Star Wars

The Talker Toy Challenge Strikes Back

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Episode V

The Talker Toy Challenge Strikes Back

It is a dark time for the Star Wars fandom. Although December is approaching, DISNEY will not be releasing a new Star Wars film for another year, instead assaulting fans with a new cartoon show, a legion of mediocre comic books, and toys, lots and lots of toys.

Evading the dreaded lack of a Star Wars film, a group of bloggers led by THE IMPERIAL TALKER have struck back with a new version of THE TALKER TOY CHALLENGE, encouraging fans of the franchise to buy Star Wars toys and donate them to children who are in need this holiday season.

The DISNEY CORPORATION, obsessed with selling merchandise and increasing stock value for their shareholders, has dispatched thousands of new Star Wars products into the far reaches of the globe. Little does DISNEY know that THE IMPERIAL TALKER is ridiculously good at never paying full-price for merchandise, finding troves of fantastic Star Wars toys on sale and on clearance…


Participating in The Talker Toy Challenge is easy!!!! Just follow these steps.

Step One: Purchase Star Wars toys.

Step Two: Donate said Star Wars toys to children who are in need. I bring the toys I collect (see the featured image above) to a local Toys for Tots drop-off site. 

Step Three: Encourage others to do the same by promoting The Talker Toy Challenge on your blog, podcast, social media, etc.!!! Be sure to use #TalkerToyChallenge when you do!

Step Four: Repeat Steps One, Two, and Three.

Leave a comment and let me know if you participate!

What If He Doesn’t Like Star Wars?

What if he – he being my soon-to-be born padawan – does not like Star Wars?

It is a question I have been asked by quite a few people, and I fully understand why it is asked. After all, my obsession with Star Wars is a massive part of my life, of my individual identity and even my experience of the world. While Star Wars does not dictate every aspect of my life, it never-the-less plays such a fundamental role that, even when I set it aside to dabble in other franchises/universes, it always reels me in again. It is as if an invisible force – an energy field! – exists which draws me back to Star Wars over and over again. There is simply no way for me to escape it, and even when I find myself at odds with Star Wars (and I certainly do at times) there is always something in the franchise that I enjoy, something that demands my attention and active participation.

But this short post isn’t really about me…it is about my not-yet-born child and his feelings about Star Wars. Whatever will I, Jeffrey Andrew Cagle – The Imperial Talker, do if my child does not love the galaxy far, far away!?!?!

Answer: I won’t care. Seriously, I truly and honestly will not care. Star Wars is something that I love, but it is not something my child, or any of my children, will have to love. If they do, then I want it to be on their own terms, and not because I have forced them to enjoy it. Naturally, I will introduce them to Star Wars, showing them the Original Trilogy when the time is right and he is old enough to understand it. And, perhaps he will fall in love with it at that time, identifying with it and wanting to dive farther into the franchise on their own. Or, maybe he will love it because I love it, wanting to share and participate in this strange hobby as a way of becoming closer with their dad.

Yet, maybe he just won’t like it, and if that is the case that is fine by me. While I would love for my son to share my interest in Star Wars, I would much rather end up sharing in the interests they have. If my son loves Dr. Who then I shall join him in his Whovian obsession. And if he chooses to become a Trekkie, I will give him the Vulcan salute every day. Or perhaps he will gravitate towards something his mother enjoys – like the movie Pitch Perfect. If he has the “Acaudacity” to sit and watch Pitch Perfect over and over again with his mom then who am I to dissuade him? Besides, that movie flippin rocks! The point is, my kid can enjoy whatever he wants, and if that involves Star Wars, fantastic! But if it doesn’t involve Star Wars I really couldn’t care less. No matter what interests him or captures his attention, he will have my unwavering love and support. 

Then again, I just realized that if he does fall in love with the galaxy far, far away then my perfectly organized LEGO Star Wars collection is in serious danger. Ummmm I think I’m gonna go play the Pitch Perfect soundtrack for him right now… 😉

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: 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.”

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. 

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.

Imperial Profile: The Grand Admirals

While my admiration of Grand Admiral Thrawn has always been a center-piece of my Star Wars love, I have never-the-less also gravitated to other high ranking officials within the Galactic Empire, finding their stories equally fascinating. As part of my ongoing “Imperial Profile” series I wanted to offer a small look at not just Thrawn but ALL of the Grand Admirals who have been in service to the Empire. What follows is just a small sampling of information about each Grand Admiral in the Star Wars Expanded Universe AND the Disney Canon, information which I have spliced together from a variety of sources for quick and easy access. If you have any questions or thoughts about these individuals, the rank of Grand Admiral, the sources I have used, or anything else, I hope you will leave a comment!!!


Background on the Grand Admirals

Introduced for the first time in Timothy Zahn’s infamous novel Heir to the Empire, the rank of Grand Admiral was utilized over and over again by Expanded Universe authors, writers, and creators. While Grand Admiral Thrawn was the very first Grand Admiral introduced into Star Wars, he was chronologically the last individual to be promoted to the esteemed rank. According to The Essential Guide to Warfare (written by Jason Fry), Emperor Palpatine elevated twelve individuals to the new rank of Grand Admiral in 2 BBY during the New Year Fete Week. Promoted for various reasons – acumen as battlefield strategists, commitment to the New Order, role in research and development – the twelve Grand Admirals were adorned in white dress uniforms with signature gold epaulets (The Essential Guide to Warfare, pg. 168-169).

While twelve were initially promoted, a thirteenth- Mitth’raw’nuruodo (aka Thrawn) – would be named as Grand Admiral Zaarin’s replacement following Zaarin’s attempted coup. The last individual promoted to the rank, Thrawn would also be the last Grand Admiral in-service to the Empire until his death in 8 ABY.


Martio Batch

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) -Developed the TIE Phantom. Destruction of Aeten II using the Tarkin superweapon.

Death – Sometime between 4 ABY and 6 ABY


Nial Declann

First MentionWho’s Who: Imperial Grand Admirals (Star Wars Insider 66)

First AppearanceStar Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed (LucasArts)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human (Force-sensitive)

Notable Achievement(s) – Taken to Dromund Kaas and trained in the ways of the dark side of the Force by the Prophets of the Dark Side.

Death – 4 ABY during the Battle of Endor (stationed on Death Star II)


Octavian Grant

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson)

Homeworld – Unknown (planet in the Tapani Sector)

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Last known Grand Admiral (before Thrawn re-emerged from the Unknown Regions); Defected to New Republic in 6 ABY

Death – Unknown (survived past 10 ABY)


Josef Grunger

First MentionThe Glove of Darth Vader (Paul and Hollace Davids)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Seizure of planet Gargon following the Battle of Endor. One of the first Imperial warlords, declaring himself the new Emperor.

Death – 5 ABY at the Battle of Tralus (fighting Grand Admiral Pitta’s forces)


Ishin-ll-Rax

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace)

First Appearance – Republic HoloNet News Special Inaugural Edition 16:5:241 (Star Wars Insider 84)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Led the Commission for the Preservation of the New Order (COMPNOR).

Death – Committed suicide in 4 ABY by crashing his Star Destroyer in the Denarii Nova


Afsheen Makati

First MentionVision of the Future (Timothy Zahn)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Hunted down and killed the false Prophet “Kadaan.”

Death – sometime around 5 ABY while leading the defense of the Corporate Sector


Danetta Pitta

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace)

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Near-Human

Notable Achievements(s) – Notable xenophobe and defender of human culture;  Commanded three dungeon ships, taking them through the Outer Rim to depopulate and sterilize non-Human worlds; established himself as the protector of the Corellian sector following the Battle of Endor

Death – 5 ABY at the Battle of Tralus (fighting Grand Admiral Grunger’s forces)


Peccati Syn 

First MentionThe Essential Chronology (Kevin J. Anderson and Daniel Wallace); indirect appearance in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds

Homeworld – Taris

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Devout follower of the “Sacred Way” as a youth. Remained loyal to Coruscant following the Battle of Endor. Convert to the Church of the Dark Side.

Death – 5 ABY leading the defense of Kashyyyk against New Republic forces


Miltin Takel

First MentionStar Wars Adventure Journal 5

First AppearanceStar Wars Adventure Journal 10

Homeworld – Gargon

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Victorious at the Siege of Trasemene in 2 ABY. Takel was one of the few individuals who knew of Thrawn’s promotion to Grand Admiral. Narrowly survived the Battle of Endor.

Death – Executed on Kessel by Grand Moff Hissa in 5 ABY


Osvald Teshik

First MentionThe Far Orbit Project (Timothy S. O’Brien)

Homeworld – Anaxes (spent youth on Kallistas)

Species – Human (cyborg following the Battle of Andalia)

Notable Achievement(s) – Survived his “execution” when he was ordered by Emperor Palpatine to engage the Hapan Royal Navy, with insufficient forces, at the Battle of Andalia; Continued the fight against the Rebels at the Battle of Endor even after the remnants of the Imperial Fleet fled into hyperspace. His Star Destroyer disabled, Teshik was captured and executed by the New Republic.

Death – 4 ABY by the New Republic for war crimes


Ruufan Tigellinus

First AppearanceStar Wars Adventure Journal 8

Homeworld – Unknown

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Commanded Imperial forces fighting pirates in the Outer Rim. Member of the Order of the Canted Circle. Eventually became a Grand Moff before his death.

Death – 5 ABY


Demetrius Zaarin

First Mention/AppearanceStar Wars: TIE Fighter (LucasArts)

Homeworld – Coruscant

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – Head of Imperial Starfighter research and development;. Designed the TIE Advanced and TIE Defender. Attempted a coup against Emperor Palpatine in 3 ABY but was defeated by Vice Admiral Thrawn.

Death – 4 ABY in the Unknown Regions (aboard the CR90 Corvette Vorknkx)


Mitth’raw’nuruodo (Thrawn)

First Mention/AppearanceHeir to the Empire (Timothy Zahn)

Homeworld – Csilla

Species – Chiss

Notable Achievement(s) – Destroyed the Republic’s Outbound Flight in 27 BBY. Founded the “Empire of the Hand” in the Unknown Regions. As a Vice Admiral, Thrawn hunted down and defeated the traitor Demetrius Zaarin. Promoted to the rank of Grand Admiral as Zaarin’s replacement. Defeated the Warlord Nuso Esva at the Battle of Quethold. Launched a crushing campaign against the New Republic in 8 ABY.

Death – 9 ABY during the Battle of Bilbringi (assassinated by his bodyguard Rukh while aboard the ISD Chimaera)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Disney Canon: Alternative Universe

In 2014, with the decision by Disney/Lucasfilm to create a new Star Wars canon, the Expanded Universe was set aside under the term “Legends.” Confined under this new label, the Grand Admirals of the Empire and their stories may have been set aside but the rank of Grand Admiral has, never-the-less, found its way into the ranks of the Empire. This time, rather than twelve Grand Admirals being present, only two Grand Admirals have, so far, been incorporated into the new Alternative Universe. One is a familiar face from the Expanded Universe, the other is a bold, new character with an enticing story and growing fan base.


Mitth’raw’nuruodo (Thrawn)

First AppearanceStar Wars Rebels: Steps into Shadows

Homeworld – Csilla

Species – Chiss

Notable Achievement(s) – Pacification of the Rebel insurgency on Batonn. As a result of his victory, promoted to the new rank of Grand Admiral by Emperor Palpatine. Given command of the Seventh Fleet. Successful blockade and destruction of “Chopper Base” in the Atollon System. Important 

Death – Unknown (disappeared in 1 BBY during the Liberation of Lothal) 


Rae Sloane

First AppearanceA New Dawn (John Jackson Miller)

Homeworld – Ganthel

Species – Human

Notable Achievement(s) – As an Imperial cadet, Sloane foiled a plan to assassinate Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Foiled a plot by Count Vidian to destroy Cynda, the moon orbiting the planet Gorse. Taking command after the death of Admiral Piett, Sloane coordinated the Imperial retreat from the Battle of Endor. Promoted to Grand Admiral by Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax, making her the “leader” of the Imperial Navy. Helped to establish the First Order.

Death – Unknown (disappeared with Imperial fleet in 5 ABY following the Battle of Jakku, still alive ten years before the attack on Tuanul village)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Introduction to Star Wars

When George Lucas released the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, it created a bit of a conundrum: what viewing order should a Star Wars fan use when introducing the films to someone who has never watched Star Wars? On the one hand, the films could be shown to a newbie in “Release Order” with the Original Trilogy first and the Prequels second. On the other hand, the movies could be shown in “Chronological Order” beginning with Episode I (The Phantom Menace) and ending with Episode VI (Return of the Jedi)? Plus, while the “Release Order” and “Chronological Order” are the most obvious options, there are a number of other viewing orders that have been suggested (“Machete Order” being the most popular).

Ignoring, for the moment, that there now exists a Sequel Trilogy, stand-alone films, and television shows (not to mention novels, comics, games, and more), I have always felt that Star Wars should be introduced to a newcomer in “Release Order” and not “Chronological Order.” This belief is entirely predicated on my own interactions with Star Wars from youth to adulthood. I watched the Original Trilogy when I was a kid, and the Prequel Trilogy as a teen/young adult. But, that fact also makes me biased, and my suggestion to someone to start with A New Hope, while grounded in the fact that it was the first Star Wars film, is also grounded in my personal journey with Star Wars. Someone can have entirely different reasons for suggesting the “Release Order” or “Chronological Order” to a newcomer and that is perfectly fine by me. 

Actually, as a life-long Star Wars fan my only real responsibility is to offer suggestions, not to implement rules, and that goes far beyond the confines of the “Release Order” vs “Chronological Order” debate. Since A New Hope came out in 1977 (I was negative eight years old at the time), Star Wars has become a multi-headed beast, a hydra masquerading as an epic space fantasy. Which is to say this: Star Wars has so many stories across so many mediums that the whole “Release Order” or “Chronological Order” conundrum seems rather small. The films might be the natural starting point for most Star Wars fans – there are certainly those who have come to the franchise by another route – but the question of “where do I go from here?” is a far more difficult question I have been asked by a lot of people who are curious about exploring the depths of the Star Wars franchise after they have watched one or more of the films.

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

Like the first world problem of cinematic watch order, I only have suggestions and no definitive answers for people who are eager to be introduced to Star Wars beyond the films. Naturally, I am predisposed to reduce my answer to the least common denominator – my own personal preferences. Shocking! Here is an example: I am a huge fan of The Thrawn Trilogy by author Timothy Zahn, and absolutely love the Imperial Grand Admiral Thrawn who was introduced in the series. But just because I am a fan of Thrawn doesn’t mean anyone I encourage to read the trilogy will inevitably love it. Then again, perhaps they will enjoy it but for completely different reasons than I do. But isn’t that just the bare bones truth of Star Wars anyway, everyone loving certain aspects of the franchise motivated entirely by their personal tastes? Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question.

So, where do we go from here? Oish, I have no idea. Like I said with my neat “Star Wars is a hydra” metaphor, the franchise is just too big at this point to really offer one direction, one way of “doing” Star Wars. I am going to punt on offering some really profound “Introductory” approach to Star Wars. Instead, I will just offer this all-encompassing suggestion for people who are interested in exploring Star Wars:

Start with A New Hope – it was the first Star Wars film after all so it just feels right to start there – and then just make it up as you go. Actually, just treat Star Wars like a big and exciting choose your own adventure, and no matter what you choose, you are doing Star Wars right. And, if you get confused along the way, or want more personalized suggestions, feel free to message me (I have a contact page). I am happy to offer my thoughts. Just, ya know, don’t be surprised when I start talking about Thrawn.

An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga

Guest Talker: Nancy (of Graphic Novelty²)

This is not going to go the way you think.”  No truer words were said, and Luke Skywalker’s words proved to be prophetic as the movie The Last Jedi unfolded.  

I grew up on the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, with Luke being my first crush. Even as a child I was a practical lass, and the bad-boy swagger of Han Solo held no appeal to me. Instead it was humble and heroic Luke who held me enthralled.  Years went by; with the trilogy being the only Star Wars I knew until the late 1990’s when the prequels began. While the prequels have been derided for many deserved reasons, I still felt they were authentic to the Star Wars universe. George Lucas might not write good dialogue, but his vision held true, and there were many strong moments in the prequel trilogy.

When Disney bought out Lucas’s Star Wars movie rights and announced yet another trilogy with other stand alone movies planned, I was apprehensive but hopeful. The Force Awakens combined both the legacy characters and added some intriguing and strong new ones and I was thrilled with the new direction. It honored the past but looked towards the future, as did Rogue One. My first Star Wars movie review post on my blog about Rogue One  (https://graphicnovelty2.com/2016/12/22/rogue-one-movie-review/) said “if this storytelling continues, Disney will have handled the buyout of Star Wars beautifully.” It turns out I spoke too soon.

star-wars-the-last-jedi
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

*While I assume at this stage people reading this post will have watched the movie, I do want to warn you that there are spoilers ahead.*

I headed into the movie with incredibly high hopes, but twenty minutes into my first viewing of The Last Jedi, I was whispering angry thoughts about the movie to my husband. By the end of the movie I was seething. I felt it dishonored Luke’s legacy, and I was distraught.

Soon afterwards I contacted Jeff here at The Imperial Talker and Michael at My Comic Relief to vent. Both men are huge Star Wars fans and I wanted to see if I was alone in my thoughts. While I certainly cannot speak as to their reactions to the movie, my conversations with them were enlightening, and I watched the movie a second time on their recommendation. Once all the surprises were gone, I could concentrate more on the movie as a whole and get a more nuanced view the second time.

Afterwards, I gave myself some time to mellow, but then I struggled with writing this post. I hate to be provocative and feared a backlash of other bloggers who would vehemently disagree with me. I’m typically a go with the flow person, who rarely let’s people know if I’m truly upset (except my children- they know when I’m mad). This post was going to make me push my boundaries, and I did some over-thinking before I started to write.

But here we are, so let’s get into WHY this movie affected me so negatively. There were several smaller issues such as: Leia’s use of the Force, which was visually comical, Rose’s part, which ate up time that could have been given to already established characters, Chewbacca being treated as a pet/afterthought and the Rey/Kylo scenes (don’t even get me started on the connection through time and space!). On the other hand, there were many memorable moments, one of my favorites being when Poe is schooled on long-term strategy by General Organa and Admiral Holdo. I enjoyed the overriding idea that the rebellion is for everyone and that a small spark can ignite a winning rebellion.

But that’s not what upset me the most. It was Luke, all Luke.

As Star Wars has been around since 1977, there are now several generations of fans who have come into this franchise at different times.  So you have fans like me who grew up on the original, fans such as my children who watched the Prequels as they came out in the theatres, and now a new generation who will grow up loving the newest set of characters. You can even argue, as my oldest son observed, that I am a “purist,” for although I have occasionally read some of the Expanded Universe (now called Legends) books, the movies are really my only touch stone to the Star Wars universe.

Luke in yellow
Luke Skywalker at the end of A New Hope.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

As such, I have always viewed Luke as the true hero of the movies. Whereas Anakin, Ben Kenobi and certainly the Jedi Council from the Prequels let pride, power or shame affect their judgment, Luke was pure. He came from a humble background, not knowing of his true parentage yet, and with little training was able to defeat Darth Vader and bring balance back to the Force.

This new movie gave us a nihilistic Luke, who years later, was filled with so much remorse and regret that he refused to leave his island where he had banished himself to wallow in misery. When the actor Mark Hamill, who has embodied Luke and will be forever connected to the role, tells Rian Johnson, “I think I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve decided for me” that is telling as to how Luke’s hero arc was going to play out. Now I know there has been further clarification that MH has shared about this quote, and he supposedly stands behind RJ’s version…but, if his first thought was unhappiness, as was mine when I first watched it, then this viewpoint cannot be discredited.

Now this is where another quote can be used to explain the movie’s direction. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” says Kylo Ren to Rey. I understand if Star Wars is to be a viable movie franchise, it needs to grow and change. Han Solo left us in The Force Awakens, and Carrie Fisher’s death meant that Leia’s arc was going to end earlier than expected. That left Luke. He was to be the torch bearer to Rey and the new Rebels. So why did his destiny need to end so ignobly?

In this role, Luke could not cope with the crushing disappointment of Kylo’s turn towards the dark side and the guilt he felt towards letting Leia and Han down. Yes, I understand that he helped the rebellion when he sent an astral projection of himself to the planet Crait and was able to distract Kylo and send his sister and the other rebels to safety. I even understand that he used his hard won wisdom to help and wasn’t the impetuous youth who left his training with Yoda early to help Leia and Han. On one level- I get it- but I didn’t like it.

Luke & Leia
Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

Luke’s and Kylo’s flashbacks to the night that Kylo destroyed the new Jedi Academy are what truly turned me against this version of Luke and led me to feel that he was dishonored in director Johnson’s interpretation. My Luke never would have considered killing his nephew. He put his lightsaber down in front of Darth Vader, and never gave up hope that his father still had a remnant of love left in him (Jeff’s post Luke Skywalker: A Farewell To Arms beautifully describes this moment). A wiser and older Luke would have tried anything to prevent Kylo from joining Supreme Leader Snoke. Killing him would not have been an option. I believe the quote “You were the Chosen One!” that Obi-wan Kenobi shouts at Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, is in fact a better one to have used to describe Luke. His entire character was crucified in this latest movie, and he deserved better.

In real life, there are times when things go to hell. Our lives do not turn out the way we envisioned. A great success can be eroded away with failures later in life, and becoming disillusioned can be a sad reality for some. Taking all that into consideration, Luke should have gone out as a battle-worn but still dignified warrior. I wanted him to have a loving goodbye to his twin (as I wrote about in this post: https://graphicnovelty2.com/2018/01/24/star-wars-comlinks-favorite-tlj-scene/ ) and for him to have been a mentor to Rey. This lack of a proper conclusion to Luke’s story arc was not a fitting end to the Skywalker saga.

20171231_170859
I laughed at this meme about Luke, Ben and Yoda, for despite my opinion about the movie, I can see other perspectives!

Guest Talker Bio: Nancy is half of the writing team for Graphic Novelty², a blog that centers around graphic novels and geek life. She is a married mom of three who loves her job as a teen librarian and is a Star Wars & Star Trek aficionado.