Thoughts on Legends

 

Thoughts on Legends

SW legends

 

I’m sure you’ve seen the news. A group of Star Wars fans who want Lucasfilm to continue the Legends/Expanded Universe stories have purchased a billboard in San Francisco to raise awareness and place their demands in the public sphere. After multiple attempts at petitioning online and through letter-writing campaigns, this crowd-funded purchase was their next step. If the news reports are any indication, it got noticed. I know at least one Lucasfilm employee saw it.

Sincerely, congratulations on executing a successful crowd-funding campaign, although I believe that $5000 would gone a lot further as a group donation to Make-A-Wish or Force for Change, both of which are friends of the Star Wars brand. But, I digress.

I once had the greatest of respect for the Bring Back Legends petitioners. I still am a huge fan of the Legends/Expanded Universe stories because that is where I really dove into Star Wars after discovering the movies. I was there for Heir to the Empire – there should be a t-shirt for that – and for pretty much everything that followed, for better or for worse. I recognized how futile the overall campaign was in the post-buyout era, what with the marketing challenges and high potential for general audience confusion, but these guys were super passionate in their fandom.

They still are. That’s part of the problem.

Somewhere along the line, they started becoming aggressive toward fans and artists. They started harassing my friends and fellow fans, including threats of bodily harm, rape, and death. That aggression escalated when The Force Awakens premiered, resulting in some in this movement spoiling plot points on public sites until Lucasfilm relented. This actually caused some sites, including the official Star Wars Books page on Facebook, to shut down for a time because they couldn’t stop the flood.

The Legends movement became the face of ruining the Star Wars experience for all fans because it wasn’t the right canon.

Yeah, it’s the internet. No, it’s not right.

It wasn’t every Legends supporter, but this echoes GamerGate and the Mens Rights Activist movements (among countless others) in that a very vocal extremist minority has become the movement’s active voice. I’m sorry, but perception is reality, and right now, this movement is perceived as being a bunch of bullies.

I don’t stand for that in fandom. It has poisoned their efforts, and it has poisoned Star Wars fandom overall. It’s even driving away some of our best ambassadors.

As a Legends/EU fan, I share Chuck Wendig‘s sincere hope that the Legends movement gets some resolution. I firmly believe that more Star Wars work means more great mythology to enjoy, but I cannot find it in my heart to support the Legends movement because of this activity. They need to find a way to clean their house, excise the cancer, and make amends to fandom at large.

Star Wars is still forever, and it should be for everybody.

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Dragon Con 2015

 

Dragon Con 2015
September 4th to September 7th
Atlanta, GA

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It’s just about time for what I fondly refer to as a family reunion. Every year over Labor Day weekend, Dragon Con, my favorite fan-run convention, invades Atlanta with 65,000+ geeks from across the genre spectrum.

If you plan on being at the party, this is where I plan to be. Stop by and say hi!

 

Dragon Con Newbies Walking Tours
Thursday 2:30p-5:00p (Marriott A601 – A602)
Want to learn the best ways to get between the hotels? Did you know there’s a food court? Come on a walking tour to find out and meet other newbies.

Dragon Con Newbies Q&A
Thursday 5:30p-6:30p (Marriott A601 – A602)
First Dragon Con? Are you confused or overwhelmed? Several long-time con attendees will share tips & tricks and give you a chance to ask questions.

Dragon Con Newbies 101
Friday 10:00a-11:00a (Hyatt Regency V)
First Dragon Con? Are you confused or overwhelmed? Several long-time con attendees will share tips & tricks and give you a chance to ask questions.

Jaws: The 40th Anniversary
Friday 7:00p-8:00p (Marriott M303 – M304)
This movie is legendary. We’re gonna need a bigger track room.

Classic Sci-Fi Roll-A-Panel
Sunday 10:00a-11:00a (Marriott M303 – M304)
A random roll of a 20-sided die determines this lightning round of mini-panels about classic sci-fi that we didn’t have time to cover this year.

Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary & Costume Contest
Sunday 5:30p-6:30p (Marriott M303 – M304)
Where this celebration is going, we don’t need roads. Hoverboard over for our Back to the Future cosplay contest!

RevCast Live!
Monday 11:30a-12:30p (Hilton 203)
Commentary, criticism, & comedy about movies, TV, & all corners of geeky genres and culture. A sci-fi convention in your pocket. Join them as they wrap up Dragon Con 2015!

 

See you in one week!

For more information about Dragon Con, visit the official site at DragonCon.org.

 

My Only Hope for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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I sincerely have one hope for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I hope that it is good.

As silly as it sounds, I hope that is a good movie. Not just good in the it’s a movie with the original cast and has the words star and wars in the title so it has to be good sense, but rather the knock your socks off even if this is the first thing you’ve ever seen in the franchise and even Siskel and Ebert would have given this thing four thumbs up and more if they could find more hands sense.

My reasoning is pretty simple. There were sixteen years between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and no matter how good the first prequel could have been, I don’t think it would have mattered. There was too much hype, and too many expectations among fans of the original trilogy. I grant that The Phantom Menace (and by extension the prequel trilogy as a whole) did not meet its true potential. It could have been more, and I fully acknowledge the faults. But, it was by no means as bad as the original trilogy fandom would have the world believe.

As The Phantom Menace and the rest of the prequels debuted, original trilogy fans took to the internet in droves to tear the films apart. Many of them waved their “I watched the first Star Wars (with no bloody Episode IV or A New Hope attached to it) in theaters so I know what makes a good Star Wars movie” privilege in the face of new fans. Critical reviews, both professional and otherwise, took the movie to task by addressing fandom, citing how real fans would disavow the new films, and how those who liked them should move out of their parents’ basement. The Red Letter Media reviews are particularly venomous, but are celebrated among the crowd dominated by bitterness even ten years after the last prequel debuted.

Of course, that’s after The Phantom Menace made $431 million domestically. That’s a lot of multiple viewings for a film that supposedly sucks so bad, but I digress.

Star Wars has become a generational fandom, and each new set of fans is usually kids: There was a set of fans who came to the franchise in 1977-1983, a set who came to it with the heyday of the novels in the late ’80s and early ’90s, a set that joined with the Special Editions and prequels (1997-2005), and a set that came of age with The Clone Wars. The Force Awakens will usher in a new generation of fans who will likely be kids as well.

I don’t want the prequel generation to develop the same bitterness about their fandom that their OT and novel era counterparts have.

Prequel fans deserve better than they have been offered. Sequel era fans deserve a fan community based on fun and love, not venom and hatred.

I’ve talked and written at length about how, first and foremost, fandom should be fun. No matter the franchise, this is all entertainment, not life and death matters. Being critical about the content and execution of the material is important, but being bonked on the head for the things that you love by self-instated gatekeepers is not fun.

Critical analysis and review should be limited to the material and never extended to the fandom. It is ironic that a fandom built around geeky exploits and adventures, a community that has long lamented and fought against bullying by others like the stereotypical “jocks,” should in turn bully their own for not walking the right way. I’ve fallen away from Star Wars fandom in recent years because of the way that older fans treat younger fans. Star Wars has lost part of the innocence and excitement that it once had, and not because George Lucas violated childhoods, but because time and again the fandom has forgotten Wheaton’s Law in their critiques.

I don’t want the prequel generation, the group that opened their eyes to the franchise with The Phantom Menace, the group that knows what it feels like to be bonked on the head continuously by older generations, to fall into that darkness. They need to remember that “real” Star Wars fans are anyone who loves the magic of Star Wars. They need to remember how it feels to be told that their opinion “can’t be trusted” based on what they like.

I’d like to think that my generation and the first generation of Star Wars fans can be brought back from the brink of bitterness, but I don’t hold much hope for it. I believe that many of them are beyond redemption for sacrificing their own for the honor of being right on the internet.

I want The Force Awakens to be so good that fans can look on it in admiration and joy, basking in the happiness and escape that fandom should embody. I want prequel fans to avoid the fate that befell the generations that came before. I want them to be critical without feeling the need to attack their own tribes. I want them to remember that it is okay to not like things.

I want them to remember what it means to be a fan and not a self-appointed savior of the franchise.

I want them to remember the feeling they felt when they heard the Star Wars theme in theaters for the first time.

I want them to remember what it means to be a Star Wars kid.

Most importantly, I want them to help new fans to find that moment as well.

Protecting our Childhoods

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If there’s one thing fans treasure, it’s the memories that their favorite franchises helped them develop. Science fiction is a metaphor for the human condition, and those memories have the power to develop fans into caring and productive members of society starting at childhood. It’s understandable how placing those personality building blocks into another creator’s hands can inspire immediate feelings of revulsion and fear, but it’s far less understandable how a reboot or reimagining is comparable to a violent personal violation.

 

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Let’s presume for the moment that fans actually mean what they say in this case. Rape is a serious crime, and not simply through the books of law. Rape is a physical, mental, and emotional assault that has long-reaching effects in the victim’s life. Rape is a personal violation and an exercise of absolute power over the powerless.

The statistics on sexual assault are staggering. In the United States, another person is sexually assaulted every two minutes. One in six women are victims, as are one in thirty-three men. Sixty percent of sexual assaults are not reported to authorities, and a staggering ninety-seven percent of rapists will never spend a single day in jail for their crimes. Rape victims are three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, the same disorder found in war veterans), and are four times more likely to contemplate suicide. The effects are so long-reaching that survivors of sexual assault who see references to rape are viscerally reminded of being helpless and powerless and completely at the mercy of a hostile (and often well-known or trusted) force.

There are cases of childhoods that were lived and survived around rape and incest. Those are real lives affected by real crimes, not the pettiness of a bad adaptation of a favorite Saturday morning cartoon. Using rape terminology to describe the latest attempts by Michael Bay, Will Ferrell, George Lucas, or J.J. Abrams to do their jobs trivializes the traumas of real rape victims, as if voluntarily watching the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptation matches in any way with being sexually assaulted.

Using rape terminology to describe feelings over a cherished franchise being revisited is disgusting and insensitive.

 

Next, let’s presume that when these fans say “rape,” they really mean “ruin.”

We live in an era of geek renaissance. Between the cultural awakening in the mainstream with The Big Bang Theory (one of the most popular panels at conventions) and the financial success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, geek culture is being catered to with a golden tea set. It’s a digital era dominated by rebirth of cherished franchises once thought dead. Almost anything fans could want to revisit exists on physical or digital media, including BitTorrent. Linked childhood memories are only a click or two away.

Unless the evil creative of choice has a time machine (or fandom are collectively taking mind-altering drugs), both the memories and source material are safe. Quite honestly, the concern behind “ruining” a franchise or childhood memories is a hollow first-world problem dominated by a sense of narcissism and a false sense of ownership over entertainment productions.

As fans, we aren’t owed anything by creators. Hollywood and other entertainment venues are businesses, first and foremost, and those businesses have no contracts to make things exactly the way we want. Entertainment must appeal to the general audience first in order to earn a decent return on investment. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the domestic performances behind Pacific Rim, Sucker Punch, and Watchmen, all of which were niche films designed to attract genre fans and failed to meet their budgets.

Producers, writers, and directors have one job in their fields, and that is to make a generally accepted entertainment product that sells well. To that end, fans are consumers and nothing more, and are not even required to take in entertainment they don’t want to see. Everyone has the freedom to skip entertainment choices that don’t appeal to them.

The argument that modern creatives are ruining properties or memories is a false one. If childhood memories could be destroyed by a lackluster adaptation or vision, there are deeper problems with that childhood than entertainment choices. In that case, I recommend seeking help.

 

The worst part about either of the arguments about childhood memories being defiled is they both contribute to toxic cultural atmospheres. Both claims infer a personal assault, an act that never truly occurs against any of us, and transform a community based on enjoying, analyzing, and celebrating entertainment and its deeper meanings into a group of pessimists and cynics who tend to find the negative in every minute of film and paragraph of news.

The rape claims do even worse damage by trivializing the horrors of sexual assault and enhancing a culture that uses sexual assault as a punchline. In a community that decries racism, homophobia, and bullying, and is constantly haunted by the stigma of pedophilia and sexism, it is odd that we would so easily laugh off rape.

Science fiction and fantasy often speak of the need for tolerance and open-mindedness, and it is possible for genre fans to be critical of favorite properties without casting themselves as the victims in a fanciful morality play. Modern storytellers won’t have to destroy our childhoods because we are the ones betraying the lessons we claim to have learned.

Our community needs to return to the spirit of acceptance beneath the banner of celebration and wonder, and it needs to stop suffering from prejudice against new perspectives and ideas. We need to stop destroying ourselves in a misguided effort to protect ourselves. Only then will we truly have upheld the legacies of our childhoods.

Darth Maul and the Hollowness of Death

Entertainment Weekly recently posted an exclusive video that announced the return of Darth Maul to the Star Wars universe.  For those who either missed or refused to watch the prequels, Maul was a Sith Lord—the same kind of baddie as Darth Vader—who used a double-bladed lightsaber.  His first on-screen appearance was in The Phantom Menace in 1999.

In that film, a three-way lightsaber duel ended with Qui-Gon Jinn impaled through the chest and Darth Maul toppling into a deep shaft, deftly cleft in twain by the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Last January, viewers of the cartoon series Star Wars: The Clone Wars were introduced to Maul’s brother Savage Oppress (pronounced in typical Star Wars ­style as sah-VAHJ OH-press), who was a proposed apprentice to help Count Dooku overthrow his master and take control of the Dark Side of the Force.  At the end of that trilogy of episodes, viewers were told that Darth Maul was out there in the incredibly vague somewhere in the galaxy, and Oppress had to go find him.

So, apparently this means that Darth Maul does indeed live and, by some miracle, survived being cut in half by a lightsaber and falling several stories.  Insert exasperated sigh here.

Supervising director Dave Filoni told Entertainment Weekly that it makes sense in terms of Star Wars lore:

Fans will note that there is precedent for this kind of resurrection. “The Dark Side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural,” Darth Sidious says in Revenge of the Sith. Sidious and his master found a way to use the Force to cheat death—that’s how he was able to keep Vader alive after that little swan dive into a lava field. Couldn’t Maul have picked up on some of that too? Says Filoni, “He’s suffered through a lot to keep himself alive and implemented the training of his master to do so.”

There’s also significant financial interest for Lucasfilm in this move.  The episode(s) pertaining to Darth Maul will be aired in early 2012, and, by a cosmic coincidence I’m sure, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 3-D is premiering February 10, 2012.  It goes without saying that I’m annoyed by publicity stunts written into entertainment to drive interest in a related property.  Anyone else remember the martial arts episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Tsunkatse”?  WWE Wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a guest star, and both WWE and Voyager were on UPN.

This entire mess—and yes, I’m calling it a mess—brings Star Wars into the realm of pointless character resurrections to drive sales.  It also revives the eternal frustrations I have with Star Wars fandom.  Since Maul was by far one of the coolest and most bad-ass characters in the prequel trilogy, the news that he would return to the franchise was understandably received with fan praise.  At the same time, others started to look at how this affects the overall quality of the franchise and aired their opinions.  In response to critical fans, some blogs, including Star Wars Underworld, questioned the “fandom” of people with differing opinions.  While I appreciate a discussion on how they plan to resurrect a character and do it well, it’s certainly not the first time that the Star Wars social media sphere has played the card of questioning how someone can be a fan of something while being critical: the hosts of The ForceCast did it numerous times before I stopped listening to the podcast back in May.

While other subsets of science-fiction and fantasy fandom can somewhat easily accept both positive and negative criticism toward the franchise of their choice, some Star Wars fans tend to follow the line of reasoning that if “you’re not with with us, you’re against us.”  It’s all fun and games until you disagree with Uncle George and refuse to drink the blue milk, and I’ve already seen backlash from refusing to buy the Star Wars Blu-Rays and my decision not to support the 3-D re-releases.  Having intelligent discussions about the positives and negatives of a franchise is one thing, but I cannot support attacking each other for having differing opinions.

The bigger problem I have with this is an issue that has plagued comic book franchises for decades, and that is in the pointless death and resurrection of characters.  In real life, religious beliefs aside, death is pretty permanent.  In storytelling, death is a result of failure, the completion of a heroic journey, or the motivation to start that journey.  In a smaller subset, that death results in a significant change of character dynamics—such as regenerations in Doctor Who, or the evolution of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings or Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars—but those deaths still carry the impact of the end of a journey and how it affects the characters around them.

Simply put, to reverse a death negates that impact and cheapens the victory for the winners.

In The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul’s death marked two important character changes:  First, it displayed Obi-Wan Kenobi’s maturity and readiness to be promoted from apprentice to Jedi Knight; second, it marked the beginnings of Anakin’s destined path.  The death of Darth Maul was a very important turning point for the Jedi themselves, as they discover that the Sith had indeed returned.

While I look forward to finding out how Filoni and company accomplish this feat, I am very skeptical about the Star Wars franchise as a whole at this point.  If Filoni proves me wrong and does this well, I will be quite amazed.  On the other hand, if this turns into yet another cheap comic book return—Superman wasn’t dead, after all, he was just resting—to sell tickets to yet another release of the Star Wars movies, then I’m done with The Clone Wars.  I have supported the show since it was announced, but for me, it would be that damaging, and since George Lucas has final approval on the show, the blame would lie solely with him.

Come 2012, we shall see.

The New Project

I’m back on the podcasting bandwagon!  I’ve started working with The Chronic Rift, a pop culture podcast based on a New York public access show of the ‘90s. Every week I’ll be recording The Weekly Podioplex, where I’ll cover the weekend box office results, the week’s upcoming films, the newest DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and a little news too.

The first episode is now live, so please give it a listen and let me know what you think.

See you at the theater.

Katie Lucas is Awesome, Reason 1138

“The prequels have been made. They exist. There is literally nothing you can do or say to make them go away. They may not be your cup of tea, but let’s remember: YOU can choose not to watch them! You can pretend like they don’t even exist! But being angry about it forever is going to accomplish nothing. Neither is being disrespectful. My father has done absolutely nothing to earn disrespectful tirades and personal attacks. He is a good man. He is not an evil genius plotting to ruin your life. You are entitled to your own opinions–whatever they may be, but be respectful about it. He may have made three movies you personally didn’t care about, but he was also responsible for three movies that inspired you and millions of others. So, do him and I (sic) the courtesy of having a little goddamn respect.”

–Katie Lucas (via Twitter, 4 May 2011)