The Vreenak Report: Volume 1 - Jar Jar Binks

The Vreenak Report: Volume 1 – Jar Jar Binks

The Vreenak Report
Volume 1 – Jar Jar Binks

Named in honor of the under-rated Romulan senator from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I present the inauguarl Vreenak Report. If you need a refresher on Senator Vreenak, watch the DS9 episode “In the Pale Moonlight” with particular attention to the scene where he challenges the authenticity of a data rod.

This volume’s internet rage bait: Disney Confirms…

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Be like Han.

Be like Han.

Darth Maul and the Hollowness of Death

Entertainment Weekly recently posted an exclusive video that announced the return of Darth Maul to the Star Wars universe. For those who either missed or refused to watch the prequels, Maul was a Sith Lord—the same kind of baddie as Darth Vader—who used a double-bladed lightsaber. His first on-screen appearance was in The Phantom Menace in 1999.



In that film, a three-way lightsaber duel ended with Qui-Gon Jinn impaled through the chest and Darth Maul toppling into a deep shaft, deftly cleft in twain by the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Last January, viewers of the cartoon series Star Wars: The Clone Wars were introduced to Maul’s brother Savage Oppress (pronounced in typical Star Wars ­style as sah-VAHJ OH-press), who was a proposed apprentice to help Count Dooku overthrow his master and take control of the Dark Side of the Force. At the end of that trilogy of episodes, viewers were told that Darth Maul was out there in the incredibly vague somewhere in the galaxy, and Oppress had to go find him.



So, apparently this means that Darth Maul does indeed live and, by some miracle, survived being cut in half by a lightsaber and falling several stories. Insert exasperated sigh here.

Supervising director Dave Filoni told Entertainment Weekly that it makes sense in terms of Star Wars lore:


Fans will note that there is precedent for this kind of resurrection. “The Dark Side of the Force is the pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural,” Darth Sidious says in Revenge of the Sith. Sidious and his master found a way to use the Force to cheat death—that’s how he was able to keep Vader alive after that little swan dive into a lava field. Couldn’t Maul have picked up on some of that too? Says Filoni, “He’s suffered through a lot to keep himself alive and implemented the training of his master to do so.”



There’s also significant financial interest for Lucasfilm in this move. The episode(s) pertaining to Darth Maul will be aired in early 2012, and, by a cosmic coincidence I’m sure, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 3-D is premiering February 10, 2012. It goes without saying that I’m annoyed by publicity stunts written into entertainment to drive interest in a related property. Anyone else remember the martial arts episode of Star Trek: Voyager called “Tsunkatse”? WWE Wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a guest star, and both WWE and Voyager were on UPN.

This entire mess—and yes, I’m calling it a mess—brings Star Wars into the realm of pointless character resurrections to drive sales. It also revives the eternal frustrations I have with Star Wars fandom. Since Maul was by far one of the coolest and most bad-ass characters in the prequel trilogy, the news that he would return to the franchise was understandably received with fan praise. At the same time, others started to look at how this affects the overall quality of the franchise and aired their opinions. In response to critical fans, some blogs, including Star Wars Underworld, questioned the “fandom” of people with differing opinions. While I appreciate a discussion on how they plan to resurrect a character and do it well, it’s certainly not the first time that the Star Wars social media sphere has played the card of questioning how someone can be a fan of something while being critical: the hosts of The ForceCast did it numerous times before I stopped listening to the podcast back in May.

While other subsets of science-fiction and fantasy fandom can somewhat easily accept both positive and negative criticism toward the franchise of their choice, some Star Wars fans tend to follow the line of reasoning that if “you’re not with with us, you’re against us.” It’s all fun and games until you disagree with Uncle George and refuse to drink the blue milk, and I’ve already seen backlash from refusing to buy the Star Wars Blu-Rays and my decision not to support the 3-D re-releases. Having intelligent discussions about the positives and negatives of a franchise is one thing, but I cannot support attacking each other for having differing opinions.




The bigger problem I have with this is an issue that has plagued comic book franchises for decades, and that is in the pointless death and resurrection of characters. In real life, religious beliefs aside, death is pretty permanent. In storytelling, death is a result of failure, the completion of a heroic journey, or the motivation to start that journey. In a smaller subset, that death results in a significant change of character dynamics—such as regenerations in Doctor Who, or the evolution of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings or Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars—but those deaths still carry the impact of the end of a journey and how it affects the characters around them.

Simply put, to reverse a death negates that impact and cheapens the victory for the winners.

In The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul’s death marked two important character changes: First, it displayed Obi-Wan Kenobi’s maturity and readiness to be promoted from apprentice to Jedi Knight; second, it marked the beginnings of Anakin’s destined path. The death of Darth Maul was a very important turning point for the Jedi themselves, as they discover that the Sith had indeed returned.

While I look forward to finding out how Filoni and company accomplish this feat, I am very skeptical about the Star Wars franchise as a whole at this point. If Filoni proves me wrong and does this well, I will be quite amazed. On the other hand, if this turns into yet another cheap comic book return—Superman wasn’t dead, after all, he was just resting—to sell tickets to yet another release of the Star Wars movies, then I’m done with The Clone Wars. I have supported the show since it was announced, but for me, it would be that damaging, and since George Lucas has final approval on the show, the blame would lie solely with him.

Come 2012, we shall see.

My Plans for Dragon*Con 2011

It’s time for Dragon*Con again, and I’m branching out a little bit more this year. Come find me and say hello!

I’ll be on the following panels:
A Little Cheeze With Your Syfy? on Friday at 10:00am, American Science Fiction Media (ASFM) track
Eureka: Café Diem on Friday at 10:00pm, ASFM
Superheroes on the Screen on Saturday at 11:30am, ASFM
BSG Universe – Evolution on Sunday at 1:00pm, ASFM
A Side of Mayhem With Your SF and Fantasy? on Sunday at 10:00pm, ASFM
Mormonism in Science Fiction on Monday at 10:00am, Star Wars (SW) track

Otherwise, I’ll be bouncing around the con having a wonderful time. I’m also planning on attending the Geek Radio Daily recording on the Podcasting track, Friday at 7:00pm.

If you’re going, I hope to see you there!

Star Wars Fandom and The ForceCast

The debate over the Star Wars Expanded Universe is a tale of us versus them that’s been raging for some time, but only recently has it exploded within fandom. The Expanded Universe (EU) matters greatly to me for reasons I’ve previously discussed, but in particular because the novels were my major gateway into Star Wars fandom. Unfortunately, that segment of my fandom has fallen under attack from people I trusted.

The ForceCast has become the podcast where there is no fan left behind unless they disagree with your particular version of fandom, in which case they will publicly mock and shame you on their program.

That’s why I have no choice but to stop listening.

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The prequels have been made. They exist. There is literally nothing you can do or say to make them go away. They may not be your cup of tea, but let’s remember: YOU can choose not to watch them! You can pretend like they don’t even exist! But being angry about it forever is going to accomplish nothing. Neither is being disrespectful. My father has done absolutely nothing to earn disrespectful tirades and personal attacks. He is a good man. He is not an evil genius plotting to ruin your life. You are entitled to your own opinions–whatever they may be, but be respectful about it. He may have made three movies you personally didn’t care about, but he was also responsible for three movies that inspired you and millions of others. So, do him and I (sic) the courtesy of having a little goddamn respect.
Katie Lucas (via Twitter, 4 May 2011)
“The Lessons of Lucasian Vision” is Published

Recently, ForceCast.net started a program for publishing listener editorials about Star Wars. Forcecast.net is the center of activity for the 2010 Parsec Award nominated Star Wars-themed podcast called The ForceCast.

You can find “The Lessons of Lucasian Vision” here. Please leave your comments either here or at ForceCast.net.

Rumors Do Not Truth Make

Hide your kids and hide your wife! Here comes this year’s series of Lucasfilm rumors.

Star Wars: Episodes VII-IX (and beyond?)

Last Saturday brought us news from usually reliable IESB.net – though that link might still be broken – that Lucasfilm was working on a new Star Wars trilogy.

From IESB.net via Bryan at Big Shiny Robot:

What do we know? First of all, these new film will have nothing to do with the live action television series currently in development. That show already has over 50 scripts ready to go and plenty of pre-production time and money has been spent on artwork and storyboards. Once that show goes into production, Lucasfilm hopes to be able to produce at least 100 episodes since that is the threshold for syndication in the United States.

Too early for story details but one thing that our source is certain about, they will not be prequels but instead sequels. It’s not for certain if they will be the long awaited Episodes 7, 8 and 9 but could instead be Episodes 10, 11 and 12 or possibly even further out in the Star Wars timeline. And by giving space in the timeline, possibly even as far as 100 years or 1,000 years in the Star Wars universe future, Lucas avoids having to make these stories “fit in” with what the previous stories have told.

Okay, look, IESB usually has a certain degree of reliability in these circles, but I doubt it. This pops up every year and each time is immediately debunked by Lucasfilm. In fact, Bryan contacted LFL, and predictably they said:

“This is, of course, completely false. George Lucas has lots of projects keeping him busy right now – including plenty of Star Wars projects – but there are no new Star Wars feature films planned.”

George Lucas has gone on record himself that there would be no more feature films. That would be the end of it, except IESB is playing the conspiracy card by claiming that LFL will debunk it, but they “will stand 100% behind our source.” You do that, guys.

Indiana Jones in 3-D

Here comes the next series, this time with the Indiana Jones quadrilogy going 3-D just like Star Wars. Once again, from Lucasfilm via Bryan at Big Shiny Robot:

This is completely false. Right now, we are totally focused on bringing Star Wars to 3D, and we have no plans to do an Indiana Jones conversion.

Just as I thought. I would have put more faith in this story since LFL is already in the 3-D process with Star Wars, but Bryan has a good point on that.

[…] I don’t think Indiana Jones lends itself as well to 3D. Star Wars is an effects extravaganza, Indiana Jones, for all its adventure, is pretty straight drama. It would be a lot easier to convert, I suppose, because there isn’t as much to convert.

But with as many hands in the Indy pie (Paramount, Spielberg, Ford, Lucas, etc.) I wouldn’t expect that LFL would be able to unilaterally decide to do this. In addition to the official Lucasfilm comment, it’s common sense that this wouldn’t be happening.

That should be the end of that. Until next year, anyway…

The Changing Look of Ahsoka Tano

For those of you watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a point of contention has been the character models and, in particular, how one of them is dressed. Enter Exhibit A: Ahsoka Tano.

Ahsoka Tano, Padawan to Anakin Skywalker, has spent the last two seasons adventuring around the galaxy in a tube top, tights, and knee-high boots. According to various sources, including the official site and Star Wars Insider magazine, Ahsoka is among the characters getting a revamp.

I feel this is a great direction for the series. It makes Ahsoka look older and more believable as a Jedi fighting in a war. I mean, granted, there have been a few costuming gaffes in Star Wars history, most notably the infamous Snow Bunny Padmé from the Tartakovsky Clone Wars short cartoons.

Skintight clothing in a blizzard? Somehow, I can’t quite believe that. But the current Ahsoka model stretches my suspension of disbelief to its limits as that poor little teenager tries to save the galaxy in tights and a tube top, which is apparently the only thing in her wardrobe. Either that, or The Gap had a sale and she stocked up.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop picking. I can only hope that this change in The Clone Wars is permanent.

Why the Star Wars Expanded Universe Matters to Me

Whenever you hear people start talking about Star Wars, there are varying general degrees to which people enjoy the saga. Some people only recognize the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi), while some add in the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith). Some fans add in the new animated series The Clone Wars, which takes place in the years between episodes two and three. Finally, there are those that include what is known as the Expanded Universe (also known as the EU).

Not to get too deep into the nitty-gritty details, there has been so much material published regarding Star Wars, from the films to novels, comics, and games, that there are varying levels of what is considered canon or official story. There are five levels of canon that establish the continuity. In order of precedence, continuity is established by films and their novels, then television series, then the combination of novels, comics, and games. The second to last in precedence is material that “may not fit quite right” and can used or discarded as seen fit. Finally, there is a category called “Infinities,” which is essentially made of “what if” stories, such as Luke freezing to death on Hoth.

Why does the Expanded Universe matters to me? Well, I never saw the original versions of the classic trilogy in theaters. In fact, my first experience with Star Wars was sometime around 1986 when my parents went out and the babysitter who was watching my sister and I asked if I had ever seen it. When I told her no, she put the pan and scan VHS tape on, which I fell asleep to after watching R2-D2 and C-3PO bicker in the desert. In fact, I never seriously watched the entire trilogy until after Easter 1993, when my parents gave me a copy of the trilogy novelizations and the paperback of Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, which was the novel that revived the Star Wars franchise after nearly a decade of silence.

Before that point, Star Wars was just an action movie trilogy with cheesy dialogue – let’s face it, the fans are responsible for elevating those classic stilted lines to pop culture status over the years – and great special effects. After reading Heir to the Empire and the novelizations of the films, I found a hunger I didn’t know existed, and I became a frequent patron of bookstores and public libraries in a search over the next decade for all of the Star Wars novels I could read. I also sought out the games and comics and even the extra cheesy Ewok TV-movies because the depth and detail that those sources could provide in addition to the films was, quite frankly, inspirational to me. I saw how the myth arc grew beyond what I experienced on a seventeen-inch television screen to the unlimited expanse of my imagination. More than that, reading Tim Zahn, Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Kevin J. Anderson, and other various authors as they took on the heroes and villains of the galaxy far, far away was what gave me the writing bug. I cut my teeth by writing Star Wars fanfiction, which of course no one will ever see due to how truly, truly horrendous it is.

In 1997, I finally got to see the classic trilogy on the big screen with the release of the Special Editions. Yeah, Greedo shooting first is a terrible thing, but to me, those movies were magical. I relished the changes George Lucas made and just had fun. After all, that’s what those movies were to me in the first place. I even saw each of the prequels on opening night, with their computer-enhanced effects and corny dialogue. For me, it was the same magic, although I grant you at a lower quality.

So why do I care about this now? Recent events in the new cartoon series, The Clone Wars, have been in conflict with the novels, comics, and games that have come before. Of course, the animated series takes precedence on the continuity scale, since George Lucas is directly involved. He’s even mentioned that doesn’t pay attention to the Expanded Universe, which has led some people to the conclusion that the EU doesn’t really matter anymore. Some people have taken to publicly celebrating every time The Clone Wars supersedes previous works. In fact, certain podcasters in the Star Wars fan community have gone as far as to describe the authors of EU works as “hacks”.

That’s the most painful part. I mean, if New York Times #1 bestselling authors are now considered hacks – someone who writes low quality work for pay – then what must my fellow fans think of struggling wannabe fiction writers like me or other fans? It’s insulting and only serves to drive unnecessary wedges into the fandom. Fighting amongst ourselves within the community serves nothing more than to divide us. We would be better served to acknowledge that some people accept the entirety of Star Wars as it stands, where others build their own canon based on what they enjoy within the franchise.

The EU is important to me because it represents a source of inspiration and motivation, but more than that, it represents a time of drought from 1983 to 1999 when we didn’t have anything but the original trilogy to enjoy. Just because we live a time of great prosperity in the franchise doesn’t mean that the classics don’t have a place. Furthermore, it doesn’t mean that those who enjoy it are any less of fans than those who watch the films.

We are all fans, and Star Wars is forever, no matter how we enjoy it. Our responsibility is to respect our fellow fans and pass the magic on to future generations. Only then will it live on in our hearts and minds.

Star Wars, Comin’ Right Atcha!

In case you missed it, the official site announced that the six live-action Star Wars films will be returning to your local theater, this time in 3-D starting in 2012.

My immediate response was one of apathy. However, after a few hours of thought and sleep, I’ve slightly adjusted my position.

First, in the world of 3-D films, I’ve only been able to see the effect once or twice. The first one that came to mind was during the stellar Space Station 3D IMAX film, which I caught last year. In that documentary, there is a long shot along the axis of the International Space Station that looks out into the depths of space, and that shot stood out very well behind the 3-D glasses. I remember taking off the glasses to look at the screen and get the full effect of what technology was doing. Unfortunately, the only other time the effect returned was when the astronauts were demonstrating weightlessness with a ball, and that was intermittent for me.

The second time I saw a 3-D effect work was at the fun but intellectually vacuous 4-D “ride” based on A Bug’s Life at Disneyworld, and that was during the typical “coming right at you” moments. I tried watching Up in 3-D, mostly because that was the only way our local theater presented it, but nothing ever looked three dimensional. I know there were moments, because the audience was “ooh”-ing and “ahh”-ing at those points.

My second big concern is in the technology side. If a movie is made in 3-D from the ground up, the effects tend to work better than if the movie is 2-D initially and rendered to 3-D later. Unfortunately, the Star Wars saga was born in 2-D, which makes me apprehensive at the quality of the end 3-D result.

I think my problem with 3-D is because I know that it’s a visual trick. In the sparse moments when I’ve forgotten where I am with a 3-D movie, the effects work, but if I’m thinking about the movie and the experience, all I see is a flat screen. So, the next response is, “don’t think about it.” Space Station 3D was a documentary about something I know quite a bit about, and honestly, was a significant chunk of eye candy. Like I’ve already said, A Bug’s Life 4-D was low on substance, lasted about five minutes, and was broken up with the “fourth dimensional” effects of rumbling chairs and blowing air to represent things that happen to the viewer in the show. Both instances involved distraction from thinking too much about the material presented on screen. The problem is that I can’t switch off the analysis during Star Wars movies. They’ve been a big part of my life since I was kid, and it’s hard to separate that.

Now, I don’t want to seem like I complete “Debby Downer” on this. I am excited for the saga to get another big screen release for another generation of children, but if Lucasfilm uses the current 3-D technology, I won’t play. I would love to see the films again with the theater experience, but I don’t want to sully that experience by filtering the imagery with 3-D glasses that don’t work for me. Like any other visual filter, the glasses tend to remove a portion of the vibrancy that I expect on the silver screen. Watching the 3-D films without the glasses is completely out of the question for obvious, headache inducing, reasons.

My opinion is tempered with the fact that George Lucas is an innovator. If anyone can create a method for three-dimensional filmmaking that is revolutionary, it is Lucas, and to paraphrase Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, I’ll be watching the developments on this project with great interest. If it looks like something I can enjoy, my butt will be in the seat for all six films. Until then, I have no choice but to remain cautiously optimistic.

Either way, we all know what the end result will be: A metric Bantha load of money deposited in the Lucasfilm coffers as fans either re-live or discover Star Wars again.

FLASHBACK: Jar Jar Binks

Originally submitted and posted on September 16, 2008 in response to the September 12, 2008 episode of The ForceCast


Jason, Pete, Jimmy, and the crew,

On the September 12 show, you asked for opinions about Jar Jar Binks, and I’d like to share mine with you.

In the movies, Jar Jar is portrayed as a bumbling idiot and an outcast in his society. He’s a klutz and responsible for making an annoyance of himself in Otoh Gunga in a vain attempt to fit in. Why do I love him? Because I personally identify with him. Jar Jar Binks in 1999 is me in 1999, when I was getting ready to graduate high school.

Jar Jar was in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking for breakfast when the Trade Federation invaded Naboo. He was confused by the goings-on around him, not sure why giant vehicles are plowing through his home, and not sure why some arrogant off-worlders are pushing him around. The thing is that Jar Jar Binks is pure of heart, even if he’s somewhat dim intellectually. He offers what he has, quite selflessly, and tries his best to help with the search for a hyperdrive and the Battle of Naboo, even if the tasks are well beyond his capabilities.

Later, as we know, he becomes a senator for Naboo, is bullied by Palpatine into declaring a state of emergency, and is the catalyst for the Clone Wars and the Purges. The reason he was selected by Palpatine is that he was a target of opportunity.

Star Wars fans don’t like him because he talks strangely, is somewhat slow, and not what we expect from the other street-smart characters in the saga. I identify with him because he is so willing to help out if given the chance, even if it is clumsily. I embrace the diversity that Jar Jar brings to the Saga’s table because he isn’t the same character as any random Jedi or smuggler.

To think that fans would shun this character because he is different than the norm saddens me, because wonder what they would think of any person who is clumsy, mentally challenged, but pure of heart. If they are willing to throw away the Gungans, or even one character for this, then do the fans have the grasp on diversity that we give them credit for?

While Jar Jar Binks is far from my favorite, I find him to be one of the strongest characters in the Star Wars universe. He may not have the Force, and he may not be good in a firefight, but he is like the focus of the Saga, Anakin Skywalker, in his purity of heart and passion to do the right thing.

I have grown and matured in many ways since the release of The Phantom Menace, but I still admire Jar Jar Binks for doing the best with what he had to offer the galaxy. He’s not a racist, and he’s not annoying; Jar Jar is a test of our acceptance for what others have to offer, which is the same lesson Qui-Gon tried to teach Obi-Wan. I hope we can learn the same lesson.

Kyle Newman, Why Do You Treat Me So Good?

I had the opportunity to see Fanboys this last weekend. The film is currently in limited release and found its way to Memphis about a week ago, and I discussed the unfortunate review by “movie critic” Roger Ebert in a previous post.

To put you in the scenario, I had a rather long day by the time I saw the film. After a rather rocky start, I spent the day at the Memphis Zoo with family. By the time we reached the theater, we were definitely tired, but since we were already downtown and didn’t want to make the hour-long trip again, we took the opportunity to visit the cinema.

After a rather amusing take on the typical Star Wars opening crawl, the film starts out at a Halloween party in 1998. At this party, several friends reunite based on their common fandom and desire to see The Phantom Menace, which by this point is eight months away. One of the friends who left the group to take on more “adult responsibilities” is also there, which causes contention with everyone else. As things progress, the friends decide to take a trip to California and break into the legendary Skywalker Ranch to steal a copy of The Phantom Menace. Where’s the motivation? Well, you see, one member of the group has an aggressive form of cancer and will not live to see May, and subsequently the first Star Wars film in sixteen years.

The film has some great moments, including a couple of showdowns between Trekkies and the Fanboys. It also has some great emotional moments that carry pretty strong messages about why we are fans. There are also some great cameos by Star Wars alums. The drawback from what could have been a fantastic film is the gutter humor, which I assume comes from the widely covered interference by The Weinstein Company.

Don’t get me wrong; I saw and enjoyed the American Pie films, and much of the raunchy humor involved here is less powerful than that, but somehow it doesn’t fit with the spirit of the film. Kristen Bell’s demonstration that the character Windows is more immersed in the virtual world than the real one was hilarious, but Kevin Smith’s cameo — while a great nod to the Jay and Silent Bob series – was enough to rip me out of the moment.

Despite its shortcomings, Fanboys is still a great tribute to the franchise I love, and I thank Kyle Newman for everything he did to make this possible. To paraphrase a line from the movie, I accept the movie, along with all its flaws, because of what it is. That’s what makes me a fan.

I give the film a 7.5 rating out of 10. For reference, the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films are in the 8 and 9 range.

Fanboys is rated PG-13 and runs 90 minutes. It is currently showing in 24 cities on 46 screens, and is rumored for DVD release in May.

Celebration of an Idiotic Lifestyle

On February 4, 2009, famed movie critic Roger Ebert launched his rather scathing review of the movie Fanboys. For those who don’t know, Fanboys is a film about Star Wars fans by a Star Wars fan. If you’re thinking Trekkies, then do yourself a quick favor and watch the trailer.

Trekkies was a focus on Star Trek fandom, highlighting the really wacky things they do. When I saw that film, I didn’t feel happy that someone was examining Trek fans. In fact, I wanted to melt into my chair and disappear. Trekkies implied that every fan of Gene Roddenberry’s franchise was a Starfleet uniform wearing social introvert who still lived in their parents’ basements with about fifty cats. Need I remind you of Barbara Adams, the alternate juror for the 1996 Whitewater controversy who wore her Starfleet uniform to the trial?

Apparently, this prejudicial mindset carries over to all science-fiction fandoms.

To quote Ebert’s review:

A lot of fans are basically fans of fandom itself. It’s all about them. They have mastered the “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” universes or whatever, but their objects of veneration are useful mainly as a backdrop to their own devotion. Anyone who would camp out in a tent on the sidewalk for weeks in order to be first in line for a movie is more into camping on the sidewalk than movies.

Extreme fandom may serve as a security blanket for the socially inept, who use its extreme structure as a substitute for social skills. If you are Luke Skywalker and she is Princess Leia, you already know what to say to each other, which is so much safer than having to ad-lib it. Your fannish obsession is your beard. If you know absolutely all the trivia about your cubbyhole of pop culture, it saves you from having to know anything about anything else. That’s why it’s excruciatingly boring to talk to such people: They’re always asking you questions they know the answer to.

While I defend Ebert’s right to his opinion, I have to take issue with the content. My interpretation of his words is that being involved in fandom means that you are enabled to be a social introvert. Furthermore, it enables you to have shallow relationships built on nothing more than your love of a facet of popular culture. Forget trying to build anything meaningful in a relationship because you’re incapable of doing it.

Roger Ebert, you’re doing it wrong.

In fact, Ebert went on to state:

[Fanboys] is a celebration of an idiotic lifestyle, and I don’t think it knows it.

While it is true that some science-fiction fans have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality, I argue that the majority of Star Wars fans do not share that problem.

First, let’s take a look at the 501st Legion, an international fan-based organization dedicated to constructing and building screen-accurate villain costumes from the Star Wars universe. At first glance, with over 4200 active members in 40 countries, one might think that this is just a worldwide Trek-esque Starfleet uniform party. That’s why they need a second glance.

From their charter:

"…The Legion is a volunteer club formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts and giving them a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion’s aims are to celebrate the Star Wars movies through the wearing of costumes, to promote the quality and improvement of costumes and props, and most importantly to contribute to the local community through charity and volunteer work…”


The 501st proudly contributes to charity organizations, and maintains a list on their website of groups they’ve worked with. In fact, they are famous for working with the Make-A-Wish foundation and terminally ill children.

I wonder what part of putting a smile on a young cancer patient’s face as they get to “meet” Darth Vader is idiotic. Anyone want to answer that for me?

The 501st works other events, such as conventions, for free. All they ask is that any money offered for their work is donated to a charity in their name.

Next, I focus on an astromech droid. In 2005, Jerry Greene worked with the R2 Builder’s Group to fulfill a little girl’s wish. Her name was Katie Johnson, and she had brain cancer. Her wish was to have an R2-D2 with one caveat: she wanted it pink. Soon enough, R2-KT was born.

R2-KT exists to entertain children and raise awareness for pediatric cancer. Money raised in events with R2-KT goes to Make-A-Wish and the Children’s Cancer Fund. Building on the penchant for Star Wars fans to collect, R2-KT has been made into a Hasbro action figure and a coin, the proceeds again going to charity. As of the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, R2-KT also entered the official canon, which is Lucasfilm acknowledging the efforts of their fans by making an icon part of history.

Again, Roger Ebert:

"Fanboys" is an amiable but disjointed movie that identifies too closely with its heroes. Poking a little more fun at them would have been a great idea. They are tragically hurtling into a cultural dead end, mastering knowledge which has no purpose other than being mastered, and too smart to be wasting their time.
When a movie’s opening day finally comes, and fanboys leave their sidewalk tents for a mad dash into the theater, I wonder who retrieves their tents, sleeping bags, portable heaters and iPod speakers. Warning: Mom isn’t always going to be there to clean up after you.


I have news for you, Roger. It may be fun for you to poke fun at Star Wars fans as we tragically hurtle toward a cultural dead end, but rest assured that we are above that. Being a Star Wars fan is not about knowing how many midichlorians Anakin Skywalker has or how many parsecs — an astronomical unit of length — it takes to make the Kessel Run. Being a Star Wars fan is about embracing the spirit of George Lucas’s vision and running with it.

I am a naval submarine officer, a faithful husband, a physicist, an engineer, a struggling author, a writer for a podcast, an Eagle Scout, and a college graduate nearly twice over. I’m also a Star Wars fan and a proud science-fiction geek. Believe me when I tell you Star Wars isn’t a lifestyle, but merely a facet of one. It’s a common ground and a solid foundation to start building relationships that mean something beyond the fantasy of pop culture.

If you spent any time at all with Star Wars fans, you would understand that we’re not about running around in costume for the hell of it or endlessly spouting lines from the films. We have social relationships that run deeper than movie scripts, most of which are developed and maintained for life. We believe in friendships that are maintained not only for the purpose of having them, and we don’t knife each other in the back when it’s convenient, unlike other fandoms.

I only wish that people could understand it instead of cowering behind their fear of diversity.