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Second Look: The March of the First Order – How Star Wars Resistance Reveals a New Form of Evil

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

The First Order invasion of the Star Wars galaxy has been characterized on the big screen as efficient, effective, and merciless. The Force Awakens opens with a brutal First Order attack on a settlement on Jakku. While the movie goes on to depict the destruction of the Galactic Senate on Hosnian Prime by Starkiller Base, the details of the brutal methods utilized by the First Order to exert authority over individual planets are not fully explored on the big screen. The first season of Star Wars Resistance reveals the shocking truth behind the ongoing march of the First Order.

Home, Home on the Colossus

On the edge of Wild Space lies Castilon, the oceanic planet that serves as the setting for the first season of Star Wars Resistance. While the surface of the planet is covered in water, no land is necessary for the Colossus, an old supertanker depot that serves as a final refueling point before the Unknown Regions and also as a hangout for speed-junkie ace pilots. Far from the cosmopolitan Core systems – where planets which serve as the seat of the galaxy’s political and cultural power (like Coruscant and Hosnian Prime) are located – Castilon is, by the admission of Flix the acquisitions clerk, what most people mean when they say “the other side of the galaxy”.

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Second Look: Humansplaining: Star Wars From the Aliens’ Perspective

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

Human diversity in the Galaxy Far, Far Away has been a major focus of this site, and myself personally, over the years, but there’s been a parallel conversation running alongside that all along in the representation of droids and aliens: how many, which kinds, what are they doing? While real people seeing themselves directly and fulsomely represented in these stories—in the films especially—is certainly a higher priority, Star Wars is arguably not very well equipped to address things like racism and sexism in a direct fashion, and instead normally chooses to do so through subtext and metaphor.

The Mos Eisley cantina is notable for being not just the first major showcase of the galaxy’s alien demographics, but for the first instance of “metaphorical prejudice” in the form of Wuher banning the droids from his establishment. That moment coupled with an Imperial officer describing Chewbacca as a “thing” not long after makes George Lucas’s view of prejudice quite clear—even if the overall whiteness and maleness of the film’s protagonists does him no favors.

Droids and aliens, then, have never been there just for texture, but for metaphor as well—a way for the story to comment on real human biases without overtly importing them into its universe. While Solo‘s recent efforts to engage with droid prejudice were, well, inconsistent at best, the fact is that the films have never even attempted to put nonhuman prejudice on the front burner.

Lack of foregrounding, however, doesn’t equate to silence: if you choose to take the demographics seriously and not just as texture you’ll find that the films have been saying quite a bit. The goal of this piece, then, is to do just that—assume every human role and every nonhuman role is one hundred percent deliberate, and extrapolate accordingly. To be clear, this is very much a thought experiment, and not a suggestion of intentional messaging on the part of the creators.1 ILM and Lucasfilm’s creature shop (whew, just calling it that in this context is awkward) have done a lot of amazing work over the years, but how that work is distributed throughout the story tells a story of its own. What messages do we come away with when we treat that subtext as text?

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  1. Though it does seem to be in some cases, as I’ll discuss later. []

Second Look: The Phantom Menace is Innocent: We’re to Blame for Modern Cinema Culture

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

Ah, clickbait. “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is To Blame For Modern Cinema Culture” is a wonderfully clickbaity headline, and I was baited to click. Now I’m going to add my voice to the silliness. The article, by Hannah Jenkins, caused a bit of a stir in the digital gazebo known as Star Wars Twitter, arguing as it did that TPM was responsible for many of the trends in current popular cinema, the good and the bad. Most of these arguments were not particularly convincing. The true legacy of TPM, and the lessons we can take from it, can be found when we look not at the industry or at the movie itself, but at ourselves.

Jenkins argues that TPM’s trailer was a defining moment in the marketing of movies, and there’s truth in this. Suddenly the advert was an event in and of itself, and following the “illegal” sharing of it across the internet, studios quickly had to catch up with this new digital way of consuming these things. I remember spending anxious hours downloading each Attack of the Clones trailer via dial-up on QuickTime (an ironic name if ever there was one), and being irritated by Warner Bros.’ attempts to force us into the cinema to watch Scooby Doo by releasing only a thirty-second trailer for the trailer of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets online. Maybe TPM did lead the way to the era of big simultaneous Super Bowl/Twitter trailer reveals. And Jar Jar Binks was certainly a leap forward when it came to motion capture, though this can be overstated: he was hardly the first fully CGI leading character in a movie, with Casper, Dragonheart and Mars Attacks all preceding him.

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Luke looking out on the two suns before he dies on Ahch-To

Second Look: Eye of the Beholder – In Celebration of Star Wars Fans

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

There was one element of Star Wars Rebels‘ “Twin Suns” that eluded interpretation. Over the course of my multi-part close read, with every ridiculous theory I crafted for the episode’s name, I could not place it. Why were there so many shots of eyes that looked like the suns?

Maul’s eyes were the right color. Obi-Wan’s were similar to the blue of the twin moons, which served as a stand-in for the suns at night. There was a close-up of Ezra’s eye that made the pupil and the dot reflection look like the suns across the blue “sky” of his iris. Even Chopper had a moment where he was cropped by the frame so that only two of his optics were visible. “Twin Suns” did use eye close-ups and point-of-view shots to establish whose perspective the audience was to engage with, so these decisions were not wholly without reason. And yet I still could not make the connection to why these eyes resemble the suns, almost deliberately so.

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Second Look: Your Faith In Your Friends Is Yours – What Resistance Tells Us About Poe Dameron

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One of the things that most defines a hero in a Star Wars film is having faith. Faith in the Force, faith in fate itself, but most of all faith in other people, that they will do the right thing when it matters most. Luke has faith that Anakin Skywalker will not let the Emperor kill his only son. Obi-Wan has faith that Luke will become the Jedi his father never was. Leia has faith that her brother will be found and come back to help save the galaxy.

However, increasingly, we’re seeing deconstructions of that sort of faith. The sequel era especially seems to relish twisting that idea around. Rey is the poster child for this, everyone she has faith in turns away from her (Finn in The Force Awakens, Luke in The Last Jedi), dies (Han), or exploits that faith somehow (Kylo Ren). Her character arc is as much about having faith in herself as anything else. But all of our heroes from this era seem to run into this sort of problem, and Star Wars Resistance has brought another one of these to the forefront beyond the scope of the films: Poe Dameron.

While Poe having faith in his friends and comrades is a fundamental reason why Finn leaves the First Order and joins the Resistance, there is a subtext to Poe’s arc in TLJ that sometimes he can lean too much on this faith and not enough on facts or logic. It’s Poe’s faith in his comrades to do the impossible that lead to the loss of Cobalt Squadron, and his faith in Finn and Rose’s plan that almost destroys the Resistance entirely. And, rewinding the timeline a bit but moving forward in out-of-universe time, we come now to his faith in Kazuda Xiono.

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