Friday, December 29, 2017

Star Wars and Fandom

Let's talk about fandom and expectation for a moment.

Since we have a swath of fanboys who think they own Star Wars, let me explain this concept of "audience privilege" that's become an issue, and why all those who have started calling the FMC "Mary Sue Rey" are not allowed in the real fandom.

I'm an author. I spend many hours, weeks, months--and hell years, at this point crafting a story. I am also a HUGE Star Wars fan. Always have been. Since I was 4. I have fanfic, yup. 

I had, through the 90s, read most of the now-non-canonical expanded universe (EU) after Return of the Jedi. Somewhere around 100 out of 150 books. (I stopped when one of Han and Leia's children force exploded.) I had mad love for Mara Jade, and I adored the protagonists, the Yuzaan Vong. I would have paid serious money to see those guys on screen.

Imagine my delight when I heard there were 3 new movies in the works. Oh, my yes! Yes! Anakin's turn to the Dark Side! I was so excited! Thrilled!

But the reality... oh the painful reality.

Jar-Jar Binks. A child Anakin. Virgin birth and Midichlorians. A very stoned Yoda. Intergalactic C-SPAN. Jedi who don't DO ANYTHING about a slave trade.

...and that was just Episode 1. We had two more of these to endure, including more Intergalactic C-SPAN and what for all the world was a FDS hygiene commercial.

Walking out of the Intergalactic C-SPAN--I mean, Episode 1-- I felt betrayed. I felt let down. As I sat watching the credits roll, I decided to turn my fandom down from from an 11, to about 8. I would remain true to the originals, but not this horrible travesty.

But my fandom went to a 3 when I received a gift for my birthday. My friend skipped down the drive way happy as a clam, pleased with herself. "Jenn! Look what I found! I know how much you love Star Wars, and I know you'll love these!"

Padmé Amidala Window Clings.

"I thought you'd love to put them on the back window of your car."

Not a chance in hell. Not in this life, not in any other life.

So, I had myself an introspection. I had, to that point, spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours, immersed in the SW EU. I had spent years writing stories about Luke, Leia, Han, and eventually their kids, Chewie, different partners for Luke. I watched and read everything I could on SW--even the Christmas Special, and the bizarre "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" book.

How had my dedication to this world, this fandom, chosen to repay me?

Jar-Jar Binks.
Virgin birth.
A very stoned Yoda.
Intergalactic C-SPAN.
Padmé Amidala Window Clings.

And I realized that there must be moderation in fandom. These stories, these characters were not mine. They weren't ever going to be the story *I* wanted. Not ever. And all my time and dedication and love spent would never be returned to me. No matter how much time, energy, and money (can't forget that!) I put towards this, it was never going to return any of it.

I was feeding a black hole.

It would continue to take and take. And I would watch, the accretion disc neither growing nor shrinking, simply pulling in every thing I would willingly give it. I thought that by feeding this monster, I could get it to love me.

But it was a monster, and all it did was eat. And it was devouring me.

This is true of ANY rabid fandom. If you keep feeding the monster in the black hole, you're stuck. You'll watch and feed, and be there forever. Hoping for some little sign that what you adore knows you're there, and sends you just a trickle of love.

It won't. Ever.

So I stopped talking about Star Wars. Stopped dead. Anyone asked me things, I didn't answer. I didn't read anymore of the books; I back away.

This was not MY story to tell.
It was never was, and never will be.

And so, I found other things to like and enjoy. Harry Potter. Star Trek. New book series, like Black Dagger Brotherhood, and other genres, like romance. Gasp! But I found that by spreading my love around, I was happier. While I still say "Fuck the Space Diner!" to Ep. 2, it's countered by "Rhage is mine. Go find your own vampire," and, "I really don't like The Prisoner of Azkaban."

And now. We have a new series.

I adored The Force Awakens with the gusto of a fangirl. It was wonderful story telling, new characters to love, new planets, fresh story telling.

Of course there were things I didn't like. I won't forgive them for deleting Mara Jade.

However this is not my story to tell.

And then came The Last Jedi. Oh, lemme tell you. The brilliance of the storytelling, the CGI, the dialogue! The use of thmes, real cinematography by someone who had studied it. The brilliant lack of sound in space for both Leia's survival and Holdo's suicide. My filmmaking nerd threw her head back and laughed and laughed in satisfaction.

Of course there were things I didn't like. Canto Bight and the casino? Unnecessary. Rose's character was shallow, a plot device. She could be used better.

But it's not my story to tell.

Repeat that. A million times if you have to. It's not my story to tell. I am there without expectations, to be entertained.

And I was. And it was good.

When I write a story, a book, I write the story as I believe it should be told. They are my characters and I control their destiny (we won't get into the psychology of character development). I am the author. You are the reader. I entertain you, you are entertained.

Will you experience disappointment if I kill off X? Duh, yes. Does that give you the right to go to my book at the retailer and essentially rip me a new asshole?

Hint: no.

But, Jenn--you killed X, and that shouldn't have been. You should have done Y or Z or perhaps even W. But he should never have died and for that you are a horrible writer and you suck and should be ashamed. I'm starting a petition to have you rewrite the story the way I want it!!

Okay, there. Right there. When did this become your story? Have you put in the time? The sleepless nights? The deleting of scenes? The torture of the story going off arc? The writer's fog? The days of blank pages taunting you?


Not your story.

"Audience privilege" is not a thing. If you're not invited in on the project (i.e., they hand you a script and say 'welcome!'), you don't get a say.

That's where fandom gets dangerous. Really, really dangerous. The fanboys have actually created a petition to have Disney (ooh, is that an uncaring black hole I see before me?) to remove TLJ from canon. They will send death threats to people, they will bully and berate people [women] who enjoy it.

That is a step too far. Too far, gents.

(And, to be fair: MAJORITY male fans. Hence my choice of 'fanboys.')

Trekkies have a leg up on you. Why? They let go. They let the story happen. Come on, haven't you see Star Trek V: The Piece of Shit? And YET. ST: I, II, III, IV, VI, VII, VII, First Contact, Nemeshit--er Nemesis, The Reboot (fondly called Lens Flair the Movie), Into Darkness, Beyond, the TV shows...

Trekkies let it go. Trekkies have fun arguing about Picard vs. Kirk (Picard, btw, 100%). Trekkies are some of the most hard for fans you've ever seen, and they love it. All of the damn contradictions and opposing stories and 'what the hell--ah well. Enjoy!' moments.

Perhaps you think this is your story.

Feed the monster, boys.

This isn't going to go the way you think it is.