There is a very, very long literary criticism post sitting on my dash right now about the failings? shortcomings? of The Force Awakens as a part of the Star Wars universe because it lacks the mythic quality of the originals. I realize this is an extremely superficial rendering of the post’s actual, lengthy analysis and argumentation, but that’s not what I’m here for.
What I am here for is to take up two bits from that very interesting post AS THEY RELATE TO ME, A FAN OF COLOR, PERSONALLY.
The first is the assertion that:
“While The Force Awakens has its merits, they are few indeed, and the only one that deserves listing is the diverse casting.”
“Rogue One, on the other hand, does not fall victim to this. It does not claim to be a part of the Saga. It exists without intentionally altering facts crucial to the plot of the myth. It exists as a supportive side note only. The writers of R1 did not fall victim to the same hubris that haunts Abrams and Disney. R1 knows exactly what it is. It’s C-canon. Continuity to be utilized or ignored at whim, or as needed.”
To be perfectly honest, I spend a *lot* of time thinking about representation in the media; I don’t write about it very often because other people have done it already, and in far more eloquent ways than I can. But it’s an incredibly important part of how I think about my work as both a fan and a (temporary) academic. And it’s something that means a LOT more to me as a fan of color than just one line in a very, very, very long piece about why some people disliked TFA.
Like the post’s original author, I too consumed a significant quantity of Star Wars material after watching the movies. From where I sit on my living room floor I can see my collection of EU novels–it’s not sizeable, but they are well-worn and loved. I played KOTOR and KOTOR II and cried over both. But unlike George Lucas, I never differentiated between the levels of canon; yes, I did take up particular aspects to be my own headcanons and resisted incorporating others, but for me, the most important thing about the EU novels and the games was being able to continue engaging with the Star Wars universe.
Not the mythology that closed me out.
I love the originals. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen them, because aside from having them on VHS, I watched them every time they were on SPIKE TV in the early 2000s. I still plan to cosplay Cloud City Leia when I have time to make things again. They are a hugely important part of my identity (oh god why did I decide to go into an education phd when I should’ve done media studies, fml).
I have never cried harder at a movie than during either TFA or Rogue One. (It was worse during Rogue One.)
So many better authors than I, again, have spoken/written about how amazing it was for them to see themselves onscreen in a Star Wars movie for the first time. For Rey to be the central heroine of the new saga. So much of the press around Rogue One in particular is about the diversity of the cast. The cast members themselves shared anecdotes about being a part of something that reflects how global the stories of Star Wars really are (Diego Luna’s accent, for the most prominent example).
For me, the diversity of TFA’s cast (and, obviously, Rogue One) is not just one line of praise. It is not, as Riz says, “an added extra.” It is everything. It’s about saying THERE ARE PILOTS AND MECHANICS AND GUNNERS WHO LOOK LIKE ME. THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO MATTER IN THIS HUGE AMAZING STORY THAT LOTS AND LOTS OF PEOPLE LOVE. It is about opening up the whole GFFA in which the mythic Skywalker saga exists. The universe–the world-building, I’m not entirely sure what to call it here–is so much more to me than the central story of Luke, and Anakin. And that, too, is something the actors themselves have spoken about, that you really feel like you’re part of a lived-in world.
(Shit, I’m getting off-track; there’s a whole other post about context that I dont’ have time to think about rn, I’m actually supposed to be getting ready for class. Suffice to say that the Saga doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor do I think it should!)
Relegating Rogue One to “C-Canon,” to me, denies the significance of opening up the GFFA’s universe to be more inclusive. (Again, other authors have done quite a lot with the notion that the most diverse Star Wars film to date also…kills them all off, canonically supporting the white leads’ efforts.) It says that yes, you can come play in this universe so long as you don’t think you’re an important part of it.
Rogue One made a billion dollars. I don’t think most people saw it–and its story of sacrifice and hope–as something to be ignored.
So. TL;DR: I don’t take up Star Wars as just the central myth of Luke and Anakin, because it’s part of a much larger universe, a universe which is finally opening up to include more of the people who love it. The diversity and inclusion of the new movies is incredibly important to me, perhaps even moreso than the originals (which, again, I love). I mean–okay, sorry, this is getting into TL;DR territory in and of itself–I have loved Star Wars since I was twelve years old, I’ve always loved Luke in particular, and it’s only now, with these two new movies, that I’ve fallen this fucking hard headfirst into the fandom and show absolutely no signs of being able to climb out again.
Look. I don’t mean this as a repudiation of the original post and its opinions; this is kind of the definition of YMMV, I think. But those two parts, and my own experiences with fandom and inclusion–this all kind of had to come rushing out.