Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Life in Fandom: If You Love It, Learn Why They Made It

I'm still checking out all sorts of Star Wars fan videos, and soon I'll post some channels at YouTube I think are good for folks looking for the gems, but today it's something else.

This isn't just a thing with Star Wars fandom. It's a thing with fandom in general, and that's the tendency to not see where the creators of whatever the thing is take their inspirations- sometimes including when said creators are on the record as to where they got the ideas that they used as ingredients in their creation process.

Last weekend, Star Wars: Rebels aired an episode that resolves the conflict between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi left over from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. This had significant hype build-up by the fan community, and I could tell by the reactions of some that they do NOT know or appreciate where George Lucas and his successors got their inspiration. That final duel was a reference to (and invocation of) Akira Kurosawa's samurai films, in particular the speed of the sword duels, and anyone that's paid attention to George Lucas as a filmmaker and storyteller knows of his love for that brilliant man and his incredible work. (Go watch The Hidden Fortress.) Furthermore, anyone who knows showrunner David Filoni knows that he's a faithful successor to Lucas (and so knows Lucas' inspirations) and deliberately follows the aesthetic of Ralph McQuarrie's concept art for Rebels as a tell of how he's approaching those inspirations.

All that? Over a lot of foolish fans' heads. They expected a pair of old men to bounce around like Yoda did in Attack of the Clones and not be slower and more static like Dooku was. They wanted a long fight, lasting for a full segment, and not the blink-and-you-miss-it affair it was. They didn't know, and they didn't want to know; they had expectations out of line with what the creators wanted, and got disappointed when they didn't get those expectations fulfilled.

When Revenge of the Sith happened, fans and wankers calling themselves "critics" alike failed to see the allusion to Weimar Germany morphing into the Third Reich when Palpatine pulled off Order 66 and declared the Galactic Empire. The degree of cultural and historical illiteracy to NOT see that allusion required revealed how degraded, in 2005, the education of far too many had already become. It hasn't gotten better in the past 12 years.

The ignorance we see in tabletop RPGs is just as bad, mirrored exactly in SF/F publishing, so much so that Jeffro Johnson's Appendix N sparked a revolution in the latter and reignited the passions of the former's Old-School Renaissance. Knowing where the people who made the thing you love came from in creating it has value, especially if you--in turn--are creating new things because of this thing that you love driving you to do so.

This is why history matters: knowing the past enters you into the Grand Conversation of Generations. From this process, we create and sustain our culture. Our culture remains healthy, vital, and energetic when each succeeding generation takes its place in the forum and begins to contribute to the conversation. Those who deny your culture seek your extermination.

You can only benefit from learning the hows and whys driving the creators creating the things you love. Do so.

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