Dear Star Wars,
Well, the cast for “Star Wars, Episode VII” is announced.
To say that I am obsessed with “Star Wars” would be an understatement. There was a time when I seriously considered getting C-3PO’s likeness tattooed on my lower back. Fortunately, this passed, but that does not prevent me from awakening each morning on “Star Wars” sheets as my alarm clock plays “The Imperial March.” It arms me for the day. I have been to convention after convention, gone speed dating and if all civilization dies and technology is suddenly wiped out, I will be able to reconstruct the entire Original Trilogy entirely from memory, reciting it line-by-line as we huddle around a campfire, complete with hand-gestures.
The only thing I love more than “Star Wars” is giving my money, hand over fist, to George Lucas (now, Disney). I paid to see “The Phantom Menace” in theaters for its 3D re-release, when I had no reason to expect that anything would be different except the ticket price. I cannot think of any way you could alienate me from the series. If you haven’t done it now, after the one-two punch of Jar Jar Binks and the romance of Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, you’ll never be able to. Hayden brought all the layers and depth of character that you would expect in a 30-second PSA against teen drinking (“I hate sand. It’s rough… and it gets everywhere.”) while Natalie Portman delivered all her lines as though Hayden had trapped her in his basement and she was saying whatever she thought would be most likely to get her out (“I truly? Deeply? Love? You?”) while fighting the urge to inch slowly away from him. And Jar Jar was — well, Jar Jar. My point is, there is nothing you can do to me to convince me that the franchise is ruined.
It is perhaps for this reason that my suggestions never seem to get taken into consideration. “We made Episode I,” someone in a writers room no doubt observed, “and yet she came back and saw Episode II. After Episode II, she came back and saw Episode III. There is nothing we can do to stop her.”
For fans like me, all you have to do is slap “Star Wars” on the name of something and we will buy it. I will walk barefoot to Omaha in order to attend the book signing of a guy who appeared briefly in the background of a scene in Empire Strikes Back and said “Yes, sir.”
All this by way of saying: I am invested.
I am definitely excited by the new cast. Domnhall Gleeson! Oscar Isaac! John Boyega! Adam Driver, with clothes! Daisy Ridley, as the new representative of Everyone With Double-X Chromosomes Everywhere!
A few questions persist, however, and it seemed as good a moment as any to air them:
-Why are there never any blondes in space?
-Why, in space, is the Male: Female ratio something like 3720:1? Does it have something to do with evolution? (People have theorized about this.) Does passing the Bechdel Test disrupts the Midichlorians? If so, this would be just one more reason to ditch the Midichlorians.
-Seriously, is there just no Bechdel Test in space? Certainly lots of things that women are accustomed to seem not to exist out there, such as other women who are not your employees. And underwear. As George Lucas famously told Carrie Fisher, “There’s no underwear in space.”
-I know in the original trilogy Obi Wan says that Anakin was “a good friend,” but then in the prequels the only thing they do is speak stiltedly to one another as though they are, at best, colleagues who carpool occasionally. Is there more of this kind of character development to look forward to, or is someone once again on staff who understands the difference between showing and telling?
-Maybe the reason there are so few women is that “Star Wars” is set A Long Time Ago, and space history contains few women? If so, are things better for them now?
-Why aren’t there any blondes, though? I know Luke and Anakin both start out blonde, but they change color with the seasons. No one who speaks for any length of time is blonde. Maybe Lobot started blonde, but when we meet him he is bald and wearing a fancy headpiece, so we will never know.
-How, in the course of a mere nineteen years, did everyone forget that there used to be All Kinds of Jedi All Over The Place Waving Lightsabers Around, to the point that they now talk about the Force as an “ancient religion” and even Obi Wan, who was there at the time, says the lightsaber is “an elegant weapon of a more civilized age”? Seventeen years ago, Hanson was big, and we don’t refer to them as “the elegant band of a more civilized age.” Is this going to happen again?
-There are more female Twi’leks, that species with dangly flesh things for hair, than human blondes. I’m sorry to keep harping on this, but — is there some reason? What does space have against blonde people? Besides, it is easier than delving too deeply into the woman question.
-But as long as we’re delving into the woman question: Princess Leia was and remains one of the greatest female characters ever. I’m glad I grew up watching her and taking social cues from her. I’m not even bothered by the bikini, or the fact that there were only three other female speaking roles in the entire trilogy and one of them had the single line: “Standby Ion Control: Fire.” But — how about more than one at a time? The prequels contained Padme, Anakin’s Mother, an old librarian lady named Jocasta Nu, and a passel of handmaidens with rhyming names. If there was anyone else human, I can’t remember her. Why is this? Do women who talk to each other disappear?
Also, I have some suggestions for plot. I know Michael Arndt started the screenplay, then left (maybe because it offered too few opportunities to punch viewers in the emotions, Toy Story 3-style?) but I am always happy to help finish it. I hear it is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi.
In human history-time, this is approximately the distance from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812. And who wants to watch a movie about the Star Wars equivalent of the War of 1812? The only thing we got out of that was shame, a national anthem and a reason for Canadians to feel secretly superior. I’m sure there are legitimate reasons for Large-Scale Space Conflict. I’d just rather get back into the universe slowly and fall in love with the characters before anything blows up, especially given the alarming tendency of Modern Blockbusters to confuse Making A Big Thing Explode with Establishing Conflict and Emotional Stakes. These are not the same thing, and we need to stop letting them get away with it!
We don’t even need conflict. I have long dreamed of watching a whole movie of Middle-Aged Luke, Han, Leia and Chewbacca just sitting around on a Space Porch talking about how much better things used to be and how something terrible has happened to pop music since their day. And now they’ve actually cast middle-aged Luke, Han and Leia. Are we about to let this opportunity go to waste? Don’t force them to go creaking around panting and shooting things and waving lightsabers and making us feel generally wistful about the passage of time. Just sit them down on a space porch and have them reminisce.
“Why don’t kids play outside on landspeeders like they used to,” Han can ask, “instead of wasting all their time sending pointless ten-second holograms to each other?” (You have to imagine that hologram sexting would be a big concern to Han and Leia, as parents.) Somebody can start to play with a lightsaber in the background, and Luke can say, “Careful, I cut your grandfather’s arm off with one of those!” Everyone chuckles. “You cut a bunch of arms off with that thing,” Han can say. “And one time, I cut open a tauntaun. I thought they smelled bad ON THE OUTSIDE!” (Leia smiles, but secretly she feels a little tense because she has heard this anecdote hundreds of times.)
Then their zany neighbors Lando Calrissian and Wedge Antilles can come over and they can all laugh and grill some gundark burgers, unless the gundark is something you shouldn’t eat because it is endangered. Luke can use the Force to flip the burgers.
-Alternatively, how about a romantic comedy? Working title: “Explosions in the Background.” It could be about two young, unsuspecting volunteers at a shelter for space pets who find love while cleaning up after an ill womp rat or one-armed wampa. Or something more along the lines of “Must Love Ewoks.”
“Rancor? I don’t have any rancor towards you!”
“No, silly, there’s a RANCOR COMING TOWARDS YOU!”
“I truly, deeply love you.”
Think of all the plush toys you could coax out of a film like that. If Star Wars is about one thing, it is a multi-generational, modern-day myth. If it is about two things, it is a multi-generational, modern-day myth that sells Lots and Lots of Tie-In Merchandise. Hey, I’d buy it!
Of course I would. I once owned an inflatable chair shaped like Darth Maul.
But bubbling beneath all this, I feel the most dangerous thing: the first stirrings of hope. What a good-looking cast! It whispers. Anything is still possible! Ah, hope. The most dangerous thing in Pandora’s Box. I hope it’s good. But I’ll be there anyway.