Hyperspace Podblast Discusses the Impact of Fandom on the SWU
I recently listened to one of my favorite Star Wars podcasts Hyperspace Podblast hosted by Shelby and Bryan. This particular episode was entitled “Should Fandom Influence Star Wars Content?” (It’s episode 23 when you go looking for it after reading this article.) Before I get into the specifics of this topic, I want to say a little bit about the podcast itself. Even though Shelby self-deprecatingly asks “aren’t you a little short for a podcast?” I think it is the perfect length at about 25 minutes. Great for a car ride to work, or just for those of us with some degree of ADD. Bryan and Shelby are extremely welcoming hosts, so I would highly recommend Hyperspace Podblast if you are looking for a new podcast to tune into (contact information is at the bottom).
Now to the topic at hand: should “fandom” influence Star Wars content? First, the hosts astutely point out that there is a good chance that it already has. Without strong feedback from the fans, there is a solid chance that Grand Admiral Thrawn would never have “come back from the EU dead” in Star Wars Rebels. (If you’d like my take on if he truly needed to come back, please check out my article “Canon Versus Legends…Why It Matters.”) Disney and Lucasfilm, definitely having a solid grasp of their target demographic, have widely increased the representation of various racial and ethnic groups — as well as homosexuals — in their books, movies and cartoons.
As to whether Disney and LFL should take fandom into consideration during the creative process, Shelby and Bryan stress that there needs to be a balance. Where you don’t want Tim Burton making a Tim Burton Star Wars movie (I also especially love the example of Michael Bay), you also don’t want Little Timmy from down the street getting his every fanboy desire. The chances of you wanting nothing to do with those films are high. They’re very high. But I will take this opportunity — my blog, my say — to tell Bryan he is wrong:
Snoke is Plagueis. (There’s an article for that too but far be it from me to be a shameless self-promoter.) But I digress.
All in all, I agree with Bryan and Shelby. To be specific to a punctilious degree — you didn’t think I knew big words — I think approximately 5% of the creative process should be based on what the fans want. When I first started listening to this episode, I immediately thought of the documentary The People Vs. George Lucas. (If you haven’t seen it, watch it this weekend — you’ll thank me.) Uncle George received a great deal of criticism for the Star Wars Special Editions, but who owns the movies? The creators or the fans?
If fans got everything they wanted from the Star Wars movies, here are just some of the potential changes, starting from The Phantom Menace all the way to The Force Awakens:
– There is no taxation of trade routes. – Jar Jar Binks was never born. – Midichlorians didn’t exist. – 9 year old boys wouldn’t be hitting on 14 year old girls. – 14 year old girls don’t get elected Queen. – 9 year old boys don’t blow up space stations. – Darth Maul lives. – Jango Fett lives. – Anakin and Padme don’t get married after a five minute ultra-awkward romance. – Anakin stops whining. – R2-D2 can’t fly. – C-3PO has his humor chip removed. – Aayla Secura lives (okay, that one’s mine). – Padme lives. – Jyn Erso lives (okay, that one’s mine too). – Lyra Erso is a Jedi. – Chirrut Imwe is a Jedi. – Luke stops whining. – The Death Star misses Alderaan. – Porkins lives (okay, no one ever said that). – Tarkin lives (that’s my last contribution to the list). – *No changes to ESB. It is perfect in all aspects and is the hallmark of cinematic genius.* – Boba Fett doesn’t die like a chump. – Ewoks never existed. – Kylo Ren stops whining. – Han Solo lives. – Snoke just admits he’s Plagueis (I lied, I get the last recommendation).
While some of those might be decent recommendations, what is the end result? We have a completely different Star Wars saga. And minor differences aside, I hope we can all admit we love the Star Wars saga.
Should the creators have their fingers on the pulse of the fans, be in touch with them, and know what they like? Absolutely. But what if someone walked up to da Vinci while he was painting the Mona Lisa and said, “Hey man, she should be showing some teeth when she smiles!”
Needless to say, people would not be traveling halfway around the world to see a Renaissance gal with a big ol’ grin taking a cheesy selfie.
Enjoy the movies for what they are. You can bitch about them later.
So what do you think? Do you think fans should have an input to the storylines? Leave me a comment or continue the conversation on twitter @starwarschief. Now, thanks to Medium, I can finally say show your support for this article and give me “the clap.”
If you’d like to tune into Hyperspace Podblast, they can be found at:
In the three weeks since the destruction of both Alderaan and the Empire’s planet killing Death Star, the Rebel Alliance has been fleeing to all corners of the known galaxy, desperately attempting to evade the crushing grip of Imperial forces. Where Grand Moff Tarkin believed in rule by fear, now Emperor Palpatine has demanded complete submission or suffer annihilation.
Political leaders outwardly or suspected secretly of supporting the Rebel cause have been arrested and publicly executed following lengthy and thorough interrogations. More and more corporations believed to be supplying weapons and resources to the insurgents are being nationalized every day. Hope, if there ever was any for the Rebel Alliance, is quickly being extinguished.
Senator — or for a short time, former Senator — Bail Organa was killed along with 2 billion of his fellow citizens when Tarkin decided to test the full strength of the Death Star on his homeworld. Now Mon Mothma is the indisputable leader of the Rebel Alliance. Having abandoned Yavin IV, the former home of Rebel Alliance HQ, she has been coordinating both planetary attacks and evacuations onboard Admiral Ackbar’s Mon Calamari Cruiser Home One. She is joined in the main briefing room by her intelligence director, General Draven, and a newcomer to the Alliance, Carlist Rieekan.
Mon welcomed him with a warm smile, as she was known to do. “Carlist, I cannot tell you how devastated I have been since the…loss of your home. How are you?”
Carlist cleared his throat, and forced himself to return her smile. “As well as can be expected, Senator,” his voice clearly shaking. “I’m just sorry I couldn’t have done more for my people.”
Draven sat silently, his eyes continually shifting between his two compatriots. In conversations such as this, he was inclined to not say anything until something directly pertained to him. Until then, he preferred to read other’s faces and learn more about their motivations.
Mon moved to stand behind Carlist and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “First of all, I do not believe the title of Senator has suited me for some time,” she said in a mildly sarcastic tone. “In regard to your people, there is nothing you could have done to mitigate the Empire’s vile actions. However, you can still honor their memory by helping to destroy that which took so many innocent and beautiful lives.” She returned to the head of the table. “Carlist Rieekan, will you honor us and the good people of Alderaan by joining the Alliance to Restore the Republic?”
Rieekan stood proudly, straightening his uniform. “There would be no greater honor.”
“It is settled then. Effectively immediately, you will be commissioned as a General of the Alliance. Congratulations, General.”
General Rieekan’s smile was finally genuine. “Thank you.”
Draven stood at last, extending his arm to shake the hand of the newly appointed General. “Congratulations, General.”
“Thank you, General Draven,” he replied enthusiastically.
“Of course what Mon forgot to mention,” he said as he sat back down, “was that this was all my idea.”
Mon Mothma shot her eyes at him, but did not protest. “Well, as much as it pains me to agree with General Draven, for once he is correct. Now we must move on from these formalities. I am sure the two of you will adequately celebrate the occasion this evening in the ship’s cantina.” The two officers looked at each other and then nodded in approval. “Now however we must discuss our next maneuvers.” She activated her intercom. “Control, this is Mon Mothma. Please make a general announcement for Admiral Ackbar to report to the briefing room. Thank you.”
Draven pushed a button that brought up a holographic map of the galaxy. “While we wait for the Admiral, I will first discuss the status of our ground forces. In short: not good. Troops on those planets in open rebellion are mired in combat with Imperial forces. Losses thus far have been substantial.”
General Rieekan rubbed his chin, “I assume you are also still heavily involved in humanitarian efforts on those worlds and more.” The door slid open and Admiral Ackbar entered the room.
Mon greeted him, “Thank you arriving so quickly, Admiral. Please be seated.” She returned her focus to Rieekan. “Yes, General, where possible we are assisting in evacuations on worlds that have recently fallen under Imperial control. In the cases where the blockades have made such endeavors impossible, we have been smuggling in basic necessities such as food and medical supplies.”
The intelligence chief turned to his colleague, “Thus making any major land offensive implausible at the moment.”
Carlist thought for a moment. “You could withdraw from some of the outlying planets so we could centralize our forces-“
“Out of the question,” Mon snapped. “I will not risk the lives of billions for a pyrrhic victory.” Quickly redirecting, she added, “Admiral, if you would be so kind as to brief the status of our fleet.”
Admiral Ackbar rose. “Yes, ma’am. Good evening, everyone. Unfortunately we lost many good ships over Scarif. Darth Vader decimated the fleet of Admiral Raddus. We must be thankful that we even escaped with the Death Star plans.”
The rest of the room responded with a collective, “Hear, hear!”
“As with our ground forces, our fleet is currently too widely scattered to launch a major attack against the Empire. We may be able to attack smaller targets such as low output shipyards, but I fear our losses would be far too great to risk our ships and crews.”
“Then what do you all propose we do?” Rieekan exclaimed as he slammed his fists down on the briefing table. “The Alliance just won the greatest naval battle in galactic history, and now you all just want to climb under a rock? Surely Bail-“
“General, please,” Ackbar pleaded.
“No, Admiral I will not. My planet was just obliterated with no warning! If we do nothing, the Empire wins.”
“No, General,” Mon said calmly, “if we squabble amongst ourselves, only then will the Empire win. I stand here with three of the brightest minds in the galaxy; surely between all of us a successful strategy can be developed.”
Silence fell on the room. For the moment, all the brilliance that was in the room was being overshadowed by the colossal, if not impossible, task at hand.
“On Tatooine,” she continued, “they have a particular saying that suits our current situation very well. ‘When eating a bantha, a flea must simply take it one bite at a time.’”
“But right now that flea is getting stomped into a pulp,” Rieekan replied sardonically.
“I have an idea.” The whole room turned towards General Draven. “While it is true that we cannot yet afford to engage in any large scale maneuvers, smaller, more focused attacks on key targets throughout the Empire might spark the galaxy-wide rebellion we desperately need.”
“How is this any different from Saw Gerrera’s Partisans?” Ackbar inquired.
“I think perhaps Saw sometimes killed just for the sake of killing, Force bless his soul,” Mon said somberly. “What exactly are you proposing, General?”
“Shipyards like Kuat are impenetrable. The academies on Coruscant and other major systems are too heavily guarded. We need to hit low to medium value targets throughout the Empire. The Imperials will start to reallocate their forces accordingly so eventually we can hit the bigger targets.”
“What sort of ‘low to medium value targets’ are we talking about here, Davits?” Carlist said, suddenly using the General’s first name.
“Moffs?” Mon said, exasperated. “Come now, General. This truly does sound like Saw. I will not have marauders raging across the galaxy on behalf of our Alliance.”
“Oh, for once will you please drop the moral superiority? We are at war-“
“I will not,” Mon said definitively. “A just war is fought for a just cause, and equally by just means.”
“With all due respect, Mon,” Rieekan replied sharply, “tell that to the guy who just blew my entire planet.”
“I am sorry for your loss, Carlist. You know I am. But if we stoop to the Empire’s level, how can we possibly convince the galaxy that we are any better?”
“There is a middle ground,” Ackbar said, loudly enough to get the attention of all those debating in the room. “There is truth to what all you have said. Guerrilla warfare has proven highly effective in previous conflicts, but we must not allow ourselves to become simple terrorists.”
“And we cannot allow ourselves to become that which we wish to destroy,” Mon added.
“Therefore,” Ackbar continued, “I suggest we set up a strike force to hit those targets General Draven suggested, but those targets must be carefully selected. I recommend all targets be chosen by this council, specifically by Generals Draven, Rieekan and myself. Your Excellency will of course always have veto power.”
“And who shall lead this strike force?” Mon asked.
“I’ll do it,” General Rieekan said promptly.
“I do not think that would be prudent, General,” Mon replied. “You are new to our operations, and I plan to have you coordinating more of our large scale operations.”
“I understand. What about Garm Bel Iblis? This sort of thing seems to be right up his alley.”
Mon looked down for a moment, regretfully, and then once again lifted her head. “Suffice it to say our relationship has been less than amiable as of late. Perhaps one day he will come around.”
“This is my territory,” Draven said plainly.
“General, are you sure?” Mon asked with a highly concerned tone. “After what happened with Scarif-“
“After what happened with Scarif,” he paused for a brief moment, “I’ve never wanted to so badly to destroy the Empire. Besides, Mon, you know I’ve always exceled at morally questionable activities.”
“Maybe if you were a little less morally questionable, Alderaan might still be here,” Rieekan said venomously.
“I did my job. Well. The Death Star was destroyed with minimal casualties.”
“If you consider 2 billion ‘minimal,’ then I suppose you’re right. That was the most egregious intelligence failure in the history of the galaxy. And you wiped the Erso family from existence. From the reports I’ve read, that young woman would have made an excellent operative.”
Normally cool and collected, Draven could take no more. He leapt the table and grabbed Rieekan by the collar. Their faces were mere inches from each other. “I didn’t kill those people! The Empire did! Now I like you, Rieekan, but do believe me when I say I am the last person you want to cross.” He let go, and dusted off Rieekan’s uniform. He looked as if he was going to say more, but instead just gave Rieekan a courteous smile and returned to his seat.
“If you gentlemen are quite finished. General Draven I will agree to you coordinating these efforts, but I do not want you on the ground. I still need you here, coordinating the big picture. You will need to choose a squad commander.”
“Oh, I’ve got the perfect man in mind,” Draven said devilishly. He sneered at Mon.
“Oh no. Please do not tell me you are referring to our Kage…friend.”
Mon protested. “General! That man makes Saw Gerrera look like an Angel from the moons of Iego.”
“Then who better to strike fear into the hearts of the Empire? Palpatine himself will be shaking in his dusty old boots.”
Rieekan interjected, “Can someone please tell me who the hell we are talking about here?”
In my article, “Your Thoughts Betray You,” I discuss the importance of keeping “your focus here and now, where it belongs.” By doing so you are able to get in touch with the Living Force. But what is the Living Force and why does it matter? In the Star Wars Universe, the Living Force is the energy field that is created by all living beings and is also the “light” that makes us “luminous beings — not this crude matter.” In our world, the Living Force goes by many names — soul, Being, Chi, Presence, God — and being in touch with this energy is what allows you to disengage your true self from your mind and its ever-present negative thoughts. In other words, you achieve enlightenment.
Being a Star Wars fan (which I assume you are because you’re reading my article), you are probably thinking that this enlightenment or connection to the Living Force can only be achieved by a spiritual being like a Jedi. To that I say you are wrong, and I will give a couple of examples. When I prepared for this series, I of course started by watching all of the films. (Any excuse, right?) I honestly did not think I would gain much insight by Rogue One or The Force Awakens, but it was actually these two films that taught me how to relate the Force to more common beings like you and me.
The most obvious example is my favorite Guardian of the Whills, Chirrut Imwe. He is admittedly not a Jedi but he is so in tune with the Living Force that it helps him overcome a physical disability that is his blindness. His mantra of “The Force is with me, and I am with the Force” aided him in hurdling one obstacle after another. While doing so he remains completely calm and fearless because “all is as the Force wills it.”
Though Chirrut’s use of the Force may seem unbelievable, perhaps a better definition of true “enlightenment” comes from the best barkeep in the galaxy, Maz Kanata. Her statement of “I am no Jedi but I know the Force” is my personal mantra as I write this series. She spells out the Living Force quite simply to Rey, who had little to no training up to that point. As she explains, “it moves through and surrounds every living thing.” She even describes (much like Qui-Gon) how to get in touch with it. “Close your eyes. Feel it. The light, it’s always been there. It will guide you.”
Throughout this series, I will be writing short articles — meditations, if you will — based on the Star Wars movies, cartoons, books and comics that will show how the characters were able to get in touch with the Living Force. We will go one step further and show how you can use those principles in your own life, and by doing so, how you can achieve enlightenment and lasting peace.
I will be using mostly Canon references, but I will not hesitate to delve into the Legends as well. If there is a particular character or topic on which you would like me to write, please feel free to leave me a comment. Hope you enjoy the series!
How Star Wars Proves Your Focus Determines Your Reality
If you are like me, you probably long believed that the most universal truths Star Wars had to offer came in Empire Strikes Back when Luke started his mentorship under Jedi Master Yoda. My favorite line from Episode V has always been, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
The problem though is that it is nearly impossible to apply that principle (although I would not argue you should always strive to achieve it). The truth is that the most universal, and therefore basic spiritual principle Star Wars teaches comes in the first five minutes of Episode I, A Phantom Menace.
“Obi-Wan: I have a bad feeling about this. Qui-Gon: I don’t sense anything. Obi-Wan: It’s not about the mission, Master. It’s something elsewhere…elusive. Qui-Gon: Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan. Keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs. Obi-Wan: But Master Yoda said I should be mindful of the future. Qui-Gon: But not at the expense of the moment. Be mindful of the Living Force, young padawan.”
I’m sure you have seen that dialogue dozens of times by now (based on the average number of times most Star Wars fans watch these films) and never really paid much attention to it. I would ask you to stop and reread it though, focusing in on Qui-Gon’s words. How often throughout the day do you focus on “something elsewhere…elusive?” You may have been on what should have been a fantastic date, but were thinking about the term paper that was due in a week the whole time instead. Or perhaps you were sharing an intimate moment with your loved one and were being tormented by worries of how you are going to pay next month’s bills or about that promotion you didn’t get that you know you should have.
We miss all of life’s true beauty because we are never in the moment. If you are on a date, stop worrying about that term paper and simply enjoy the experience — you never know where it’ll take you. If you are spending precious moments with your loved ones, realize how precious few those moments are and put life’s issues on your mental back burner for a bit. You will be amazed how much happier you are just by keeping “your concentration here and now, where it belongs”. Read that scene one more time, and now you will understand why Obi-Wan seems anxious, and why Qui-Gon is at peace.
Yoda takes these teaches a step further with Luke and appears to somewhat recant his previous teaches to Obi-Wan based on his own life experiences. When speaking to Obi-Wan’s Force spirit, Yoda says of Luke, “All his life has he looked away…to the future. To the horizon. Never his mind on where he was — what he was doing!” You can see clearly that Yoda has more closely aligned his beliefs with those of Qui-Gon, proving you are never too old to unlearn what you have learned.
The point is not only that we should stop focusing on “elusive” worries, but we should also stop letting our mind spend so much time in the future because it just doesn’t exist. When I was younger I thought I knew exactly what I was going to be and what I was going to do when I grew older. As I did get older and my life began to diverge from my previously predetermined path, the difference in expectations and reality caused me years of angst and suffering. Had I just lived in the moment instead of comparing myself to a “future me” that was never to exist, I would have been infinitely happier.
Darth Vader is proof that the same philosophy is true for the past. Indeed Anakin Skywalker fell to the dark side because he could never escape his past. Anakin became one of the most powerful Jedi in the Order but would never be satisfied because he was unable to save his mother from death. He was also the youngest Jedi to serve on the Council but was unhappy with this because in the past, all those who had serve on the Council were Jedi Masters, a rank which he was understandably denied (although he could not see it this way).
Anakin became Darth Vader because his inability to stop dwelling in the past caused him so much misery. How true is this for most of us as well? Instead of appreciating our lives for the miracles they are, we are unhappy because we are constantly judging our worth based on past mistakes and failures. It is imperative that you focus on the “here and now”, for it is the only time that ever actually exists.
Obi-Wan did try to save his apprentice from this outcome, and herein lies the most essential spiritual teaching in all of Star Wars.
“Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin. They’ll betray you.”
In the past week, how many of these thoughts have crossed your mind? I’m old. I’m fat. I’m lazy. I’m ugly. I’m not good enough for him/her. I’ll never get the job I want. I’m not really good at anything. I’ll never be happy.
Your thoughts betray you.
How often did someone say something along those lines throughout the Star Wars saga? There is very good reason for that. All this time I have misunderstood that line. I thought it basically meant, “Haha! I can read your mind!” No, it means exactly what it says: your thoughts betray you. The most basic definition of “betray” is “to be disloyal to”. This is a difficult concept to grasp because what I am saying is that your own mind is working against you, and you are not your mind.
Remember when Obi-Wan told Luke to bury his feelings deep down because “they could be made to serve the Emperor”? This again explains how Palpatine was able to subtly nudge Anakin towards the dark side, by feeding off and encouraging the young Jedi’s persistent negative thoughts. If your mind could be personified, I think we would find it would be much like Palpatine and it behaves in the exact same manner. It tells you that you should be the best, but in the next breath that you are not good enough. In its worst form it tells you that you can save someone you love from dying, and then tells you that “you killed her”. This is how our mind works.
Can you turn it off? Not exactly, but you can negate its harmful, sometimes destructive, effects. You do this by heeding Obi-Wans words, “Be mindful of your thoughts”. Realize and understand that you are not actually fat and ugly because a voice (not the real you) in your head said so. You can find true happiness, despite any negative thoughts to the contrary. Be mindful of your thoughts, and they will stop ruling your life.
I hope you have found this article as helpful as much as Star Wars has helped my spiritual well-being. Please leave a comment, let me know what you think, and as always, may the Force be with you.