This week Disney dropped a sort-of-trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.1
At least from what I’ve seen, former-fans have never been glummer.
Among the usual and new complaints:
- The Emperor looks like a cartoon.
- The Emperor shouldn’t be back at all.
- Rey has crazy-lightsaber for no reason.
- Rey is a Mary Sue a Mary Sue a Mary Sue.
- Retcon The Last Jedi! and do this yesterday!
- Director J. J. Abrams will just nostalgia-rehash this movie too and it’s gonna suck suck suck so bad.
- If Han Solo ended up a loser, and so did Luke Skywalker, and the Emperor didn’t really die, then the entire classic trilogy is subverted.
Oddly enough, this won’t be one of those “you’re all crazy and the Star Wars are fine, kids” articles. I’m actually sympathetic to these arguments. Especially that last one. Because if in the sequels the good guys don’t actually stay good, and the bad guys don’t stay dead, then yes, the original story really does seem pointless. Sure, you’ve subverted a modern myth that some people may worship. That may help them avoid idolizing fantastical stories in the future. But in so doing, doesn’t this also seem to mock our desire for good heroes and victories (and even mock their true fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ)?
Anyway, we don’t know all this yet because the movie hasn’t come out. I think it’s proper to be skeptical. But let’s keep Christlike perspective. That I write to myself. I do this because, honestly, I liked The Force Awakens just fine, and felt at best indifferent to The Last Jedi. But you haters are starting to get to me. I don’t like being so pushed about, like a lightsaber caught between two Force-pulls.
So I go back to two SpecFaith articles. The first, from John Otte last year, pleads:
In some ways, it’s not surprising that we see such vehemence arise in Star Wars fandom. When George Lucas first crafted the stories set in that universe, he tapped into the power of the monomyth, relying on the work of Joseph Campbell. By doing so, he didn’t just create a story, he created a new mythology, something that could and has tapped into the part of the human psyche that responds to myths and legends. That’s a smart idea. It means that his stories, characters, and themes have resonated deeply with people for decades. That’s why the franchise has such strong staying power.
But there’s a flipside to that as well: that yearning for deeper meaning and mythology is right next door to the part of the human mind that responds to myth and religion with fanaticism. And oftentimes, that fanaticism expresses itself by turning people into gatekeepers. They believe that they have to protect their precious mythology and beliefs from those who don’t appreciate or understand it the way they do. These newcomers are so different from them and don’t fit their ideas of what a true believer looks like, sounds like, acts like, believes like. Threatened with outsiders and newcomers, the temptation is to circle the holy wagons and dictate who can and can’t come in. (Read the rest . . .)
And the second article, from me just this spring, asks more generally:
I don’t like saying “it’s just a movie” or “it’s just a show.” Such a slogan disregards the power of stories for good, evil, or both. The slogan also ignores the real feelings of their fans, and the hard work that humans, God’s image-bearers, put into stories.
But what about people who first embrace story franchises, then despise them to the point of making reams of videos or essays about how terrible they are now?
At that point I would say, “Move on. It’s just a movie/show/whatever.”
Only in a prosperous, first-world society would anti-fans have enough spare time to “review bomb” a movie they haven’t even seen. Or to spend hours arguing with fans or the just-plain-indifferent viewers about whether certain directors secretly “hate” heroes like Superman or Luke Skywalker.
No matter your political or religious perspective (but I repeat myself), the world has greater, more terrible issues. Like abortion. Or whatever degree of racism you think still exists. Or injustice, poverty, and the $22 trillion U.S. national debt.
Even in a secular worldview, anti-fans need to get some perspective. Fast. . . .
No one in a starving nation goes to Yelp to review-bomb the food relief truck.
The fact that many fans feel the luxury of criticizing—with personal ire—any recent franchise installment is simply a side effect of this cultural luxury. Whereas a fan from the 1990s and earlier, who is starving for a new Star Wars movie or superhero adaptation, will more than likely take whatever he can get and appreciate it.
Some of that is a natural side effect. I wouldn’t call that sinful. Why not advocate for the best, or constructively criticize when creators simply reheat the old recipe?
This legitimate criticism, however, can quickly turn into a kind of gluttony. As C. S. Lewis once explained, it’s a kind of gluttony that doesn’t look like gluttony. (Read the rest . . .)
Anyway, here’s the Disney video for you folks to chat about amongst yourselves. I literally have not seen it yet—just as I still haven’t seen that old Gillette shaving-cream advertisement that got the internet so riled. Part of me just doesn’t want to care anymore.