Sunday, 1 May 2016

A New Hope For A Better Universe - How One Billboard Proves Critics Wrong

We're a bit late to the party with this one, but with good reason. Really, in all honesty, this was one which wasn't even going to be covered on here due to the influx of Star Wars content of late. Besides our wheelhouse of Warhammer 40,000, the articles on here try to be evenly distributed between settings of all genres, and to have a single different franchise hijack everything never felt right. That said, we're looking into this now because remarkably few people seem to know of this particularly awesome moment by a devoted group of fans.

Earlier this month, a billboard was replaced in San Fransisco on a very particular street close to a major Disney owned building. Hardly a surprise given the turn-over so many of these things have, but the twist this time was that its message wasn't from a corporation shilling some new product. No, instead it was from a group of Star Wars fans asking for their universe back:

"Dear Lucasfilm, Please continue 
The epic story that existed from 1976-2014. 

Thank you."

You see, this was brought about thanks to a lot of Expanded Unvierse fans dumping a lot of cash into an Indiegogo campaign to make sure Disney caught sight of it. A few Disney employees have already commented upon it, and a number of news websites have already brought up this particular stunt, and praised the group's message: To see the Star Wars Expanded Universe continue once more. No, not to replace existing canon, but simply to allow its stories to keep moving onward and for its fans to see what the future holds for their characters. The particular mastermind behind this movement, head of Give Us Legends has made it clear that they hold no ill will towards the decision for the new films to avoid their books, or even that they took an entirely new direction. They simply want to see the universe they loved be given better treatment than merely killed off, spat upon as if it never mattered and then have Disney rifle through its pockets for ideas to steal.

... I may have been injecting a few of my own opinions into that last bit. The point of the matter is that they just want more books focusing upon the prior setting. Why exactly is this important? Why exactly is this worthy of more than a standard news report, and to follow up almost two weeks after it was unfilled? Because it proves that there are fans willing to defend the Expanded Universe, and they're not merely sociopaths, maniacs or white supremacists.

If you've been lucky enough to miss it up until now, you might be in for a bit of a shock when I say that EU fans are not held in the best regard by "true" Star Wars fans. Those who see themselves as the defenders of the "true" canon and "true" films which matter in their mind, view Expanded Universe fans as lowlife scum, the sort of people who should be bumped off or ignored outright. To them, the EU was a mere mistake, and now that Star Wars has returned (please feel free to roll your eyes at that concept) it was something to be ignored alongside any who might have cared about it. Unfortunately, when efforts to restore the Expanded Universe were made, the response was a tidal wave of vitriol, blind hatred and scapegoating.

When Expanded Universe fans started appearing at conventions in and organised effort to make people more aware of what was lost, merely asking if others would help them, the response was borderline xenophobic. Apparently the act of handing out flyers with a brief message and a web address on it was akin of summoning Satan himself, and they were regarded as pressuring others into following only their view on things.

When the novel Star Wars: Aftermath was released, the extremely polarized reception and negative response from many was put down almost purely to spiteful Expanded Universe fans trying to take revenge. This was largely excused and (in the eyes of those who wished the EU gone) justified thanks to a few vocal minorities wanting to boycott the book. As such, in their eyes, any remote failure or criticism of the novel was put down purely to spiteful (and supposedly homophobic) EU fans, rather than any justified critique. According to these "true" fans no one was allowed to judge the poor quality of the work, nor the rather insulting depiction of homosexual characters, nor even remember that the EU itself first introduced same-sex relationships into the entire franchise. Nope, apparently it was all purely due to sheer hatred and nothing else.

Given this approach, when white supremacists started threatening to boycott the film because it featured a predominant black character, you can guess who the "true" fans started blaming. Ignoring both the fact that the prior universe featured Lando Calrissian, Mace Windu as prominent characters - not to mention quite a few new dark skinned heroes and villains - "true" fans decided to blame the entire thing on EU supporters. Interestingly, no mention of the EU was made during this initial boycott nor was any link ever made until fans started screaming about this.

Attempting to make the same tactic work twice over, when morons started hollering about the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One's female protagonist, EU fans were presented as the cause of this. Willfully ignoring that the likes of Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Adi Gallia, Tahiri Veila, Morrigan Corde and quite a few others existed, all blame was placed squarely upon them. Once again, men's rights activists and similar groups were repeatedly cited as the cause, but the "true" Star Wars fans took to social media to blame any and all EU supporters. In truth, the only EU related criticisms I have seen from any EU fan do not relate to characters nor gender, merely that the film is stealing ideas from the Dark Forces and Wraith Squadron series.

Is this to say that this entire point is wholly one sided? Hardly. There have been plenty of examples of EU fans acting in ways which cannot simply be excused by grief. From threatening to spoil the entirety of The Force Awakens to dissuade audiences, to physically accosting others, and even driving away fans with death threats, there has been plenty of bad behaviour on both sides. The difference is that the "true" fans worshiping the Abrams universe actively attack EU fans wholesale, presenting any fan of the older series as a xenophobe or that they should be literally killed off for the betterment of all. That last example comes from more than a few comments censored from the last EU article. Personally I would rather not post those for the sake of good taste, but the more prominent comments ranged from threatening anyone associated with me to saying I should have gone ahead and killed myself for the sake of the franchise; others stated that almost a decade of bullying was somehow justified because I disliked VII or that dyslexia itself wasn't "punishment enough" for me opposing the true canon. Death threats come with the territory of being a writer, I accepted that long ago. Yet even accepting that it is shocking to think anyone could openly such things while so boldly ignoring their own immoral behaviour.

The point this article is trying to make is this - There is a literal monument people can now point to disproving this accusation that anyone who cares about the past setting is scum. A group of fans put time, blood, sweat, tears and money into trying to convince Disney to get their beloved universe back. Against what the "true" fans would say, against every accusation that they don't deserve to have their universe back, nor be even acknowledged as fans of this franchise, they were able to channel their determination into a truly positive outlet, promoting themselves without threatening others.

One fandom would spent hours of time, money and effort to say something positive about their favourite setting. The other would go just as far to say so much less about them. Perhaps people will remember that the next time they start trying to jump on the next bandwagon defecating on Expanded Universe supporters.

1 comment:

  1. Original EU? There's only one, true Expanded Universe. And it ain't the one pilfering ideas from someone else.