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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

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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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Second Look: Rebels Revisited: The Natural Conclusion

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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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.

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Second Look: Making Diversity Seen and Heard: Why Star Wars Must Fully Embrace its Multimedia Identity

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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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

While George Lucas’s famous introduction to the Star Wars universe tells viewers they are light-years away from anything they’ve ever known, one of the reasons the film immediately resonates with such a broad fanbase is because, despite the starships and futuristic setting, children and adults alike see themselves in Luke, Leia, and Han’s struggle. We see not just a story about a rebellion fighting for freedom—we see a coming-of-age tale, and characters lifting themselves up to fulfill their destiny. Or, at least, white fans have been able to see themselves reflected on screen; the franchise’s millions of fans of color, and particularly femme-identifying fans of color, have been forced to make do with a love of the stories and the strength of their imaginations. Until recently, the only place fans could see major characters of color play a leading role was in various novels or spin-offs that never made it into the mainstream consciousness. But with the diverse casts of the new Disney-owned films, and the recent photo (courtesy of director Ron Howard) of Thandie Newton in what appears to be an Imperial uniform, there’s never been a better time for Lucasfilm to not only start featuring women of color in starring roles, but also to draw those characters from a familiar source – the canon Star Wars novels and comic books.

Lucasfilm’s galaxy far, far away used to be a much messier place. Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and the formation of the Lucasfilm Story Group in 2013, however, changed the game for Star Wars fans. Previous Expanded Universe stories, known for their sometimes incongruous storylines and for George Lucas’s indifference to their plots, were jettisoned in favor of a cohesive, multimedia approach to the new canon. This initiative did more than clear up Star Wars “fact” and “fiction”; for the first time ever, various franchise media could overlap in timeline, characters, and plots, allowing for truly multi-media storytelling and opening the door for characters of color to play a more prominent role. Fan-favorite non-white characters who previously only existed in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series began to appear in novels or comics of their own, or, in Saw Gerrera’s case, on the big screen in 2016’s Rogue One.

At this point, however, fans have mostly seen movie characters cross over into the non-film media. Few original characters from Star Wars non-film media have appeared on the big screen, which is hugely disappointing not only because it does a disservice to the Story Group’s mission and efforts since its creation, but also because the franchise’s largest strides in representation, especially of women of color, have been made in the non-film media. Because we feel passionately about this issue, we’re working in conjunction with #SWRepMatters, an upcoming social media campaign highlighting diversity (or lack thereof) in the franchise through volunteer podcast discussions, blog posts, tweets using the hashtag, and Twitter threads focusing on specific nonhuman characters and characters of color. Our goal with this post is to highlight how Star Wars can improve its cast diversity to match its enthusiastic audience by bringing beloved non-film characters to the movies and, of course, hiring more femme-identifying actors of color. And there would be no better place to start than by confirming the hopeful fan theory that Thandie Newton is playing Rae Sloane in the upcoming Han Solo movie.

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Luke Week: We Are All Luke Skywalker

Second Look is Eleven-ThirtyEight’s biannual tradition of highlighting some of our most interesting older pieces. In recognition of Luke Skywalker’s electrifying return to the saga in The Last Jedi, this time around we’ve declared it Luke Week! Every day this week you’ll find a different piece taking a closer look at Luke’s character and legacy—some recent, some less so—back on our front page for another moment in the spotlight. – Mike, EIC

legendsoflukeTo say Ken Liu’s The Legends of Luke Skywalker has been keenly awaited would be an understatement. Since the great reboot that followed Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, there have been exceedingly few stories of what Luke has been doing after the fall of the Empire. There was Shattered Empire, but that was only one issue out of four and that was more or less it. For some the book has been a disappointment for its lack of actual ‘here’s what Luke really did next’ material. Instead, the book is of a far more playful and trickster nature, built around stories being told of Skywalker. Are they all true? That’s up to the reader, but there are hints that sometimes tip the deck one way or another. Expecting a book coming out ahead of The Last Jedi to have much in the way of revelations is expecting the impossible, the pattern was set by The Force Awakens. If there are major ‘this really happened’ stories, they will be next year, not now. Nor was the book ever deceptive about its premise in its marketing either.

The first story concerns an engineer spinning a tall tale to a rapt audience. It is subtly suggested the audience’s main interest is in how ludicrous a tale can be spun, for it is a tale of mad, bad conspiracy theories aimed squarely at the exploits of Luke, Han and Leia, with one aim: to drag them down and dismiss them as frauds. When the reader engages with this tale, the initial response may well be to opt for outraged dismissal: what a pile of crap, this is an outrage. Yet to do so would be to play into the story’s hands, Liu is quite aware outrage might result. Look further: When we read or watch or play a Star Wars story, we do so separately from our lives. Luke, Han and Leia are not actual people. What if they were? If you were living in that galaxy at the time of the films or after, if you heard three people led the war the take down the Empire that ran the galaxy, then how can you possibly live up to that? If they did that with their lives, what does that make yours? Easier, by far, to spin a few conspiracy theories that render them frauds as then you’re protected, no comparison to lose out to.

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