The Perils of Fan Canon

I don’t have issues with fan fiction. Most of it is pretty bad, but most of everything is bad, so that’s nothing remarkable.
But a big problem with fan fiction culture is an obsession with minor details. The reason is simple enough. If you want to create an interesting story and not really sure what to write about, pick something you like, pick a detail of it that is unexplored (usually because it doesn’t need to explore), and expand upon it.
And that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that.
But it has led to a larger assumption that every element in a story is important and an obsession over details and faux mysteries.
I saw it with The Force Awakens, when people were furiously debating over who Emperor Snoke was going to be because he had to be somebody important! Not just anyone could become Emperor. Certainly, if not a film character, he must be a version of an extended universe character!
I’m trying to imagine the original Star Wars in this context, and if you watch the original film, there is almost no mystery in it. Darth Vader is later found out to be Luke’s father, but there are no hints of it. The Empire has no secret agenda, nor the Rebels. Luke is not a mystery. He’s just a good kid who has access to the force.
And, lest we forget, the Force binds all things, and there’s really no reason to believe that Luke himself is particularly special in this regard. That stuff came later.
In fact, there’s absolutely no hint that the Emperor is a Sith. There’s no discussion of how the Jedi work, if they are a product of innate gifts or special training. We know Princess Leia is a princess, but we don’t know what that entails. The mystery quotient in Star Wars is almost non-existent.
At the time, we didn’t overanalyze things like we do now. There was precious little debate over the film and when its sequel came out, people weren’t debating about who would die and what mysteries would be revealed.
Granted, that wasn’t the culture at the time, and that’s not the film. In a way, the reveal of Luke’s parentage as a big surprise was sort of the beginning of fan obsessive culture, and it only worked because we didn’t overanalyze the hell out of everything back then.
As I’ve said, I think there’s precious little artistic discussion to be had about the merits of Star Wars at this point. It exists beyond such points. People love or hate or are indifferent to Star Wars for a million reasons, and I think to actually talk about the films themselves is mostly a waste of time. Not because they can’t be criticized, but because criticism and praise on any technical level is unimportant to their success.
At this point, if they rereleased the Star Wars Holiday Special, they’d make a billion dollars, so quality, while always subjective, isn’t worth talking about for me.
But liking or disliking a movie because it fits into your own personal headcanon is tricky business. Yet in a world where we will spend a week talking about the color of Luke’s lightsaber and what it might mean, it’s inevitable that things are going to get messy.
May the Force be with you.
Or not.
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One Comment

  1. L.K.Johmson
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    “I blame the nerds…” is a half-joking phrase I tend to use when discussions like this come up.
    The thing is, while fan culture has helped move scifi/fantasy into the main stream (resulting in some rather beautiful, high budget story telling). That very same obsessive behavior has had a marked effect on the quality of some of those stories. How often has one heard,from a fan (or read in a critic’s post) “Oh, they HAD to put THAT in there. It wouldn’t be a (insert cultural phenomena) if it didn’t include THAT in it!” This is the defense for the kinds of unnecessary fan service that strains credibility, suspension of disbelief, and even basic storytelling. For instance, I did NOT need to see the two robots in Rogue One. They didn’t add anything to the story, and I was already quite happy assuming that they were at their weekly “Death To All Humanoids” meeting. Nevertheless, writers feel they HAVE to include these little Easter eggs. We see this sort of thing in all kinds of storytelling, TV, Comic based, and movie series. I don’t know if there is a solution beyond hoping these stories become innocuous enough that there is no longer a perceived need to throw in that little “extra”. Maybe then, they can knuckle down an just write a good story.

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