Unless you are a rabid Star Wars’ fan—or a connoisseur of all things science fiction—you probably only know Star Wars as a movie franchise, that seems to miraculously resurface every few decades. Seriously, zombies, vampires, and Star Wars are dang near impossible to kill at this point. However, Star Wars actually has a rather rich expanded universe (EU) outside of the movies that comes in the form of novels and comic books. Growing up in the 90s, when there weren’t nearly as many ways of distracting oneself as there are today, I spent much of my time lurking in the dark corners of my local library, hunting for good books. And oh, dear God! did these Star Wars’ novels and comics brought teenage Me endless hours of pleasure. Between reading anything I could get my grabby little hands on, watching science fiction shows, and playing Dungeon & Dragons, I was a happy camper. Throw in some chocolate, and I would gleefully sing the song of your people like a troubadour.
Look, there is a whole narrative out there that tends to paint science fiction as a lesser literary genre. It is absolute nonsense of course, and I shall discuss it in an upcoming post. However, while the Star Wars novels are not exactly what one would call literary classics, they are nonetheless interesting and a lot of fun. Many iconic authors such as Timothy Zahn are featured in it, and the story is explored in a lot more details. Long before Beelzebub’s spawn (also known as JJ Abrams) and Disney hijacked the franchise, the expanded universe is what allowed us to find out that Han and Leia tied the knot, that Luke Skywalker had a kid with a kick ass warrior lady, and that the Jedi order rose from its ashes like the phoenix. Long before the prequels and the reboots (I basically consider The Force Awaken a reboot of A New Hope), we knew exactly what happened after the initial 3 movies. For some 20+ years, we kept up with all the novels and the comics.
But alas, every good thing must come to an end. In 2012, when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they decided to pull a move worthy of a Sith Master by declaring the EU non-canonical to the franchise. I’ve long suspected that Disney is in fact located atop a hellmouth. So, the idea of having a newly resurrected Walt Disney dressed as Darth Vader walking around the place force chocking hapless employees (whose lack of faith he found disturbing) before deciding to scrap Star Wars’ Expanded Universe (to spice up his Sunday) didn’t seem like too much of a stretch to me.
For the most part though, I think I’ve just outgrown the story. Unlike Star Trek which has always been a lot more cerebral in tackling the human condition and offering a mature and thoughtful sociopolitical commentary, Star Wars has always been about the characters: The Skywalkers, the Solos, the Jedi order, and the Sith. It has always been an epic story of good vs evil with all the trimmings of a swashbuckling adventure. It appealed to my desire to escape the disenchantment we all face as we straddle that weird phase between childhood and adulthood. Immersing oneself in a world where the good guys always win no matter how difficult the fight, a world were the lines between good and evil are clearly delineated, a world where love and friendship rule supreme and transcend class, race, or gender had a way of lessening the bitterness of reality.
Like scores of Star Wars’ fans, it is with great excitement that I went to see the first two instalments of the new Star Wars movies: The force awaken and The last Jedi. While the universe seemed familiar, none of it appealed to me in the same fashion. The characters, the story, heck even the universe itself seemed rather simplistic. I was neither invested in their fate, nor particularly interested in the story unfolding in front of me. I realized then that my attachment to this franchise is fuelled by nothing more than my nostalgia. I am now an adult looking at the world through completely different lenses. I can no longer simply watch a movie without dissecting its narrative. I’m afraid the enchantment of childhood has given way to the cynicism of adulthood.
I’ve been hearing a great deal about the increasing toxicity of the Star Wars fandom lately. While fans should always be able to express their opinions, lines are definitely being crossed when actors are being threatened and bullied constantly. I believe the issue here is one of ownership. Older fans who have loved Star Wars since the beginning want the franchise to recapture that first enchantment that led them to fall in love with this story. However, as they look at it through their adult eyes, I believe they expect from it far more then it was ever meant to be. I remember how disappointed I was in the prequels (with the exception of Revenge of the Sith) in my early twenties. But those who watched them as kids loved the prequels even more than the sequels. They were mesmerized by the world building and loved the humour, while those of us who were older were angered by what we saw as a dumbing down of the franchise. In the same way, the multitude of kids for whom The force awaken and The last Jedi are their very first experience of this universe will no doubt love them as passionately as we’ve loved the first 3 movies. Maybe, if there is anything to take from all of this is that we should allow new generations to experience not what we think Star Wars should be, but rather what it becomes as the franchise grows.
For my part, I’m grateful for all the good times, the amazing characters, and the beautiful storytelling. As and adult, I am more than ready to take a back seat and let younger generations experience their own enchantment.
Good luck young Padawans.