Ever since Disney and the Lucasfilm Story Group announced that the already-existing Expanded Universe would be rebranded as “Legends” and no longer continued as it was, many Star Wars fans have taken the news especially hard. They blame Disney for “killing the EU” and invalidating the stories that many spent years reading and re-reading in favor of stifling a franchise that has spanned generations.
Let me tell you why you’re wrong.
Author John Jackson Miller talked to Newasrama about his upcoming novel A New Dawn and the future of Star Wars canon and made a point I feel should be shared:
I really think it’s a mistake for people to play the canon/not-canon parlor game. What they said when they made the announcement is that the previous material wasn’t being discarded, it would be drawn from – inspirations and ideas would come from it. The planets are the same; the species are the same. You know, the Rebels series uses the same manufacturer of the TIE fighters that was introduced in the Role Playing Games years ago. My book revolves around a strategic compound that I introduced back in KOTOR years ago! The universe is the same.
The thing about “Legends,” and that’s the word on the cover of the previous material: Legends can be true, in part or in whole. They inspire, they are sort of like the King Arthur story – parts of that, little bits of that here and there are true.
See, here’s the thing: the EU was never canon to begin with. George Lucas never signed off on any novel, game, or comic to be official canon (it’s also very telling how so many fans claim that Lucas destroyed the franchise with the prequels, yet are now holding him as the only official source of decision-making in regards to the EU). Basically, the EU was unofficial “official” fan fiction. Take that however you want, but it’s true. Just because it’s been around for a long doesn’t mean other creators (directors, writers, developers, etc) had to adhere to what other people decided to do.
For example, the much-beloved Revan began as a character in the video game Knights of the Old Republic back in 2003. The kicker: Revan could be played as either male or female. Drew Karpyshyn decided to write him as male in his novel The Old Republic: Revan. So does that invalidate the female version? Absolutely not. Does that mean that the female version is no longer relevant or important to the people who played her? Absolutely not. Does that mean that Revan would never be a female ever again? Well, who knows, but if the EU had continued as it was, there was still the possibility that another writer could have done a project with Revan as a woman. But that’s neither here nor there at this point.
As it was, the EU as a whole (comics, games, books, and even the movies) was FULL of contradictions, inconsistencies, and things that were just plain weird. Telepathic bunnies, anyone? But thanks to the unofficial nature of it, we fans could pick and revel in what we liked and ignore what we didn’t. Someone who hated the telepathic bunnies wasn’t bound to include them in any of their works, fan or paid creator. It just plain didn’t work to try to accept everything when so much of what was there didn’t fit. That’s what happens when you have so many creators working on separate projects with relatively no restraints.
Welcome to what Marvel and DC fans have had to endure for decades.
Hence the streamlined, cohesive universe the Story Group is attempting to create with these new books, series, and films. As a business decision, it was possibly the smartest thing they could have done. A cohesive universe would not only keep storylines straight, but allow for a clear timeline for future creators to draw on, as well as giving new fans a much easier product to dive into. None of this “I’m a new fan and confused as to where to start” stuff. “NJO? Clone Wars Era? Old Republic? Legacy? Wait, this happened in this book, but this comic said something else happened. HELP!” True, new fans can still be overwhelmed, but as long as they’ve seen the movies and/or the TV shows (excluding Tartakovsky’s microseries and the LEGO episodes) they should be able to figure out where they are pretty quickly.
Now, a lot of people are understandably bitter about this. To be told that my favorite characters and events would no longer be continued or show up on-screen is a tough pill to swallow. To become so attached to characters like Mara Jade, Darth Malgus, and Jacen and Jaina Solo, and to become so invested in things like the Yuuzhan Vong War and Jacen’s fall to the Dark Side only to be told they would no longer be explored is heartbreaking. Believe me, I get it. Mara, Malgus, Ben Skywalker, Vestara Khai, Visas Marr. I love them all. And now I’ll get nothing new featuring any of them for the foreseeable future.
However, that does not mean that they should be any less valuable, important, or valid to you, the fan.
See, the EU is only “dead” if YOU let it be. Those characters are only “dead” if YOU allow them to be. Just because they won’t be appearing in theaters or on TV screens in the near-future doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If that were true, then there are several hundreds of characters and novels that “don’t exist”. If you cherish the characters and the stories, then why should anything Disney or Marvel or Del Rey say affect that? They’re not discontinuing all manufacture of the games or comics or books. They’re simply starting a new chapter for a new age of the Star Wars fandom.
Turning this into a war against Disney is ludicrous, to say the least. The Mouse did NOT kill your favorite characters. The Mouse did NOT kill the Expanded Universe. In fact, it continues to celebrate both the EU and its fans. Unfortunately, not a lot of fans are celebrating it at all.
Take a look at this Lumiya cosplayer from SDCC last weekend.
She’s amazing! Her costume is glorious! So what are the majority of the comments about? Certainly not the cosplay.
Really, guys? Really? You’re going to hijack a photo posted by Del Rey at their Star Wars booth to complain about a) a decision they had no hand in making in the first place, and b) a decision that you’re still misinterpreting as a slap in the face to all EU fans? Instead of being glad that Del Rey thought enough of this cosplayer (from a now-non-canon timeframe, I might add) to stop her for a picture and post it to their Facebook, you’re complaining about the EU. Real classy.
I don’t want to say that Disney and Lucasfilm don’t care; they obviously do. The people that make up the Story Group aren’t just employees of Lucasfilm. They’re fans, too. They love their jobs. They love the stories and projects they get to work on. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have stuck around this long. I honestly highly doubt they thought everyone would just accept the move, but they’re doing what they think is best for the franchise, for the fans, and the stories we all hold so dear.
I’m not saying sit down and shut up. If you truly feel that this move was a personal insult against you, then by all means let Disney and Lucasfilm know. But take a step back first and take a moment to really think about what they’re attempting to do. Not only are we getting three new movies, we’re getting all new books, all new comics, and all new games that will FINALLY be consistent with each other. You no longer have to wonder, “Okay, now is this part official or no? What’s real and what’s not?” Of course, that does mean that anything that happens that you don’t like you can’t simply ignore (well, you can…); it will probably be brought up in later projects, especially if it’s an integral character or event.
But think of this as well: there’s nothing set in stone that says the EU will never be revisited ever again in the history of ever. What the Story Group amounts to as of this writing is an experiment. They’re not going to disband it now just because people on the Internet are being pissy without even trying the new products.
And what happens when you run into someone who became a fan because of the new material and has yet to explore the previous EU? Are you going to belittle them and tell them they’re not “true fans” because they don’t know about the EU yet? Are you going to hide behind your computer to insult them online when they want to talk about the new books or Rebels or Episode VII because you’re angry at Disney/Lucasfilm? Yeah, because that’s always a good way to great new fans.
We have yet to see what this new canon will be like. So how about instead of continuing to impotently rant about it and declare that Star Wars, the very franchise that you claim to love so much, is dead to you, just take a breath and at least give it a chance before you rip into it? You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
Or you could end up legitimately hating it. But give it a chance first, please?
About Reporter Michelle Lawhorn:
Michelle, a.k.a. Stormraven, is what can only be described as an eclectic nerd. Her interests and expertise range from Doctor Who to Lord of the Rings, cosplay to comics, and Bollywood to opera to name just a few. When not raving about her “fandoms”, she can be found working on projects as an Associate Editor at Haven Publishing and adding to her ever-growing list of Things to Cosplay. She can currently be found searching for more material to feed her newfound obsession with Star Wars.