A lot of you know that I am a die-hard Star Wars fan. Some of you may be surprised that I haven’t even seen Rogue One yet. To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in Rogue One. But events in the last week have led me to realize I might be missing out. Here’s a summary of my last week, made of GIFs from all your other favorite fandoms.
My capstone paper at BYU was on online fandom and I had to explain a lot of terms in detail to a professor who wasn’t very well-versed in modern trends. Since graduating, I’ve found out there is a lot more to fandom that I wasn’t even aware of, including terminology and slang. If you use Pinterest and Tumblr or you follow fandom sites on Facebook, the following may be some ideas to be aware of when looking at fan art and reading others’ posts, as well as commonly used slang. The slang terms you can look up in the Urban Dictionary (which is a site I DO NOT recommend for children).
(I’m writing my Christmas post now because my next post is most likely to be my reaction to The Force Awakens)
This is a bit of my OCD talking: I’m a skeptic when it comes to mixing sci-fi and fantasy with Christmas. I was raised in a family where the religious side of Christmas was always observed, and I’ve continued that in my adult life. Mixing Christmas with Disney princesses or superheroes or so forth can make me a little uncomfortable. Holiday specials featuring these characters can get a little on the cheesy side so I tend to avoid those. Storm troopers in Santa hats? I’ll have to tell you no. If we’re talking fan art, I might be a little more receptive. Yes, I believe that Christmas is “magical,” but I don’t like to mix it with other people’s definitions of that magic. Christmas should be about Christmas! I’m not a total purist, I’m just really picky.
I want to talk about scifif/fantasy and disability. Unlike Jake, who wrote a great article on this topic, I want to focus specifically on the disabilities that aren’t usually seen on the outside–mental illness and social/emotional disorders. And also, unlike Jake, I’m coming from the perspective of someone who has it.
When I was in eighth grade, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. And when I was a college sophomore, I went through a period of severe depression and found out that I also had OCD. I have always been labeled as a creative, intelligent person, and I am an unabashed geek. A lot of the friends that I had in high school and college (mostly college) fall into the same category. In my own struggles with depression and OCD, I’ve found out that some of those same friends have struggled with some form of mental illness, mostly depression but also ADD. And maybe there’s stuff we don’t talk about.
One of the scary things about moving to college was finding out that not everyone else likes Star Wars the way I do. I once mentioned in passing to a geeky roommate that I loved “all six” Star Wars films, and she immediately went into a rant about how “lame” the prequels are. Time went on, and the more I got into online fandom, the more I realized that there were lots of other people with that point of view. It was frustrating because Star Wars was one of the parts of my life that I felt I at least had figured out.
One disturbing trend I have seen in fan culture is that fans judge each other based on which media in a franchise they enjoy the most: e.g. which books or comics you read or which storyline you accept, what video games, and so forth. And this is perfectly natural behavior. In Star Wars the media issue is only getting more complicated because the Lucasfilm Story Group has relabeled most of the old Expanded Universe as “Legends” to make way for new “canon” comics, novels, etc.,. With so much to pick and choose from, why are we so upset that people choose differently from us? The parts of the fandom we engage in are the parts that we understand: if another fan enjoys the same things as we do, then we’ll understand them too, right? Well, I think that people–and fandoms–are far more complicated than that.
The Star Wars prequels are an interesting case because people automatically tear them down. They cite the same reasons–excessive use of CGI, poor acting, a terrible script and storyline, and so on–to argue that the prequels are inferior to the Original trilogy. Zod and the Star Wars Guru pointed out in an episode of Point It at the Deck that people have gotten so used to citing these reasons that they don’t even look into seeing what the problem actually is. And it doesn’t help that the Internet has no filters for bias or ignorance and no safety restraints for expressions of hate. If you have watched the prequels at all, you should know that hate is not a good thing.
Jar-Jar Binks is the most popular scapegoat. But meesa think that there’s nothing wrong with Jar-Jar. When The Phantom Menace came out, I had a collectible cup lid with a Jar-Jar action figure on the top. I took him with me everywhere and he was best friends with one of my cousin’s toys. Whereas he “ruined the childhood” of many original trilogy fans, he made one of my childhood summers very memorable. You say I am biased because I was eight years old when The Phantom Menace came out, so the marketing ploy worked. This might be true. Does it matter that I am not bothered by Jar-Jar? No, because Jar-Jar made Star Wars a meaningful experience for me as a child the way Han Solo and Chewbacca made it for the older fans who look down on the prequels. I see that what makes fandom important to the individual is the personal meaning. If people think the meaning that they derive from a certain medium is being attacked by something else, they will retaliate.
Now that I am older, I know that the prequels aren’t perfect films. But guess what? neither are the originals! Very few movies are perfect by whatever standard. Point it at the Deck also noted that the complaints people make today about the Prequels as far as acting and critical value are the same that used to be levied at the Original Trilogy.
There is nothing wrong with the different technology used in the different trilogies. My friends on Far Far Away Radio mention that both used the most state-of-the-art special effects for the time in which they were made. Episode VII will be using the best of both, and frankly I am more excited for the eye candy than for the “practical effects” that J.J. Abrams keeps harping on about.
To be honest, I find the “special editions” of the original trilogy irritating and unnecessary. No, I don’t need a tour of Mos Eisley, and no, I don’t care for the bigger explosions, and no, I don’t want to see the entire galaxy partying after the Battle of Endor. But if the “special editions” are canon and in the most circulation, it’s not worth getting upset over.
The fan likes Star Wars for different reasons than their peers. I never really liked the original trilogy at the outset, to be honest. When The Phantom Menace came out on VHS, I thought it was its own story and treated it as such. When I was older and wiser I learned to appreciate the larger story. I still prefer the visual style of the prequel trilogy: the architecture of Coruscant and Naboo and also Trisha Biggar’s luscious costume designs never fail to amaze me. While other fans are gaga for Han and Chewie and Boba Fett, I was never attached to them. Ewan McGregor is a thousand times more my Obi-wan Kenobi than Sir Alec Guinness. I know that Anakin and Padme had a flawed relationship, but I find hope in the fact that something good came out of it in the end. It was “all six films” of Star Wars that brought me meaning and enjoyment when I was in middle school and high school. That isn’t any different than a fan who enjoyed the original trilogy during the same phase of life.
In the end, I am glad that I had my “faith” in Star Wars tested because I learned some very valuable lessons. I learned that fandom is what you make it. I learned to put up with people of differing opinions while keeping my own. Being ashamed of something you love is a choice. You don’t need to be. I like the Star Wars prequels, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.
Far Far Away Radio
Point it At the Deck