Friday, March 24, 2017

My Life in Fandom: In Praise of Thrawn

Star Wars has some truly awesome villains. Everyone knowns about Darth Sideous, a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine. Everyone knows about Darth Vader. Thanks to The Clone Wars we've rehabilitated General Greivous, Darth Maul, and Count Dooku into villains fans and creators can respect in narrative terms. However, it took this closing season of Rebels to bring back the best post-Original Trilogy villain: Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Until Thrawn came about, the fans saw Force-users as being so innately superior that you had to be one to effectively beat one, making the Expanded Universe post-Jedi (1983) until Attack of the Clones(2002) or Revenge of the Sith(2005) not take mundane villains seriously, no matter how hard EU creators tried at times. West End's RPG, as it was the basis for the EU past 1987, reinforced this view: if you don't get them when weak, you'll never get them outside of deus ex machina sorts of events.

Thrawn was the first crack in that wall of fan-generated dogma. The means by which he achieved his victories over the heroes--the disciplined study and analysis of the targets of his operations, coupled with an iron will focused on the objective with flexibility in the immediate situation to take advantage of developments--was nothing more than Sun Tzu put into Star Wars, and that is why it worked.

Thrawn showed YOU, the reader, how to beat Force-wielders without being one yourself.

There is nothing Thrawn did that you couldn't apply to your life, here and now. You can study your opponents. You can analysis their culture. You can assess their psychology accordingly, and use that intelligence to inform your strategy against them. Gamers, we already have a term for this: meta-gaming, also known as "playing the player". Vox Day does this daily, to hilarious effect, which he recounts often.

That's why Thrawn is both awesome and inspiring; he shows you what any common man can do if they are willing to apply their intellect properly towards the achievement of their goals, and he demonstrates that he's created a system by which he can--and does--readily and repeatedly turn every encounter to his advantage, meaning that regardless of the immediate outcome he learns some vital piece of information that he then turns to his advantage going forward. He cuts losses swiftly, salvages failures before they're complete, and keeps cool in the face of adversity. He's the respectable adversary that Vader and Palpatine are not.

So, I do hope that Thrawn's canonical return endures past the end of this season of Rebels. The franchise needs him, badly.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! The scene in Zahn's trilogy where Thrawn confronts the tractor beam gunner who let Luke Skywalker escape firmly establishes why he is the anti-Vader; and why that's a good thing.