TRANSMISSIONS FROM A GALAXY FAR, FAR, AWAY:

EPISODE V

This is the fifth column in a weekly series from The Rock Father James Zahn. Check back Fridays for the latest in what’s happening in the galaxy far, far away, or read them all here. 

 

It didn’t really hit me until after Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit theaters last year, but there are some serious problems with the Star Wars fandom. Having seen Solo: A Star Wars Story twice during its opening weekend, my take was that it was an absolute blast, and of all the modern films in the franchise, it’s the closest to capturing the true spirit and feel of the original trilogy.

Despite a disappointing box office return for its opening weekend, the film earned an A- CinemaScore indicating that audiences love it. So what happened?

What happened actually doesn’t matter. What really matters is stopping it from happening again, and that means getting things back on-track… harnessing the power of The Force, if you will.

There were no doubt some hard conversations being had on the Disney lot in Burbank and up at Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco when the crew returned from Memorial Day weekend. An Academy Award-winning director (Ron Howard) stepped into a now infamous mess, and managed to deliver a very good film in a very short period of time – a testament to the work done by a stellar cast and crew. Had it not accidentally become the most expensive Star Wars film of all-time ($250 million), the sting wouldn’t be so bad. After all, the “anthology” films were never meant to be the massive blockbusters of the episodic “saga”—they were intended to be small, more intimate stories. In time, Solo will find its audience, and provided Lucasfilm corrects the plan, I hope that we’ll still see many more Star Wars Story films in the years to come.

The biggest problem that I see is this growing “Fandom Menace” (I’d love to say I came up with that, but it’s a phrase tossed around for at least a decade). As I’ve said before, the unenvious situation that Lucasfilm and their filmmakers find themselves in is that if they keep things too traditional it’s “more of the same.” If they serve up something too different, they’re “ruining the franchise.” Those arguments are stared-down daily, all spewed by the toxic individuals who attempt to skew ratings on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. They’re fueled by an unfounded sense of entitlement and ownership to stories that aren’t theirs. No one has ever had a “ruined childhood” based on a movie, and frankly, I’m tired of hearing that since the early 2000s era of the Prequel Trilogy. You can choose to like something or choose not to—but the stories, the films, are not yours. Just like “there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s,” there’s no wrong way to enjoy a fandom… but there is a wrong way to be angry with it, and that’s by taking out your disappointment and anger on those who are having a good time.

From the beginning, Star Wars has always held certain commentary on real-world history (yes, those Imperials were space Nazis), but lately there are other elements that might not even be real or implied, but projected upon the Star Wars franchise by the toxic side of fandom, to the point where even writers from sites focusing on Star Wars collectibles and toys are fighting about it (I wish I was joking on that). A quick search of Twitter and Facebook reveals finger-pointing specifically at Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy for bringing “SJW politics” into Star Wars. SJW is the oft-used acronym for Social Justice Warrior, an insult used in this case to attack Kennedy and her team for things like having a female lead (Daisy Ridley’s Rey) in the sequel trilogy, or having an Asian female (Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico) as a supporting player in The Last Jedi. Raising two Star Wars-loving girls (something I’ve written about over at The Toy Insider), I think the current state of Star Wars is fantastic, and nowhere do I see these stories as being a liberal vs. conservative issue. But it’s being turned into one.

As I mentioned above, Rotten Tomatoes is one area where the ugly starts to come out—and the owners of that site need to start taking some responsibility and accountability for what’s happening on their platform. Entire Facebook groups have been created for the specific purpose of tanking reviews for certain films—The Last Jedi and Solo among the most notable. As of this writing, there are 156 pages of user reviews, many of them giving Solo zero, ½, or just 1 star—and they’re not leaving a commentary on the film itself: they’re using Rotten Tomatoes to bash Kathleen Kennedy and “SJW politics.”

Forbes is now questioning “are movies about white men box office poison,” while Daily Caller takes a Hyperspace trip right into the SJW thing to the point of calling other writers “shills” (I’m sure they would consider me one as well). As a white male, I’m perplexed that anyone could see these films and take offense to them or feel slighted in any way.

All I can say is that if these guys are offended by what’s on screen, they’re really gonna hate Amy Ratcliffe’s new book, Women of the Galaxy.  Announced on StarWars.com, the book will arrive in hardcover this October via Chronicle Books. A celebration of the “eclectic mix of female characters from the films, cartoons, novels, comics, and video games,” Women of the Galaxy will feature 75 profiles including Leia Organa, Rey, Ahsoka Tano, Jyn Erso, Rose Tico, Maz Kanata, and many more—including characters from Solo: A Star Wars Story and Disney XD’s forthcoming animated series, Star Wars Resistance. Each profile includes text by Ratcliffe, with all-new, incredible artwork from 18 talented female and non-binary artists.

As your friendly neighborhood Rock Father, I can assure you that no white males were harmed in the making of the book, and no one will be forced at blaster point to read it, should they choose not to.

FURTHER TRANSMISSIONS FROM ACROSS THE GALAXY:

  • “Solo Says?” In the latest episode of The Star Wars Show, the cast of Solo is challenged on the proper pronunciation of franchise names such as Han, Leia, Dantooine, Nien Nunb and more. Check that out here.
  • The former “Expanded Universe” may now be “Legends,” but more elements of those off-shoot tales have been getting pulled back into the official canon. The Verge looks at some bits that made their way into Solo.
  • The new Star Wars-themed hotel at Walt Disney World will offer guests an unprecedented immersion into a galaxy far, far away. This week, the official Disney Parks Blog offered an update on the hotel and its location. Start saving for a trip!