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Ahsoka Tano Sexy

If you are thinking to yourself “Wow, that is a really provocative and uncomfortably disturbing title for a Star Wars post” you would not be wrong. I have lured you into this post with this title so I can address how completely and utterly messed up it is that people do google searches for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy.” You see, every now and again WordPress will inform me of the specific search terms that were used to find The Imperial Talker. More often than not, those search terms are pretty banal and run-of-the-mill. People have found my site by googling “Padme funeral,” “Dooku’s face when he dies,” “Yularen,” and “did Luke use the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi.” But every now and again, someone will stumble upon The Imperial Talker by searching for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” or some other combination of Ahsoka Tano and Sex. Since my site was recently frequented by another individual seeking gratification looking for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” on the internet, I figured I should just go ahead and commandeer the search term by turning it into a title.

That some people find my site by searching for sexy images (or even stories) of Ahsoka Tano is grossly unfortunate, although entirely unsurprising. Since her introduction in The Clone Wars movie/series, there has been a trend on corners of the internet to sexually objectify Ahsoka. While the sexualization of characters in Star Wars is hardly shocking , what sets Ahsoka apart is that she is not an adult in The Clone Wars, she is still child.

ahsokaintro2
Ahsoka meets Anakin and Obi-Wan for the first time.
Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars

A while back, I wrote a piece titled Ahsoka Tano, Child Soldier which considered the stark reality that when she is sent to the front lines of the Clone War, Ahsoka is only fourteen years old. While it is easy to view Ahsoka as older and more mature than her age, given some of the deadly situations and difficult decisions she is forced to make, the fact remains that throughout the entire animated series Ahsoka is a post-pubescent childhood who has not yet arrived at adulthood. As such, her participation in warfare is problematic in and of itself, an ethical dilemma that should have given the Jedi Order pause. Likewise, that she is a child, and is overtly objectified by pockets of Star Wars fans, is also incredibly problematic.

In many respects, the way Clone Wars era Ahsoka has been sexualized in images could easily be summed up as a Star Wars version of “jailbait.” For those of you unfamiliar with the term, or lacking a coherent definition, jailbait can be defined quite easily as the sexualized images of minors, specifically tweens and teens. Conducting a basic, safe google search of “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” will result in countless images of Ahsoka as jailbait – scantly clad, presented in seductive poses, and more. Turn off the safe search and things become even more uncomfortable.

That a subset of Star Wars fans either do not see, or willfully ignore, the inherent problem of sexualizing Ahsoka is dismaying. More importantly, it is inexcusable. There is simply no justification for a girl, a child – even a fictional one – to be treated by adults as an object of sexual desire. The American Psychological Association would agree.

In a 2007 report, the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls explored the variety of ways girls are sexualized within our society, likewise examining the myriad of consequences this hyper sexualization reaps on the burgeoning minds of girls. According to the Task Force,

Sexualization occurs when

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization. The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children. Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized. But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.¹

The way “sexualization” is defined by the APA Task Force is important to this conversation as a whole, but what is critically relevant is the very last sentence: “…when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them.” This is precisely what has happened to Ahsoka Tano. There is never an instance of Ahsoka being imbued with “adult sexuality” in The Clone Wars. No, in the movie/series, Ahsoka Tano is a self-assured and headstrong young girl, a Jedi padawan who is immature but never-the-less eager to learn, to act, and to adapt to the difficult situations she finds herself in.

ahsoka vs death watch
Surrounded by members of the Death Watch, Ahsoka dispatches them with ease.
Photo Credit – The Clone Wars Season 4, Episode 14: “A Friend in Need”

Moreover, and more importantly, from her first appearance in The Clone Wars movie and onward, Ahsoka consistently demands the recognition of the adults she interacts with: Anakin Skywalker (her Jedi Master), Obi-Wan Kenobi, Clone Captain Rex, Admiral Yularen, and others. She does so not by selling her looks, by being “pretty” or “sexy” but through her persistence, showing time and time again that she has the talents to succeed and a willingness to grow from her mistakes. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Ahsoka has no qualms speaking her mind and offering an unfiltered opinion, a characteristic which earns her the nickname “Snips,” a nickname which is simultaneously fun and which reminds us of her unrelenting pursuit for respect.

That Ahsoka is a child and is sexualized is disgusting. What is even more pathetic and gross is that this sexualization intentionally strips her of the qualities which make her who she is. Rather than experiencing her, and in turn depicting her, as a strong and confident young girl who serves as a role model for children and adults alike – within the Star Wars universe and among fans – she is instead utterly disrespected by individuals looking to satisfy their perverted sexual fantasies.

Thankfully, among the vast majority of Star Wars fans, Ahsoka Tano is given the respect she deserves. I take solace in this fact, reminding myself each time someone finds this site by searching for “Ahsoka Tano Sexy” that there are far more fans who seek out Ahsoka for who she is – a remarkable girl and extraordinary woman. 


References:

¹American Psychological Association, Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. (2007). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report-full.pdf

Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

In my previous post – Going Solo: Darth Maul – I considered Darth Maul’s (very) brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. I don’t want to spend a lot of time recapping that post, but I will note that in it I mentioned that his cameo, while certainly intriguing, left open the possibility of confusion for fans who had no idea he had cheated death in The Phantom Menace. I mentioned how in the lead up to his reveal in Solo, I really thought the mysterious figure behind the scenes of the Crimson Dawn criminal organization was going to be Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order. While I was surprised by Maul’s cameo in the film, and otherwise enjoyed it, I cannot help but imagine the possibilities that might have been if Snoke had appeared instead of Maul.

Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush…

Following the death of Dryden Vos, his lieutenant Qi’ra — who is also Han Solo’s friend/romantic interest —  contacts the mysterious figure coordinating the activities of Vos’ Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Shrouded by a hood, the figure inquires why it is Qi’ra, and not Dryden Vos, contacting him. In reply, Qi’ra responds…

“Dryden Vos is dead.”

“Vos was a fool and deserving of death. Tell me Qi’ra, what of the coaxium?”

“Stolen from Vos by Tobias Beckett.”

“An unwelcome setback.”

Momentarily pausing, the mysterious figure continues…

“I sense conflict within you, young one. There is more to your story.”

“Beckett had an accomplice…someone I knew from my youth.”

“Is that so? And who was this accomplice?”

“A man by the name of Han Solo.”

Removing his hood, the figure in the hologram now reveals himself to be Snoke. Leaning forward, Snoke responds by repeating the name: “Han. Solo.”

“He means nothing to me,” Qi’ra quickly responds. “He is a remnant of my past.”

Snoke’s eyes linger on the woman, pausing to consider her words before he speaks…

“When I found you I saw raw, untamed power, a connection to the Force unlike any I have felt before. I pulled you from the gutters of Corellia, saving your from the life of a scumrat. And yet, my care is rewarded by the naïve feelings of child.”

“The fault is mine, Master. I beg your forgiveness.”

Sitting back in his chair, Snoke replies: “Indeed, the fault is yours. Return to me and I will break the chains of your…feelings…for Han Solo. “

Before delving into the “why” of the conversation I crafted between Qi’ra and Snoke, allow me to point out an obvious thought residing on the surface of my mind. I believe that Snoke should have been the mysterious figure in Solo: A Star Wars Story precisely because he was given no backstory in either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. While the need to know every detail of Snoke’s pre-Sequel Trilogy life is not entirely necessary, the desire to know more about Snoke is hard to ignore. That desire is precisely why, following The Force Awakens, individuals started creating theories about Supreme Leader Snoke, attepting to piece together who he might be. Unfortunately, this fun-filled theorizing was met with childish mockery from a the self-proclaimed “elites” of the Star Wars fandom when they chose to insult fan theories with the phrase “Your Snoke Theory Sucks” (I counter this petty derision in my post Your Snoke Theory Doesn’t Suck). But I digress…my base desire, wishing Snoke had appeared in Solo rather than Darth Maul, is a desire to have been given just a small glimpse into Snoke’s backstory, a tiny morsel that fans could run with in their theories.

On this point, Snoke’s presence could have created a connection between Solo: A Star Wars Story and the Sequel Trilogy which “film-only” fans could have more fully understood. As I noted in Going Solo: Darth Maul, the possibility exists (and is true in the case of my neighbors) that fans who only watch the Star Wars films would have a difficult time understanding how Darth Maul is alive since he so obviously died in The Phantom Menace. Instead of this unnecessary confusion, Snoke would have created an enticing connection between Solo and the Sequels Trilogy. Solo: A Star Wars Story could have been even more important, more relevant and necessary, with a brief cameo by the future Supreme Leader of the First Order, a cameo that would have created a connection through presence alone.

But this connection would have been blown wide open with Snoke’s conversation with Qi’ra, especially if the conversation echoed Snoke’s conversations with Kylo Ren. You will notice that in the dialogue I crafted Qi’ra mentions that “Han Solo” meaning nothing to her, an intentional parallel to Kylo Ren telling Snoke that Han Solo, his father, “means nothing to me.” In turn, the same form of parallelism exists in Snoke’s comment that when he found her, he saw raw, untamed power within Qi’ra, a similar statement he makes to Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi. Likewise, he insults Qi’ra, calling her a child, just as he insults Kylo Ren as “a child in a mask.”

Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.
Han Solo’s childhood friend/lover: Qi’ra.

Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

On one hand, these small dialogical parallels serve to solidify the way(s) in which Snoke manipulates individuals under his guidance, doing so by breaking them down and ensuring they understand that he is in control. But on the other hand, these parallels also, intentionally, link Qi’ra and Kylo Ren as Force-sensitive proteges of Snoke. In this regard, Snoke’s cameo would not have been the only surprise, but it would have included the added shock that Qi’ra can use the Force. In turn, as an added way of tying her to Kylo Ren, Qi’ra could have gone on to become the very first Knight of Ren, the Master of the Knights of Ren. And, in taking the mantle of title of Master for himself, Kylo Ren could have ripped it away from her when he killed her years later. Oh, the possibilities…

But there is one other angle worth considering in regards to Snoke and his imagined cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and that is the fact that Han Solo’s life would play out with Snoke as a presence in the background. Through the manipulation of Snoke, Ben Solo became Kylo Ren and committed an act of patricide, killing Han Solo and freeing himself, albeit only in part, of his familial burden. Snoke’s relationship with Qi’ra could have served a similar fashion, functioning as a catalyst for events in Han’s life which would ultimately end with the smuggler’s death. Consider:

Han and Qi’ra were friends and lovers on Corellia. Han escaped Corellia but Qi’ra did not. Snoke found Qi’ra, freed her from the planet, trained her, and she became the first Knight of Ren. Years later, Ben Solo would become a protégé of Snoke, ripping the title of “Master” away from Qi’ra by killing her and completing his conversion to the Dark Side as Kylo Ren. In turn, as Kylo Ren, the former Ben Solo would end his father’s life on Starkiller Base.

From beginning to end, Han Solo’s fate, his story in Star Wars, would have been pre-determined and framed by the menacing actions of Supreme Leader Snoke.


The “Talkerverse” is my imagined Star Wars canon where I explore different angles on the galaxy far, far away by altering aspects of the Star Wars canon to fit my own wants and desires. Check out these other “Talkerverse” posts to delve even deeper into my Star Wars mind:

Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul

Going Solo: Darth Maul

Before writing my previous post – Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul – my intention had been to write this post. Wanting to discuss (spoiler!) Darth Maul’s incredibly brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, I sat down to write but my brain had other intentions. Acquiescing to my train of thought, I ran with my imagination and wrote about how I think Vader should have killed Darth Maul in Revenge of the Sith. You can go read all about that (click HERE) but for now let’s chat about that surprising Solo cameo…

Soooooo, yeah, Darth Maul makes an appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story. How about that? I dunno about you, but I DID NOT see that coming. As I watched the film, and it started to become clear that the film’s antagonist, Dryden Vos, was working on behalf of some shadowy figure, I was thinking it would end up being Snoke. Even up to the moment of Maul’s reveal, when he is contacted by Han Solo’s childhood friend Qi’ra, I believed we would be met by the face of the one-day First Order Supreme Leader. Never-the-less, seeing Darth Maul – and actor Ray Park reprising the character he brought to life in The Phantom Menace – definitely caught me off-guard.

As a die-hard Star Wars fan who has kept up with Star Wars stories across all mediums, it made complete sense that Darth Maul was the shadowy figure who instilled fear in the criminal Dryden Vos. After all, The Clone Wars animated show resurrected Maul from his bifurcated death and elevated him to the status of underworld crime lord. In The Clone Wars, as many of you may know (but some may not), Darth Maul unified a coalition of terrorists and criminal organizations under his authority, in turn using his nefarious organization to take control of the planet Mandalore. Maul’s actions – with the assistance of his brother Savage Oppress – launched him into galactic relevance, making it necessary for the Jedi, and his former Sith Master (Darth Sidious), to take him seriously as a threat. Following The Clone Wars, the four-part Son of Dathomir comic continued his Clone Wars era story-arc, while E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka novel showed that Maul’s grip on the planet Mandalore was strong even at the wars end. As well, Maul once again re-emerged in Star Wars Rebels, a menace to the Lothal rebels with his life finally coming to end on Tatooine when he confronts, and is killed by, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

maul
A very broken Darth Maul in The Clone Wars. I discuss how he survived his death in my post Cheating Death: The Dark.

Photo Credit – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 4 Episode 21, “Brothers”

While I was surprised to actually see Maul onscreen, I was otherwise unsurprised he was the “phantom menace” directing the actions of Dryden Vos. Having kept up-to-date with Maul’s story-arc, and knowing his criminal dealings, it really made complete sense. That being said, following my first viewing of Solo, I could not help but ask myself: for someone who is more of a casual Star Wars fan, who is only interested in the movies, were they surprised, or perhaps even confused, to see Maul? After all, for those individuals, their experience of Darth Maul would have begun and ended with his introduction and death in The Phantom Menace.

Luckily, I was able to ask two of those “movie-only” Star Wars fans, my neighbors, when I got home from my first viewing of Solo. As I stood outside chatting with them, I asked for their thoughts and they acknowledged that they left the movie theater feeling confused by Maul’s appearance. As I explained that the Sith Lord was resurrected in The Clone Wars, and noted that his story has continued beyond that, one of my neighbors (Sara) said something which caught me off-guard: that she is less likely to watch Star Wars movies in the future if the story is just going to be changed in tv shows, books, and comics. 

While her feelings are specific to her experience, I could certainly, sympathize and understand what she was saying. While I really like Darth Maul’s post-resurrection storyline (…with the exception of his demise in Star Wars Rebels…) I can also admit that I was incredibly annoyed by his resurrection in The Clone Wars. Even though Darth Maul is only in a small amount of The Phantom Menace he was never-the-less an exceedingly important part of the story. We knew, in the film, that Maul was serving Darth Sidious, executing the machinations of his Master. While Sidious had to stay behind the scenes – he is “the phantom menace” – Darth Maul revealed himself to the Jedi as a threat they were clearly unprepared to face. And, when he is sliced-in-half by a young Obi-Wan Kenobi – making it pretty damn obvious that Maul was killed – the Jedi are left to wonder: which Sith Lord died, the Master or the Apprentice?

Maul's Death in TPM
The face of a Sith Lord who was just bisected. It’s reasonable to think he just died.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

As it turns out, neither died.

While I have since grown to appreciate Darth Maul’s post-resurrection arc, and definitely understand his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story – knowing as I do all the nuances and baggage that goes with it – I can also understand and appreciate why my neighbor felt confused and unhappy. For her, and certainly for many others, the Star Wars films represent the pinnacle of Star Wars. For them, the movies, and only the movies, are what matter. Period. Full stop. They are uninterested in TV shows, comic books, novels, video games, precisely because Star Wars is a series of films. And, as a result, suddenly seeing a character you thought was dead – without any explanation what-so-ever regarding how he survived being cut in half – is undoubtedly annoying and off-putting. Which leads me to this:

I really believe that cameo should have been Snoke, not Darth Maul. The connections that could have been made between Solo and the Sequel Trilogy with a small cameo by Snoke would have been incredibly profound and forward-thinking, while simultaneously ensuring that movie-only fans like my neighbors were not left scratching their heads. But I will hold off on offering my “Snokey” thoughts in any greater detail for now, and you can just wait for my future post on the topic – Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about Darth Maul, his story-arc, and his cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. AND, be sure to check out all of my other Darth Maul posts (just put his name into the search bar). 

Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul

I have always held the opinion that Darth Maul should have survived his confrontation with Obi-Wan in The Phantom Menace, and that his story-arc should have reached its finale in Episode III. Disregarding entirely that Darth Maul DOES survive, that he was resurrected from the dead in The Clone Wars animated series and has since made appearances in a number of post-Prequel stories, my belief that Maul should have been a menacing presence in every Prequel film is built upon a rather simple premise. In short, Anakin/Darth Vader should have been the one to kill Darth Maul.

Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush. Darth Maul is still alive and in Revenge of the Sith, and takes full-command of the Separatist cause after the death of Count Dooku and General Grievous. Safeguarding the leaders of the Confederacy on Mustafar, a small Jedi fighter arrives on the volcanic world and Maul goes out to meet this foe. The Sith Lord instantly recognizes the individual: it is the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. We know the truth – Anakin Skywalker is no more, the man before Maul is the newly minted Sith named Vader and he has been ordered by Darth Sidious, his new Master, to kill the Separatist leaders as well as Maul. It is a test for Vader: kill your rival and take his place, or perish. Vader is up for the challenge.

Darth Maul leaps into action, his double-bladed saber viciously slashing and hacking at Vader. Deflecting the violent blows with his blue lightsaber, Vader is at first caught off-guard by the rage-filled attack. Gathering himself, anger swelling within him, the new Sith Lord goes on the offensive. Now Darth Maul staggers backwards. He has fought and killed Jedi before – Padawans, Knights, and Masters – but Maul has grown complacent throughout the Clone War. He has been such a menacing presence to Jedi that he has left his flank unguarded against a Dark Side for. Darth Sidious knew this, could see that Darth Maul was in need of a true challenger. If he survives this fight, if he kills Vader, then Maul will be a newly sharpened weapon which Sidious can use.

The battle of blades comes to a momentary pause, Maul and Vader alike unable to land a killing stroke. Starring each other down, it is Maul who  speaks first:

“I sense the darkness within you, Jedi. Tell me, has my Master chosen you to test me?”

“I am no Jedi…” Vader responds with scorn “…and he is my Master now.”

Amused and laughing, Maul replies with obvious derision: “You are naïve, young Jedi, if you believe you will replace me.”

Turning his back to Vader, Maul pauses to looks out at the hellish landscape before he speaks again. 

“Do you remember what I did to your first Master? To that fool Qui-Gon Jinn?”

Anger obviously swelling within Vader, rage contorting his face, Maul confidently continues his mocking tone:

“I should have slaughtered him sooner…on Tatooine. I should have slaughtered him…and his Padawan…and you, Ani. And then…”

Reigniting his blue blade, the rage within Vader ready to spill out, Maul speaks one last time:

“….and then I should have slaughtered Amidala.”

Both hands on the hilt of his saber, Vader launches into a vicious assault and Maul greets it head-on. The clash is unlike the choreographed acrobatics of their fight from moments before. There is no twisting of bodies or twirling of sabers. Now, their battle is purely driven by a desire to destroy the other, their blades being used not as elegant weapons but as bludgeons. Hacking and chopping, deflecting and countering, the two raged-infested Sith give no ground, take no footsteps backward. They are locked in a stalemate, unwilling to give an inch, frozen in a battle of wills against the backdrop of a volcanic, smoked-filled landscape.

Frozen, that is, until Vader finally lands a blow, slicing downward across Maul’s face and chest. Staggering backwards, scars glowing from the heat of Vader’s saber, the demonic-looking Zabrak attemps to recover but Vader moves in. Sidestepping and moving past Maul’s desperate strike, Vader reverses the direction of his saber and drives it upwards into Maul’s back, the tip coming out of the Dark Lord’s chest. Lingering for a moment, Vader yanks the blade from his foe, allowing Maul – agony and the recognition of death on his face – to sink to his knees. Turning as his blade is extinguished, Vader kneels behind Darth Maul, leans in, and softly speaks:

“You have been replaced.”

Rising, Darth Vader walks around the dying Sith Lord and, we can assume, towards the facility beyond, on his way to kill the Separatist leaders within. But the camera lingers on Maul – the landscape of Mustafar behind him – and we watch as the Sith Lord slumps forward and dies.

Killing the Devil, Replacing the Devil

There is obvious religious symbolism in Star Wars and perhaps one of the most obvious forms of symbolism is in the form of Mustafar. Essentially, Mustafar is meant to symbolize Hell. When Vader travels to the volcanic world in Revenge of the Sith, he is descending to Hell, a descent which visually captures his internal descent into darkness. While his conversion to the Sith Order took place in the ecumenopolis of Coruscant, he is baptized in this Mustafarian Hell, transformed by eternal fire and subsequently reborn in his iconic suit of armor. And yet, I have always felt one element was missing on Mustafar: the Devil.

Lava on Mustafar
Mustafar = Hell
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

There is obvious religious symbolism in Star Wars and perhaps one of the OTHER obvious forms of symbolism is Darth Maul. Darth Maul looks the way he does – horned head, red and black face, intense yellow-eyes, black robe – because he is a visual representation of evil. He looks like the Devil because he IS the Devil. And, as such, I have always believed Vader should have descended into Hell with the distinct intention of killing the Devil. While his massacre of the Separatist leaders is violent and shows that he is continuing down his dark path, the added layer of Vader killing the Devil in the Devil’s own lair would have added incredible weight to Anakin Skywalker’s descent into Darkness. 

But this added weight is not solely based on Vader’s killing a character serving as an archetype and personification of evil. Killing the Devil is certainly profound in and of itself but Vader would have also been replacing the Devil, becoming the new archetype and personification of evil. It would not have been out of goodness of heart, or a willingness to safeguard the galaxy, that he traveled into Hell to vanquish the Devil. No, he would have killed the Devil precisely because he wanted to become the Devil. Only by descending into the darkness could he make his ascension, earning his title, position, and power as Dark Lord (of the Sith) by violently ripping it away from his adversary.

That is, after all, the nature of the Sith and the Dark Side of the Force.

Epilogue

Darth Sidious steps out of the shuttle, surveying the Mustafarian landscape. He can sense Darth Vader, feel the pain and agony bleeding off of the badly injured Sith. As he moves down towards the end of the large landing platform, he passes the Jedi Starfighter which Vader had taken tot he world, and the body of Maul comes into view beyond it. Sidious walks up to the body, pauses, and looks down. Reaching out with his right hand, he uses the Force to call the double-bladed saber to him. Now in his hand, he crushes it, the broken pieces falling onto the broken body of Maul. Opening his hand and a red crystal sits on his palm. Laughing to himself, Sidious closes his fist and moves on to find his new Apprentice. 

Later, after Darth Vader has recovered, and is entombed in his suit, Sidious will hand him the crystal and give him a single order: “Construct a new lightsaber.”

Going Solo: Enfys Nest

Something I have always appreciated about Star Wars are those second-tier characters literally shrouded by unique helmets and armor. These characters need not be the center of action in every scene, such as Darth Vader. No, they –  Boba Fett, Captain Phasma – can command the stage through presence alone. Importance radiates from their mysterious outfits and unyielding stances, pulling us into their orbit. They demand our attention and our respect, and we gladly offer it to them.

The latest edition of Star Wars to hit theaters, Solo: A Star Wars Story, introduced movie-goers to yet another of these mysterious figures, this time in the form of Enfys Nest. Leading a loyal band of Cloud-Riders, Enfys Nest – wearing harsh but intriguing armor – makes their first appearance early in Solo on the planet Vandor-1, literally swooping in on a swoop bike to steal the goods, refined coaxium, which Tobias Beckett and Han Solo are themselves attempting to steal. A battle ensues between Beckett’s crew and Nest’s marauding band, a battle which confirms Enfys Nest as a formidable opponent, but a battle which also results in neither side leaving Vandor-1 with the valuable fuel.

That Enfys Nest is a pain in the side of Tobias Beckett and the man he is working for, Dryden Vos, becomes apparent soon after the events on Vandor-1. In turn, while we know Dryden Vos is *probably* the real bad-guy in the film, Enfys Nest is never-the-less established as the antagonist which Han and company must contend with as the film progresses. But it isn’t until much later in the film when Beckett, Solo, and the others arrive on the planet Savareen when Enfys Nest finally reemerges.

There are two moments in Solo: A Star Wars Story that literally made my hair stand up, and both moments happen back-to-back when Enfys Nest returns to the film. After the excitement on Vandor-1, the planet Kessel, and the death-defying Kessel Run, Han Solo and company finally have a moment of reprieve on Savareen, a chance to let out a sigh of relief. The scene is peaceful, Solo and his confederates resting and waiting in a small, run-down ocean-side village. Yet, the peace does not last. Out of no where, Enfys Nest and the Cloud-Riders materialize, standing in the background only yards away from Han Solo. Likewise, the musical score adds to this chilling moment, breaking the serenity on Savareen and signaling that a showdown has commenced. 

With Enfys Nest’s apparitional appearance on Savareen, an old west style stand-off ensues (the title for the musical score is appropriately titled “Savareen Stand-Off”). But guns are not drawn. Instead, only an instant after the stand-off begins, Tobias Beckett calls Enfys Nest a marauder and the reaction from Nest is rather unexpected. Moving forward as if prepared to fight, Nest instead removes the terrifying helmet masking their face. Now, the a second hair-raising revelation occurs: we can see Enfys Nest true face, the face of a young woman of color.

This revelation is a bold one, for Enfys Nest and for Star Wars in general. The power of mysterious characters like Nest resides in NOT knowing the face under the mask. Consider Boba Fett and Captain Phasma. We never see Boba Fett’s face in The Empire Strikes Back but we know the bounty hunter, who shows up in a handful of scenes, is really good at what he does. After all, he tracks the Millennium Falcon to Cloud City, leading the Empire to Cloud City, and leaves with his cargo. As well, we do not see Captain Phasma’s face but we never doubt that she is fearsome and commands the respect of the First Order’s stormtroopers. After all, she gives the command to open fire on the villagers at the beginning of The Force Awakens and chastises FN-2187 for removing his helmet. But with Enfys Nest the mystery is purposefully broken and replaced by long, curly hair blowing in the Savareen wind and the face of woman starring down the condescending Beckett and the cocksure Solo.

In my opinion, Enfys Nest is the absolute best thing about Solo: A Star Wars Story. Sure, there are a lot of cool and delightful things in the film (a film, mind you, I was not planning on seeing), but Enfys Nest, she took my breath away. In Enfys Nest, the Star Wars universe has been gifted with a powerful and commanding woman who can go toe-to-toe with the “Big Boys,” with the likes of the crime-lord Dryden Vos, Tobias Beckett, and even Han Solo. And she does so without the slightest hesitation, standing firm as a physical and principled force who is unwilling to back down, who desires to take on crime syndicates and the Empire. That, we learn, is her goal: going on the offensive and taking the fight to the oppressors in the galaxy far, far away. She and her Cloud-Riders are a force for good, a glimmer of hope, a new hope, in these dark times.

With her unmasking, Enfys Nest purposefully breaks the shroud which encases her, removing that which enables her to command fear and respect. But this profound decision only amplifies the respect for Enfys Nest. True, Tobias Beckett is unmoved, and I am sure there are viewers who did not care for Enfys Nest. But Han Solo is moved, and seeing her humanity and hearing from her, he chooses to help her! Likewise, my interest in Nest exploded, as did my admiration, when she shows us who she is, the face of a small resistance, the leader of that resistance, a young woman of color.

Let me say that again: the face and leader of the resistance is a young woman of color. How awesome is that!?!?!?! Seriously, I hope we get more of Enfys Nest in Star Wars very very soon. And in the meantime, as I impatiently wait for her next appearance – in another film, in her own Forces of Destiny short, in a novel and a comic – I will be going out of my way consuming everything else I can find about Enfys Nest. She is just too damn cool, and too damn important, to ignore. 


**Enfys Nest is portrayed British actress Erin Kellyman.**

Star Wars: Last Shot (An Imperial Talker Review)

There are few things I like and a lot of things I dislike about Star Wars: Last Shot by first time Star Wars author Daniel José Older. In fact, the bad so significantly outweigh the good that it is a little overwhelming to figure out where to begin. Perhaps the most obvious place is to just say that this story is entirely inconsequential to the Star Wars universe. While the book centers on Han and Lando coming together three years after the events of Return of the Jedi to stop a maniacal Pau’an who has plans to cause a violent, galaxy-wide droid uprising, the story never truly convinced me of its necessity, or that it was providing the Star Wars universe with any greater meaning. There are certainly a number of Star Wars elements in Last Shot. There are Star Wars places – Takodana, Utapau, Bespin, Kashyyyk – and Star Wars species – Twi’leks, Ewoks, Gungans, Ugnaughts – and a cast of familiar Star Wars characters – Han, Lando, Leia, Chewbacca, Maz Kanata – but as a whole these elements never truly coalesce into a Star Wars story with gravitas.

To save you time, I will just come right out and tell you what happens: Han and Lando survive, the bad guy (Fyzen Gor) dies, and the galaxy is once again saved by everyone’s favorite scoundrels. Thus, we are left with an altogether generic, run-of-the-mill Star Wars novel that is easily forgettable. But what is truly disappointing is that the opportunity for some memorable moments with incredibly profound consequence do exist within Last Shot. When, at the end of the novel, Lando must choose between saving himself or the galaxy at large, he chooses the latter. This IS a profound move, a “holy crap” moment in a book that really REALLY needed one. Yet, Lando’s moment of altruistic sacrifice is undercut when he is saved by a laughable plot device: the offspring? of his former droid L3-37 (who shows up in the novel in flashbacks) known as the “Elthree Assault Team.”

L3-37
L3-37
Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

Had Lando died, the Star Wars galaxy would have been shaken to its core. Why isn’t Lando in The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi? Answer: because he was atomized in an explosion in the Mesulan Remnant. Instead, he is saved by a contrived group of vigilante droids made in the image of L3-37 and goes on to live happily ever after with the Twi’lek woman known as Kaasha, wanting to finally (sort of) settle down after years of galactic promiscuity. And who is this Kaasha you ask? I can’t tell you because she is given little development. She is ultimately in the novel because the author needed a sexual/romantic foil for Lando. Their backstory together goes to the Galactic Civil War when they found comfort in each others arms during the battle of…who knows, I can’t remember. She was smitten by the General, has sought him out, and joins him (and Han) on their adventure. While she is given glimpses of agency – she can communicate with their Ewok companion and she aids Han as he attempts to retake a ship during the novels climax – Kaasha is a Twi’lek woman otherwise beholden to the whims and feelings of a man. Shocking!

Kaasha is not the only new character appearing in the book. A human from Alderaan, and the pilot whom Han and Lando hire to assist them, Taka is a gender-neutral character and is referred to as “they” throughout the book. If there is one truly good thing about Last Shot, Taka is it. I appreciate and applaud that Older chose to include such a character in the Star Wars universe, especially since Taka’s gender-neutral status is so banal. I certainly hope more characters like Taka emerge in Star Wars as their inclusion paves the way for more gender-boundaries to be broken. And, I hope Taka shows up again in Star Wars because they are an interesting and fun. Plus, Taka goes out of their way to annoy Han with heavy metal music which is a pretty funny moment in the book.

Taka is one of the few bright spots in Last Shot, and if I were to chose another it would be the inclusion of 2-year-old Ben Solo. Now, I should note that Ben’s appearance(s) in Last Shot primarily serve Han’s story, specifically the smuggler’s inner turmoil about whether he is a good father (I’ll get back to Ben in a moment). Han’s fatherhood questions are dragged out to the very end when, finally, Han talks to Leia and she reassures him that “no one knows how to be a parent before they are one…” (pg. 340). That it takes the entire book for Han and Leia to have the “parenting is hard” conversation is pretty ridiculous (it is a convo he could have had with Leia without going on a galactic mission) but given that this is the core of Han’s character development it is hardly surprising. I don’t begrudge this particular angle on Han, though. We know from The Force Awakens that he and his son had a rocky relationship, so incorporating little bits of that relationship – in this case whether Han feels like he can do the parenting thing – is a fine angle to take. What is truly disappointing, though, is that there was a massive missed opportunity for Han to learn the importance of the parent-child relationship from Taka.

At one point in Last Shot, Han happens upon a recording of Taka’s parents. From the recording we learn two things: Taka’s parent loved them unconditionally and Taka’s parents were Alderaanian which means their parents are dead. Later, Han will mention to Taka that he watched the recording and they will tell Han that it is the last little piece of his parents they own. Han clearly sympathizes with Taka, particularly since he reflects on comforting Leia when she feels down abpout the destruction of her homeworld. But what was missed was the chance to unite Han’s parenting woes with the fact that Taka is holding onto a small remnant of their deceased parents. I cannot help but imagine a different version of Last Shot where Han comes to a fuller appreciation of his role as a parent, as a father, as he listens to someone who lost their parents. In turn, the conversation he had with Taka, and the lessons he learned/chose to reflect on, could have easily tied in with the remained of the novel (particularly the conversation with Leia at the end). Instead, Han’s parenting woes culminate in the final moments of the book when he receives cookie cutter wisdom from his wife. Ugh. Let’s just go back to Ben Solo…

Moments that Left Me Speechless

That Ben Solo makes a handful of appearances in Last Shot was certainly a positive aspect of the novel, enabling the reader to experience the sequel trilogy villain as an innocent toddler. In fact, it is two lines about Ben Solo – coming through the inner thoughts of Han – that left me completely stunned early in the book. The child looking up at his father, Older writers:

“Han had no idea how a two-year-old could have such ancient eyes. It was as if Ben had been waiting around for a millennium to show up at just this moment in history.”

Wow! Like, wow! With clarity and brevity, Daniel José Older captures the entire trajectory of the Sith Order which Darth Bane instituted, an Order based on the Rule of Two, an Order which survived for a millennium, an Order which was finally destroyed with the death of Darth Sidious at the hands. Now, as if he had been waiting for the Sith to die out, Ben Solo’s time has finally come, his conception coinciding with the death of Darth Sidious. Ben Solo’s conception and birth are the prophetic sign of a new era of Darkness, a Darkness which has been waiting to emerge for a millennia, a Darkness the boy will one day help to bring about as Kylo Ren. And the “ancient eyes”? Those are the eyes which Han  will sees when his son pushes a red lightsaber through him on Starkiller Base. They will be the very last thing Han ever sees, and perhaps in that moment he will think back to that moment he saw the “ancient eyes” in his two-year-old son.

Han and Ben
Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) looks at his father with “ancient eyes.”
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

That Han’s small reflection on Ben came early in the novel left me hoping more moments would pop up that packed a punch. But there are really no other Star Wars gems in the book on par with Han’s reflection on Ben. Instead, the opposite is true, with two other lines showing up which left me dumbfounded and at a loss. They are (and I can’t believe I am about to type this):

“Tight enough for a bulge and the insinuation of an ass…” (pg. 41).
“Like a droid orgy of some kind, but with astromechs and those old battle droids from the Clone Wars?” (pg. 335) 

My problem with references to “a bulge” and “an ass” and a “droid orgy” is pretty straight forward: they don’t add anything of value to the novel. Unless, that is, one counts shock value, which, in this case, I don’t. There is a time and place in a story to really shock the audience, to authentically catch the reader off-guard with something that comes out of left field. Lando choosing to sacrifice himself for the greater good is shocking, and if he actually died in the process would have been even more shocking. But “a bulge” and “an ass” and a “droid orgy”, these sexually-charged references caught me off-guard and shocked me in a way that left me thinking only one thing: this book is really bad.

The Bad Outweighs the Good

To be fair, I would say this book is really bad even if it didn’t reference “a bulge” and “an ass” and a “droid orgy.” Here, I will list a handful of other things that are problematic about the book (to go along with things I have already mentioned):

  • The flow of the book is choppy and confusing, the narrative jumping back and forth as it follows four storylines through flashbacks. I am not opposed to flashbacks in general, but the book jumps across timelines far too many times without giving the reader a chance to catch their breath.
  • Speaking of flashbacks, Lando’s storyline (“about 15 years ago”) does not line up with the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story. How do I know this? Because I was paying attention in the 1st Grade and learned addition and subtraction.  But there is a bit more to it: L3-37 was destroyed, and uploaded into the Millennium Falcon, in the Solo movie (which takes place around 10 BBY). However, Lando’s flashbacks in Last Shot take place in 8 BBY and L3-37 is still intact and NOT uploaded into the Falcon. Oh, and let’s not forget that at the very end of Solo, the Millennium Falcon no longer belongs to Lando…
  • The villain, Fyzen Gor, gets his own flashbacks but is completely unconvincing as a bad guy and, even worse, uninteresting. What makes his story all the more confusing is that he is from Utapau, his evil plan involves melding organic body parts with droids, and his evil conversion takes place sometime around 13 BBY, but there is not a single reference to General Grievous!!! At the very least, Gor could have been doing his initial evil organic- droid stuff and reflecting on the droid General who died on Utapau in 19 BBY.
  • The droids Gor activate to kill people literally say “Killlllll.” #facepalm
  • Speaking of those killlllllller droids, when Han and Leia’s kitchen droid is activated and moves to killlllll little Ben, a brilliant opportunity existed for the toddler to destroy the droid with his adolescent connection to the Force. This would have been awesome and a perfect connection the “ancient eyes” moment early in the book. Instead, the droid is activated and then immediately deactivated. Ugh!!!!!!
  • Oh, and what about all of the other droids galaxy-wide that were activated? Even though it was brief, a lot of droids probably killllllllled quite a few organic beings in those moments. And by “quite a few” I mean millions, and by millions I mean tens of millions.
  • Where are R2-D2 and C-3PO? This book is about killllllller droids but the two most famous droids in Star Wars never show up. Were they activated?
    Boss Nass
    “Meeeeeesa don’t lika Aro for being preachy.” – Boss Nass

    Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

  • Aro, a Gungan working on Substation Grimdock, gets upset with Han for saying “meesa” and chastises him for assuming all Gungans talk like…like Gungans. I understand what Daniel José Older is TRYING to accomplish here, giving the reader an object lesson in not assuming how individuals speak based on stereotypes. But it comes off as preachy and makes Aro even more annoying than the average Gungan. And besides, there are plenty of Gungans that say “meesa” who do some pretty great things in Star Wars (check out this piece:  The Sacrifice of General Tarpals).
  • Chewbacca doesn’t need to be in the main storyline. Like, at all. He is there…and I know this sounds crazy…just because this novel is partially about Han. Now, to be fair, Older does drum up a reason for Chewie to go on the adventure: young Wookiees being kidnapped by Fyzen Gor for his experiments. However, there is no definitive resolution to this other than Chewie fighting the half droid-half Wookiee abominations. In turn because Chewbacca is “lugging a sack” (pg. 337) following his battle, Han presumes it is full of Wookiee body parts but this is never confirmed. Nor does anyone, at the end, question whether some Wookiees are still being held in some secret laboratory. Oh welllllllllllll….

Here is the deal – if you want to read Star Wars: Last Shot, go for it. It you end up liking it, more power to you. And, if you would like to convince me this book is far better than I have suggested, by all means, leave a comment below. I will gladly give your thought(s) careful consideration. But as of right now, beyond the few things in this book that I actually liked (Taka, Ben Solo, “ancient eyes”) there is just too much stacked against Last Shot for me to give it anymore significant thought. In turn, Last Shot has given rise to an unintended consequence: it has made me less likely to purchase/read Star Wars novels in the future, especially novels by new Star Wars authors. If nothing else, this will (I hope) save me from having Lando’s “bulge” and “ass” shoved in my face again. 


***Page numbers are from the first edition of Star Wars: Last Shot.***

Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor (An Imperial Talker Review)

I recently picked up a copy of Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor and, I have to say, it was a serendipitous find. While the encyclopedic book by Ryder Windham and Adam Bray had been on my radar for a while, it was not a purchase I was planning on making any time soon. That is until I stumbled upon a copy for a reduced price on recent shopping trip. Immediately scooping it up, I dove into the book the night I bought it and found myself incapable of putting it down. From the Foreword, written by Star Wars actor John Boyega who portrays First Order Stormtrooper FN-2187 (Finn), to the final pages which detail the popular fan organization known as the 501st Legion, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor is a fascinating read that explores the history and cultural relevance of the iconic white-armored Imperial soldiers.

For one who is interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of Star Wars, especially the endless creative decisions that have gone into the universe, this book will definitely satisfy. Beginning in Chapter One (“Creating an Army”), Windham and Bray offer an in-depth understanding of the vision George Lucas had for stormtroopers and how that vision blossomed into reality on the big screen. Laying out explanations and examples of the early stormtrooper designs created by artist Ralph McQuarrie, and describing the aesthetic choices made by the production and art departments working on the film, the authors provide a rich picture of the development of stormtroopers for A New Hope. In subsequent chapters, Windham and Bray expand on these creative choices by examining how the original design of the stormtroopers would be altered time and again, with new trooper variants being incorporated into the ever growing Star Wars galaxy.

In regards to these variants, as a big fan of the Snowtrooper – check out my piece Trooping Through the Snow – I particularly enjoyed learning about how the specialized troops in cold weather gear were created for The Empire Strikes Back. As Windham and Bray mention in this section, McQuarrie’s original design for the snowtrooper officers – which were conceptualized as super commandos from the planet Mandalore – would ultimately be used by Lucas as the armor schematic for Boba Fett. As well, the all-white super commando design would be used in the Star Wars Rebels animated show, debuting in the aptly named episode “Imperial Super Commandos.” As well, I also found the information detailing Death Troopers from the film standalone film Rogue One to be  fascinating. The design of the Death Trooper, the authors note, goes back to the original McQuarrie concepts which depict tall, sleek stormtroopers. 

While the aesthetics and production decisions which have gone into designing stormtroopers and their many variants for the films (and other mediums) are explored in Beyond the Armor, Windham and Bray also explore the variety of stormtrooper toys and collectibles which have been created over the years. Admittedly, these sections really stood out as I know very little about the way the toy industry operates, but also because the authors discuss a handful of toys which I had as a kid. And for me, no stormtrooper-related toy described in the book stood out more than the Micro Machines Stormtrooper/The Death Star transforming action set because it is one of the Star Wars toys I still own from my childhood. Plus, it is still in perfect condition, a Star Wars miracle considering all of the other Micro Machines action sets I owned did not survive the disaster area known as “Jeff’s room.”

Stormtroopers
The Micro Machines Stormtrooper/The Death Star transforming action set (center) with a few other pieces of my “Trooper Collection.”

The relationship between stormtroopers and fan culture is also explored in Beyond the Armor, with special emphasis focusing on the 501st Legion. A fan-led organization that specializes in the “bad guys” of Star Wars, the 501st Legion, founded by Albin Johnson in 1997, combines a love of costuming with community service. While the information about fan culture and the 501st Legion was not as interesting or relevant to me, it is never-the-less a critical aspect of the book which helps to highlight the cultural legacy of stormtroopers specifically, and Star Wars more generally. And, at the very least, one will undoubtedly walk away from the book knowing far more about Star Wars fan culture than when they first started reading. I certainly did. 

As I said at the outset, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor was an unintended purchase but, in the end, one that worked out for the best. While reading an encyclopedic book with behind-the-scenes information about Star Wars is not everyone’s cup-o-tea, this book is definitely one worth getting, especially if you happen to stumble upon it for a reduced price like I did. Admittedly, there are some sections that drag on a bit more than I thought necessary but this never kept me from wanting to keep reading and learning. In all likelihood, I won’t be reading Beyond the Armor again from cover-to-cover unless I get really ambitious, but it will definitely come in handy as a reference book when I need to refresh my memory about some stormtrooper-related topic. Plus, if nothing else, it will look pretty cool on one of my Star Wars bookshelves.

If you have read Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor and would like to share your thoughts on it, leave a comment below.

The Imperial Talker: A New Beginning

I have always loved the AT-AT debate. You know, the debate between Star Wars fans about how to say actually “AT-AT.” Is it literally said using the word “at” or is one supposed to pronounce the letters “A” and “T”? Personally, I have always said “at”-“at” but only because my childhood self grew up saying it that way. Admittedly, this made pronouncing the AT-ST (aka the Chicken Walker) all the more difficult. I mean, let’s be honest, the “st” sound alone is proof that all forms of walkers in Star Wars are supposed to be pronounced with letters/numbers, not words or sounds.

AT-AT: “A” “T” “A” “T”
AT-ST:  “A” “T” “S” “T”
AT-TE:  “A” “T” “T” “E”
AT-DP: “A” “T” “D” “P:
AT-M6: “A” “T” “M” “6”

As an adult, I still say AT-AT using the word “at” although, in fairness, old habits rooted in childlike wonder die hard. And honestly, who the hell really cares? After all, it is all in good fun.

Battle of Hoth 2
AT-ATs!!!!!!!
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

There are an endless number Star Wars debates to be had (hardly a revelatory statement) and those range from the fun and silly to the difficult and controversial. A fictional universe that is grounded in the minds and imaginations of real-world creators/fans will naturally breed all sorts of conversations, and this has certainly exploded in our modern social media age. Which brings me to this: it is really fun having these conversations and debates with Star Wars fans until things turn sour. And they turn sour way too damn much, particularly online and especially on Twitter.

Take the Prequel Trilogy as an example. I was 14, 17, and 20 years old respectively (1999, 2002, and 2005) when I watched the Prequel films. At the time, I was enamored by these new Star Wars movies, swept away watching the story of Anakin Skywalker play out on the big screen as he spiraled toward the dark side (I even wrote a paper in graduate school about his dark spiral). In my late youth/early adulthood I had no idea there were people who truly felt the Prequels were abysmal Star Wars films. I was naïve, but not naïve about my own enjoyment of the movies, naïve because it simply did not dawn on me to question whether others felt differently than me. But, I grew older, and while I still find a great deal of enjoyment in the Prequels, I can also acknowledge that the Prequel Trilogy has some pretty remarkable flaws that I simply cannot overlook. I point out one of these flaws in my piece “Women of the Jedi Council” when I show that there are way too many men, and not enough women, on the Jedi High Council in Prequels.

Growing up as a Star Wars fan, but also hearing from others and doing my best to think critically about Star Wars, has enabled me to grow into my love of Star Wars with more sincerity. I do not need to naively accept everything about Star Wars to love Star Wars, and because I love Star Wars I am willing and eager to challenge what I see as flawed aspects of the franchise. The Prequels are one such example, an element of Star Wars I can both accept AND challenge. What I find equally fascinating is that quite a few people (on Twitter and elsewhere online) have called me a “Prequel Hater” precisely because I have offered critical takes on films I genuinely enjoy.

Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate

I never knew I was a “Hater” (what a stupid word) of Star Wars in any form until I started interacting with other Star Wars fans online, specifically on Twitter. This isn’t to say I never had a debate with other fans of the franchise until I created my @ImperialTalker handle. Heck, my friend Mike (My Comic Relief) and I debate the ins/outs of Star Wars all the time. Our conversations can be intense, but our conversations are always civil. Jumping onto Twitter to promote this site was also a new adventure for me precisely because I didn’t realize I would be running into so many other Star Wars fans – with their own blogs and podcasts – who were quite militant in their opinions on Star Wars. It wasn’t long after I got on Twitter in 2015 that I was called a “Prequel Hater” for the first time, an irony because I spend quite a bit of time defending the Prequels, both online and offline. I guess I’m a Prequel Hater and a non-Hater. How awesome does that make me!?!?! #Winning #StarWars #Hater.

Jar Jar Binks
Jar Jar approves of my views on the Prequels.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

That I have been called a “Prequel Hater” is pretty laughable, but that I have also had people online tell me that I seem to “Hate Star Wars” because I have offered unpopular perspectives and criticisms is the pinnacle of hilarious. Are there some things about Star Wars that really annoy me and I genuinely dislike? You betcha! Here, I will list a handful:

  • I think it is completely ridiculous that Padmé Amidala doesn’t speak with another woman in Revenge of the Sith.
  • I cannot stand that the franchise has yet to hire a woman or person of color to write/direct a Star Wars film.
  • I absolutely despise the idea of Kylo Ren and Rey being an “item.”
  • I really dislike that Ezra Bridger pulled Ahsoka Tano through a portal in time.
  • It really annoys me that LEGO hasn’t turned the Seventh Sister into a minifigure while the Fifth Brother – her less interesting counterpart – has one.
  • #YourSnokeTheorySucks – No, it really doesn’t (read more HERE).
  • Star Wars fans (primarily men) and fan-sites acting like the self-appointed authority/owners on all things Star Wars.
  • Fanboys harassing a Star Wars actress on Instagram just because they didn’t like her role in The Last Jedi (or really because they are racist and sexist).

From the way the franchise operates, to specific storylines, to fans ridiculing other Star Wars fans or acting like they are the “rulers” of Star Wars, to fanboys harassing women and people of color, there are A LOT of things about Star Wars I genuinely dislike. But I do not hate Star Wars and this is not up for debate. As a matter of fact, I think of this site as my never-ending love letter to Star Wars. And if offering criticisms of my “beloved” makes me a #Hater then so be it. I will wear that title with a badge of honor because I love Star Wars so damn much I want it to be better and do better across the board.

A New Beginning

As a Star Wars fan, my only responsibility to Star Wars is to like what I want to like, to dislike what I want to dislike, and ignore everything else. I cannot control how the Star Wars franchise and fan community operate; rather, all I can do is choose how I engage with the Star Wars franchise and fan community on my own terms. If I choose to write something praising Star Wars, I will do so. If I choose to write something that criticizes Star Wars, I will do so. If I want to buy a new Star Wars toy as part of my Talker Toy Challenge, I will do so. If I decide to ignore a new Star Wars movie, or novel, or comic because it doesn’t look appealing, I will do so. If I choose to go to Star Wars Celebration, I will do so. And so on and so on. I think you get the point.

None of this makes me unique. Heck no, it makes me completely normal. I have the agency to control my relationship with Star Wars, to interact with the franchise and the fan community on my own terms. Which leads me to this: I am done with Twitter. I have decided to retire my @ImperialTalker Twitter account precisely because it just isn’t fun anymore and I don’t believe the Star Wars community on Twitter, which is notorious for constant bickering and outrageous toxicity, is worth the headache. I’m just over it, and quite honestly, I have better things to do with my time.

What will I be doing with my time, you ask? Writing more posts for this site, of course! You see, I don’t know if you knew this, but I think of this site as my love letter to Star Wars. And, well, I have a lot more to say about my beloved.

So stay tuned. I’m just getting started. 

Haikuesday: Recap

Haikuesday: Recap
Looking Backward and Forward
A New Haiku Dawn

In January 2017 I had this crazy idea: what if I wrote Star Wars-inspired haiku and posted them on the first Tuesday of every month. Thus, my Haikuesday series was born. Since the first Haikuesday was posted in February 2017, I have written fifteen other Haikuesday posts, the topic for each being chosen via polls on Twitter. Allowing my followers and others on Twitter to vote for each Haikuesday topic was a way to garner some fun and “fan”tastic support for the monthly series, and while all those who voted may not have gone on to read the haiku I wrote, it was never-the-less fun to know so many people were voting!

I am incredibly proud of the Haikuesday posts I have written, in large part because these posts have enabled me to explore my love of Star Wars in really unique ways. Never would I have imagined, when Haikuesday began, that I would have be scouring the Expanded Universe novel The Truce at Bakura for inspiration, or that I would be obsessively listening to Carl Orff’s O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana) as I wrote haiku about Darth Vader. I dug into my knowledge of the Star Wars: Uprising mobile-game (which I played obsessively before it was cancelled) for the haiku about Cloud City and was inspired by the poetry of Toru Dutt and Hindu mythology as I wrote about Queen Amidala. Long story short, Haikuesday has enabled me to explore not just Star Wars, but a wealth of other music, art, literature, and more in really interesting ways.

At the same time, the writing of Haikuesday posts has taken numerous forms, and happened at pretty random times. For many of the sixteen posts, I would work on the haiku over the course of the week leading up to Haikuesday. Sometimes my inspiration would come late in the process, and I would still be writing haiku an hour before I planned on actually publishing. More often than not, though, the haiku would be completed in advance of Haikuesday. As well, many of the haiku were first written by hand, and I have two notebooks filled with my Star Wars-inspired poetic creations. As I told my friend Kiri from the site Star Wars Anonymous (who write some of her own Star Wars haiku!), I often keep a notebook with me to ensure that I can write a haiku if it pops into my mind. And, in those moments when I do not have a notebook, my iPhone comes in pretty handy.

There are definitely some other little things about Haikuesday I could mention, but realistically, and for the sake of brevity, I will skip all of that. Like, you don’t really care that I wrote most of The Battle of Scarif haiku in the backseat of a car, Rogue One: The Visual Dictionary by my side, on a road trip from Detroit, MI to Alexandria, VA…do you? Naw, of course you don’t care, so I won’t share that with you. And I definitely won’t share that I wrote all of The Battle of Umbara haiku in a note on my phone (I remember when phones were just used for making calls and not writing haiku. Those were the good ole days…in the 1990s). 

So, what is next for Haikuesday? Well, first and foremost, a much-needed creative break. I love rendering Star Wars in haiku form but my brain is tapped out right now. For right now – meaning for a few months – I am taking a break from Haikuesday to focus on some other Star Wars posts I have wanted to nail down for this site. In fact, now that this site is over three years old, I have quite a few ideas moving forward…including plans to FINALLY do Wookiee Week (but more on that later). As for Haikuesday, I already have some fun and innovative ideas to revamp it, changing how I approach it – from when/how I write, to the topics, and getting Star Wars fans (you!) involved in writing haiku! I even have this crazy idea to do an entire Haikuesday post in Aurebesh…

But all of that is in the future. For now, I hope you will take some time to read (or re-read) and share my Haikuesday posts. Leave a comment on them, tell me what you like, and if you have any thoughts/ideas on helping me make Haikuesday even more successful I am all ears!

Below are all of the featured images I used for every Haikuesday (with links to each post in the captions).


oom_battle_droids-2
Droids















Thrawn TIEFighter
Thrawn

White Uniform Guy with Red Eyes and a Blue Face

First introduced in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn has always been my favorite Star Wars character. The white uniformed Imperial officer with red eyes and blue face – an alien of the Chiss species – captivated me as a young Star Wars fan. Watching the films as a youth, I was intrigued by the Empire but did not identify with them. How could I? They were the bad guys, the evil villains dealing death and destruction who had to be stopped by the likes of Luke Skywalker and the other heroes of the Rebellion. And yet, in 1993 when I read Heir to the Empire for the first time I was mesmerized by Grand Admiral Thrawn. Here was an Imperial unique not only in appearance but in demeanor, an intriguing character, a captivating Star Wars villain. Although at the time I could not fully appreciate all of the nuances of Heir to the Empire, all of the intricacies and connections Zahn had created in the novel, I could never-the-less identify with a character who was different and new.

Thrawn Trilogy
“Heir to the Empire”, the first novel in The Thrawn Trilogy.
Photo Credit: Bantam Spectra

Admittedly, there is no easy way to articulate just how my love for Thrawn has grown since that time. While memories from my youth remain rooted in my head, those memories are scattered and sporadic. I can recall, for example, playing the 1994 TIE Fighter computer game and encountering Thrawn through that medium, a medium that offered me a visual depiction of the white uniformed officer. While Thrawn is not at the center of the game, one event in TIE Fighter never-the-less grounds my overall memory: Emperor Palpatine promoting Vice Admiral Thrawn to the elite status of Grand Admiral and ordering him to track down the traitor Demetrius Zaarin. This was, and still is, an event in Star Wars as meaningful to me as watching the climax of A New Hope or the revelation that Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker. In short, my experience of Thrawn, from the very start, was as real to me as anything else in Star Wars. It did not matter that he was never in the Original Trilogy. No, all that mattered was that Grand Admiral Thrawn commanded a presence within the corner of my mind dedicated to Star Wars. He still does.

Like that moment in TIE Fighter, other “Thrawnian” moments in his story-arc stand out. But there is one moment that is light-years beyond all the rest: the way the Grand Admiral is introduced in the first chapter of Heir to the Empire. 

The Art of First Impressions

It is not just that Thrawn shows up in the first chapter of Heir to the Empire, it is how Timothy Zahn chose to introduce him that stands out – through the eyes of, and interactions with, Captain Gilad Pellaeon. Throughout the entirety of Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy (of which Heir to the Empire is the first novel), Pellaeon – commanding Thrawn’s flagship – serves not only as an independent and capable character in his own right, but also as a foil to Thrawn. While Pellaeon is established as a competent commander – reminiscing in the first few pages about leading the Imperial retreat from the Battle of Endor – once he is placed in the same room as the Grand Admiral it becomes apparent that the two exist on different plains of military acumen. How the reader discovers this is in the most obvious way possible: in the form of a battle.

It is Pellaeon who leads the reader to Thrawn, the Captain maneuvering through the corridors of the Star Destroyer Chimaera to inform the Grand Admiral of a successful scan raid on the Obroa-skai system. Yet, as Pellaeon enters a room to meet with Thrawn, our introduction to the Grand Admiral takes a curious turn. This room, we quickly learn, is filled with the holograms of artwork. Rather than concerning himself with the inevitable New Republic attack which he is confident will now unfold following the scan raid – an attack Pellaeon is skeptical will come – the Grand Admiral instead asks the Captain a rather odd question:

“Tell me, Captain, do you know anything about art?”

This singular question, and the brief lesson in art history which unfolds, establishes the uniqueness of Thrawn. He is a student, not only of military tactics and strategy, but of every conceivable topic that will enable him to defeat an enemy. But it is the study of art that truly sets Grand Admiral Thrawn apart, an aspect of his character that is returned to again and again (even in the new version of Thrawn in the Disney canon). It is in this moment that we are not simply introduced to Thrawn the character by Captain Pellaeon, but we are introduced to Thrawn the genius, the savant, the truly grand. Cool and collected, as if his job is that of a museum curator, the Grand Admiral articulates the nuances of artistic pieces to Captain Pellaeon. 

“Thrawn gestured to a part of the inner display circle to his right. ‘Saffa paintings,’ he identified them. ‘Circa 1550 to 2200, Pre-Empire Date. See how the style changes – right here – at the first contact with the Thennqora. Over there-‘ he pointed to the left-hand wall ‘-are examples of Paonidd extrassa art. Note the similarities with the early Saffa work, and also the mid-eighteenth-century Pre-Em Vaathkree flatsculp.'” 

Immediately upon finishing his tour through Saffa and Paonidd art history, the attack comes, and with the same cool and collected demeanor, Grand Admiral Thrawn enacts his strategy to defeat the oncoming New Republic ships. His knowledge of art will play a role in the battle. 

Thrawn: In Action

Again, it is Pellaeon, acting as the foil to Thrawn, who sets up the reader to truly understand the military prowess in the mind of the Grand Admiral. Learning that the attack force consists of four Assault Frigates and three wings of X-Wings (108 Starfighters in total) it is Pellaeon, and not Thrawn, who issues a command.

“‘Run engines to full power,’ he [Pellaeon] called towards the intercom. ‘Prepare to make the jump to lightspeed.'”

Without missing a beat, Thrawn countermands that order, instead issuing an order for TIE pilots to head to their stations and for the Chimaera’s shields to be activated. In turn, the Admiral issues another order for the “three nearest sentry ships to attack.” Watching the holographic tactical display – which had replaced the holograms of art – Pellaeon and Thrawn look on as three blue dots representing the sentry ships speed towards the attackers. As one blue dot disappears, Thrawn again issues an order for the ships to pull back and for the “Sector Four line to scramble out of the invaders’ vector.” In other words, Thrawn gives the attackers a clear path to the Chimaera.

Heir to the Empire
A page from the graphic novel version of Heir to the Empire.
Photo Credit – Dark Horse Comics

Confused, Pellaeon inquires: “Shouldn’t we at least signal the rest of the Fleet?” As if he had already anticipated the question, Thrawn responds by noting that “the last thing we want to do right now is bring in more of our ships…after all, there may be survivors, and we wouldn’t want the Rebellion learning about us. Would we.”

Before I continue, I should note that at no point does one get the impression that Captain Pellaeon, or any of the other subordinates on the Chimaera, are incompetent. As I previously said, Pellaeon is established as being an effective commander by virtue of his role at the Battle of Endor. Likewise, his order to flee into hyperspace, and his question about bringing in reinforcements, serve as clear examples of standard military protocol, the way the Imperial Navy is supposed to operate when it is severely outgunned. And this is what makes Thrawn’s statement about not wanting any survivors all the more fascinating. Pellaeon, a veteran of the Imperial Navy, does not believe his ship and crew – a crew that is young and inexperienced – can take on the attackers. The Grand Admiral not only has the opposite opinion, but he is confident he will annihilate his opponent.

Immediately after saying he does not want there to be survivors, Thrawn gives the order which will ensure this happens.

“‘Bridge: I want a twenty-degree port yaw rotation – bring us flat to the invaders’ vector, superstructure pointing at them. As soon as they’re within the outer perimeter, the Sector Four sentry line is to re-form behind them and ham all transmissions.”

The Bridge, and Pellaeon, are admittedly confused, but Thrawn demands obedience. As the Star Destroyer rotates into position, the Grand Admiral orders all TIE squadrons to launch and head in the opposite direction, away from the enemy. Pellaeon, to his credit, recognizes the tactic: “a classic Marg Sabl maneuver.”  But Pellaeon also questions whether the attackers would really fall for “anything that simple.” In his confidence, Thrawn is positive the attackers will fall for it AND be destroyed in the process. Of course, he turns out to be right.

As if on cue, the attackers change their strategy, playing into Thrawn’s hands. Pellaeon is stunned, inquiring “What in the Empire are they doing?” To this, the Grand Admiral’s response is laced with the brilliant depth of his character:

“‘They’re trying the only defense they know against a Marg Sabl…Or, to be more precise, the only defense they are psychologically capable of attempting. You see Captain, there’s an Elom commanding that force…and Elomin simply cannot handle the unstructured attack profile of a properly executed Marg Sabl.'”

Still stunned, it dawns on Pellaeon precisely how Thrawn had figured out he faced an Elomin task force. “‘That sentry ship attack a few minutes ago…you were able to tell from that that those were Elomin ships,'” the Captain declares. Grand Admiral Thrawn’s response is as predictable as it is unexpected. “‘Learn about art…‘ he tells his second-in-command. ‘When you understand a species’ art, you understand that species.'”

An hour later, we are told, the battle was over.

Conclusion to an Introduction

I must admit that, as I look back over what I have just written above, my retelling of Thrawn’s introduction is only able to partially capture the gravitas of his character. Then again, my intention was not to perfectly recreate the first chapter of Heir to the Empire. Rather, my description serves to acknowledge that there is a profound and impressive literary depth to the first few pages of the novel, a depth that is woven into the rest of the novel and the entire trilogy. Or, to put it differently: Timothy Zahn is one hell of a writer and this is apparent right from the beginning.

Most importantly, the depth in the opening chapter of the novel penetrates to the very core of Grand Admiral Thrawn. It offers the reader insight into this brand new character, identifying him as a formidable and terrifying villain who truly is the “Heir” to the Galactic Empire. At the end of chapter one, the Chiss tells Pellaeon that his plan is to the solve the only puzzle worth solving: “The complete, total, and utter destruction of the Rebellion.” Following his art lesson and his masterful annihilation of an enemy attack, this is clearly no idle threat. Grand Admiral Thrawn really is capable of bringing the New Republic – the Rebellion – to its knees. But if you want to know more about how the white uniform guy with red eyes and a blue face does about doing that, you will just have to reread the trilogy or pick it up for the first time. 


All quotations in this piece are from the 1992 mass market paperback edition of Heir to the Empire.