For this entry, I’ve been inspired to talk about Star Wars fandom, and what that has become since the prequels. I became a fan of Star Wars while in junior high, this was in the mid-1990s, a few years before the Special Editions would come out in theaters. Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released in the spring of my senior year, just prior to my high school graduation. Until that time, the only fan related Star Wars hate revolved around the Ewoks, whom I had no trouble with and still don’t.
Never had I seen the darker side of the fandom to the extent that I saw it when The Phantom Menace was released. I really enjoyed the movie. I saw it for what it was, and not what those who had spent 20-odd years with the franchise had dreamed up. And it was the really harsh tones that people spoke about the film with that really shocked me. However, I just kept reminding myself of one thing, that put the whole thing into the proper framework, and kept things in the right perspective: this is a movie made so that kids as young as seven or eight could be entertained by it. And the truth of the matter is that they were. Here are two prime examples:
My first experience with Star Wars was my dad taking me to go see The Phantom Menace on opening day. I sat in that theater at the age of seven and was completely blown away. I cringed at the death of Qui-Gon Jinn, was on the edge of my seat as the Jedi evaded giant deep sea creatures on Naboo, and smiled between closed fingers as Darth Maul was expertly cut down at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi. That weekend I forced my parents to take me to the video store to rent the original trilogy and fell in love even more. The prequel trilogy may not be so great to those who grew up with the original, but be sure that those of us who grew up on the prequels will defend them with as much vigor as those saying otherwise. The prequel trilogy did for me what the original trilogy did for kids of the late 70s and early 80s. They brought to a world far far away and I’ve never left. I don’t think of Star Wars as having two parts. To me its one big story and its a good one. (MetalMonkey250)
And that was followed by this anonymously written comment:
I showed my now former step-son the prequels first because I wanted to see how he felt about them. Similarly, he loved them culminating to the moment at the end of Episode III as we were sitting in the theater and the credits are rolling and I look over at him and he is crying because for him Anakin was the hero and the character he identified with the most. I showed him the original trilogy the next day, all in one go and he loved those just as much but Anakin’s redemption in Jedi seemed to resonate with him that much more. The prequels have problems, sure, but taken all together they do something really cool and I wish I had been able to experience it all that way.
I think at the end of the day the prequels weren’t really made for the adult uber-fan but rather for kids, just like the originals. My dad took me to see all of the original trilogy in the theater and while he likes them, he and I do not share the same deep and abiding love for them. While he can enjoy them, they weren’t really made for him just like the prequels weren’t really made for me. (via HitFix)
It’s nice to know that there are level-headed members of the fandom that understand just what was done with the saga, and have unique perspectives on just what the prequels had done.
The problem with the fandom is a simple one that can be summed up as follows: People have an experience with something that is so different, so captivating and so fun that they love talking about it with their friends. They love the stories, and it is something cool to talk about. Then another piece comes along, and they’re no longer the target audience, but they go see it expecting it to be up to their level. However, they’ve been watching tons of things that have come since Star Wars and they have a different view than they would have had, if Star Wars hadn’t altered the face of film-making the way it had. So they revolted. It was something they had built up in their heads as this epic thing that would cure cancer, world hunger and AIDS just by watching it, but reality set in that it was merely another movie and people were outraged to the point of ridiculousness. They felt betrayed, and they found they were not alone. Many like-minded individuals found a common bond in spewing hatred toward a movie that really didn’t do them any wrong, and they now had a means of doing so on a very public forum: The Internet. And anyone that did not agree, didn’t belong. Star Wars is Dead, Long Live Star Wars seemed to be the unspoken rallying cry from the droves of people that didn’t much like what they saw.
But what about those of us that did enjoy it, that found some hidden things worth discussing. Those of us that reveled in the discovery that the Emperor’s theme from Return of the Jedi was used as the celebration theme from the end of The Phantom Menace. Those of us that dissected the movie only to find that the political intrigue and games were set in motion from the opening crawl, letting us know just how grave the situation would be were the Supreme Chancellor to become an evil dictator.
Sure, the movie has weak points, but that doesn’t mean it is without strength, or merit. This is, after all, a saga that is not our own, but we claim ownership merely because we’ve purchased tickets, DVDs and more just to share our love of the property.
But the fandom, again, has shown a very real immature behavior that they will mostly only show behind a computer screen. Saying that the creator of the series has done an egregious act on their childhoods. Using a word that I find extreme and insulting to describe it, so much so that it became a part of popular slang for some time, much to my dismay. When people realized just what was happening, and how many they were offending, they stopped, but Star Wars “fans” did not, and still use it.
It’s this ridiculous level of vicious tongue lashing that slowly eats away at you. And it’s not just a reactionary thing at all. A lot of talkbacks will say things like “this is going to suck” or “that is going to suck.” Seriously? Does anyone continuously work on something that they truly believe will “suck?” You’re not going to keep fooling people. It’s obvious that a lot of people loved the prequels or they wouldn’t have each made what they did at the box office. This is one of my biggest pet peeves about movie fandom in general. Saying a property is going to suck based on past experience with a director, a writer or a production company, or none at all, is the most ignoble and ignorant thing you can do. Why not hope that the project’s creators have grown since the last effort? Why not give people chance after chance after chance to prove themselves? That’s a very fickle audience, and I stay away from them as much as I do reviews of movies that I want to see.
Many Star Wars fans are prone to think that anything that comes out with the Star Wars name on it is going to be terrible, and they wind up leaving feeling that they were correct. This is a self defeating mentality, and they are setting themselves up for defeat. It’s like playing a team sport and telling your team that the other side is bigger and better, so you don’t stand a chance. That glass-half-full attitude only keeps you from seeing the good that is there. It keeps you from enjoying the fun parts of things, and it has a negative effect on the fan community on the whole.
Seeing as this is a series about a prequel reboot, you might think that I have some negative feelings about the prequels, and you’d be wrong. I hold no ill-will against them. In fact, I find there are things in them that remind me of the original trilogy. I think that the storyline of the prequels is well conceived, and with a few changes, some minor and some major, along with a bit of a better execution of the storyline and you’d have a pretty incredible set of films that adequately satisfies the legions of fans that have forgotten that the movies are made for children.
So, for the People vs. George Lucas, I withdraw myself from the People. You do not represent me. I’m mostly on Lucas’ side in the great prequel war, and proud of it.
Now, for the next topic, I’m thinking of jumping into one type of character that was in the original trilogy, but was missing from the prequels. This type of character, if removed from the original trilogy, would likely have left it feeling much the same as the prequels. The scoundrel. Han Solo. Lando Calrissian. The people that are on the edge of the law, and having fun doing it. I’m not sure where it’ll go, as I write mostly in stream of consciousness fashion, but let’s see where it takes us.