Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Journal of Whills: Part 1 - Fandom

What is this then? Well basically I love Star Wars, and with the Force Awakens growing ever nearer (we’re actually going to see another Star Wars film before we get to see whether John Snow is dead or not, think about that for a moment) I thought I should write a series of articles to encapsulate why I think it has so much meaning and interpretation, and just what they are.
That is an arduous task certainly, six films, a number of specials, two TV series and an expanded universe that covers over 10,000 years of history. But of course in reality the history of Star Wars is just 38 years over that comparatively short history Star Wars has permeated and influenced our culture beyond any other film series in history. When you look at heralded films Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca only familiar film fans or people who have seen the film could name five characters from them. People who have never even seen Star Wars, or claim to hate it would probably be able to name five and even if they couldn’t you could just give them a list of names and they would almost certainly be able to tell you that they were from Star Wars. Names like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Obi Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2-D2 are likely to ring bells with people who claim to despise Star wars. It makes you wonder, if you think Star wars is bad why can you remember and identify so many characters from it?
But of course I’m not going to talk about people who dislike Star Wars. I’m writing this for the fans and of course you have to ask yourself, what does it mean to be a Star Wars fan? That may be a bit deep or a bit overly complicated as a simple answer would be ‘someone who enjoys the films’. But is that it? One could point to the prequels and how many see them as a disappointment when compared to the originals, but I’ve also seen the apparent worshipers of the first three find every flaw and every plot-hole that there is to find. Others go further and accuse the third film Return of the Jedi as being inferior as well. Is that right though, can you be a fan of a franchise where you dislike at least half of its output? No other fan-base does this, it’s in a way where so many have based their very lives on Star Wars, yet are often the first to point out its shortcomings.
One of my observations when discussing Star wars with friends is that casual fans of the franchise (before I say this I’m not saying that everyone who agrees with the following statements are ‘casual fans’, it’s just a trend I’ve noticed) not only hold return of the Jedi as their favourite of the franchise, but also actually enjoy the prequels. So what is this, why does it happen? Are die hard Star Wars fans just naturally more critical of the way that Carrie Fisher delivers a certain line, or are they naturally more wise and aware of the subject matter. Maybe one test is that you actually understand the reference of the article’s name ‘Journal of Whills’, the original title for George Lucas’ space opera and his chronicling of the universe he wanted to create. See, small things like that are apparently what defines you as a true fan of the franchise. But then again maybe you know the films off by heart but have never even touched an expanded universe novel?
When it comes to a fan-base that inspires such devotion and specific detail Star Wars goes above and beyond. The main question has of course been whether or not The Force Awakens has to potential to top Marvel’s big hitter of 2015, Age of Ultron. Maybe we might have found answers or estimates at the MCU celebration, oh wait there isn’t one. Yet excitement for the Force Awakens has only grown and grown since the Star Wars celebration in Anaheim. It was an amazing spectacle where the fans turned out in their thousands to witness new revelations and reflect upon the old. It’s the only place where you could witness Boba Fett shaking hands with a walking Carbonite block of Han Solo. There were also Stormtroopers dressed as Indiana Jones (brilliantly titled Indiana Clones) or a DJ Trooper, as well as costumes depicting characters that had been unveiled less than 24 hours ago, before Captain Phasma had even been given her name she was walking around and expressing her opinions about a desire to crush the Rebel scum who have robbed the Empire of its glory and power.
As I said before most Star Wars fans will find a lot to criticise about those original films, like why didn’t those officers shoot the escape pod when they knew they were looking for information rather than people and therefore wouldn’t be concerned with whether or not there were any lifeforms on board, and as Family Guy pointed out are they restricted on their laser blasts? But at Anaheim I noticed something very unique, there was no criticism, no bashing any aspects of the films, no hatred of any mistakes that had been made along the way. This was perhaps the purest form of fandom I’ve ever seen, one where everyone was devoted and everyone enjoyed what they were gathering around. Those films had an ability to unite people and allowed them to connect through a common love for the struggle of a couple of Rebels to overthrow an evil Empire.
Star Wars fans can be the most brutal of any devotion. You misquote one essential line of dialogue or mistake one character for another and you will be torn apart, I dare you to walk in to a convention like that and say ‘Dagobah, that was the planet Obi Wan lived on wasn’t it?’ An innocent kid wants his lightsabre signed? Well they’ll probably be trampled by a dozen adults who are just as devoted to it as the children. But at the same time they can be the best fan-base a creator could hope for. The dedication and commitment that fans show time and time again makes it a special experience that can ultimately bring people together and perhaps Star Wars reaches a higher level than simply a movie as a result.
Well I hope you enjoyed my ramblings on Star Wars, leave your own thoughts below in the comments and expect more insane over analysation soon. Find me on Twitter at @JoshuaPrice97 and don’t forget to recommend this site on Google by clicking the icon at the top of the page. Thanks and bye.

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