II: By the fans, for the fans
As we’ve mentioned in Part I, today’s Star Wars audience is a complex beast…
You’ve got the old-timey fans, who generally abhor the prequels and hold the original trilogy to an unattainable standard, those who feel like the new movies is where it’s at and where it should be, and everything in between, taking into account age differences as well. Yours truly falls somewhere amongst that in-between.
You could call me a Star Wars tweener… Why you would is beyond me, but I hear that’s how the cool kids talk these days. Word.
I’m 24 as of the time of writing, and have been watching and devouring anything SW-related for well over 20 years at this point, even though I may not remember my actual first contact with the franchise.
I know my father bought The Phantom Menace on VHS back in the day (incidentally, my favourite prequel film) as I’d enjoyed seeing the original trilogy so much and he knew I’d like getting deeper into it all. I still have that cassette stashed neatly next to my TV recording of Jedi and Empire and am pretty sure someone recorded a wedding over Episode IV but I’m not pointing any fingers yet… Mom!
Going from there, I’ve played through most of the videogames we were regaled with over the years, from Empire at War, to the Battlefronts, Jedi Knights, Starfighters, KotoRs, Republic Commando, LEGOs, and up to The Force Unleashed, enjoying most of them and replaying many as often as I get the time. When I got into tabletop roleplaying, the one system that kept (and keeps) me coming back and running lengthy campaigns of was West End Games’ Star Wars d6.
I wish I could have gotten my hands on more physical EU novels, but circumstances always seemed to prevent me from getting and reading as much of them as I would have liked so I’ve probably read more WEG sourcebooks cover to cover than others have regular SW novels just to balance that out.
I have the toys, the plushies (Yoda shared my last Xmas tree with a stormtrooper and LEGO K2SO sits on one of my bookshelves overwatching the living room), the posters, and the only Risk boardgame in my house is the Star Wars one.
I am also an avid Star Wars Destiny and casual X-Wing and Imperial Assault player as well as a considerably involved comicbook reader with Star Wars issues, hardcovers, and TPs (both new and collectible) being a high mark in my burgeoning collection.
I am a Star Wars fan. I cannot stress that enough. It is neck and neck between this and Middle Earth for my favorite fantasy franchises of all time (I may also need to rant on The Hobbit at one point…).
I follow the news, I follow the development processes on all fronts of the IP, and I will always catch the comics, at least try to make time for the novels, and watch movies in the cinema for as long as I can physically get there because I will enjoy the universe as a whole, no matter the shittier entries. That much is a given.
But I will always, ALWAYS, be extra critical of the things I love. And judging by the amount of time and money I’ve poured into this universe, I think I can pretty much say I love it. And I can see its flaws. Past, present, and future.
What I mean by that is there have always been issues with the Star Wars movies – from the plot holes and blatant Kurosawa-ness of The Star Wars, to Episode V’s saggy middle act, the Ewoks, JarJar, coarse and irritating sand, and up to the hot mess that was Episode III’s dialogue and illogical set pieces, no Star Wars movie is without its drawbacks, and indeed high points.
Hell, I just rewatched the whole original trilogy with my wife, and while it’s still enjoyable, she never missed one opportunity to call out stilted dialogue, shoehorned “romance”, or the fact that Han Solo just doesn’t click sometimes and comes off as a prick.
But lately, the flaws and reasons why they come about have shifted more and more away from acting or plot-related reasons, and too close to political ideologies and checkboxes revolving around concepts that are deemed needed in Star Wars but have been there since the dawn of the franchise. I for one (and I’m not the only one) feel like Jyn and Rey were the worst parts of TFA and R1, respectively. Hold your sexist holsters in check, you wildebeest, I don’t hate them for being women, I hate them for being bland.
While Jyn is less of a Mary Sue than Rey is (simply because she doesn’t really get to do much in her own leading role), she’s an uninteresting character played to its full potential… Uninterestingly. And that’s sad. But at least R1 has a side cast that does stuff, keeps the ball rolling and the lasers firing, something that adds to the gravitas of them dying off one by one at the end. You see a whole, extended history of conflict and camaraderie in Baze and Chirrut, a conflicted, difficult past to Cassian, the desire to reach greatness from humble circumstances in Bodhi, and a long, scruffy, tiring fight for survival in Jyn. All of these people have to work together as a group and aid each other so that the final goal is achieved.
Rey, on the other hand, takes charge and does it all, putting the rest of the characters to shame when she keeps escaping difficult circumstances on her own (besting a Sith apprentice twice in the meantime, with no Force training to speak of, and instantly being able to wield a lightsaber, one of the most complex to maneuver weapons in the Galaxy), and the script opts to sometimes focus on other characters’ amazement at the fact just to rub it in. Yes, Finn looking all wowed at first when meeting Rey is an actual sexist “who knew girls could do that?” take on her. The sooner we all admit that, the better.
Rey doesn’t really need anybody else to pull through her storyline, on the contrary, she is the driving Force (pun intended) behind Episode VII while the rest of the cast are just marginally involved in the plot and only serve to showcase her innate awesomeness.
She is not able to instill much joy through her performance either because there is simply nothing noteworthy about it. She’s just appropriate. And that stands for most of the cast, really. Is this last statement subjective? Perhaps, but there are plenty of tongue in cheek montages showing Daisy Ridley struggling to grip her character the right way around during various scenes, and I’m pretty sure J.J.’s “directing” may have had something to do with it anyway.
This style of writing Star Wars main female leads has seeped its way into comics as well, where you can see Leia no longer being a fun, lighthearted character who snaps at Han Solo’s snark, dealing it back as well as she takes it (if not better), but rather an authoritative, obnoxious individual that knocks Luke down alongside other characters, new and old (Doctor Aphra has, unfortunately, also devolved from her witty, fun-loving, if a bit weird to the universe ways of the Darth Vader comics to the above archetype in her own run of books). But more on that at another date as it’s its own little anthill…
And more on this article in Part III, coming soon to a Galaxy near you...