“[W]ould you want to be judged on the three or four worst comments you’ve made since the war started?”
~ Jaina Solo to her father Han, Dark Journey
Earlier today EW.com revealed an exclusive sneak peek and corresponding announcement for this Friday’s episode of The Clone Wars. Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) will be voicing the role of Dengar, a bounty hunter summoned by Darth Vader to pursue the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back – the actor’s favorite Star Wars movie.
The reaction has been strong in some corners of the Star Wars community, including tweets directly to supervising director Dave Filoni, due to Pegg’s outspoken criticism of the Prequel Trilogy. I think it’s worth remembering that Pegg is an entertainment figure and comedian, and much of his negativity has always come across to me as hyperbole. It’s also a time to keep in mind that being a fan does not require blanket approval of all six movies – or the books, cartoons, and whatever else has been spawned from the franchise. Fandom comes in all shapes and sizes, even liking just one movie, book, or comic.
Admittedly, it’s rough when other fans are trashing parts of the fandom you specifically like. I’ve been there with one of my favorite EU books, Dark Journey. As a fan of the book, though, I’m willing to admit it’s got some quirks that might not appeal to others. While I like The Phantom Menace because it has my all-time favorite lightsaber duel and the best portrayal of Padmé as a strong female action heroine, it’s also my least favorite of the six films, and I get where people are coming from when they critique the movie. Star Wars owes its success in part to the passion it evokes in fans; the trade-off can be passionate reactions against some of the storytelling decisions.
I’m really excited to have Simon Pegg as a guest voice on The Clone Wars. Simon’s a passionate fan who can talk Star Wars for hours, and he cleared some time on his busy schedule to beam over from the final frontier into our universe. He voices Dengar, the scruffy-looking brute of a bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back who you’ll see in his prime this Friday. – Dave
If Dave Filoni vouches for Simon Pegg’s fan passion, that’s enough for me. Ultimately, the take-away is that Lucasfilm doesn’t expect slavish devotion and that the company respects the fans’ right to throw our hands up, snark, or offer up criticism. The day the franchise should be worried is the day no one cares enough to voice their opinion.
That leads to the second big Star Wars news item of the day, which sparked strong negative reactions in some quarters, too. (Why is it these things always come in pairs?) From Frank Parisi at the Star Wars Books Facebook page:
The previously planned Nomi Sunrider novel (to be written by Alexander Irvine) has been cancelled due to changes in direction and concepts in the overall publishing plans. However, look for some exciting new announcements about 2013 (and beyond) in the coming months. [emphasis added]
Obviously this announcement has been met with some disappointment, especially from fans who were really looking forward to this particular book. Certain fans also have expressed concern that this cancellation bodes poorly for the state of female leads. When I first caught this news today on my phone, though, that wasn’t where my thoughts went at all.
This isn’t the only book in recent years to get cancelled. Blood Oath, which was supposed to feature a male Jedi character, came up short of production. It had great cover art, though, and after reading Apocalypse I really wish that book had been written. For whatever reason, it didn’t work out. After years spent in the corporate world, I know there are a couple things you never want to have to do, and one of those is going to the bosses and asking for a write-off. So I think it’s fair to conclude the decision to cancel a book is never taken lightly.
Fans also need to remember the Nomi Sunrider book was planned, scheduled, and written prior to the change in faces at Star Wars Books. Last fall Lucasfilm, Del Rey, and Dark Horse met to discuss the direction of the books and comics as well as overall publishing plans. For whatever reason, something didn’t click between this book and the current team’s vision for the books. Yes, I was one of the fans excited to see a female Jedi get the lead role in a book, but I can also say I’m only passably familiar with Nomi Sunrider. As a proponent of better portrayal of female characters in the EU, I immediately saw several potential traps to pulling off her story when I read up on her backstory. Personally, I’d rather the books work to strengthen their portrayals on female characters than end up with another man-with-boobs like Kerra Holt, who failed to engage female fans, or any other type of unrelatable or unflattering female character. It’s entirely possible Alex Irvine did a great job working around those traps, and the characterization had nothing to do with the decision; with non-disclosure agreements a longstanding (and eminently reasonable) part of the authors’ contracts, we’ll likely never find out the reasons. Without knowing more, the simple fact that the Nomi Sunrider book was cancelled isn’t enough to draw any informed conclusions. Having seen my fair share of leadership turnovers in corporations, I’ll give the new team some time to put their stamp on the EU books and comics before I draw any conclusions about whether this book’s cancellation has any significance for the future direction of the portrayal of female characters.