III: The changing of the (Imperial) guard
As we’ve mentioned in Part I, today’s Star Wars audience is a complex beast…
Over 40 years of this IP being a thing, you could say we’ve gone from well thought-out, long plotlines with delayed recompense, needing you to invest in them and the characters’ journey for the final payoff to being served up with... characters that we’re supposed to like or else we should feel bad about ourselves because our values are in all the wrong places. You need look no further than the take the internet had on Max Landis’ labeling of Rey as a Mary Sue to understand that.
Women are portrayed as inherently strong and capable and not needing outside input more often than not these days… And seldom are the reasons for them being able to do said things more than “they’re as capable as anyone, ok?”.
Honestly, that greatly diminishes not only what a main character should be about, i.e. have some bloody flaws because nobody’s perfect and that’s literally what makes characters relatable, but also what humanity means or at least should mean.
Nobody can make it on their own in the world. Preaching friendship, camaraderie, and love, having a character evolve over even just a 1-movie arc (basically all the main cast of Ep. IV, for example) are all the hallmarks of brewing an enjoyable, heroes-beat-the-bad-guys experience. Giving secondary characters the minimum amount of input in a movie in order to spotlight the main dude/dudette greatly takes away from the shine that both of these categories can work together towards achieving.
The year we live in means I have to take a detour in “what if she was a guy?” land. Would we still be leveling the same criticism at her? I know I would…
Bear in mind that none of the criticisms I bring to the fore here have a bearing on the leads’ gender, and while some are indeed subjective, I simply bring into question the screenwriters’ decision to build Rey up in stark contrast to what we got with Anakin or even Luke training-wise, and the failed opportunity to flesh Jyn out more, which I feel are easily proven in the movies’ respective contexts.
These are 2 edges of the sword where one character is basically a savior waiting for the tiniest of sparks to immolate the friggin’ Galaxy, and the other is inconsequential to 99% of the plot and used merely as a means to an end… minus the Stardust bit.
We’ve been focusing so much on the balance in the Force that we’re failing to see the obviously imbalanced scales by which Disney runs Star Wars at the moment.
Is it so hard to think that people would find it hard to swallow an innately savvy character when all we got so far in most (if not all) of the flagship works for the universe have been origin/development stories for leads? And that includes the cartoon series currently running - Rebels.
Where’s Rey going to go from here?
She’s basically on par with Jedi-age Luke power-wise so now we’re (apparently) going into her honing her (already gloriously badass) skills, and supposedly scaring the Jedi underpants off of Luke with the aforementioned innate attributes that the old un’ has seen only once before (presumably with Kylo?).
Sure, I may be way off the mark here (and I always hope I am and everything hits on all cylinders because in the end all I really want is to fully enjoy this damned Episode VIII thing), but this is the state of the union, and all of the things I’ve brought up are (I think) based on the course this spaceship has taken over the past few years.
And a Kessel run record this is not.
Back to the “guy” bit: we’ve been harping over Anakin for being all-around bad and obnoxiously written and acted, Luke for being a whiny brat at times (almost cleanly through Empire, actually…), and even rolled our eyes at some of Harrison Ford’s line delivery and (dare I say it?) asshole persona.
You bet your ass that as long-time fans, we’re gonna call anybody who’s a bad character out. Hello, Trade Federation!
Which brings me to another point… I’m the first one to admit I don’t take kindly to films these days, most of the issues behind them being one form or another of the “no star power” effect.
Yes, I’m entirely aware of all the bad puns I’ve been making in these articles… Nobody’s forcing you to keep reading. Alright, alright, I’ll stop, no need to get all choked up about it! Back to the matter at Han...
I actually believed Felicity Jones was a down-on-her-luck rebel trying to eek out a living in spite of the Empire. I believed Leia for a nose-upturned, hair-buns-wearing, charge-taking senator/senator’s daughter who talked down to Han Solo for his stupid decisions or lack of initiative. I believed Padme fell in love with the quirky Force prodigy who turned into a (can’t believe I’m saying this…) dashing, brazen young man, and could even buy into her gun-toting ways in times of need, more so in the context of the Clone Wars series.
I won’t go on relaying Ewan McGregor’s glorious, bearded charm, Christopher Lee pulling off yet another amazing villain, Billy-Dee Williams nailing the luxury-loving, sweet-talking rogue, or Ian McDiarmid basically trademarking the evil head turn while pretending to be interested in… What I can only imagine was a green screen. There are plenty of characters, both original and prequels, that the movies (and the actors!) have gotten right over the years.
But the thing I’m left with after TFA is, unfortunately, the same thing I felt after Episode III: we got an annoying, poorly acted, poorly written main character that does nothing for a considerable swathe of the audience and will only be redeemed through flippy shit.
Yes, you heard it and you know it, the only redeeming bits of the prequels are all flippy shit and action bits. The rest are just memes. Not that I’m complaining, memes are Bossk!
And I’m willing to bet that’s the way we’ll be feeling about most of (if not all of) this trilogy we’re facing at the moment. Heck, one of the best things to come out of TFA was FN-2199, who took on Boba-Fett-like qualities of unintentional badassdom, no matter how much Disney hyped up only-good-for-throwing-down-the-garbage-chute Captain Phasma which they’re trying to rebuild this time around - or at least it looks that way.
I am, however, also willing to trust and hope that the thing to keep the franchise fresh and more people coming back on a yearly basis are the Star Wars Story flicks.
I’m gonna love me some space-crazy Woody Harrelson… We all know he’s gonna be crazy, right? It’s Woody fuggin’ Harrelson, after all!
Don’t get cocky
So what was this series of articles all about, really?Well, mostly it’s fans just letting off some steam if you think about it.
We all like different things for different reasons and we should always be able and willing to talk about those likes, as well as bring up dislikes that we can back up and hold onto in an argument. I think dissecting our most beloved movies/books/games etc. and finding all the pros and cons to them is one of the most fun and exciting things we can talk about in a day and age when people seem to be having big, nuclear-prick-waving contests…
A lawyer helped me with the wording of that last bit.
More to the point, I’d like to draw your attention to a 3-word sequence that you may have taken note of during this miniseries: our Star Wars.
We’re all in this together. It’s up to all of us to make as many of us here feel as welcome as possible, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to bad choices, be they casting or story-wise, and not leveling critique at something we’re (at this point) addicts of, and definitely not keeping negative comments on the saga to ourselves.
Star Wars has never been a perfect series because perfection is unattainable. But as its public has evolved and changed, so have its drawbacks, and some of them may be headed places we wouldn’t want to keep treading for years to come.
TL;DR: if people can call Luke a whiny farmboy, people can call Rey an annoying desert rat.
Now, at the end of this long-winded rant/opinion piece on what we’re looking at for the future, we’d like as many of you as possible to join us either here or on Facebook and start a well-meaning, expletive-reduced discussion on the above matter.
The talks are what build a community and that’s what we at Gung-Ho Geeks are trying to do, after all.