Star Wars as literature? It can be done! (and also, hello)
In the words of the immortal pirate Don Karnage, greetings and salivations! I’m Rachel, perhaps better known to fellow TF.Ners as Thrawn1786, and I will be contributing to this wonderful world of words about all things Star Wars. This should be quite the adventure for all concerned parties, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you.
Here’s what you can look forward to from me in future posts/articles: on a personal note, I have two college degrees, both in English with a Creative Writing concentration (aren’t I fancy). What does that have to do with Star Wars, you ask? Well, it means from time to time I might put an academic perspective on things. I did spend eight years of my life analyzing everything under the sun, and not to toot my own horn, but I figure I can put some of that knowledge to good use. This might mean I’ll revisit some of my favorite EU stories and discuss them from literary and writer perspectives and how they hold up several years removed from the hype- expect to see a future post about Shadows of the Empire, my all-time favorite Star Wars EU stand-alone novel, for example. I also plan to look at some of the basic themes in the EU and the movies. Heck, I might even talk about the music! Point is, with me variety is the spice of life, and I love looking at and discussing all aspects of Star Wars.
Letsee, I suppose I should share my obligatory “how I discovered Star Wars and fell in love with it and my life has never been the same” story now. In two words: Girl Scouts. No I have not lost my mind.
To make a very long story short, my older sister was a member of a local Brownie scout troop. Our mother was the troop leader, and thus meetings were often held at my house. I was too little to participate and so my dad was stuck with the job of keeping me out of the way so I wouldn’t screw things up for the Brownies. One day dear old Dad turned on the Disney Channel (does anyone remember the GOOD Disney Channel besides me?), and Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope was playing. It was the trash compactor scene, and I remember a feeling of fascination and awe coming over me. What the heck was this? It was awesome! It was fantastic! Wait, is that a big slimy worm in the water? Ewwwwwww! And that was the beginning of the end. Or the end of the beginning. However you want to look at it, I was hooked. I loved watching Return of the Jedi for the Jabba’s Palace scenes, collecting the Micro Machines playsets, and reading the EU way before I was old enough to truly appreciate the plots and nuances on each page.
Over the years, my love of Star Wars has grown by leaps and bounds. Growing up, checking out the newest EU book from my local library was an unofficial tradition, and it didn’t matter how many times I saw it, I still got upset when the Executor crashed into Death Star II in Return of the Jedi. Did I mention I’m a loyal Imperialist? Anyhow. Even the prequels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (the movie) did not sway my affection. Now that I’m done with school, I plan to embrace Star Wars all over again, and find much more to love and learn about.
Getting back to the literary themes, I’d venture to say Star Wars is the best traditional non-literary cinematic film series of all time, though one can definitely point out literary roots/aspects throughout the movies, books, and other forms of the saga. When I started writing this post, I asked myself, “what is it about Star Wars that keeps me coming back? Yeah, the costumes are pretty, and Ewan McGregor’s nice eye candy for the prequels, but there have been a lot of disappointments. Why do I still love Star Wars?”
The answer came to me pretty quickly, and it was pretty simple: the storytelling. Star Wars is a continuation of the myths and faerie tales we grew up reading/listening to as children, and everyone has a favorite faerie tale or story that they still love to read/hear and pass on, whether it’s to friends or children of our own. So it is with Star Wars. Star Wars has its own canon and is even taught in universities and colleges, and not just in film criticism classes. It has its own mythos and has been celebrated in every form of storytelling possible. We know the stories by heart and will continue to study and share the adventures of the Skywalkers, the Jedi, and the Sith and always will, no matter how many interpretations there might be, or how many times George Lucas might re-do the movies. Granted, there are parts of the Star Wars story/stories that could have been written better, but what works works well enough that I can forgive those lesser sections.
To return to the whole eight years of college that I mentioned earlier, having studied quite a bit of literature, from the Native American Trickster tales to Margaret Atwood’s novel Oryx and Crake, you’d think I’d have taken the academic point of view and dismissed Star Wars as trivial. Nope! Without really delving into the matter (I’ll save that for a future post), I’d say I enjoy Star Wars all the more now because I have learned the literary traditions that Star Wars draws from, and I can enjoy, appreciate, and identify those patterns more than ever. My experience and love for Star Wars has been enriched by academia and literature, which is amazing in itself (and just goes to show you that college classes are never as boring as people tell you they are). As author Philip Pullman once said, “stories are the thing we need most in the world;” I know I will always need Star Wars.