Heresy of the Week – Star Wars will go downhill from here

a long time ago in a galaxy far far away
Heresy of the Week is a (mostly) weekly spot in which I entertain some of the unthinkable notions of geek-culture. The arguments I put forward are not always things I personally agree with, but often rhetorical devices designed to force myself (and maybe readers) out of the boxes which fan discussions can get caught in. But that aside, feel free to get yourselves worked up and your knickers in a twist if you really want to.

This week’s heresy:

Whilst it has remained formless, existing in idea alone, the new Star Wars films have served as receptacles for fanbase hopes and dreams. Now, with the announcement of the cast, it is crystallising into an actual film. Expect disappointment to rise as a result.

So there we have it. After months of rumours — the majority I have ingested via io9’s excellent weekday segment Morning Spoilers, which for those of us east of the Atlantic lands at about 2 in the afternoon — the principal cast list for Star Wars Episode VII has been announced. And, inevitably, this will lead to apprehension regarding the project, if not outright criticism, starting to mount.

I’ve been noting some surprise, over the last few months, that the fanbase hasn’t been in full revolt. Even when Disney formally wiped from existence the expanded universe — a backlog of canon surpassed only by the likes of Marvel and DC — there was a muted acceptance in place of digital Molotov cocktails and calls to the online barricades.

It isn’t really that surprising, though. Up until now, Episode VII hasn’t really existed. It hasn’t been a film, but instead a receptacle for the hopes and dreams of fans, for the aspirations born of the disappointment that the prequels brought. And even those for whom suspicion is the default have kept a…well, suspicious silence.

Because, it didn’t actually exist yet as a Star Wars film. And as Sun Tzu said: …if it is formless, then even the deepest spy cannot discern it nor the wise make plans against it. So there.

But all of that has changed with the announcement of the cast. And, while we’re on the subject, I called it: not a one of the main cast came from the open casting publicity stunt. None of them — except maybe Gollum — are A-listers, but they are all established, working actors.

It has started now though. “Where the hell are all the women?” io9 asks, and you have to agree that the released list is rather male-heavy. And where, for that matter, is Billy Dee Williams? Has whichever character John Boyega replaced Mace Windu and Lando Calrissian as “the only black man in space”?

Small fry at the moment, but distinctly relevant. The most obvious criticisms standing out a mile off for now — “Wow, haven’t the original cast gotten old!” — but it will soon mutate into more specific, more detailed attacks on the very nature of a Disney-made Star Wars film. It might well unfair, but it’s what we’re in for up until a December 2015 release date (which still feels rather ambitious for such a big project). It’s what will happen because the fanbase has been bitten before with the prequels, and when it comes right down to it, it’s what a fanbase does.

And now Star Wars Episode VII exists.

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