With all the news that is floating around, I am doing my best to track down some of the Star Wars stories you may have missed — the ones on the “outer rim.”
My favorite today was out of the New York Times — not usually the first source for Star Wars news — where Nathalia Holt penned, “The Women Who Run the ‘Star Wars’ Universe.”
Hart is Hopeful
Outlining the history, roster, and duties of the Star Wars Story Group (founded by Kathleen Kennedy in 2012, when she succeeded George Lucas as Lucasfilm president), Holt writes: “While those in the film industry ponder how to better reflect the diversity of human experience in their scripts, at Lucasfilm, a small group of women and men may have found one answer.”
That answer begins with Kiri Hart, who told the Times:
As a writer I was very hungry to create female characters who felt real, and I was interested in telling stories from an outsider’s perspective…There wasn’t a lot of receptivity to the things I really wanted to write about at the time. I think there is increasing openness to those things now, which makes me really hopeful.”
Today, that openness might become quantifiable — at least in the Star Wars universe.
Holt explained: “A new, unpublished analysis of “Star Wars” films shows striking progress in their representation of gender and race. Using computer software that analyzes the content of movies, Shrikanth Narayanan and the University of Southern California’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab found that women spoke 6.3 percent of dialogue in “A New Hope,” the 1977 film that kicked off the franchise. In contrast, women accounted for 27.8 percent of all dialogue in “The Force Awakens” in 2015. Even more promising, in “Rogue One” (2016) nonwhite characters accounted for 44.7 percent of all dialogue, a marked increase from zero in the 1977 original.”
It’s an important read, which also speaks to the preliminary finding that shows the Star Wars universe “has an unusually high degree of female centrality, indistinguishable from that of men in the films, and one that appears to be increasing over time.”
The Philosophy of Star Wars: Embracing Failure
In another favorite feature, NPR’s Marcelo Gleiser has a theory about The Last Jedi:
There is a lot of meditation in this and other Star War movies, the emptying of the mind to establish contact with the essence of all things. Just like in meditation training, it is a hard thing to do. It takes discipline, perseverance, and tolerance to failure. The results don’t come quickly. They take time to grow and to mature inside. To learn, one must embrace failure and know that success is always temporary.”
Gleiser’s take is interesting (if not wholly unique), but clearly fits into the types of moments that seem to genuinely irk members of the audience as they sit back to watch the eighth episodic dispatch of our favorite space opera. Just a perusal of web headlines and the Twittersphere speaks to the kind of discord found in the fandom – and, by the way, that discord is nothing new.
However, Gleiser says it’s important to embrace a multitude of opinions as it is the will of the Force.
It all meshes well with the lessons from Yoda, that the Force is about balance in the universe, and that all creative balance is dynamic, a give and take, without winners. There can’t be only good or only bad. It’s as simple as that, and because of this, the story can’t ever be resolved, at least not without contradicting its central philosophy.”
Be sure to read the entire piece, which helped give me some peace as it applies to current fan conversations.
The Galaxy’s Growing Pains
In keeping with the stories collected above, and citing the below Twitter conversation, this morning EW.com’s Maureen Lee Lenker, blogged: “Rian Johnson has heard the fans’ complaints about The Last Jedi — and it turns out it doesn’t bother him that his film is sparking so many conversations.”
An even-keeled response if I’ve ever seen one. Johnson, a lifelong Star Wars fan looks to have compartmentalized negative fan reaction.
However, this afternoon, usual supspect and EW.com senior writer, Anthony Breznican, blogged, too.
I’m not going to say those who don’t like The Last Jedi are wrong, but I felt differently. So here’s my defense of what I think stands as one of the finest of the Star Wars movies.”
He then went on to pen an assertive and comprehensive defense of his own position. Again, Star Wars fans on either side of the fence will want to give it a solid read.
Mendelson unconvinced of The Last Jedi’s demise
Finally, and getting down to business (pun intended, sorry) Forbes’ Scott Mendelson was downright sarcastic about the supposed “shortfalls” of Episode VIII.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi earned another $17.8 million on its seventh day of release. That brings its week-long domestic total to $296.5m. That’s the second-biggest seven-day domestic cume ever, between Jurassic World ($296.2m) and The Force Awakens ($390.8m). So, yeah, with all the handwringing about trolling trolls mucking up the audience review scores on various opt-in polling websites, the movie is still making more money faster than any other film outside of the last episodic Star Wars movie. Insert obligatory #CanThisFranchiseBeSaved?”
Ha! Can this franchise be saved? We think so, Scott. We think so… JB