Why Rian Johnson’s ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Is “The Fandom Menace”

     December 20, 2017

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Spoilers ahead. Also, all credit for that epic headline goes to improv superstar Sean Paul Ellis

Imagine for a moment that J.K. Rowling, while writing the seventh book in the Harry Potter series, said to herself, “Fuck it,” and actively chose to undermine everything about her creation that had earned her millions of fans (and dollars) in the pages of that final tome. Think about how differently the fifth season of AMC’s Breaking Bad would have been had Vince Gilligan decided to redeem and ultimately save Walter White despite the character’s no-turning-back transition “from Mr. Chips to Scarface.” Or ponder, if you will, what our world would be like had the final season of LOST actually been good, or if Dexter paid for his crimes instead of becoming a lumberjack. What these stories have in common is a creative force at the height of power and popularity who held their fandoms in the palm of their hands, and, with a guaranteed turnout and payday for their efforts one way or the other, chose whether to reward their fanbase with a satisfactory conclusion, or bring it all crashing down around them out of a narcissistic desire to destroy their own creation.

I’m a fan of the chaotic creative. Without such unpredictable forces, the arts would never advance. Andy Kaufman never would have blurred and pushed the boundary between the acceptable fiction of TV and the rock-solid foundation of reality. St. Elsewhere‘s final hour, “The Last One”, would never have blown the minds of viewers after 136 episodes by creating the fiction-within-a-fiction of the Tommy Westphall Universe. And, honestly, Loki would be a lot less fun if he always had to play by the rules. These creators are the demigods of their own universes, and they can do with them as they please.

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Image via Lucasfilm

Star Wars, however, is neither Rian Johnson‘s nor Disney’s creation, even if Star Wars: The Last Jedi happens to be. That honor belongs to George Lucas … or at least it did until his tinkering with the original trilogy and the substandard performance of the prequel trilogy weakened his foundation before ultimately handing over the Star Wars deed to Disney for $4 billion. That might still sound like a lot, even when compared to the $52.4 billion valuation of Disney’s Fox buyout, but it’s a reminder that Disney rarely makes bad investments. What they do better than anyone is acquire, adapt, and transition existing properties into a form that fits their well-oiled machine. They know that the fandom, which has buoyed Star Wars since Day 1, remains hungry for–perhaps even addicted to–more content.

So does it make sense to think that Disney would be all smiles to see Johnson’s The Last Jedi shitting all over the dedicated fandom’s forty-year investment into every conceivable nut and bolt in the Star Wars mythology? No … unless you consider the idea that the Old Fandom (ie Lucas-era fans) is being pruned away like dead limbs to make way for the New Fandom (ie Disney-era fans), an eager bunch who are ready to buy up Porgs and all manner of BB-8, Finn, Rey, Kylo Ren, and Poe merchandise while the foundational fans embarrass themselves with petition tantrums.

The burning down of the previous Star Wars mythology to make way for the new one is an ugly, mean-spirited truth beneath the progressive narrative veneer of The Last Jedi, and the decision to do so was every bit as much a financial and marketing decision as it was a creative one. While critics and the New Fandom are busy fellating the creative forces for the forward-thinking story of The Last Jedi that tears down previously established mythology, they’re also blinded by the fact that the Disney machine is playing a grand confidence game, undercutting Lucas’ creation for their modern, more profitable version of Star Wars. The worst part of this grift? We’re eating it up by the handful.

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