Has anything further come from this project, or are there any other similar projects? At this point a 35mm fan-preservation in 1080 is, for me, the OriginalTrilogy holy grail, simply because I think Star Wars will eventually get a hi-def official release at some point, but it’s no guarantee THX 1138 will ever be restored to what it was, and I’d love to be able to put that original version of this movie on in a resolution better than Laserdisc.
I disagree. To me watching Luke rise above himself only to be kicked back in the dirt, or watching the rebels beating the Empire only to have it all destroyed with a blast from a super weapon to have to do it all over again, or watch Han become a responsible leader, only to then abandon his friends and family, and become a smuggler again, is not all that satisfying. It may be satisfying in the moment, but in the long run it seems pretty pointless.
I don’t think the presentation of perserverance and goodness in the face of oppression and hardship is pointless. Wins don’t lose value simply because losses might follow. Championships still count even if the team ends up sucking 15 years later. All the good things a person did in their life don’t suddenly disappear when they die. But again, that’s kind of the philosophical divide I think we keep butting up against here: There’s a sense of score-keeping being applied to the OT characters in the ST, that certain things just shouldn’t have happened because look at this record! Look at X, Y, and Z, now you’re telling me all that grinding and leveling up doesn’t matter - and now this person over here that only JUST started playing gets a fully loaded sheet? There’s almost a gamification being applied to the story and I just don’t look at character or story in that way, and I don’t think characters in fiction are best served by keeping them boxed in.
If you only focus on the fact a failure happened at all, and not on the way everyone rose above that failure, (Everyone - the new characters too - that they’re learning from the past as well as learning on their own isn’t a negative thing, I don’t think) then it feels to me like you’re willfully missing the point. If you refuse to accept that a failure could have happened in the first place, you’re not meeting the story on its own level. And of course a failure could have happened. It’s not out of bounds, it’s not out of the question. I believe that stories work because they have the freedom to examine those sorts of scenarios. “What if a hero never truly reckoned with his own insecurities and succumbed to depression after a preventable tragedy?” I understand the knee-jerk response of “That would suck and I wouldn’t like that” but that’s a starting point, not the final answer. You can do things with fictional characters that you’d never want to see in real life, and the inspiration comes in showing ways out of that darkness. I understand the impulse to say “but they should never go into the darkness in the first place” and you’re right to feel that way, but I don’t think that makes for affecting drama or potent myth, either.
edit: completely off topic, but I want to say I’m a big fan of your color grading work on the fan preservations and I seriously cannot wait for you to finish that work and see it applied to the OT. It’s amazing stuff and I’m very appreciative. Thank you for dedicating so much time and energy to it.
I disagree, I thought it sold his POV really well. His “solution” to the problem is a bad one, but it’s bad in very understandable ways. When you unfairly come down on yourself, hard, for not living up to ideals you keep pushing out of reach for yourself, you’ll make punitive decisions that are less about making amends and more about getting the hell out of the way, because you honestly believe, at that point, that’s the best option. Just leave. Everyone else is better off without you, because all you do is mess things up for everyone you love. Depression is a liar, it’s said. He’s acting the way he’s acting in no small part because he probably knows in some place what he’s doing is the wrong thing, but he can’t see how anything else could possibly work. The judgment you’re casting is exactly the judgment he’s already applied to himself. He’s being selfish and petulant. But that’s also a part of who he is, and you can struggle to overcome those aspects of yourself, but most people never truly eradicate them. They’ve got to work to keep them at bay, all the time.
I get the feeling behind “But Luke Skywalker shouldn’t have to keep failing in order to be interesting” or even more simply “I don’t WANT Luke Skywalker to fail anymore.” I absolutely understand that emotion behind the complaints. Nobody wants to see their hero succumb to depression and spiral out into self-loathing and self-destruction, right? Nobody wants their friend to cop out. But Luke doesn’t get to be that trapped in amber happily-ever-after hero once the decision is made to make Episodes 7, 8, and 9. And my counter to “I don’t want Luke to fail anymore” is that Luke Skywalker’s victories are as satisfying as they are BECAUSE he fails at first. And fails again! The best he’s ever been as a character is when he’s struggling to overcome his own self-doubts about what is possible, and whether or not he can do it. Luke is at his best as a character, and as a key component of Star Wars storytelling, when he’s in a low place, and through his goodness, his will, and his sense of right and wrong, he not only gets out of that low place, he finds himself standing in a much higher one, and he brought his friends with him, too.
The Last Jedi does that for him. You can be mad at him (or mad at the people who wrote him) for making him un-perfect as a means to move the story forward, but I’m not mad at Luke, or the people who remembered how interesting and relatable and INSPIRING he is when you trip him up and bring him low. I’m empathetic towards him. I’m sympathetic, and I’m pulling for him to realize he’s made bad decisions, even if it takes Yoda showing up and zapping a tree to finally get the light to spark in his eyes. I want my friend to get it, and I’m relieved and happy when he does, because I know what he can do when he finally gets it, and it’s something to see.
Luke’s story in ROTJ is not one of becoming successful in spite of his flaws. It’s overcoming those flaws, losing self doubt, and insecurity that make him successful, that make him a Jedi.
And people don’t just overcome things once and then they’re never a problem again, either. If a story has to continue, then drama must ensue. And Luke is a focal point of that drama. Nobody becomes a perfect person at age 30, no matter how fantastical the story is. There’s still a lot of learning and overcoming to be done, backsliding and correcting that has to be accounted for. Our heroes are still people, and people are inherently flawed. That they triumph over their flaws is inspiring. But triumph doesn’t erase everything. But that speaks to your next point:
To me that’s kind of the point of myths, and fantasies, that it isn’t reality. That we do not find out our hero is secretly a drunk, beats up on his loved ones, neglects his or her children, is afraid of hights, suffers from all sorts of compulsions, etc, etc. I don’t get the idea, that making the Star Wars characters more realistic automatically makes them better.
It doesn’t “automatically” make them better, but it does make them more sympathetic and more relatable IF the execution is done well. It’s not a math problem, really. There’s no simple equasion to be applied to get Luke Skywalker in the W column and keep him there forever no matter what. He’s a fictional character in a myth. Myths aren’t reality, but they reflect it, and the best storytelling, even when it’s escapist, makes sure to not just reflect the foibles of the people reading and watching those fantasies play out, but to provide them inspiration that you can take out into the world with you. If even someone like Luke is still unsure of himself despite all the things he’s done, it’s not so bad when you’re unsure of yourself. Luke is not only providing the positive example of what to do in the face of failure, he’s a preventative warning of what NOT to do. You don’t have to make the same mistakes a great person made. You’ve seen what happened when he made them, so now you don’t have to go down that path. You’ll make your OWN mistakes though, and now through the power of myth, and the escapism of fantasy, you have an example (among, hopefully, more real life examples you can measure against as well) of what you can do when you make those mistakes.
If you want to look at Star Wars as an aspirational fable, you can still do that even if one of its heroes (or most of them, if not all of them) have character flaws. It doesn’t make them “losers.” It DOES make them failures, but some of the most successful, happy, accomplished, and upstanding people this world has ever turned out were also failures. It’s what they did in the face of those repeated failures that made them role models and legends. That’s a big part of The Last Jedi’s storytelling. The biggest part, really.
That’s what I meant by rejection, that he rejects it at all is confusing. You cite a criticism from Yoda in Empire to explain his lack of resolve, as if the following film didn’t go to great lengths to demonstrate that Luke had grown beyond that. He became less of a doubter than the master who once called him the same, when he thought he could redeem a murderer through love for his father alone, and succeeded in doing so. For what reason would he have to doubt himself at that point? For what reason is there to parse from the remainder of that film that he’d remain a doubter? It’s less a character assassination than it is a character regression; that you have to compare TLJ Luke to ESB Luke is telling of exactly what’s wrong with the writing.
People don’t just magically lose self doubt and insecurity when they become successful though. In many successful people, their fears of their own failures only get amplified. They don’t see it as having won, or having bettered themselves. They see it as having a harder fall when they inevitably screw it all up again. Sometimes our heroes don’t think of themselves as heroes, and their struggles with insecurity and self-doubt are doing things to them we’d never suspect looking from the outside.
Granted, the characterization of Luke in the sequel trilogy is, on a behind-the-scenes level separate from the larger storytelling, prompted by the fact they needed a reason to keep him out of The Force Awakens. But when it came time to personalize that reason, to make it make sense, Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill worked together to come up with a version that not only makes sense, but is very emotionally resonant. I don’t think it’s confusing at all that a person as innately good as Luke would react with self-doubt, insecurity, and hesitancy in response to having the mantle of Legend placed upon him, and he’d definitely be mad at himself for allowing himself to believe he was one, even for a second, especially when, in that second, it led to his losing Ben.
The reason “happily ever after” works so well in fantasies is because you don’t have to go into the parts after THE END where nothing ever ends, and the people, despite the things they learned and the change they’ve affected, still wrestle with who they are, and why they do the things they do. Politicians are like this. Teachers are like this. Athletes, artists - any sort of role model you can think of, all you have to do is check out a biography from the library and read the parts that come after any other story would have stopped and “Happily ever after’d” and see similar struggles.
This is where the case for Luke in TLJ breaks down for me. That his legacy was enacted behind closed doors made no difference to the universe of The Force Awakens, wherein every character’s motivation was dictated by a quest to find Luke, specifically because of the actions he committed to 30 years prior. Rejection of his legendary status would be much more plausible had it been an overexaggerated or a falsified one.
But it’s Luke doing the rejecting of his legendary status, not the universe. It’s a question of Luke never quite believing in himself, and even when he did, he did it the wrong way. He is being ruthless towards himself in that confession to Rey, and it shows that he never quite believed in himself the way others did, and when he tried to, he did it with reservations and a lack of conviction.
That’s very much in character for Luke Skywalker. “Always with you, it can not be done.” That’s the part of the legend Luke sees that nobody else in the larger universe has ever even heard of, and that’s the part that scares him the most, and haunts him the hardest. The Last Jedi is a movie that is consistently about discovering who you REALLY are, and the only way you can do that is when you are brought low by your biggest fear, and you decide you have to move beyond it. HOW you do that is what defines you. That happens with Poe, it happens with Finn, it happens with Rey, it happens with Kylo, and it happens with Luke.
I think the Daldry hiring pointed pretty clearly towards making it more of a low-key drama than anything else Star Wars has been. The Mos Eisley elements don’t need to be action packed or blockbustery if they do get introduced, either.
I don’t think it should be deathly serious, because Ben Kenobi is a wry sort of guy, and the show should have a sense of humor that matches. Basically, a Star Wars show that feels a little like Justified would be pitch perfect, to me.
I was thinking that too, that it would be weird to have Chewie and not have Han around, but I believe the notion of a “life debt” or anything like that has been wiped from canon, hasn’t it? Chewie doesn’t have to be tethered to Han all the time. A one or two-episode guest stint could work, I think.
I wonder if this show is going to be the melding of two different Star Wars Story ideas that got mooted when the decision was ultimately made to turn spinoff movies into Disney+ content instead. There was a Mos Eisley/Fett movie being worked on with James Mangold, and Stephen Daldry’s Kenobi movie. I wonder if those two projects are now going to become this one. A Kenobi-centered show, set in the hive of scum and villainy, about a crazy old wizard bumping into low-rent criminals while trying to maintain a low profile.
Chewie’s gonna be in this, I bet. The fact Ben seems very familiar with him in A New Hope seems like something a little too good to pass up in a miniseries format.
Also, wasn’t one of the early rumors that his “co-star” was going to be Artoo? Or maybe it’ll be R5-D4.
Mythology and some meta narrative celebrating the power of mythology is not the same thing.
It can be, though. A blend of the two can be achieved. A metatextual celebration of mythology within a mythology doesn’t disqualify its status AS mythology, and it further doesn’t disqualify the storytelling using that as its engine from being good, either. The Princess Bride is a great example of this.
A lot of your arguments seem focused primarily on that impulse towards disqualification, specifically of the film’s storytelling conceits as not being “Star Wars” in and of itself. Which is limiting, to me. Those limits weren’t applied to Empire, thankfully, and the film that came out of that willingness to experiment and metatextually comment on what came before was all the richer for it. A lot of my favorite things in Star Wars are things that weren’t really “Star Wars” until they were introduced to it.
Some people have a really hard time processing these films AS films in and of themselves, and can’t help but looking at them solely through the perspective of their place in the larger saga. Not that it’s an invalid way to process the movies at all, I’m not saying that. But it also means that interfacing with what these movies are doing AS movies becomes a lot harder when they’re not pre-canonized for analysis and consumption. When something as adventurous and rule-breaking as Empire is already decades old and fully accepted for what it is before you ever clap eyes on it, a lot of the arguments that could be applied as equally as they are to Last Jedi or Force Awakens simply don’t get applied, or are only applied as an academic concern at best, a fun “what if” that is almost beside the point.
Granted, it’s almost impossible not to take into account the movie’s place in a larger series, but I think it’s also unfair to act like movies that safely color within the lines of what “Star Wars IS” are inherently better as cinema than the ones that don’t. Not only are those “rules” often arbitrary and more in the eye of the beholder than in the eye of the storytellers in question, but adherence to those rules aren’t necessarily any sort of real roadmap to successful storytelling.
As much as I dislike Attack of the Clones as cinema, and as storytelling, I wouldn’t consider disqualifying any individual aspect (or the film as a whole) as Star Wars simply because it’s a bad movie. And if I can allow that Star Wars by the numbers can lead to something being a massive turd, then I have to allow for the idea that Star Wars outside the box can be brilliant, if not necessarily adherent to traditional ideas of what “Star Wars IS.” Essentially - that rigidity stunts potential, and can stunt appreciation, and if primary complaints about the Last Jedi tend to center on it’s decision to not maintain that percieved rigidity, and doesn’t take into account how well those elements were actually EXECUTED… those complaints read to me as self-minimizing. Because what’s more important to me in a movie isn’t necessarily what’s being done, but why it’s being done, and how it was executed.
In the case of the Last Jedi, I have a hard time finding fault with why things are happening in that movie and how they’re being pulled off. The history of the series its a part of serves as a good contrast point, but I also don’t believe it NEEDS to be SO beholden to that history. Which is, itself, one of the lessons the film puts forth.
The movie is building to such a crazy emotional pitch at that point that the lightsaber isn’t even really the biggest WTF. As soon as he shows up, you’re off-kilter in a dreamlike way. Did he shave and get a haircut? Did he de-age? And the conversation between him and Leia with the Luke & Leia theme playing is just so good that you don’t even really have time to think of what any of that really means, and then he winks at Threepio and I feel like even IF alarm bells are going off at that point, they get muted by Luke winking at Threepio and a lot of viewers just give up trying to tune into why this all seems weird and dreamlike, and roll with it. It doesn’t hurt that The Spark is so propulsive as a piece of music that you really are just firmly shoved into believing what you’re seeing and feeling no matter how odd it seems.
Was it predictable? Probably. Star Wars movies aren’t that difficult to figure out. There was really only the one time Star Wars really surprised anyone, and that was 1980, and that twist absolutely came out of nowhere both in concept and execution. But even if it was predictable, the way the movie presented it nullified that predictability. The scene had the punch it had whether you knew it was coming or not.
I think the inability to allow Star Wars to be more than one thing at a time is pretty limiting, and the strictness by which people are outlining limits and borders as to what the definition of “Star Wars” is or can be tends be one of the most stubborn roots in a lot of Last Jedi conversations. It seems to be part of a desire to justify a dislike of what happens in the movie by going the extra step towards invalidating the product as not being “really” Star Wars.
The Last Jedi uses postmodernism to reaffirm the mythology, and - nakedly, earnestly - celebrates not just the mythology, but the power and majesty of it in its ending. Was the Force Awakens postmodern when it made Ben Solo/Kylo Ren an on-the-nose stand-in for toxic Star Wars fans? I’d say so. Is the Last Jedi postmodern by essentially putting about 40 years of composite Star Wars fan in the film via Broom Kid (hence my user-name)? Absolutely. Short of fans managing to climb the fandom ladder and get industry jobs that put them on camera, Temiri Blagg is probably the single best chance for a large segment of Star Wars fandom to see themselves AS themselves in a Star Wars film. But I don’t see that as a negative thing, or even necessarily against the “rules” of Star Wars. Star Wars was considered “post-modern” at the time, as has already been pointed out. For a lot of people (myself included) the grasp on the concept is inherently slippery due to the ever-shifting idea of what “modernity” even is depending on when the claim is being made. Modernity in the '60s isn’t the same as it is in 2020.
I don’t see Favreau or Filoni really being at odds though. So long as Filoni has a good idea for why Ahsoka (and/or Sabine) might show up in that time period on the outer rim, I don’t know why Favreau would shoot it down or veto it on general principle. It would have to be a bad idea or a bad pitch first. A big part of why Favreau is even part of this whole thing is due to Filoni hiring him to be a voice in Clone Wars.
Mandalorian’s already got a second season, will likely get a third. I think chances are more than good that Hondo, Ahsoka, Sabine, and Bo-Katan might all appear before the run is over. Maybe even Hera. I also think if that happens, they’ll put Tiya Sircar, Ashley Eckstein, Katee Sackhoff, and Vanessa Marshall in their corresponding roles.
If Filoni’s as heavily involved as he seems to be, I think it’s a guarantee either Hondo or Ahsoka (or both) are going to appear in this show before it ends.
You could probably keep most of the action (if not all of it) intact, just make it a little harsher. The chain of events that happened in 1983 could still happen, in the same order, with the same people, but with the violence, and the effects of that violence, upped just that much more.
The easiest way would be to essentially have Fett’s pack go catastrophically haywire in a way that essentially “Anakin”'s him on the way to smashing into the skiff and falling to the ground. If Han hits him with the stick, it causes the rocket to fire and malfunction, and a charred and/or burning, almost lifeless Boba Fett goes flying towards the skiff while literally on fire, when he hits the side of the skiff, THAT can essentially be the point where the impact kills him. Have a minor explosion in the jet pack accompany the hit, and when he falls to the sand, he ragdolls down, the sand effectively putting him out just in time for his dead body to fall into the sarlaacs mouth.
I’m basically saying you can make Fett’s death PG-13 pretty easily with what’s already there, you don’t have to radically re-imagine the scene much. It’s sort of like how the Corridor Crew guys have been taking PG-13 action scenes from Marvel movies and showing how easy it is to make them R-rated with a few post-production flourishes.
TESB was never considered the weakest of the OT. For a while it was considered weaker than SW in some circles, but ROTJ was immediately seen as inferior to both with its more kid friendly approach, and its rehashing of the Death Star finale. By 1983 Lucas’ reputation was already more a toymaker, than filmmaker/artist.
It’s hard to say it was “never” considered that. People did consider it that. Probably not as many, comparatively, but people who enjoyed Star Wars for being exuberant fun as opposed to being substantive mythology tended to enjoy Return of the Jedi more than Empire Strikes Back. Again, the narratives made popular by the spread of the internet tend to make accurate judgment of what people “back then” felt and in what numbers sort of difficult. Everyone’s kind of working off anecdotal information, magazine letters-to-the-editor, and in some cases, really early internet BBS information.
In fact, the narrative that ROTJ was always the “stupid” one with a “bunch of muppets” not coincidentally got a lot of run as soon as a certain mid-90s movie came out espousing that otherwise “edgy” opinion, taken from comic book conventions. And the anti-ewok stance really doesn’t make much sense in retrospect, especially when looking from today’s POV. I struggle to understand how people could honestly make the argument that ewoks don’t really fit into Star Wars, and when they show up in Rise of Skywalker and everyone goes nuts with happiness about having them there on Endor, it’ll be even harder to make that argument, I think.
There was, and still is, a lot of weirdly placed shame regarding the ewoks, and a lot of fans - and again, I think this is where a division between individual fans of a thing and a larger group fandom really shows itself - took a lot of pleasure in widening that silly divide for the sake of having points to make in online arguments. It’s one of the first and biggest examples of how people believed Star Wars needed to be something OTHER than what it was (usually child-like or child-ish) in order to be TRULY “Star Wars.” The idea that the most merchandised, most popular thing in American culture was “debasing” itself by having cute critters in the movie that could become cute toys people could buy doesn’t really make any sense on the face of it, especially considering what came before and certainly considering what came afterwards. It only made sense if you honestly believed cute things for children were inherently BENEATH Star Wars, and they’re not.
I myself believe Return of the Jedi to be the weakest of the three OT movies, but not because of its more open return to childish conventions, and certainly not because of the Ewoks, who I regard less as “teddy bears” and more like a whole forest full of furry Artoo Detoos with sharp sticks. A lot of the filmmaking is just sub-par in comparison to the prior two films, and there are a lot of shortcuts being taken both on the page and in front of the camera. I don’t think it’s a bad movie. But I also have a hard time arguing against its crowdpleasing nature, because when it wants to make you excited, it does so, and does it well - mostly in the last 20 minutes.
I think much of the reception for Rise of Skywalker will come down to how well it’s executed (obviously) and how prepared audiences within the fandom (general audiences will probably like it just fine no matter what, they always tend to be more appreciative than the fandom is, even at its most exuberant) to accept Star Wars for what it is, and not for what they want it to be. Especially since it seems very much like, as with Force Awakens, Abrams and his creative partners looked at early drafts of OT material and used that as a starting point. The Rise Of Skywalker is going to play very much like a what-if scenario, as in “What if JJ Abrams got to develop the abandoned Return of the Jedi draft all the way to completion, and adapted his own characters as well as some old ones, into that story”
And despite all the drama and mythology right up front, it’s a guarantee this movie is going to be funny in a way that will feel like it’s primarily “for the kids,” like Jedi often was, and if anything is going to force angry reactions from certain circles of the fandom, it’s THAT reminder.
If the Empire Strikes Back hadn’t gotten the grace period it got, where the movies stopped being incessantly talked about within a year of their release, where audiences were allowed to discover it at their own pace years later thanks to home video, and form their own appreciations without having cheat sheets and talking points to reference, where the entirety of “social media” was the letters section of Starlog and maybe a couple fanzines with 5000 subscribers at most, nobody would be talking about it like the bonafide guaranteed all-time classic most people know it to be.
Luckily, it got to be what it was, on its own terms, and people came to recognize its qualities. If social media had been around, if lines were allowed to be drawn on those terms, and people had the capability to meme (and make money off those memes) their regurgitated opinions ad nauseum, Empire would have been just as divisive.
Who knows, maybe in 10 years someone can reboot Clerks and when the goateed chudlet in THAT remake goes on a rant about how The Last Jedi was really the best one, and all Force Awakens had was a bunch of “fanservice,” we’ll finally understand just how much of the current conversation about The Last Jedi doesn’t really have much to do with its quality as a movie at all. A lot of people just want to be rewarded for having learned how to pick a team, and play hard for it.
A lot of people don’t want to take time to think about what they just watched because there’s no incentive to do so. the incentive is in formulating a take (or stealing someone else’s as soon as you think it sounds good enough to repeat) and letting it fly. THAT gets you rewarded. That’s fandom. And that’s why when fandom got a movie as audaciously made and fundamentally altering to the canon as Empire was in its day, it didn’t know how to react. It doesn’t know what to do when confronted with something that hasn’t already been canonized.
And to clarify, this doesn’t denigrate, demean, or take away from people who have obviously thought about the film carefully, arrived at their opinion, and courteously shared it. But there’s a clear and obvious difference between someone arguing in good faith about their contrary opinion, and someone regurgitating talking points they barely even chewed before swallowing. I get why people hate having their thoughtful, considered opinions written off due to those other guys acting out and making their (mildly lucrative) stink, and I know that sucks. But there’s nothing that says you can’t distance YOURSELF from the “Fandom Menace” types voluntarily, either. You don’t have to pretend they don’t really count or aren’t really there in order to say your piece.
I think the Last Jedi is an amazingly made movie that’s almost as good as The Empire Strikes Back for a lot of the same reasons. I get why people would disagree, but like Dom, I’m sort of befuddled as to this idea that it’s poorly made. The craft on display is fairly apparent, to me.
I really do think Greig’s work Rogue One might make it the most impressively photographed movie in the whole series. Even more than Suschitzky’s work on Empire. The movie itself has no shortage of problems, absolutely. But its look is definitely not one of those problems.
I understand the irony of writing about this here, but then again it’s also maybe the most appropriate place to write it: Fandoms aren’t particularly healthy even when they aren’t toxic, and most of them get that way and stay that way no matter what. People like to pretend fandom was unified once, and can be unified again, but fandom isn’t for unification. Fandom is literally for dividing and conquering, for attaching a value to your love of fiction and measuring it against others to say “this way is better.” Fandom is taking something mostly unimportant and largely frivolous - movies, toys, cartoons, games, etc - and building a political structure around it. It’s politics for people uncomfortable with the idea of entering politics. To be an active part of a fandom is to purposefully shrink and warp perspective until you feel comfortable - and powerful - in how your fandom makes you a more capable being.
And I don’t believe in the sort of “true fan” stuff people throw around, that says older fans are better than younger ones, or fans who know more trivia are more valued than the ones who string together 60 different memes and catchphrases in their inaugural live-tweets of the movies. But I do think there’s a difference between being a fan, and being part of a fandom. Being a fan can still be healthy, and fun. Being part of a fandom is when you start substituting large pieces of who you are and what you could be for having status within a “community” built on something fundamentally unsuited for mental health. Being part of a fandom is trying to take what is at its core an unhealthy obsession and transform it by repetition and constant practice into something beneficial to yourself and others.
While there are notable exceptions to that, truth is it almost never works, and most people who have voluntarily entered any fandom would be hard-pressed to show an example of how devoting time and energy to their fandom has actually improved their love of Star Wars. Most frequently, all it adds is stress, and disillusionment, and disappointment, and that negativity is almost always due not to the movies themselves, but to everything else surrounding it. Once you shift your focus from watching a movie to enjoy it, to watching it so you can transform it into content for yourself to take to a forum, or to social media, to convert your enjoyment into likes and replies and reactions and retweets and virality, it’s only a matter of time. Once fandom, which was already a shoddy replacement for community civics, became an economy unto itself, a thing you can monetize for personal benefit or even a job in media, it was all over.
Videos like the one above are helpful because they point out the grifting being done in the name of “fandom” at its ugliest, they point out that people can amass huge audiences in a fandom, and profit off those audiences, without ever having proved they even like the thing they’re dedicating all their time to. They can be seen as a very useful wake-up call for people wondering why they devote so much of who they are to these pursuits, when it doesn’t seem to make them like a thing more than the millions upon millions of other people who have never once even thought to join a forum or tweet about Star Wars, much less build a whole persona around it. In fact it seems to make them angrier and more frustrated way more often.
But for all the useful information in that video, it neglects the basic fact that “fandom” itself is a grift, selling people the lie that obsessing over fictional things whose creation is completely out of your control is a positive, healthy way to live. Fandom is grass-roots marketing at its purest, the belief that opting to be walking commercials for someone else’s art can be spiritually rewarding. That you can build meaningful, healthy relationships out of that shared obsession, and that the world can be made a better, more manageable, more interesting place by simply mixing consumerism with love and letting the two impulses inform one another.
Being a fan of things makes sense, is understandable, and mostly harmless. But there’s a problem with toxic fandom because the societal construct that is modern fandom is, itself, toxic.
Anyway, I like Star Wars, I like talking about it with people, and I like talking about it with people in small, quiet places, because talking about it with people in larger ones is an exercise in harvesting anger and frustration pretty much 100% of the time.
220 mil domestic opening weekend
725 mil domestic
675 mil international
1.4 bil worldwide total