There is a disturbance in the Force,and it mustn’t be ignored. New Star Wars is coming out via various mediums, which has the potential to rattle the fandom to its very core The history of Star Wars since the release of the original trilogy has been something that has brought about divisions. The new things that are coming out have the potential to do the same. Or they could bring change….
The prequels are the most blatant of these divisions that have sliced the heart of fandom. Everyone has their opinion, which they are rightly entitled to; yet it seems these opinions are as vast as the star systems in our beloved galaxy. The use of CGI, the acting, the dialogue, the chemistry between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, Jar Jar Binks, the politics, the look, and that one guy in the background who is doing that thing that irritates you. Conversely, there are those who love the prequels, such as those who like me grew up with them in the theaters. Such people love the lightsaber duels, the depth it brings to the story to the saga, the reliability of Anakin’s struggle, the podrace, the space battles, the humor, and that one guy in the background who looks badass. Basically what I am saying is that you have about as much chance as Watto in finding two people who think the same about the prequels.
All the while, it goes deeper. The Expanded Universe (now Legends), the comics, The Clone Wars television show, The Clone Wars microseries, and on and on. All of it is infamous for how it divides fans into sects, each as adamant that they are the ones who are correct. Each as blind as the Jedi to what is really going on.
Now, let me be clear. I am not some being on the outside looking in. I am not trying to be the Darth Bane of fandom, creating a new order for its very survival. I am more like that guy in the background who has his own ideas, but people only find out about it in fan fiction.
See, I have been a fan of the Star Wars galaxy since far before I can remember. I had my toys, I skipped school to watch Return of the Jedi, and I lived for the Young Jedi Knight series. I had Episode I spoiled for me scene for scene by an elementary after school teacher because, as a nine year old who never believed more Star Wars was possible, I did not want to wait to know what was going to happen a minute longer than was necessary.
But I hit my own proverbial dark times of growing up. I found other interests and met new people (aka girls) and Star Wars, although I loved it, kind of took a back seat. Therefore, I never really got into the comics or the rest of the Expanded Universe. It was just too much to keep up with.
Fortunately I came back around to the galaxy as I learned to balance things. With me I brought my fears and trepidations. See, before The Clone Wars came on Netflix, I refused to watch the show because I thought Star Wars as an animated TV show would bastardize the saga. I was so drastically wrong, and I have now watched the series twice. Still, I couldn’t get back into all of the comics, books, and other parts of the saga because there was just so much that every time I started I felt like I was drowning.
Enter Disney and the new canon. Now, as a fully invested fan, I can take it all in right from the get go. I can read every comic as it comes out, watch each episode of Rebels twice, tear through the books like a college kid does a home cooked meal. I can swim in these new waters without the fear of getting lost.
Once again, though, as has become the rhetoric of Star Wars, I sit on one side of a dividing fence. People still want to argue about the Legends stories and the steps Disney has taken. Trust me when I say I respect that opinion, even though it is short-sighted. What Disney has done is set up the Star Wars galaxy to be an effective story for generations to come.
Let me put it into perspective with this example. I am a fourth grade teacher and I use Star Wars as a classroom theme and an avenue through which to teach. (I am not unique in this, as Star Wars in the Classroom is an initiative that continues to grow.) Due to weather concerns over this past year, it had worked out that my students and I had watched all the episodes of season one of Rebels, up until the season finale. The whole day at work I was admittedly a little distracted as I waited for nine o’clock to roll around so that I could see what was going to happen to The Ghost crew, and I had several of my students who felt the same way.
As I watched the reruns play on the Disney X.D. app, my anticipation grew and grew. Apparently, however, so did the weight of my eyelids, because I fell asleep before the show even came on and missed the whole thing. While I was devastated that I would not be able to get online and see what other fans thought of the show for at least 12 more hours, one of my students made a valuable point. She said that, because of the bad weather, we could all watch the finale together, as a fan community.
In retrospect, I can imagine I would have been excited to see Ahsoka come down that ladder and hear Vader’s ominous breathing. But I can also say that I would not have had the same experience as watching it with a classroom full of 10 and 11 year olds. I am not exagenerating when I say that you could not hear the end music play because the room was so loud.
Take just a moment and think about what that means. These 10 and 11 year old kids got excited about a classic trilogy character. These kids whose Star Wars was The Clone Wars, which we had also watched regularly in full episodes and in clips as a means of teaching lessons, still cared about the story as a whole. They, in their youth, did not see a need to neatly divide Star Wars into good and bad. They simply consumed what they enjoyed and left alone what the did not enjoy. They accepted the story as a whole, and Disney has taken note.
Why should it be any different for those of us who have been fans for years and decades? The answer: it shouldn’t. Star Wars is something we love in part because it is so vast and we can always find something we want to invest in. With the resurgence that Star Wars is seeing, there will be even more to hold on to, and what Disney is doing is expertly painting a new Mona Lisa. Yet, if you let it, there will be more to divide us.
I argue that, instead of building fences and shunning those who are different, we just enjoy Star Wars for what it is: a youthful, vibrant, space fantasy. If we did it when we were kids, we can do it now. Then, hopefully, our kids will not have to face dark times.