The One with The Maker

It probably won't surprise you to find out that I REALLY want to watch this documentary:

It's called The People vs George Lucas, and it looks like it's a very interesting discussion of Lucas and his legacy. More than that, it looks like it's a REALLY interesting discussion of "fandom" in general.

The people in this trailer/doc are complaining about the 1997 versions of the original trilogy that were updated and re-released in theaters for the 20th anniversary of Star Wars. Instead of just cleaning up the special effects and adding in one or two deleted scenes that didn't make the original cut, Lucas went back and retweaked several things in the series. The most (in)famous of these changes was probably the HAN SHOT FIRST Firestorm., in which Lucas modified the original scene in the Mos Eisley cantina so that Greedo fired first on Han, thereby explaining Han's willingness to shoot him dead.

A lot of fans believed that tweak stole some of Han's badass-ery, or softened his character too much. If the whole point of Han's character is to show his progression from a Devil May Care smuggler to a genuine Good Guy, I agree that it does fuzz up the beginning of his character arc. Lucas tried to explain the change:

I think this scene creates a whole new set of problems, though--like, HOW DID GREEDO MISS HAN WHEN HE WAS SITTING THREE FEET AWAY AND COMPLETELY STATIONARY???

Actually, the one that annoyed me even more was THIS tweak:

Mostly because it brings the WTFs and just LOOKS awkward. (P.S. This scene makes me so happy to watch. Ewoks! EWOKS!!!)

Ahem. Anyway.

I've been a member of many fandoms both online and off. I think fandom is absolutely fascinating both because you'll never understand true enthusiasm and dedication until you've experienced one, and because they can turn on the creator of the obsession so ruthlessly when they're upset or when they don't get their way. Lucas is the perfect archetype of this--I honestly can't think of any creator that's more universally disliked considering how many millions of fans the series has.

Can I give you an example of this universal dislike? At one of the Celebration conventions (for some reason I'm thinking it was Celebration II, but Google is telling me that it was likely Celebration III, and I'm kind of upset that I'm 23 years-old and already I've been to so many Star Wars conventions that they blur together), we were all outside, freezing out butts off, waiting to get into the official Star Wars Celebration store to buy the convention-only merchandise. It was cold, cold, cold and VERY windy, so you would think, when the conventional officials came out and started yelling, "If you want to see George Lucas, you can come inside now and wait where it's warm! Who wants to see George Lucas?"

You know who wanted to see George Lucas? Maybe four people. Out of at least a thousand.

One of the things I'm realizing now, as an author, is that once you've created something (whether it's a piece of art, a book, a movie, etc.) and it's out in the world, it doesn't fully belong to you anymore. Sure, you originated the idea and you know the characters better than anyone else could claim to, but fandom doesn't have to agree. Once a group of people fall in love with your creation, it's inevitable that they take ownership of it. That they believe they're right in what happens next, or their interpretation of the mythos/characters/themes/what-have-you is the most valid. And when you, the creator, tampers with something they really, truly love (as Lucas did with his re-releases) or upsets their expectations, the fandom can revolt. Because, in reality, they pledged their allegiance to your creation, not to you.

I still consider Star Wars to be one of the ORIGINAL fandoms and now one of the most recognizable. I'm sure some of this is because George Lucas was one smart bastard in negotiating his deal for Star Wars with FOX. Did you know that he basically got paid very little for the movies themselves, but retained all (or most?) of the merchandise rights? So when Star Wars merchandise exploded into stores (and, trust me, there's a TON of it--I spent the first 18 years of my life helping my dad look for it), he became very, very rich and film studios turned around and built merchandise rights into their contracts. There's so much Star Wars stuff out there that the characters and story were destined to become iconic. I think that being able to buy this stuff only reinforced that ownership that fans already felt.

I promise I'll stop rambling, but I wanted to mention the prequels, too, because they also go to show the rather wide divide between Lucas and his fandom. I remember reading several interviews with Lucas, in which he said that he was far more interested in creating the story HE wanted to tell than the story he thought fans would want to see. The prequels are just terrible; I think the only redeemable one is the third, and even that one is only liked because of the last 20 or so minutes. I understand that Lucas was trying to emphasize that it was a more refined time than the galaxy we see in the original trilogy, but the prequels have always struck me as very cold--almost sterile. I wonder if maybe Lucas didn't understand at the time that people were attracted to the original series not because of the special effects (cool as they were at the time), but because of the characters and the natural warmth they brought to the story. So sometimes it does pay to listen to what your fans are telling you, if only to find out what attracted them to your story/characters/what-have-you in the first place.