Welcome to another installment of EUCantina’s opinion column, EU Action/Reaction! When time permits, I tackle a specific Star Wars EU event that has garnered a significant reaction from Star Wars fans and offer my own view to further the discussion. Once you read the article, feel free to leave a comment and offer your own thoughts!
This week, I’ll discuss George Lucas’s role as the auteur – and why I think it’s poisoning the Star Wars fan community.
In film circles, there is belief that exists called the “auteur theory.” This theory argues that the major creative vision surrounding any film lies solely with one person – often considered the “auteur” (or, author) of a film. Auteur theory is just a theory, and it clearly doesn’t work with every film. But in the context of what it argues, George Lucas is a prime example of the auteur. We consider him to be the visionary mind behind Star Wars, and so he gets almost all of the admiration and loathing from fans. Did you love the podracing scene? Did you hate Anakin’s stitled dialogue? Even though the former should really be attributed to the special effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic, and the latter should be attributed to Hayden Christensen – we instead level all of our emotions squarely on Lucas. The problem with this theory, which I believe is simplistic but overall effective, is that it has now shackled Star Wars fans to the belief that we only ever care about George Lucas.
You Know, I Really Just Love Star Wars. That’s It.
I’m a big Star Wars fan. But honestly, that’s about it. I dig the Indiana Jones series too (another series Lucas is credited as being the auteur of, even though he didn’t direct the films). But I didn’t much care for THX-1138 or American Graffiti. I didn’t see Red Tails in theaters, and don’t really plan on watching it in the near future. And I certainly don’t care about things like Amanda Lucas’s MMA career. Yes, Lucas has such a small amount of films that he’s considered the auteur of, that Star Wars sites are now giving readers updates on the filmmaker’s daughter’s latest martial arts fight. This has got to stop.
You know, it’s perfectly all right for us to just be fans of Star Wars. As fans, we don’t have to feel the need to be beholden to every single thing that George Lucas touches. This obsession with George Lucas is hurting the fan community, because our love of Star Wars has never been about our love of George Lucas. It has been because of our love for an amazing story. Our love of memorable characters. Our love of science-fiction. Our love of jaw-dropping visuals. Whatever the reason was for our love of Star Wars, it was never about George Lucas. But now, it seems like most Star Wars discussion actually masquerades as George Lucas discussion. Star Wars has almost nothing in common with Indiana Jones or any of Lucas’s other films. So let’s stop trying to shoehorn them into the same discussion setting. Honestly, the reason for all the George Lucas discussion is fairly obvious – there hasn’t been a whole lot of Star Wars news worth reporting since Revenge of the Sith debuted in 2005. But what I don’t understand is why do we have to care about Red Tails? Why would a Star Wars website review a period World War II film that Lucas didn’t even direct, but no Star Wars websites reviewed Captain America last year – another World War II period film. The answer is simple: the involvement of George Lucas with the former and not with the latter. But doesn’t that highlight the real problem? Star Wars websites shouldn’t feel the need to run reviews or news of non-Star Wars movies just because of George Lucas. And we shouldn’t feel the need to care about it.
Support the Writers – The Real Auteurs.
When it comes to the Expanded Universe, George Lucas is given way too much credit. Yes, he’s the auteur of the films that the entire Expanded Universe is based on. And yes, he may even offer up plot points that can’t be detailed or decide which character should be killed. But Lucas has no real interaction in the planning stages of any of the Expanded Universe – The Clone Wars television show excluded. I feel like the true auteurs of the Expanded Universe are the writers. Yes, they’re just playing in Lucas’s sandbox, but that doesn’t make the contributions or storylines that they’ve contributed to Star Wars any less significant. Take Timothy Zahn, for instance. Here’s an author who certainly is deserving of being considered a Star Wars auteur – having given us memorable characters like Mara Jade and Thrawn, and planets like Coruscant. But as fans, why limit ourselves to his contributions to Star Wars?
Our favorite Star Wars authors often write plenty of books aside from just Star Wars. But how often do we, as fans, sit down and support these auteurs in the same feverish way we support George Lucas? How many readers of Republic Commando can claim to have read Karen Traviss’s Wess’har series or her Gears of War books? How many fans of Matthew Stover have, when not clamoring for his immediate return to the Expanded Universe, read his Caine novels? Certainly, there are fans out there who have jumped at the opportunity to read more of the work of their favorite authors. But not enough to make the other work of these New York Times Bestselling authors reach the list with every novel they write. If we, as fans of Star Wars, can dedicate so much time to the adoration of all things George Lucas, surely we can find some time to experience the original work of our favorite authors too. After all, they are the real auteurs of the Expanded Universe. Without them, the Star Wars fan community would be a fraction of the size it is today.
It’s a Big Universe Out There. Explore It.
Growing up as a child of the 1990s, the big comparison was always Star Wars vs Star Trek. In the last two decades, though, there’s really been no comparison between the success of the two franchises. That’s why that topic of discussion has fallen by the wayside. Without a “competitor” to compare and contrast, though, it seems that fans have lost the general ability to discover other stories worth exploring. Are we, as fans, really satisfied with being so close-minded that we only want to discuss the accomplishments of George Lucas? There is a wealth of science-fiction and fantasy films that are worth of discussion and comparison with Star Wars, and I am constantly finding myself appalled at the complete lack of general cinematic knowledge that many fans seem to have. Fans should feel free, and even encouraged, to experience Star Trek. It offers a different perspective on science-fiction. Why are we not discussing Star Wars and how it relates to appropriate films and television shows like The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, The Last Airbender, The Dark Crystal, the Alien saga, Stargate, Avatar, or Super 8? Why are we not looking to video game franchises like Halo and Gears of War to discuss not only story elements, but also the marked difference in video game presentation. I didn’t just pick these films and games at random, either. These are all stories that have acknowledged Star Wars as being an inspiration to them. As fans, we should be exploring and soaking up these other stories for prime discussion topics. If these other films, video games, and even television shows can share how Star Wars inspired the story found inside, shouldn’t we – as fans – have an obligation (or at least curiosity) to experience these stories and enrich our own love of Star Wars? Or would you honestly rather catch the latest fight score of Amanda Lucas while looking at pictures of Star Wars cakes?
As fans, we should be demanding stimulating discussion that keeps us coming back for more. We should recognize George Lucas for the creative force that he is, but without getting to the point where we are idolizing him. Like the rest of us, he’s only human. At the end of the day, he’s only going to tell the stories that he wants to tell. It’s pretty clear when you visit a Star Wars website that the site is going to be biased in favor of Star Wars. Now, that isn’t to say that you can’t find honest reviews of books, comics and the films – but at the end of the day, the love of Star Wars will keep any site from giving a truly unbiased viewpoint. What we, as fans, need to recognize is that this fiendish brand loyalty only exists in our eyes. And frankly, it only hurts our ability as fans to experience more intriguing stories – all of which are leagues more interesting than any of the non-Star Wars “news” that we seem to delude ourselves into caring about because it is tied to George Lucas. As the title of this column says, we don’t need George Lucas. Not in that mean way, where we’d be better off without him. I mean that, as Star Wars fans, we don’t need to be George Lucas fans too.
I think it’s time to cut some of our ties to Lucas. We don’t have to sever them all, and we can certainly still be cordial about it, but I promise – you’ll be a happier fan once you remove the auteur from view and simply focus on the Star Wars stories that you’ve always loved.