Second Look: Boba Fett and The Mandalorian: A Role Fulfilled

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

How many of our readers out there remember the show Robot Chicken? It was a sketch comedy show with crude stop motion puppetry, and odds are if you do remember it you mainly remember their various Star Wars segments or specials. I ask because there’s a particular sketch that’s been stuck in my mind ever since it originally aired over a decade ago. It’s a cold open for an episode that has Boba Fett returning from the dead to arrive on Endor’s moon, killing a bunch of Ewoks with blasters, rockets and lightsabers, and winding up with Leia clad in her gold bikini wrapped in his arms. The segment then switches perspective to show that the whole scenario was a fantasy narrated by the show’s stereotypical nerd character, a fantasy his equally nerdy friends fawn over.

It’s meant to be satire and is a pretty biting one at that. And the most biting part about it is that it’s not too far off from a lot of the stories that did involve or star the OG Mandalorian. Boba Fett has been both a role-fulfillment and wish-fulfillment fantasy character for authors and fans of Star Wars since his first appearance, and perhaps more than any other character in the whole saga in terms of what he does in “official” material versus his role onscreen. As time has gone on his character has evolved and developed away from that, but those fantasies haven’t gone away, and the old version of Fett (or a character like him) is still sought after.

Let’s get a couple of definitions really quickly: wish-fulfillment means that a character does things that the author or the author’s intended audience wish they could do in real life but can’t. Role-fulfillment means a character that people want to see within a given fictional universe and haven’t, so they adjust an existing character to fit that bill. And I want to emphasize that neither of these are inherently negative things. They are, like all creative tropes, tools in a creator’s toolbox, and it’s how they’re used that ultimately matters. In the context of this discussion, many people have used Boba Fett both to fill a role that appeals to them that Star Wars otherwise lacks, and to do things in Star Wars that they might like to do. I can illustrate both of these points with an example.

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The Rise of Skywalker: It’s Kind Of A Lot

This piece contains major spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker. Like, all of them, probably several times over. Proceed accordingly.

Mike: Well, that happened.

I anticipated that my piece on The Rise of Skywalker two days ago would likely serve better as a semi-conclusive statement on the sequel era than something I forced myself to stay awake for in the aftermath of the movie, so instead of tackling this reaction piece single-handedly I invited the whole staff to weigh in with their first thoughts—but some quick ones from me first, because I’m in charge.

My friend Pearl and I both loved The Force Awakens, but we had absolutely polar reactions to The Last Jedi, and we’ve been arguing about it for two years, and will probably keep arguing about it forever because we’re like that. What I kept thinking during my first viewing of Rise tonight was that the movie felt precision-calibrated to make both of us, despite the separate universes we’ve been living in, equally happy—or at the very least, minimize our unhappiness at all costs.

Palpatine’s alive, but kind of not. Rey’s parents were nobody, from a certain point of view. Rose is there, but she doesn’t do much. There’s a gay kiss, but not the one people wanted. There’s a Reylo kiss, but it’s quick and vague and then he drops dead. Chewie dies and comes back. Threepio “dies” and comes back. There are porgs, but just barely. Hux goes rogue, but just barely. And on, and on—J.J. Abrams seems to screamingly, desperately want to make as many of us as happy as he possibly can, and if it required smothering logical and thematic coherence with a pillow, he was just the guy to do it.

But the thing is, superficial enjoyment is Abrams’s number one skill—and I’m honestly not saying that in a critical way, he’s really good at it. TFA definitely has a much, much easier lift than this thing does, but it’s got superficial enjoyability leaking out of every frame—and when it’s dumb, it’s just as dumb as Rise is. So I find myself in a weird position where I’m intellectually cynical but emotionally content, because a surprise acid trip that ruined your plans for the evening is still an acid trip, and chemically, it’s got you.

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Re: Resistance – The Draw of the Mundane

What makes Star Wars feel like Star Wars? This is a question that’s becoming increasingly important with The Rise of Skywalker looming on the horizon, where some of the most fundamental elements of the franchise that we’re familiar with are going away along with the numbered titles. There’s been a lot of talk about what the X-factor is that makes a story with Star Wars on the label actually “feel” like Star Wars in practice, whether it’s a matter of aesthetics or characters or ideas or something else entirely. Certain stories have been playing with removing some elements, shaving the formula down to see what can go and what needs to stay, but no media in the franchise has gone as far down this road as Star Wars Resistance.

Resistance has taken away things like the Force, lightsabers, and ninety percent of the movie characters, leaving us with a mostly new cast in a new setting that has some shared aesthetics as the films but with a unique art style to change it up in a major way. So what does Resistance have that makes it still feel fitting within the wider universe? Themes. What makes a Star Wars story really feel like Star Wars are its themes; themes of love, friendship, and hope. Resistance carries those themes not only in its heart but on its sleeve, as befitting its nature as a show aimed toward a younger audience. Thus, even with a limited scope and even more limited budget, Resistance is still Star Wars, and probably the best Star Wars of its scale that’s ever been done.

When Resistance ended its first season right smack dab in the middle of the sequel trilogy timeline, with the destruction of Hosnian Prime on one side and the flight from D’Qar on the other, there was a common assumption (including on my part) that this was the show casting itself off into the wider universe and leveling up its sense of scope, similar to how Rebels did at the end of its first season. However, five episodes into its second and final season, Resistance is, well, resisting this assumption. Following the major events of the season premiere, each episode since has been far less concerned with major events and more focused on the characters and their dynamics, showing how well each character knows the others and the blossoming friendships between those now living together aboard the Colossus.

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The Seduction of Tam Ryvora

Hey everyone, Star Wars Resistance is back, and you can watch the premiere of season two right here on their official YouTube page. Please go and do so before reading on, there’s some in-depth discussion (and spoilers) below that require the full context of the episode. Watching the second episode is also recommended, but not essential. With the show’s return it is bringing some big changes and issues for all of the characters under its umbrella, but no one character has been affected more than Tam Ryvora, our favorite mechanic and frustrated pilot who worked hard and still felt slighted by and detached from those around her, so it’s worth doing a bit of a dive into her big decision and the factors surrounding it.

Throughout the first season of the show we saw her grow, softening her tough exterior thanks to blossoming friendships with people like Kazuda Xiono, Neeku and Synara San, ingratiating herself into the main cast of the show. And then at the end of the first season Tam makes an extremely difficult and fateful choice. Rather than escape from the First Order aboard the Colossus with Kaz and Yeager, she instead chooses to go with the First Order, the same people Kaz and Yeager have been working actively against for all this time, leaving both of them dumbfounded.

Tam makes this decision for a variety of reasons, some of which are her own, some of which are more external factors. The most foundational element is her love or at least appreciation for the First Order’s primary influence: the Empire. Tam’s family both lived and thrived under the Empire, and she herself was born after the Empire had fallen, so unlike Kazuda, who likely heard horror stories about the Empire through his childhood on Hosnian Prime and through schooling and training in the New Republic, Tam sees the Republic as an aberration rather than the norm, whereas the Empire was a good, solid government for those it ruled over. Thus, when she sees the First Order wearing the aesthetic of the Empire, she’s less inclined to recoil, and instead admires them for seeking to pick up where the Empire left off. When the First Order took over the Colossus, she didn’t feel oppressed; she felt safe. Even when informed of the actions the First Order took against Tehar, she assumes that there must have been a reason for it, that someone on Tehar must have been doing something wrong.

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Aceing It – Vi Moradi and Queer Representation

Ben Wahrman: On the day Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire was released, there was a good deal of hullabaloo on Star Wars Twitter about it, including a lot of posts by the author Delilah S. Dawson during a promotional tour through Galaxy’s Edge in Orlando and other nearby locations. But one string of tweets by Elizabeth Schaefer, Del Rey’s lead Star Wars editor, caught a lot of attention and a lot of appreciation. In her short thread, Schaefer notes that it was an idea of Dawson’s that the main character of Black Spire, Vi Moradi, would “come out” as asexual. Schaefer shared her appreciation for that decision and direction for the character, as she herself is asexual and feels the representation is much needed. Considering the traction her tweets gained, she was not alone in that.

After I saw these posts, I knew that my fellow contributor Abigail would have feelings about Vi and who she is. And I wasn’t wrong! I had a lot of thoughts and feelings of my own, so we decided to jointly discuss both of those things and talk about Vi as both a character and as a representative of the asexual community, as well as the wider issue of the representation of asexuality in Star Wars and media at large. We’ll begin by talking about our introductions to Vi before the advent of Black Spire.

When I read Phasma, Vi stood out to me as a character that a lot of work and heart had been poured into. For a book that was ostensibly all about, well, Captain Phasma, the team of Vi Moradi and Captain Cardinal stole it from her almost wholesale, despite them being more of a factor in the framing story than in the main flashback narrative of the book. Vi always struck me as a charming, fun character and I certainly hoped to see more of her after Phasma, but I never would have guessed that she’d wind up with such a large presence now, a featured character at the theme park and with a whole novel to herself.

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