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To Canon or Not To Canon...

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 (Edited)

I wanted to make this thread because of discussions about the importance of holding strictly to official canon (what the studio decides is canon), official series canon (canon across a film or TV series that only includes said films or episodes), individual film canon (overt explanations a single film gives about itself), or head canon (what you the viewer decide is canon).

Basically how you feel about including or excluding supplemental explanations or information—outside of a given movie/episode, series, or franchise—to explain how or why certain events make sense.

 
This thread was brought about because Warbler has had issues with certain scenes in TLJ and whether or not they overtly make sense in context with the rest of the franchise; and he also took issue with whether the Star Trek '09 film, by itself, effectively erased the Star Trek Prime Universe.

I’m interested in talking about the concept of canon and our positions regarding it, not arguing endlessly about specific scenes in specific films (although using specific films as examples is fine.)

TV’s Frink said:

chyron just put a big Ric pic in your sig and be done with it.

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Fans of the Halloween films have a similar issue with all of the added back story for Michael Myers. I was curious about his back story and how he came to be the killer we all know and love, but I am not a die hard fan of that series, so it did not matter to me.

In the case of Star Wars, I do not consider anything outside of the theatrical versions to be canon; I don’t like anything in the EU so to me it has no bearing on the films and should not be considered canon.

Of course, as with anything else in life, if someone is a die hard fan and considers everything canon, I could care less. That is not a hill I am willing to die on and in no way adds or subtracts from my enjoyment of Star Wars, for example.

Interesting topic, though. This should be interesting.

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Star Wars is the only franchise where my head canon has replaced official releases with fan edits (ie. the Prequels). Other franchises might have fan edits, but they’re basically an alternate cut and don’t affect (for good or ill) my feelings on their respective franchise. With the Star Wars Prequels, I can not include the official versions as the actual events, but certain edits I have seen are good enough to make the stories plausible.

For everything else, I usually include everything, be it movies, shows or books. For example, with regard to Star Trek, I don’t pretend that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier didn’t happen. I just say it’s a stupid movie, never watch it, and leave it at that.

TV’s Frink said:

chyron just put a big Ric pic in your sig and be done with it.

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Canon is messy. With Star Wars, for example, I see the original film, and then tons of different story branches going out from it in different directions. Sometimes they cross at other movies, sometimes they drift off into the EU before tapering off into nothing, or fly off into my imagination. There is no set canon universe(s). Trek, on the other hand, has infinite headcanon universes that range from encompassing every piece of Trek media I’ve ever consumed, to being fairly empty, and anything in between. Why do I compartmentalize fictional universes in my head like this? I have no idea. I just… do, I guess.

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I’m sure what you want me to say. If you want to have your head canon, that is fine by me. But head canon and official canon are two different things. Official is official. Supplemental explanations from unofficial sources don’t excuse a plot holes or continuity errors in movies. I will say I was wrong about Star Wars books. Apparently, unlike Star Trek books, Star Wars books are officially considered canon. So I guess explanations in them do count.


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Warbler said:

I’m sure what you want me to say.

I’m not calling on you to confirm your point about TLJ. I want to know why you feel that way about it.

It’s not just TLJ. You felt that way about Star Trek. You said that you felt ST’09 overwrote Trek Prime a la BTTF, and argued that because the term “alternate timeline” was used in the film itself, the “multiple quantum realities” aspect of Trek did not apply.

I’m not saying I want to prove you wrong. I want to know why you feel that way about it.

 
You also have said if a movie is canon and its novelization is canon (or vice versa), and dialogue in one is not the same as the other, then which one ought to be canon? So I want to know which one you would consider canon and why, or whether it matters to you and why not if it doesn’t.

You seem really set on your opinion of it and I’m genuinely interested in why you feel the way you do about a specific work needing to fully explain itself, rather than accepting supplemental sources (including discussions with us) to explain an ambiguity or whatever the case. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t; I want to know why you do or what your thought process is.

Again, I’m not calling on you to defend your views, nor am I refuting them. I want to know what it is about your thought process that draws you to the conclusions that you make, especially since you’re very adamant about those conclusions.

For example:

Warbler said:

Supplemental explanations from unofficial sources don’t excuse a plot holes or continuity errors in movies.

Why not?

unlike Star Trek books, Star Wars books are officially considered canon. So I guess explanations in them do count.

But why does official canon matter to you? Why do you care? I don’t say you shouldn’t; I ask why you do.

TV’s Frink said:

chyron just put a big Ric pic in your sig and be done with it.

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chyron8472 said:

You also have said if a movie is canon and its novelization is canon (or vice versa), and dialogue in one is not the same as the other, then which one ought to be canon? So I want to know which one you would consider canon and why, or whether it matters to you and why not if it doesn’t.

I think someone in another thread said that those in charge said that where the book and movie differ, the movie takes precedence.


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Warbler said:

chyron8472 said:

You also have said if a movie is canon and its novelization is canon (or vice versa), and dialogue in one is not the same as the other, then which one ought to be canon? So I want to know which one you would consider canon and why, or whether it matters to you and why not if it doesn’t.

I think someone in another thread said that those in charge said that where the book and movie differ, the movie takes precedence.

I would think the original work takes precedence. That is, the Star Wars movies trump the books; but the Harry Potter books trump the movies.

TV’s Frink said:

chyron just put a big Ric pic in your sig and be done with it.

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chyron8472 said:

Warbler said:

Supplemental explanations from unofficial sources don’t excuse a plot holes or continuity errors in movies.

Why not?

Because the creators themselves didn’t explain it. Also the creators aren’t required to obey the explanation from an unofficial source.

unlike Star Trek books, Star Wars books are officially considered canon. So I guess explanations in them do count.

But why does official canon matter to you? Why do you care? I don’t say you shouldn’t; I ask why you do.

I am not sure how to answer that.


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chyron8472 said:

Warbler said:

chyron8472 said:

You also have said if a movie is canon and its novelization is canon (or vice versa), and dialogue in one is not the same as the other, then which one ought to be canon? So I want to know which one you would consider canon and why, or whether it matters to you and why not if it doesn’t.

I think someone in another thread said that those in charge said that where the book and movie differ, the movie takes precedence.

I would think the original work takes precedence. That is, the Star Wars movies trump the books; but the Harry Potter books trump the movies.

makes sense.


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I tend to think adaptations (like Potter) exist in seperate universes from the books they come from, and neither the books nor movies take precedence because they’re seperate. Otherwise Blade Runner wouldn’t exist to me 😛

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Warbler said:

I am not sure how to answer that.

Give it a think. I created the thread to ask that specific question.

TV’s Frink said:

chyron just put a big Ric pic in your sig and be done with it.

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chyron8472 said:

Warbler said:

I am not sure how to answer that.

Give it a think. I created the thread to ask that specific question.

maybe I will have more later but, it is why this

was a big deal while this

wasn’t.


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I’ll just defer to my prior thoughts on the matter (on the subject of what you consider your personal SW canon)…

DominicCobb said:

The concept of personal canon is such a weird and intangible thing to me. Do you guys really see all these things fit together when you consume these movies/TV shows/comics/etc.? Or is it just simply you compiling what bits of Star Wars content you like and think are worthy of existing (for lack of a better term)? Or is it picking the things you think make sense together and should be things that happened in this universe?

Going off the last one is a tricky one. So many of these things contradict each other or are so different in tone/characterization or what have you that it’s hard to put them all in the context of one another. For example, some of my absolute favorite Star Wars content is the original Marvel run of comics (and the Goodwin/Williamson strip), but I find a lot of that very hard to reconcile with the world established in the films. Similarly, as much as I loved the PT as a kid, I’ve spent about the last decade coming to terms with the fact that it just does not fit at all with the OT (fan edits are an effort to fix this, but can they ever really?).

Anyway, point is, hard for me to genuinely come up with a “personal canon” in the typical sense of the world (what I view as the ‘history of the Star Wars universe’). I could list the Star Wars stuff that I like but I don’t know, feel like that’s kind of boring?

May do it later anyway.

I will say I totally understand people with multiple canons. It’s definitely a different experience watching the original film as just a standalone feature in comparison to watching it in the larger context of the OT (on that note, I’ve tried numerous times to watch it in the context of the PT but it just doesn’t work).

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If you make a film, and there seems to be a clear plot hole based ONLY upon the movies, then I do not care about whether a book explains it or not. The movies must stand on their own. Then it closes enjoyment of the film to a smaller subset of people willing to read a book.

The books should purely be new stories entirely or extra content for fun. It cannot serve the role of filling in things that a film failed to do well. If the film failed to do it well, then it is inexcusable for the movies part. And of course, I am speaking generally about any sort of adaptation, entry in a film series, a sci fi world, etc.

Return of the Jedi: Remastered

Lord of the Rings: The Darth Rush Definitives

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First of all, you should spoiler tag your post.

Second of all, I think most “plot holes” are stupid and shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment anyway. If a book eases your mind, nice. But for me, most of the time I don’t see anything worth fussing over.

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Though it took me a while to disengage from my former way of thinking, I’ve developed a very simple philosophy about this sort of thing. I call it “selective nihilism”.

What it comes down to is this: if you like a work, and think the story makes sense, then it ‘counts’ as being a real part of the overall story of that fictional world. If you don’t like it, and think the story doesn’t make sense, then it doesn’t count.

Your position will be far more justifiable if you can articulately explain (as much to yourself as to others) why you think something shouldn’t count, but ultimately it is up to the viewer/reader of any work to decide if the story is worth anything to them or not. If it isn’t, it can be negated, and thus dismissed from existence.

For example, many here (including myself) have decided that the prequel films do not conform to the events or storytelling logic of the originals. We have therefore decided to dismiss them and say they do not count. I personally do not believe that any amount of retconning, invented explanations, fan-editing, or other mental gymnastics can be successful in making them fit with the original movies, and since they are generally bad and irritating, not only do I never watch them anymore, I have actively dismissed them from my mind to the extent that they no longer influence my thoughts about the original movies in any significant way. In fact, I have very nearly succeeded in forgetting they exist.

If you find that a work cannot be entirely negated in this way (it usually takes a while to disengage completely due to emotional involvement in the story and characters), then problematic storylines can be relegated to alternate universes, while the “true” story can continue in your mind unpolluted by the unwanted elements. I tend to think of the new SW movies in this way: they are tedious sequels that can be shunted into an alternate universe containing the prequels and special editions, while the Thrawn books by Timothy Zahn are to me the ‘true’ sequel trilogy that follows the original unaltered films.

I am still occasionally prone to feelings of resentment about the state of official Star Wars canon, but by adopting the philosophy I have described above, my enjoyment of the earlier works that I fell in love with can continue unabated and untarnished by the later foolishness. The only problematic thing about using this method is that it can be difficult to explain to other people: I usually avoid talking about Star Wars in more than a fleeting sort of way with people in real life (unless I know they hold similar views), because I dislike having to explain that while I love Star Wars a great deal, I am by no means a ‘Star Wars fan’. Just because something carries that name does not mean that it is automatically worthy of my time or consideration, or that I should have to think about any story concepts it may have introduced while thinking about the earlier works.

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I’m neither vehemently anti-canon nor vehemently pro-canon. I try to discount the prequels as much as possible because they don’t make sense, but sometimes that’s not really feasible.

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DominicCobb said:

First of all, you should spoiler tag your post.

Second of all, I think most “plot holes” are stupid and shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment anyway. If a book eases your mind, nice. But for me, most of the time I don’t see anything worth fussing over.

My apologies. Post has been edited.

And to your point, I do agree that most of the time, plot holes are a stupid thing to complain about, but I am more speaking to bigger issues like character motivations or why something played out the way it did. If a book fixes an apparent problem there, then that is what I am speaking to.

Return of the Jedi: Remastered

Lord of the Rings: The Darth Rush Definitives

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I follow the official canon, for the most part, but in a bit of a looser way. I consider events to be canon, I’ll pick and choose the details of those events as I see fit. For example, I think that the ROTS novelization tells its story better than the movie, but in the end its still telling the same story; so I consider both to be canon.

If a “fan theory” comes around that explains something inconsistent or otherwise wrong in a satisfactory way, I’ll usually accept it as canon as well.

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darthrush said:

DominicCobb said:

First of all, you should spoiler tag your post.

Second of all, I think most “plot holes” are stupid and shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment anyway. If a book eases your mind, nice. But for me, most of the time I don’t see anything worth fussing over.

My apologies. Post has been edited.

And to your point, I do agree that most of the time, plot holes are a stupid thing to complain about, but I am more speaking to bigger issues like character motivations or why something played out the way it did. If a book fixes an apparent problem there, then that is what I am speaking to.

Yeah I can get that. Things like character motivations should be clear in the text of the thing itself, not explained in an outside text. But things like “how does this piece of technology/magic actually work,” “what happens in this off screen scene,” “what is the backstory of this world, person, whatever,” etc. A supplemental book can add something there, but as long as that kind of info isn’t actually important to the story of the film, it shouldn’t matter.

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Very well said, hairy_hen, that’s where I am. For me it’s the GOUT. The EU has always been in a provisional category for me, some were good enough for me to almost accept as canon while others I rejected. As Dominic says, it can be tricky (or messy, as seriouscoffee says) to describe our own canon but we don’t need to go through a mechanical process - I think we each have a natural sense of what works for us or not.

Official canon is meaningful to those creating official works. By extension it has meaning to those consuming the works. But George Lucas pulled the curtain back on the significance of canon when he created the Special Editions and Disney did it when it dismissed the old EU on a whim. The PT and ST have been sufficiently disappointing that they remain in a provisional category for me.

If I had billions of dollars and bought Lucasfilm, I could tell you all what the official canon is, including my own new PT and ST movies to replace the old ones.

The blue elephant in the room.

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The impulse that some people have to try to mentally combine everything they like into the same personal continuity while rejecting everything they dislike seems exhausting to me. I don’t have any trouble accepting multiple canons. I love the Thrawn books, but I’m happy to leave them in the Legends timeline instead of going through the mental gymnastics of forcing them into the ST continuity.

Similarly, it always felt easier simply not to focus on the things I dislike than to declare that they don’t “count” and find workarounds to keep everything else consistent. Some years ago, I visited an aunt in Tampa. I did not care for Tampa, but I don’t feel the need to convince myself that Tampa isn’t there; I just won’t go back to Tampa. I feel the same way about Jabba the Hutt’s Truman Capote uncle: if I don’t rewatch those episodes of TCW, his being “real” in the context of SW canon can’t affect me one way or the other. Since the things I don’t like are almost never load-bearing elements of the things I do, I find it’s much simpler to just roll with canon and not revisit the stuff I’m not into.