“Star Wars is fun, it’s exciting, it’s inspirational and people respond to that. It’s what they want.” – George Lucas
One of the primary strengths of the Star Wars franchise is that it continues to remain relevant decades after its inception. It has been enjoyed by countless people, of all ages, and it will likely continue to do so for many generations to come. To wit, Star Wars has serious staying power and the ability to enrapture fans both new and old.
So why does this fictional universe set in a galaxy far, far away seem to have an almost infinite capacity to capture the hearts and minds of its myriad fans? Honestly, I believe it’s because the folks at Lucasfilm have tailored Star Wars to reach the widest audience possible. What do I mean by this? Well, I find that the series resonates with different individuals for a plethora of reasons. For me, I find the themes of adventure, hope, and redemption to be the biggest pull. I also know plenty of kids who adore the Jedi characters’ heroism and want to emulate them. Plenty of fans gravitate to the villains of the series out of pure coolness factor as evidenced by fan groups like the 501st Legion.
“Always remember: your focus determines your reality” – Qui-Gon Jinn
Regardless of the reason, if you’re a fan of Star Wars, there is something that innately draws you to the series. I attribute this widespread appeal to something specific–consistency of tone. The tone, in a literary sense, can be defined as the attitude of the writer toward the audience. Since its inception in 1977, Star Wars has remained relatively consistent in its themes and goals.
I’m not going to lie, there is a specific reason, as to why I chose to write about this and why I feel that keeping the tone of Star Wars intact is extremely important. Over the past few years, I have been been exploring different forms of social media with the intent to connect with more Star Wars fans like myself. This experience has been very rewarding and I’ve met so many awesome people. Of course, not everyone is guaranteed to think the same way as I do, in terms of what is best for Star Wars. One of the most common complaints I see about the franchise is that it’s “too kiddy” or that it needs to be “darker.” It seems that some fans feel that the series would be better off as an adult-oriented, grimdark Warhammer 40k-esque galaxy.
There are a few problems with this darker, adults-only approach. One: it completely alienates a large portion of the fanbase. I’ve seen the unfortunate side-effect of this in fandom gatekeepers who are quick to call out “fake” or “casual” fans for liking content like Rebels or another new canon work. Problem two: this approach completely destroys the spirit of a lighthearted space opera like Star Wars in a big way. George Lucas was inspired by a number of works such as Flash Gordon when he created Star Wars and I don’t feel that this influence should ever go away. Problem three: you run the risk of a little trope called Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy if you rely on making your setting too grim. Basically, why should we care about our characters if they die or if everything they do is all for naught? In my opinion The New Jedi Order and its following Legends arcs came pretty close to this.
“You know I would say absolutely you can. You can kill off characters. You can turn them [to the dark side] if it serves the story. That’s something George [Lucas] always warned me about. You know, if you do this, do it for a reason. A reason that kids will understand. But don’t just do it to do it. Which is sometimes a hard thing not to do, to be tempted by.” – Dave Filoni
With all of that said, it is important to note that Star Wars can get dark when it needs to. Even a seemingly innocuous animated work like Star Wars Rebels can have its serious moments. (**Rebels spoilers ahead**) Last season, we saw Kanan Jarrus have his eyes burned out by Maul’s lightsaber and now, the recent season 3 debut episode showed the young Ezra Bridger mind-controlling an Imperial AT-DP pilot, into firing on his own comrades and then walk his machine into an abyss. Dark stuff, indeed.
The point with these examples was that they weren’t frivolously done. As evidenced by Filoni’s quote above, these instances had a purpose in showing that there are high stakes when it comes to facing or embracing the dark side of the Force. Being dark for the sake of being dark is pointless for storytelling. Even the upcoming gritty military film Rogue One isn’t exempt from this rule. Considering what the Rebels will attempt to heist, it can be surmised that hope and courage will be strong themes for the film as well.
“Now whereas fans, we kind of hold onto these things so hard. At times I think we change them too much and darken them too much and we forget their initial purpose. Our fundamental responsibility at least for me as a storyteller needs to be captivate the imagination of kids. You know, because they’re the ones that we need to give them the ability to 30 years later still love it like we do now. If we change it too much and make it too dark, then we kind of deny them that ability because they’re too frightened by it.” — Dave Filoni
As I mentioned before, Star Wars is so beloved because it appeals to a such a diverse group of fans. Please note that the point of this post was not to point the finger at anyone or to invalidate their opinion on what they believe the franchise should be. Truly, my hope is that the new canon will continue to emulate the films in tonal consistency–a balance of both lighthearted and dark moments in a meaningful blend.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!