San Diego Comic-Con 2015 has come and gone and it has been amazing… for the most part. Clone Corridor was started in April of this year not long after the end of SWC: Anaheim and, partly, as a consequence of the attitude at SWC: Anaheim. The first post posted to this website was ‘The Risk of Ignoring the Prequels’, a post I wrote in the middle of the night while slightly mad, much like this one right now. Like everyone else I was ecstatic about the upcoming film and the newly released teaser trailer, but I was also curious as to why not a single interview about The Force Awakens could be had without unnecessary emphasis on “original” and “practical” effects and lack of CGI. Now I am in the exact same position, only a little wiser and a little sadder.
What I’ve come to think, and what I’ve been arguing for the last few weeks, has been basically confirmed this weekend. Because as a Prequel-fan, this Comic-Con held a bitter realization. That realization is that the current marketing and PR strategy for The Force Awakens is to subtly, or not so subtly, bash the Prequels in order to get Star Wars naysayers and critics on the side of the new film and new trilogy. It is the only feasible reason I can come up with for why the writer, director and president of Lucasfilm would continuously give fans the impression that a good 50% of their canon can be ignored, if not ridiculed. Apart from the fact that I feel this will end up being bad for business in the future, it is currently bad for the fandom because it plays into a perception of the Star Wars fandom which is incorrect.
The popular opinion that has been growing over the last few years is that everyone thinks the Prequel Trilogy is terrible. Bring up Star Wars with anyone who isn’t a fan and they’ll assume that you hate them. As I argued in my post after Anaheim, there is absolutely nothing wrong with disliking the Prequels. It is everyone’s right to like and dislike, hate even if you must, any movie, book, TV show etc. of their choosing. There is something wrong, however, with attacking those who disagree with you. There is nothing wrong with preferring one thing over the other and saying so. There is something wrong with tearing one thing down to the ground in order to make your own thing seem better. There is also something wrong with belittling and ignoring a large part of your fandom in favour of a small minority of fans that spews vitriol as if they were being paid for it. And this hate isn’t just directed at the films, the cast or George Lucas. No, it hits the Prequel-fans just as hard, if not worse, as those in charge. Liking the Prequels and, heaven forbid, not hating Jar Jar Binks is close to a capital offense and will get you treated accordingly, especially online. I have already seen plenty of fans say their goodbyes to the fandom over the hate they’re receiving and on top of that there are all the fans like me who are simply incredibly saddened by seeing some of their favourite films bashed. I myself have been regarded with pity and shut out of conversations after arguing that there is more to Jar Jar than people initially think. It’s not fun, it’s terrible. Because other Star Wars fans should be the ones who understand your passion, the ones who can listen to you blab on about it forever. They shouldn’t be the ones sending you hate-mail at 2 o’clock in the morning because you said The Revenge of the Sith is one of your favourite movies ever.
I wasn’t the only one, by far, who noticed the constant disparaging remarks towards the Prequels during SDCC, which skilfully always fall just short of actually calling them out. Some took it relatively humorously:
while others highlighted the damage that these remarks can do to fans:
I’m far from thinking that this alienation that is occurring is done on purpose. I think it’s not at all Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s intention to drive fans away or cause any of them unhappiness. As I’ve said above, I think it’s simply a marketing strategy, but it’s one which could go severely awry upon the release of The Force Awakens.
Aside from saddening Prequel-fans, Disney and Lucasfilm are also setting themselves up for potentially disappointing the OT fans who are currently loving the whole “practical effects” sale talk. When BB-8 rolled out on stage at Anaheim I screamed out loud because it was amazing to see this prop actually moving. But, as was argued by Rogue 47 in his post ‘Practical and CGI…what does that even mean?’, anyone who thinks that the BB-8 we saw in the teaser trailers so far is the one that they showed us is severely mistaken. There is no way that model could go that fast or operate that smoothly, so of course he is enhanced if not wholly created through special effects in the final footage. And here is where we get to the subtly of what has been said, officially. Everything that is being said about the practical effects has been to please fans, has been to get them excited and to make them forget about what some think were terrible effects in the PT. But every time there has been added sentences that of course there are special effects and that the practical effects were mainly there to give the actors a physical space and props to act in and with. Star Wars is set in space and as such there is no way around creating the Galaxy exactly the same way they did in the Prequels (and the Originals I may add): through green screens and CGI. By over-emphasizing the old school way in which The Force Awakens is being made, Disney and Lucasfilm are in danger of creating a second rift within the fandom, namely of those who utterly dislike the Sequel Trilogy while loving either the OT or all six films. And this rift won’t rear its head straight after release, oh no. Because initial reviews for the PT were good, better than for the OT. The change of heart towards the PT has been growing steadily until it was accepted by popular culture as fact and so it might again with the Sequels. A merchandise can’t survive if it keeps cutting itself into different parts and neither can a fandom.
Another, more scary, answer to the question posed in the title is that those currently in charge of Disney and Lucasfilm actually actively dislike the Prequels and that this is what we have to look forward to as Prequels-fans for the rest of their run. Although I can hardly imagine it, it would be soul-crushing if true. The Prequels and the stories told in them are crucial to the complexity and depth of Star Wars and to think that those in charge of it are casually dismissing that is slightly terrifying. But looking at the quality of footage that we’ve seen so far and how much it thematically and visually links up with the Prequels, this seems very unlike hence my conviction that it is all for marketing purposes.
It is a bitter pill to swallow that something you love and hold dear is being sacrificed in order to please a minor part of the fandom. Fan-service can go too far, especially if the idea of what fans want is being skewed by what popular culture holds true. Because not every single Star Wars fan is out to burn and destroy every single copy of the PT. Not every Star Wars fan hates them. A lot of us love The Phantom Menace, The Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith just as much as the Original Trilogy. For many fans, especially the “younger ones”, the PT was their way into the Star Wars fandom. It was how they discovered Star Wars, how they made it something that was theirs as well as their parents’. What gives me hope are those currently actively working on projects in the Prequel era, whether it’s Star Wars: Rebels or novels such as Dark Disciple by Christie Golden. The whole Prequel era is still drawing in new fans and they will be who keep the fandom alive and going strong in the next decades.
This post isn’t meant to be about praising the Prequels into heaven and tearing those who are critical of them to the ground. That is as far away from my intention as possible. What I do want this post to be about is the need for some self-reflection as a fandom. The Prequels are a part of Star Wars as much as the Originals are. They are canon and therefore fact. Rather than argue about how stupid some of us are for loving them, why can’t we have actual interesting debates about the story-lines, about the continuity of the themes throughout the six films, about how the difference in look makes total sense, story-wise. Star Wars is so rich and has so much to offer that it is simply a waste of time to try and teach each other how to be “true fans”. There is no one way of liking something and if we want to remain an inclusive and friendly group of fans, there needs to some changes. And this is where we come back to those in charge. If the people at the top keep it up with the comments about the Prequels, or more accurately, with the deafening lack of actual comments about the Prequels, they will only increase the rift between fans. George Lucas was always a defender of his Prequels, calmly proclaiming them to be canon and to be as he wants them to be. With him no longer at the helm, one can only hope that his mantle will be picked up by someone else. Although I have someone in mind, *cough*Dave Filoni*cough*, it should really be everyone who gets in on it. J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy should know they are addressing all the fans, not just the negative sourpusses who hate everything that came after 1983.
Like everything else, Star Wars and its fandom have their flaws but that is also what makes them beautiful. We at Clone Corridor will continue to defend, analyse and love the Prequels as much as the Originals and will do the same for the Sequels once they come out. We hope everyone else will as well.
May the Force be with us all.