The New Star Wars Movies Aren’t Canon
Is that a click-baity article title? Yes. Is it true? Meh.
Let me explain: I’ve always considered myself the hugest Star Wars fan of all time. I bought one of the first RealFX lightsabers when they cost roughly the same as the rent on a studio apartment (in, like, Detroit). I own the soundtrack CD to “Shadows of the Empire” and use it for the Star Wars RPG I’ve been running for roughly ten years. I’ve personally played so much “X-Wing,” “TIE Fighter,” and “X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter” that if I died tomorrow, and the Grim Reaper let me play a game Bill and Ted-style to escape hell, I’d choose “X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter” (Map: Furball in an Asteroid Field) and A-Wing him right in the boney face.
So it’s no surprise that I’m pretty pot-committed to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which is what the nerds call “all the stuff that ain’t the movies.” Video games, RPGs, and enough Star Wars paperbacks to level 12% of South America’s gorgeous rain forests. It’s not even out of line to suggest that I (and many geeks of a similar stripe) have spent more time on the EU’s supplemental material than on the movies.
The math checks out. Let’s say you watch all six movies every year, that’s 13 hours. If you read one Star Wars book a year, you’d easily double that time. And that’s one book a year. One Star Wars video game is easily 10-80+ hours, depending on how obsessive you are (or how long the game is). I don’t even want to calculate how many hours you could play a tabletop Star Wars RPGs, because those numbers have not yet been discovered by human mathematics.
You can see now how lop-sided this whole thing can get if you really like to spend your spare time in a galaxy far, far away. And that’s assuming you watch all six movies every year, which, come on. Some people, for reasons that don’t need to be stated, probably only watch three.
So What’s Your Point, Nerdboy?
“I get it,” you might say, “you’re a big Star Wars geek, get to your aggravating point.”
Okay, I will. Here’s my aggravating point:
I’ve come to the epiphanic realization, just this morning, that the new Star Wars movies aren’t canon. Not for me, and maybe not for you, if you’ve been as frustrated as I’ve been with the complete dissolution of the EU. For me, these new movies are really well-produced, gorgeous, exciting fan-films.
Let’s be clear – I don’t mean this in a shitty, angry fanboy way. With internet textual transmissions it’s easy to lose tone, so let me elucidate: I could not be more excited for these new flicks. For instance, I uploaded this video to YouTube right after watching the first big Episode VII trailer:
I’m going to these movies at midnight. I may or may not dress up. I’m even confident enough in J.J. Abrams to say that I’ll probably love “The Force Awakens.” Is that a ridiculous statement? Yes. But I want you to fully understand how happy I am about the new movies.
I’m not an angry fanboy. But I have been frustrated. Getting a psychological handle on the complete eradication of two and a half decades of stories and characters has been impossible for me. And, judging from the internet tornado, I’m not the only one to feel this strange bit of grief.
I’ve been wrestling with these feelings, conflicting love for the new and love for the (apparently deleted) old. I want to hear new stories – I have no interest in the movies covering the same yarns as the books, because that’s boring. However, once it became clear that the eradication of the EU was done with Death Star-like totality, our collective nerd heart sank. No Jacen and Jaina, at all? No Mara Jade at all? Literally all new characters? It didn’t just feel like a house-clearing to make writing the movie easier – it felt like getting a new manager at a job, and him deciding that (right or wrong), all the methods used before he got hired were wrong.
It felt like a snub. You can see how conflicted I’ve been from this article I wrote when the actors were first announced – it’s filled with hand-wringing fear over whether or not the new filmmakers were going to use the EU characters. Well, turned out I was completely wrong on every possible guess. Which, being wrong is fine – heck, I predicted it in the article. It’s not my own bad guesses that bothered me the most – it was the realization that the game was impossible to win.*
And Really, It’s Not That Crazy
I wrote this article to share an epiphany that helped me repair the cognitive dissonance I’ve been feeling between excitement and frustration, in hopes that people going through the same thing might find some solace. If I see the new movies as fan-fiction, my chest loosens, and breathing gets easier. If you’ve been feeling pissed and confused, I suggest you use this “headcanoning” to make the transition easier. Love the movies, love the books, and all will be well again. Kyle Katarn, Ganner Rhysode, and Kyp Durron’s stories remain a glorious part of the Star Wars universe, and you can enjoy what Finn, BB-8, and Rey are up to as well.
However, for those who have a hard time just straight denying the official word: consider the source.
Really, no one has any actual say on it. I mean, legally, sure. However, and let’s be crystal here – they’re all just playing in somebody else’s sandbox. The new production company didn’t create Star Wars, and neither did the authors and game developers of the old EU. We’re all just fans exploring our shared love of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and the rest.
Do the new group of fans have the right to delete what the old group of fans did? Not really. They’re all just elbow-deep in the same toybox, and what you decide to be true is just as valid as what Disney board members have to say.
The old authors worked within the boundaries of George Lucas’ say-so (after all, they axed Anakin Solo because he asked them too), and the new authors and producers supposedly have Lucas’ outlines as well. So, either George Lucas approved both (likely), or, he really doesn’t care that much about either, and is happy to “endorse” whatever version of events his accountant thinks will generate the most revenue.
So don’t stress about who says what’s canon and what isn’t, including the author of this article.
George Lucas has willfully abandoned his child (thank God), which means this baby belongs to us, to our culture. While it may not legally be public domain, the idea that the Star Wars stories belong to anyone but the fans is silly. So, please, enjoy these bomb-ass movies, which I have full faith in. The bombness of their ass, I mean. But don’t forget – the stories belong to you, the kid who swung their mom’s curler around like a lightsaber and pretended that their trashcan was R2D2.
We shouldn’t plant any more war flags – it’s time to bury the lightsaber. Fans of old and new can all agree, lightsabers are really fucking cool.
And that’s what it’s all about.
*(In interest of fairness – obviously I haven’t seen the movie. Maybe “Rey” is a John Harrison-like Abrams code name for “Jaina,” and maybe “Captain Phasma” is actually Mara Jade. It’s entirely possible, and I understand that this isn’t written in stone until the movie flies.)