights”. In the film, Obi-Wan Kenobi called the Jedi the “guardians of peace and justice”. The 1997 Technical Journal of the Imperial Forces struck an even more idyllic note, calling the Old Republic “a community that had always served its citizenry well and faithfully”, where the “common rule by the Senate served the people wisely and well” and where “planets […] could turn to their neighbors for help” when facing natural disasters or uprisings. But whenever stories took us to the distant past, whether in the EU’s Tales of the Jedi¸ Knights of the Old Republic, or the still-ongoing The Old Republic, the government we saw was never as the legends described. Until now.

The intent of The High Republic initiative is to showcase a “hopeful, optimistic time, when the Jedi are good and noble”, according to Lucasfilm Creative Director Michael Siglain. In the launch stream for the project, Light of the Jedi author Charles Soule described the idea of two Camelots: the Arthurian Round Table of heroic knights of peace and justice, and the Kennedyesque political Camelot of Chancellor Lina Soh’s Galactic Republic. The two Camelots are the perfect pillars to describe the Arthurian Old Republic we’ve heard about since 1977, so it’s no surprise that these are among the main creative focuses of The High Republic.

I want to take a look at the two books that launched The High Republic initiative this week: Soule’s Light of the Jedi and Justina Ireland’s A Test of Courage to see how they frame the two Camelots defining the era. Do we finally get a functional galactic democracy? Does the Republic of legend feel convincing, with serious challenges, flaws, and blind spots it rises to overcome? Are the heroic Jedi as aspirational and inspirational as they are meant to be? Do they still fit with what we know of the Jedi? And finally – since The High Republic era takes place just a few centuries preceding the prequel era — what seeds might be planted for the end of this era of idealism? My short answer is – yes, I think that Soule and Ireland pull off a convincing launch into an era of aspirational idealism that’s a breath of fresh air in Star Wars while still laying the seeds of interesting challenges that I hope the series ends up wrestling with.

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The Unexpected Optimism of The High Republic

Announced some time ago, I have to admit to a certain amount of skepticism about The High Republic. With the last few years seeing some quite spectacularly awful real-world politics, a sequel trilogy of films that decided its best move was killing off Luke, Han and Leia, plus – and how could this one be forgotten? – a global pandemic, I was lukewarm about its claims to being a more optimistic Star Wars story. At the same time I had some reason to be wary of the writer kicking it off, which Charles Soule would I be getting? The one that did some smart work on the first Lando comic miniseries or the one who takes the corporate gigs like killing off Wolverine? Finally, there is the cynicism born of numerous brighter, happier superhero relaunches that end quickly with some character getting eviscerated.

It’s therefore a rather delightful surprise that Light of the Jedi defies all of this to do something entirely different, very, very unexpected but not at all unwelcome.

One question that comes up with regard to stories is if the heroes have all the advantages how can there be any real conflict or challenge? How can the villains get any victories or even represent a genuine threat? The first answer to this question comes in the face of the disaster that opens this story, and from the very start it defies expectations in a positive way. When reading it, some of what you expect does happen; you may well foresee that a particular new character is not going to be around long and, while you might be right, you may also end up caring about them far more than you thought you would. At the same time, Soule does not play the darkness card here – it’s a disaster sure, many, many people die, but the plot does not overly dwell on it. Instead we see what The High Republic is about in its response to this disaster.

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More Than One Way to Be Mandalorian

The Mandalorian’s first season establishes early on that Mandalorians are recognized both by their armor and by their refusal to remove it. An essential part of their creed, removal of the helmet was so great a sin that it would excommunicate someone from the culture. An essential part of fandom meant that we had to immediately argue about what this meant.

Theories, jokes, and accusations of canon contradictions flew, but there seemed to be at least some draw towards a consensus. A consensus that the show would confirm in the second season.

In “The Heiress”, three people in Mandalorian armor remove their helmets in front of Din Djarin. Din immediately accuses them of stealing the armor, of not being true Mandalorians. Problem is: one of them is the former regent of Mandalore itself. Bo-Katan of House Kryze.

Mandalore’s culture applies to Din as well as to Bo-Katan and her warriors because of the simple fact that there is more than one way to be a Mandalorian.

Star Wars has tackled the nuances of several in-universe identities over the years. We know that there are endless variations on what it means to be a Jedi, a clone, a Separatist, an Imperial, a rebel, all nuances well worth exploring. I only wish Star Wars showed the same sort of dedication to nuance when it comes to real-life representation.

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The Case For Boba Fett’s Life

I’d like to talk about that one character’s surprise return in the new season of The Mandalorian.

No, not that one.

No, not that other one. The one in the premiere.

No, not that one, the other one in the premiere.

Heh. Anyway, Boba Fett. I think a lot of people, especially those whom you might call the core Mandalorian fanbase, see the nineties Expanded Universe as Boba Fett’s golden age—a time when the mainstream sensibilities of the Star Wars franchise, in both comics and prose, aligned perfectly with Boba’s gritty, amoral vibe in the original trilogy, and thus a slew of gritty, amoral content was released—famously including his resurrection from the sarlacc pit, but much of it set during the Empire’s reign, giving him no shortage of killable adversaries. Boba had no confirmed origin, no character arc, and frankly, no personality. He simply was.

I came into Star Wars at the peak of that era. I read all those stories, and they were mostly decent enough—I think the tone worked better in comics than in prose, but as part of the tapestry of what Star Wars was at the time I had no objection to them. But I don’t think I’d have called myself a Boba Fett fan.

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The Necessity of Detours: How Ahsoka Taught Me that Separation and Self-Discovery are Healthy

“I have to sort this out on my own, without the Council, and without you.”

– Ahsoka Tano

There comes a time in your life when the views and beliefs you were raised with are stripped down, shaken, or even uprooted at their very core. It took me submerging myself in Star Wars, its fandom, commentaries, critiques, costumes, and new friends to understand what had taken place since I moved out on my own. Similar to how Ahsoka Tano left the Jedi Order and the hypocritical structures of their religion in order to discover who she was in the Force, I left a conservative upbringing that prioritized strong social adherence to tertiary aspects of Christianity rather than the overarching values the religion preached. I’ve been on my own “detour” arc ever since then. In this article I will highlight why I relate so strongly to Ahsoka’s character development throughout the seventh season of The Clone Wars and what her relationship with the Jedi could evolve into beyond what we saw in Star Wars Rebels.

At Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019, I ended up doing a mad dash through the convention center and across the street (in the snow!) to catch the Clone Wars panel so I could see the sneak preview. I shed quite a few tears as I watched the scene of Ahsoka seeing Rex and the clone troopers with their helmets painted to show tribute to her. Their respect for her reminded me of how much my own opinion of Ahsoka had changed from finding her annoying in the first season to becoming one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters.

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