Why It’s Healthy for Fans to be Constructively Critical


One of the best aspects of fandom is the constant ongoing discussions you can have with your fellow fans. Interpreting stories, theorizing about where they might go, fanning out over our favorite characters tends to fill us all with amazing satisfaction. Star Wars has offered us the richest content for over forty years, and we should of course be grateful. However, in these ongoing discussions, it is also okay, and should even be encouraged, to be constructively critical as well.

Each of us is a different consumer with different backgrounds that will inform how we take in a property. While there are certainly many shared things we love, we may love those things for different reasons. For Rey, an example of a character that most people love, some love her for her courage. Some love her for her ingenuity. Some love her for being a paragon of feminism. Some love her for her mystery. Or for all of the above and more! Those same backgrounds and interpretations feed into whether each of us likes or dislikes a story or its elements.

Fans shouldn’t be hard on each other for being critical of certain aspects of our favorite franchise. Just because you recognize a few blemishes in your favorite film, TV series, book, or comic doesn’t mean you love it any less than others. It should be okay for me, for example, to say that I think that Rogue One, a film I love dearly, handled Saw Gerrera poorly by oversimplifying him in writing and performance (don’t get me started on how much I don’t like Bor Gullet, haha). While others might see a great character who exemplifies someone destroyed mentally and physically by his crusade, I saw a caricature with (mostly) weak dialogue and overacting from Forest Whitaker. The performance didn’t sell me, and Gareth Edwards’s previous interpretation of the character (which we glimpsed in the first Rogue One teaser) intrigued me more. Please note that this is not a dig at the reshoots (criticism of which, in my opinion, is mostly filled with hot air), which are normal for most films, but a criticism of the creative process going into this particular character. Read More

You’re Allowed to Disagree with Pablo Hidalgo


If you have any involvement whatsoever in the loose-knit community that is “Star Wars Twitter”, [1]And if you’re not, fair warning—parts of this piece may not make much sense to you. Story Grouper Pablo Hidalgo is hard to avoid. While several other prominent Lucasfilm employees have Twitter accounts, Pablo almost certainly has the biggest profile among major (read: obsessive) Star Wars fans, due to his status as one of the company’s “continuity experts” and his willingness to answer, or at least respond to, even the most inane and redundant questions. Needless to say, those questions are exactly what he gets, and while he must find it rewarding or amusing on some level, the intensity of the reactions he can provoke occasionally seems to frustrate him—over the last couple months, he’s made a series of lighthearted attempts to rebrand himself as a Transformers artist (which, okay, he technically is), a Revan stan, yours truly, and as of this writing, a lovable kitten.

But I can’t read his mind; his social media personae are his own prerogative and he owes us nothing. What I do want to unpack is something he’s mentioned once or twice in the last few weeks—that he prefers Rogue One to The Force Awakens. This is no great surprise, in my opinion, as Pablo is an “old school” fan and RO is very much an “old school” kind of Star Wars story; if not for the fact that it directly overwrites around a dozen stories from the Expanded Universe, it would fit in very neatly with that brand of storytelling, which is where Pablo largely cut his teeth as a Star Wars professional (and as a fan). We’re largely the same type of fans here at Eleven-ThirtyEight—the site was created in part to act as a bridge between the EU and the larger fandom—and without having asked, I’d venture to guess that most if not all of my staff writers also prefer RO to TFA. But after giving it a lot of thought over the last couple months…I don’t think I do. Read More

1 And if you’re not, fair warning—parts of this piece may not make much sense to you.

Homer, Virgil, and That Guy on Twitter


Speculating is fun. Speculating on story possibilities in worlds as deep as Star Wars and coming up with complicated theories that weave together multiple narrative threads from canonical media that could never be reasonably expected to be explained on screen for a movie-only audience is a blast.

Many of us love knowing that there are people who get paid for doing basically that, and hate, essentially, that we are not those people. So we do it anyway, without an expectation of payment, or for our ideas to actually show up on screen. Or at least we shouldn’t have those expectations.

If you asked me if I write fanfic, I’d answer quickly and swiftly that I don’t. Except when I took a moment to actually think about what that means, I realized that this isn’t entirely true. I don’t write fanfic in the traditional prose sense, but I love writing up bullet points of speculative connecting tissues and frameworks, what-if scenarios, Sandboxes and Structures that would be great fun for others to play around in. Read More

On “Boycott Star Wars”, Chuck Wendig, and Strategic Avoidance


As the release of The Force Awakens gets ever closer, Star Wars is reentering the public consciousness to a degree not seen since 2005—when Twitter and Tumblr didn’t exist, and YouTube and Facebook barely existed. Within Star Wars fandom, TheForce.Net was still the dominant fan news source, and Wookieepedia was a brand-new idea. For both real-world and internet culture, it was a very different time.

And now that it’s happening again, we’re seeing some growing pains as our beloved franchise reenters the mainstream. To my mind, another term for “mainstream” is “lowest common denominator”; and in addition to the many awesome new fans, we’re also earning extra attention from the worst people the internet has to offer—people who have had a decade to coalesce and to practice raising hell. Kathleen Kennedy, bless her heart, seems perfectly happy to challenge those people on every front, by not only adding several women and people of color to TFA, but putting them right out front—while at the same time, Star Wars is represented on television by a group of entirely nonwhite protagonists, and in publishing by more female Imperials than you can shake an E-11 at and more new queer characters than existed in the last thirty-plus years put together.

But this piece isn’t about character diversity and how cool that all is; we’ve made our feelings clear on that by now. Instead, I want to make a larger point that proceeds from diversity being self-evidently a good thing; in fact, that I don’t feel the need to argue that position right now is the point I want to make. Read More

How to Be Wrong

Among Alexander Gaultier’s many criticisms of Lords of the Sith, one that we didn’t really get into in our discussion piece was Paul Kemp’s portrayal of Moff Mors. Alexander is among a group of readers who feel that Mors’ role as the first LGBT character in Star Wars canon was mishandled—and while the exact nature and extent of that mishandling appears to vary a lot from person to person, it’s certainly fair to say she’s been controversial.

He’s actually quite charming.

The general flavor of the controversy is that a character who was destined to represent an important and oft-ignored demographic is first introduced to us as slovenly, lazy, and repulsively overweight —and that this presentation was at a minimum damaging to her overall character, and at worst a vile, body-shaming lesbian stereotype. While I can at least agree that Kemp’s descriptions of overweight characters can be somewhat more colorful than necessary (“overstuffed sausages” being a good example), I have to concede that it would be disingenuous of me to pretend that it bothered me at all when I was reading the book. It didn’t. I’m used enough to Kemp’s writing that moments like that (and both Mors and Orn Free Taa were victims of it) barely even registered as I breezed through what was for me a largely enjoyable reading experience.

Once I had finished reading, I read Alexander’s review and began to familiarize myself with some of those other early reactions, and after giving it some thought…it still didn’t bother me. To my mind, Mors’ initial introduction is entirely mitigated by Belkor, the subordinate character through whom we first meet her, and by her ultimate narrative arc—which I wouldn’t go so far as to call a redemption, but is at least a getting-her-shit-together. Handing the LGBT mantle to such a flawed character was certainly a very ballsy move on Kemp’s part, but for me at least, it paid off.

But that’s just me—and it’s not what I’m here to talk about. Read More