Do you remember Disney? They were once a Hollywood studio founded in 1923, and capitalized on the success of such creations as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Disneyland, Winnie the Pooh, DuckTales, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, the Mickey Mouse Club, and much, much more. In the nineties, CEO Michael Eisner began business ventures with companies like ABC, the History Channel, Kellogg’s McDonald’s, ESPN, and more to expand the utility of the brand name. No longer bound to cartoons, live action comedies, and theme parks, the Walt Disney Company could be so much more.
As you’ve noticed, the company’s appetite became ravenous. Like No Face in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, Disney started small by buying out ABC in 1996 and The Muppets in 2004. Both made sense: ABC had historical precedent airing Disneyland’s opening in 1955, and The Muppets already had a 15-year history working with Disney. Their next acquisition, Pixar, was an equally long engagement that suffered tense relations. This, however, was under Bob Iger’s watch in 2006, after Eisner’s sudden departure less than a year prior. But again, acquiring the studio that gave the Mouse House Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski, Dory, and the Incredibles made sense.
In 2009, Marvel Studios came to Mickey’s side. In 2017, Disney bought internet video platform service Maker Studios and turned it into Disney Digital Service. In 2018, Disney consumed fellow studio 21st Century Fox, regaining the rights to not just the remaining Marvel characters they still didn’t own (The X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four), but also The Simpsons, Alien, and Avatar, to name a few. But arguably one of the most interesting buyouts happened in 2012. LucasFilm Ltd. was in the way of Disney’s corporate vacuum, a natural progression after 20 years of allowing the popular Star Tours ride and untold millions in merchandise at the parks and resorts. But many fans were split on Disney’s takeover and remain split after the mixed results of the two canon movies and the even more poor reception of Rogue One and Solo. The ninth Star Wars movie already under heavy scrutiny, the Boba Fett movie just got cancelled and I just do not care.
Despite my love for most of Disney, I just don’t care about Star Wars. And I am stunned I seem to be the only one who feels such. It’s okay, good even. But to hear the rest of the planet, it’s the greatest thing ever and I just don’t get it.
Just how badly don’t I get it? Well, read on, and I can’t wait to hear your rebuttals.
(And before you ask, yes, I have seen The People vs. George Lucas. Great documentary. It’s what inspired me to write this.)
8. The Star Wars toothpaste in my Disney orange juice.
This is going to touch on some of the entries later, but because it is a central issue I have, I figure I’d start here.
I make it no secret I love Disney. I like Song of the South and The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh and Ducktales and Marvel and Muppets and Dole Whips and pin trading. I love just so many characters and stories. And these days, its increasingly getting more and more difficult to parce Star Wars from Disney.
This entry is for the apologists who insist I don’t have to engage with Star Wars if I don’t want to. Live and let live, they say, let people enjoy things. Honestly, I’m all for that. But when was the last time you walked into Disney gift shop that didn’t have Star Wars merch on half the shelves? Can people discuss Disney+ without bringing up The Mandolorian? Can I visit the parks without people gushing about Galaxy’s Edge? And can I visit Disney social media fan pages without people bringing up Star Wars all the time?
“But Star Wars is popular and makes Disney money!” Yeah, but so was Frozen and the collective wouldn’t stop complaining that Frozen was “everywhere”. Frozen got a ride at Epcot, a sing-along show, and a summer event, and people complained it was too much. And Frozen doesn’t have its own immersive land, hotel, two dozen shows, dining experiences, and even at the height of its popularity, never had as much merchandise as Star Wars does.
And with this utter dominance within Disney, I’ve watched Star Wars steamroll its way into every conversation and bring with it the vitriolic baggage that comes with it. But I’ll get to that later.
7. The black and white philosophy
Few things are more iconic than Star Wars‘ use of the Force. The central unifying theme of balance and harmony that mysteriously grants only select people random super powers. Though based off eastern philosophy, it lacks nuance, especially when it comes to the characters who use the Force.
What fascinates me is the complete resistance there is to the idea that Force usage and morality is not black or white. There is only the Jedi, where you can be essentially a Knights’ Templar soldier, protecting governments, practicing celibacy, detach from your emotions, forego worldly possessions, and dress like a hermit. On the other hand, you could also be a Sith, where you let your rage decide your moral compass, and become corrupted by the power inside. My question is…do I have to pick a side?
I’m not a paragon of virtue nor an asshole. I’m…oh, what’s the word?…human! That’s right, I’m human. Prone to good, noble impulses just as much as I’m prone to petty, self-interested ones. If I were able to access my midichlorian count and gained abilities like lightning out of my fingers, telekinesis, super-jumping, or minor brainwashing, I can tell you I’d be doing good things and bad things with a fair amount of balance. I’d power up my friends’ phones just as much as I’d blow out my neighbor’s fuse box when he plays his music too loud. I’d use my telekinesis less to move my car out of the mud than I would to get a drink to float out of the fridge to the couch. And maybe use that Jedi mind trick when I file for a loan at the bank.
I think the main reason this never gets explored in the movies, however interesting it may be, is because it’s one of the last few holdouts of the pure “good” and “evil” dichotomy we see. In recent decades, nuanced bad guys and anti-heroes ask the tough questions about ethics and morality, and there’s probably a significant desire to return to that. But Star Wars doesn’t want to go there. It’s become a romantic notion to have good heroes with powers fight the clearly-distinguished bad guys. I hear about the Grey Jedi, but I’m talking about the movies, not the books or TV shows. Give me Larry the force-wielder who uses his force powers to pick up girls.
6. The Nazi symbolism no one wants to see
It’s no surprise to anyone that the Empire is stylistically based off of Hitler’s Third Reich. Just looking at only a few shots, you can clearly see how the Nazis inspired Darth Vader’s fleet, right down to the name “stormtroopers”. It’s obvious in every sense of the word.
So why are they so adorable and funny and people get pissed when you point out the correlation?
Now, I get it, no one likes that kind of thing in general. Like when people feel like they have to remind me that Pocahontas is almost complete fiction, how The Little Mermaid doesn’t have the right ending, or that Walt was supposedly anti-Semitic. They have just as little a right as I do in making the Nazi connection and telling them about it. One shouldn’t infringe upon one’s enjoyment if it’s irrelevant. But I’m not trying to draw some false equivalency here. My point is that the Nazi connection has been negated to…whatever merchandise you own that has a stormtrooper on it.
People seem to forget that the stormtroopers are galactic fascist enforcers. We crack jokes how they can’t hit a target worth a damn or just how disposable they are because they’re so numerous and they’re clones and their helmets don’t even show their faces. So we laugh at them. They are punchlines. There is zero sense of threat when these guys were made to be literal space Nazis. To prove my point, if I made fan art of the Empire but replaced their insignia with the swastika, I’d have millions coming after me. Because somehow I would have ruined their perception that these cute nitwits in white armor by equating them with one of the worst military regimes in history…a fact we already know.
Look, it’s a franchise about fictional space wizards with bipedal bear men, and slug gangsters, and people are welcome to see it however they want. But I can’t see these guys as cute or silly as popular culture makes them out to be when they are Nazis.
5. It holds zero nostalgia for me
I was born in 1986. For ten years of my life, Star Wars was just another movie I was sorta aware of. Something about space and glow stick swords. We didn’t own a copy of any of the movies, and I don’t think anyone in my family really cared. I liked movies, and absorbed bits and pieces from being at school, but we stuck to watching mostly Disney movies and Nickelodeon.
Then in 1997, suddenly: STAR WARS IS COMING TO THEATERS!!! And my ten-year-old brain was thinking: “Wait…I thought theaters were for new movies…are Star Wars new? I thought it already existed…right?”
Well, yeah, but I don’t recall if anyone corrected me by telling me these were the now-maligned remastered rereleases. But Star Wars mania took off and everything lost their frickin’ mind. Suddenly everyone in class wouldn’t stop talking about it. Every kid I knew had Star Wars backpacks, notebooks, lunchboxes, and more up the wazoo. And for whatever reason, I just wasn’t interested. And it annoyed me greatly that despite my lack of interest, no one felt the same way, so I was inundated with Star Wars for a considerable time, even when I wanted to just watch Nickelodeon or read Disney Adventures, which themselves were Star Wars ads through and through.
Things quieted down for a bit, until 1999. Then, without warning, it blew up again. And I was definitely primed to not be in the mood. Only this time, the advertising was even more nonstop, with every place I went to was advertising their connection to Star Wars. I could not escape it, despite being an era prior to social media. And it was the first Star Wars movie I went to see, because my dad wanted to. I was just so bored.
The same thing happened in 2015, but I’ll get to that in a bit. In any case, I never watched the original trilogy until I was 24 on a Thanksgiving Marathon. I’m not nostalgic over a franchise I never watched as a kid, and instead was peppered with classmates who wouldn’t shut up about it for years.
4. Its inability to move on
Look up any comment thread or meme about the franchise and you’ll find someone making a snarky comment about how the saga is just one family’s massive internal drama spilling over and making trouble all over the galaxy. And it’s true. And at three movies, or even six, there was legitimate, logical correlations to follow the Skywalker family as Anakin grew up a troubled young man to become Hitler…I mean, Darth Vader.
Then we saw The Force Awakens, which many have pointed was a beat-by-beat retelling of A New Hope. And now it’s Leia and Han’s son, who idolizes his grandfather, and Luke appears because sequel-baiting. Sure, a continuation of the original trilogy. I get that.
Then came Rogue One. It was to explain how Leia got the plans for the Death Star, a story none of us needed, and just tied itself on clumsily to the franchise.
Then came The Last Jedi, which continued the struggles of Leia, Luke, Chewy, and everyone else.
Then came Solo, Han’s backstory, including the history of that one line about the Kessel Run…to which I say, can we try something different?! Something that doesn’t have anything to do with something that happened in the original trilogy?
Between the Galactic Republic, the Empire, and the First Order, there’s only so many stories that can be told about usurping the totalitarian government in the same franchise. It’s like these guys keep getting set up to fail. But in reality, it’s the writers unable or unwilling to tell a story that isn’t the tried-and-true coup narrative.
If you want to get me interested, why not make a Star Wars story in another planet and/or star system, where they interpreted the Force in a new and interesting way? Maybe they became something of a bushido or samurai culture that uses light sabers and Force powers in a way that’s different than from the Jedi. There’s only so much you can tell with celibate hermits versus monsters.
I guess they’re so afraid to do something different, since Star Wars fans can be so damn rabid (More on that later). But seriously, tell some new stories with new characters that don’t have anything to do with the Skywalker drama. Use the Force, use light sabers and space ships and droids…just try something different, for God’s sake!
3. The same damn clips over and over
This kind of thing is not exclusive to Star Wars, but it really does annoy me greatly.
Disney must save a crap ton of money by reusing the same character models and film clips of their classic films. I mean, it makes sense. By hearing the audio clip of Mufasa saying “Remember who you are” or the the original track by Ilene Woods singing “A Dream is a Wish”, or seeing the Beast twirl Belle in the dance floor, it taps directly into our nostalgic memories. It is basic psychology. But at least Disney uses nearly a century’s worth of product, and even if you were generous and counted over 20 animated films they usually use in whatever “Ain’t Disney wonderful?” montage, that’s a diverse lot. The Lion King is not Snow White. Lilo and Stitch is not Alice in Wonderland. Even Marvel is better off, with Guardians of the Galaxy compared to Winter Soldier, or Ant-Man compared to Thor. They’re all so very, very different.
But even though they’re trying to diversify with Rogue One and Solo, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is seeing and hearing these every. Fricking. Time:
- R2-D2 squealing and beeping
- “Use the Force, Luke”
- “I love you.” “I know.”
- Watching the Death Star blow up
- “Never tell me the odds.”
- “I have a bad feeling about this!”
- “No…I am your father.” “Noooo!”
- “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy”
- John Williams’ bombastic score
- The opening text crawl
- The whirring/humming/clashing of light sabers
- Darth Vader’s breathing
- The AT-AT walkers on Hoth
- The sound of a laser pew-pewing
These images and sounds are so famous you can have them play in your head with insane vividness. Even if you never saw these movies, you know every single beat, pause, inflection, and flow of each sound effect, quote, image, and clip.
But then I noticed something weird. You ever realize with Disney characters, you can do pretty much anything with them? I mean, if Disney animated a new clip of Dumbo flying, it’s not a big deal. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a newly-made clip of the Millenium Falcon flying, or of Luke clashing light sabers with Vader, or even something as simple as Han and Chewy running around with their blasters. It can’t be just because the actors are too old, we all know their likenesses can easily be recreated.
I’m so over-inundated with these sights and sounds there is no point to even watching the stupid movies. Why bother? I’ve heard and seen every flipping scene! And building on top of my previous point, would it kill these guys to really try something that doesn’t always look like the same thing over and over?
2. Robbing Disney’s Hollywood Studios of its identity
When Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, the idea was more than to just mooch off the success of the then-in-development Universal Studios Florida park, but also bring the romance of movie-making to park goers. Using the 1940’s as a backdrop, each attraction would showcase different facets of filmmaking, like special effects, stunts, voice over, sound effects, even animation. However, this became an unforeseeable problem. By the time the aughts rolled around, the appeal was largely gone. We were living in a world of DVD bonus features and internet articles that allowed anyone at home to see how movies were made. Worse still, as Hollywood pressed forth with computer technology, more and more of the physical, tangible elements were now basically outdated. Sure, it’s nice to see the puppets, props, and costumes, but they were becoming antiquated. And such, the romantic era of directors who wore berets, puffy pants, and pretentious mustaches howling things like “Cut!” And “My masterpiece!” through a megaphone was no more.
By the time it was renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2008, that identity was systematically removed, now about rides in movies rather than rides about movies. Now, the place has become a sort of Frankenpark, just a bunch of property-themed attractions kinda all slapped together in a park that has no identity beyond…whatever the Twilight Zone, The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones, Aerosmith, Disney Junior, Star Wars, The new Mickey and Minnie cartoons, The Muppets, Beauty and the Beast, and Toy Story come to mean. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
In 2015, when the Earth rumbled steady to prepare for a new Star Wars movie, I wanted to greet the phenomenon with open arms. I didn’t want to be perpetually grumpy from overexposure like I was in 1997 and 1999. At the time, I was a cast member at the park. I felt if I could tolerate the Frozen insanity from two years prior, this had to be a piece of cake. After all, I enjoyed the suddenly-ended Star Wars Weekends. But here’s a run down of things that happened during that time.
1. A new daytime show on the park’s central stage, several times a day featuring the same film clips and sound effects and a few performers on stage.
2. Another multiple-times-a-day stage show had Captain Phasma and her totally-not-Nazi stormtroopers goose-stepping around in perfect militaristic formation.
3. A third show in the same area, this time at night, that, again, just played the same “hey, remember this part of the movie!?” Clips.
4. The ABC Sound Studio, which had been just lazily used as a preview center for upcoming movies like Cinderella, The Lone Ranger, and Guardians of the Galaxy, was turned into “Path of the Jedi”, which was…again…just another clip show of the seven movies.
5. The Magic of Disney Animation, once a literal animation studio where Mulan, Lilo and Stitch, and Brother Bear were made, and had a Robin Williams and Walter Cronkite preshow, closed in 2004 and became a Mushu show, a drawing class, and a character meet-and-greet. In 2015, the whole thing was scrapped into the Star Wars Launch Bay…essentially a Star Wars museum with Star Wars meet-and-greets and a place to play Star Wars demo video games.
6. The movie previews that were held at Magic of Disney Animation and ABC Sound Studio had to be put somewhere. Now, they’re shown at the Walt Disney Theater at Walt Disney Presents, which is essentially a Walt museum. The theater used to show a brief film about the life of Walt Disney, but the previews have evicted it. By transitive property, Star Wars is deemed more important than Walt Disney.
7. Cast members wear name tags that show their home town as a conversation starter. But starting in 2015, CM’s could get name tags that say they’re from the Star Wars‘ fictional planets. That’s fine…except they have never allowed name tags that say one is from Toontown, Duckburg, Agrabah, Wonderland, etc. Really? At Walt DISNEY World?
8. When I worked there, I can honestly say nothing special happened for Cast Members when new movies were released. Maybe a button or some new merchandise, but even Frozen didn’t do anything grand until the following summer for the Frozen Summer Fun event. But for the days leading up to The Force Awakens, we CM’s were being given freebies as soon as we walked into work: one day it was a poster, another it was a pin, another it was a BB-8 Rice Krispie treat, and another was a promotional button…that we had to wear on our costumes to remind people in case they forgot the space movie or something.
9. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, like Toy Story Land before it, will be a whole land added to the park dedicated to one franchise. The difference? Toy Story Land expanded the park’s boundary, branching into what was formerly Cast Member-only areas. Galaxy’s Edge, however, took out what was left of the OG Disney-MGM Studio attraction, Studio Backlot Tour. Like MODA, it was a shell of its former self by the time Star Wars came in, but it’s still worth mentioning. But what’s more, it’s also is the reason why The Osborne Family Spectacle of The Dancing Lights, the extremely popular holiday show, no longer plays at the park. It was in the way of Star Wars. How dare it.
What gets me is this isn’t seen as overkill. Because when Frozen came to the parks, after the Frozen Sing-Along and the ride at Epcot were added, you couldn’t ignore the park fans screaming what a travesty it was to shoehorn Frozen in place of Maelstrom. Yes, they cried out it was “too much Frozen“. For two attractions. But three new shows, a land, a new museum? As long as it’s Star Wars, only I will be mad and no one else sees the hypocrisy.
1. The toxic fandom
This one is easily the worst reason to not like Star Wars seeing as it’s fans are beyond the control of LucasFilm and Disney. And they shouldn’t have any regard for my feelings on the franchise itself. But man, Star Wars fans can be the worst.
And sure, no fandom is safe from the fans who take it all way, way too seriously. The pain is too fresh for some in the fandoms of Rick and Morty, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Steven Universe, and more. But Star Wars is far more reaching and familiar. And for some reason, Star Wars fans have made Star Wars not fun.
First, several actors lives have been flat-out ruined. Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christiansen, Ahmed Best, Kelly Marie Tran…these actors have had their lives practically destroyed by fans who take the franchise too seriously. Sure, it may not be that many, but I can’t think of any other “beloved” franchise that utterly wrecks these people. And why? Because the fans didn’t like how they were written and directed?
This wasn’t good-natured ribbing. Remember when Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran signed off social media? Or how mad people were at John Boyega for being a black guy in a storm trooper uniform? Any time anyone reminds Jake Lloyd, he gets very, very angry, because enough man children threw temper tantrums at a kid. A kid! After The Last Jedi, fans were so mad at Disney, filing a massive petition demanding it be remade. Because they didn’t make it the way the fans wanted it. And my personal favorite are the spoiled man babies who are enraged that more women and people of color are appearing in this franchise, as if some liberal conspiracy of SJW’s are here to make all white men feel inadequate. I honestly can’t get over that one.
And then…there’s Lucas himself. No other franchise vilifies its own creator to the point where the fans have proclaimed him not worthy to add to his own damn creation. Roddenberry, R. R. Martin, Henson, Rowling, Disney, Lee, Ditko, and Kirby, Kane and Finger, Schuster and Siegel…these people are practically GODS to their fans because they had blessed the world with their talent. But Lucas? The biggest fans of his work hate him because they didn’t like midichlorians, Jar Jar, and his dismissal of the unaltered trilogy. The others have faults and misses, but none of them are as hated the man who begat the beloved Star Wars franchise.
I wish I could enjoy Star Wars like any other franchise, like how others like Toy Story, or Harry Potter. But I can’t. The fans have made it clear they love it so much they hate it. To the point where all they seemingly want to do is watch the same clips over and over and over and over. And no matter what Disney does it doesn’t do, it will never be good enough.
So there you have it. Why I just can’t get into Star Wars. Are my criticisms fair? If not, why not? I await your comments! In the meantime…
May the Schwartz be with you.