Definite Article: When I Grow Up (or How I Learned to Lighten up and be Content with Content)

Remember when Star Wars used to be fun? Your Supreme Leader does, and he’s here to remind you to lighten up and enjoy goofy space dramas.


Disclaimer:

The idea of this piece and the fact that my birthday is encroaching is going to make me feel old. If you start to feel old, remember that this piece is about embracing your inner child and that level of love you used to feel for things before the word ‘fandom’ was made up. It’s about remembering that time before every fictional character was politicized and nitpicked to fictional death and trying to get back to that frame of mind. Remember, it was a simpler time. . .

Looking Back

Think back to 1999. Gas didn’t cost an arm or indeed a leg. Internet Explorer was a viable option for surfing the web. Eminem was upsetting your mom probably. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace premiered in theaters after a 16-year hiatus of Star Wars films. And that same year, Lego launched its Star Wars line of building toys featuring characters from the (at the time) four saga films.

At the tender age of a smaller number of years relative to my current number of years, I was obsessed with Star Wars, and Lego releasing sets sweetened that time in my life. Though I didn’t wind up possessing many of those classic kits, I managed to pick up a few for birthdays, Christmases, and whatnot. I was able to make up great stories in my head that took place in the same universe. The nameless, mysterious main character was on neither side of the Galactic Civil War. He had his own goals, raiding Imperial bases and ancient tombs in search of artifacts. Something of a treasure hunter combined with a bounty hunter, this character crossed paths with Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, clashed with Tusken raiders, and fought off more stormtroopers than he could shake his battle staff at. He wasn’t canon because I didn’t know what that word meant, but I knew that he fit in that universe because he was his own person with real goals, quirks, and spaceship.

Fast-forward to now and I have a staggering collection of Lego Star Wars kits. In my office I have gunships, freighters, playsets, and a TIE for any occasion. Now there’s movie-accurate blasters and licensed skin-tone accurate faces to match the real actors. More pieces have been molded, trading the blocky aesthetic for cleaner, smoother features on ships. And the toys aren’t the only thing changing – Star Wars is, too. New fans are flocking to the theaters annually now instead of waiting through the traditional longer breaks between films. Star Wars live-action TV shows are coming, something that’s never been done before (The Holiday Special doesn’t, doesn’t count. Special. It happened once and isn’t a series) Comics and novels are expanding the lore surrounding key characters, new and established ones alike. And we’re even going to get that great game eventually – -err Soon TM

Despite all that upward momentum that kicked Star Wars into high gear again in 1999, the prequel films did disappoint a great deal of fans. But now a generation of fans exists who grew up with those films and embraced them, creating a unique dynamic no other film franchise can contend with – Star Wars is so big that there’s prequels, prequels to the prequels, the Original Trilogy, stuff between the Original Trilogy films, and now a sequel film AND sequel television series. Fans have all this to look forward to and we’ve got upward momentum coming out of our sarlacc pits and then. . .

Looking Down

. . .toxic fans. Toxic fans happened again, only this time it’s worse than the prequel era. Does it seem like you can’t listen to a podcast or check your social media circle without encountering a story about the nastiest ‘fan’ in the world? Whether it’s a Twitter tirade, an overreaction on Instagram, or a senselessly sexist rant, it all gets tiring. It reminds us of how awful the world can be when we’re just trying to unwind with a new movie or book about our favorite fictional galaxy. And maybe it’s unique to Star Wars, maybe it isn’t, but it just seems so odd.

Consider the following. Picture sitting in a sandwich shop, enjoying lunch on a quiet day. This isn’t your first sandwich, and maybe not even the best you’ve ever tasted, but all the parts and there and working – the protein is right, the veggies are fresh, and there’s a fair amount of dressing for added flavor. You’re just sitting there eating, not bothering anyone, when a stranger approaches. The stranger is carrying a sandwich on a tray, and clearly intends on sitting somewhere to eat. And apropos of nothing, he stops and says something to you like “I can’t stand this place since they changed the bread. I’m boycotting, they’ll lose millions!” You’re obviously confused by this stranger, and can’t help but point out that boycotting something doesn’t mean continuing to shop somewhere but complain about it. “You’re part of the problem! I bet this place pays you to defend them, you sandwich shill!” The stranger shouts at you, offends several other eaters with loudness and profanity, and then leaves the restaurant.

That bizarre train of logic is the same thing as commenting on a YouTube video or other post, spewing up bile until your opinion is challenged, then pushing a negative focus (that wasn’t there to begin with) onto anyone brave enough to call you on your nonsense. (Reminder to the Solo boycotters, boycotting does not mean waiting for redbox or the home release, which is selling quite well)

Expecting entertainment to cater to our exact whims goes directly against what Star Wars is all about. The spirit of Star Wars isn’t just about white people on a space adventure defeating a villain in a clash of black-or-white ideals. To narrow it down to that is to cheapen not only the film franchise, but also the comics, novels, and fan projects of the past forty years that have explored comparisons to real-life war, racism, sexuality, and both the embracing and rejecting of spirituality. Sure, to some people it’s ‘just a movie,’ and that’s fine. But to narrow it down to a means of ‘forcing diversity’ or ‘SJW nonsense’ doesn’t work as an argument, or a valid criticism for that matter. Because Star Wars changes with the times and reflects what’s going on in the real world in the minds of the creators. Otherwise, what would we have? Art that doesn’t provoke thought or growth? Opinions that are fixed and never challenged?

Well, that’s not how the Force works.

Are you sick and tired of any of the following comments? I have a few thoughts on them, too.

  • Solo was a cash grab by Disney (Sure it was, that’s why the idea was floating around before Disney was even involved in Star Wars.)
  • The books don’t have enough Han, Luke, and Leia. It was better in Legends (Some people think that the main characters were actually overused in Legends, to the point that the universe revolved around them. Remember, rebellions are built on hope, and ideally more than three people.)
  • I’m boycotting the next movie (More arm rest for me at the theater, bye!)
  • This isn’t my Star Wars (It never was your Star Wars. It doesn’t belong to any one person. It’s okay to not enjoy every single second of every single thing, you don’t have to be melodramatic.)
  • [Character Name] is just [SJW Propaganda/A feminazi/A token/A Mary Sue] (Women and minorities aren’t appearing in Star Wars to make you uncomfortable, they’re doing it because they exist and deserve the same acting jobs, rights, and media representation as everyone else. Yes, it’s a political move, but not by a party – it’s by people who want to be a part of the best galaxy/franchise ever. Also, you are probably using the term Mary Sue incorrectly.)
  • I can’t believe this is cannon. (Canon. Read your comment and check your spelling before you rant about lore!)

Looking Back to Look Forward

So how does it happen? I know I’m not the only person who ever loved Star Wars as a kid and still has that same love as a grown adult. Yet my love for the world of Star Wars has never gone sour. I’ve never logged into social media or commented on a YouTube video to make some horrible comment about an actor, scene, or entire film. Do I love every second of every film? No. Are there things I would have done differently? Sure, but I’m not a filmmaker. And while addressing lore and in-universe questions I never use the phrase ‘it’s just a movie,’ I have to here, in this context. Star Wars is just a freaking movie. And if it’s bringing racism, sexism, or prejudice out of you, you are watching the film wrong.

Think back again to being a kid playing with your favorite Star Wars toys. Did every single toy go together? Maybe not, since every character gets a figure pretty much and the people buying them don’t always know what movie the character was in. Did you wind up with Darth Vader, young Obi-Wan, Boss Nass, and a couple of mixed troopers and soldiers? Sounds about right, though I’m showing my age again by not having any sequel characters huh? Regardless, you probably made it work, didn’t you? Darth Vader hired a gang of mercenaries to track down Boss Nass, and it was up to a time-traveling Obi-Wan to save the future of the Star Wars galaxy. Done, we’ve got a story for playtime. (Hey, I wasn’t a good writer as a kid either. It’s ok.) My point is, you made it work. You took what you had and made the best of it. So at some time during your childhood, your thought process could these characters in a nonsensical situation.

Now, picture yourself as an angry internet commenter. You’ve just posted a lengthy wall of text about Supreme Leader Snoke, and how he’s not dead and is also secretly Rey’s dad. He also happens to be Grand Admiral Thrawn’s nephew, classmates with Poe Dameron, and Dr. Evazan’s wacky ex-roommate. And it’s a passionate explanation with coincidences facts from canon to back it up, everything from watching podraces with uncle Thrawn to that time Snoke and Evazan didn’t know what covered dish to bring to the Life Day party. My examples are humorously exaggerated, but the point is there’s people out there who tried to solve a Snoke mystery the films never presented. But they put an awful lot of thought into it, and we know a vocal minority was also passionate about digging up mud to sling at the actors and creators of the sequel trilogy. They say awful things, drive people to delete their social media accounts, and do it all in ‘defense’ of ‘their’ film franchise.

So. . .where did that bizarre change happen? When did you change from the kid who loved Star Wars to the adult who spews hate to prove how much they still love Star Wars? At what point did hate become necessary for your enjoyment to continue? You can have issues with the direction the films are going, decisions on lore, and all that. But hate? Why did hate have to enter the equation? I’m asking questions that don’t have a clear answer – really, people with hate in their hearts are going to hate things, and Star Wars is just my platform to explore this train of thought. And I’m not trying to change your mind if you disliked a movie – but I am asking you to consider that it’s possible to tap into that childlike love again and keep Star Wars fun. Because odds are you didn’t develop bigotry AND completely forget how to have fun. Your inner child is still in there somewhere, and they’re ashamed. Ashamed and bored because they can’t enjoy anything anymore, not without nitpicking it to death and fitting it into a narrow-minded worldview.

I want 2019 to be better for Star Wars fans. The toxic infighting is awful, and while we don’t really owe it to anyone to do something with our love of Star Wars. . .why not at least try to set a good example? No fandom is without its bad eggs, but Star Wars catches a lot of toxic flak simply because it’s the biggest franchise in the world. So be good to each other, block, mute, or report somebody if they aren’t being reasonable, and try to keep Star Wars enjoyable for yourselves and others. It’s literally the least you can do. I know I’ve managed to let go of a lot of anger in my adult life unrelated to Star Wars, and it isn’t easy. It’s probably the hardest emotion to let go of because you find yourself justifying it over and over again. The best thing we can do is make the thing we love – the place we go to to unwind and enjoy ourselves – accessible, open-minded, and free of hate-speech and harassment. It’s not as hard as finding a way for Darth Vader and Boss Nass to fit into the same story, but freeing yourself of hate starts with a common sense approach and a pinch of self-awareness.

Let’s stop hating each other at least during space dramas with laser swords and dog people. Can we take that small step? I think that’s reasonable.

Thanks for reading!

-Supreme Leader David

Instagram: @supreme_leader_d

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***INCOMING BONUS FEATURE!***

I put these figures back together since they went along with the theme of this post. When I was a kid I only had TWO stormtrooper Lego figures, one scout and one standard trooper. Rebel troopers were limited too, so I made these guys to bolster the ranks.

IMG_20181111_193700565_HDR.jpg

On the left, my rebel commando, complete with cargo pants, cargo action-adventurer shirt, and helmet that makes him sort of like Doom Guy. On the right is my ‘stormtrooper.’ I guess he’s conscripted or something? Looks nothing like a real trooper, maybe it’s just whatever armor was lying around. I think I just had a lot of blue figure parts and not very much white. I had two of this guy who did more guarding while the two ‘real’ troopers did more action and fighting. But the real imagination here goes back to Lego for turning backwards megaphones into space guns.

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