Star Wars is silly, and you’ll love it even more if you can admit that
From the very beginning, the Star Wars franchise has been simplistic and silly, with very little in regards to originality in storytelling and is primarily an exercise in exploiting our childhood mindset. Even with a production budget that would dwarf that of many nations, it has the depth that is the equivalent to a kiddie pool.
If you are a Star Wars fan and took that statement as an insult, please don’t, for if anything, it’s the highest praise that I can give it, and I am much more a fan of the franchise now than I have ever been in my 40 years on this planet.
When I think about Star Wars, there are three themes that come to mind each and every time: It has such a distinct and amazing look, it has the most elementary storylines ever constructed, and it is a breeding ground for imagination. With the first, there is no denying that the series’ visual and audio design is brilliant, as its characters have become iconic and has a musical score that is inescapable. With the second, I think it’s fair to say that there has never been a time where the story beats in Star Wars would challenge the likes of Mamet or Tennessee Williams.
With the third, I think it’s the part of the franchise that addressed the least and yet has the greatest influence on our love affair with the franchise, and why some wish to deny it is what causes the most hostility in its fanbase. Star Wars functions like a very large toybox. It has such a wide array of characters and settings, it’s hard to picture anything that WOULDN’T be in a Star Wars film. Want a rocket ship? We got plenty of those. Army men? We’ve got those in droves. Wizards and animals of fantasy? Yep, that and then some! It is a world custom made for absolutely nothing should make sense and yet somehow it works so perfectly together. There are elements that completely escape logic, and yet, they all make perfect sense in this setting. It is something that can be appreciated from whatever angle you look at it, but the less time you spend looking for answers about what it actually is, the more you’ll have fun with it.
This concept struck me the hardest when I was watching Disney+’s new show, The Mandalorian. It has been a runaway hit for the streaming service, with a meme-able character with The Child (or, to many, Baby Yoda), and being hailed by fans as the series that has “saved Star Wars”. I greatly enjoy the series, but when I watch it, I am never engrossed by the story or the complexity of the character’s motivations. Instead, I just admire the action and how everything looks really cool. I can also picture a younger version of myself playing Mandalorian on the school playground with my friends, pretending to have blaster fights. All of the same rules that goes into a game of make-believe seem to also be in full effect on the show, and it’s all the better because of it.
Star Wars is silly and fun, and it has always had elements that were meant to either appeal to children, or at the very least appeal to our inner child. The fact that children have meant to always be a part of the audience (if not the target demographic) has been an issue that I think has intimidated and haunted fans of the series, and the unwillingness to allow these traits to be celebrated may be the reason why its fandom can be one of the most toxic.
I hope that what I am saying doesn’t get construed as me saying that Star Wars, or any entertainment property that may be marketed towards children, should be excluded from any type of criticism. The worst thing that could happen to the franchise is if they were given the same apathetic pass as an episode of Blue’s Clues. What I am saying, however, is that we shouldn’t force a set list of criteria in order for it to be acceptable. Structure is crucial to storytelling, but if that structure has to fit to a certain fanbase’s requirements, the creativity will be suffocated.
Art doesn’t always have to be high art to be worthy of praise. A cyborg fascist with a cool mask fighting a wizard on a spaceship with laser swords can be enjoyed for what it is, and just because a child may enjoy it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it for what it is. You don’t have to force it to be something that it isn’t just because you fear that it appealing to your inner child somehow makes it unworthy. If anything, the fact that it DOES tap into your inner child is what makes it spectacular, and for that reason it should be celebrated.
I have the most joy with Star Wars when I am with Star Wars fans. I would consider myself more of a casual Star Wars fan, but I do enjoy celebrating it with those who enjoy the franchise for what it is. I love hanging out with members of the 501st Legion or the Rebel Legion (two different unofficial-yet-recognized international fan groups of the franchise) and seeing how they put their own personal spins on the lore. It is a franchise that has sparked the imaginations of so many people, and it’s hard not to celebrate that achievement. These are the elements that have caused its fandom to grow over the past four decades, and in order for it to continue, this is what needs to continue to flourish, and not the demands for it to be something that it isn’t.
Star Wars is for children. It always has been. But it’s because of the children, and their ability to tap into their imaginations without inhibitions, that has allowed it to be the success that it is. As long as that remains intact, the force will be with us, always.
Originally Published on December 31, 2019