Episode Three- Revenge of the Nerds
This is the third in a six part series leading up to the release of the latest Star Wars movie ‘The Force Awakens.’ And yes, I know the movie is already out and I’m way behind, but get off my back. This installment is where things get a little dark and dire in which nerd are over-sensitive, a tad prejudicial, and ultimately quite violent.
I love being a nerd. I love getting together with my nerdy friends. It’s awesome talking nerdy things. And when the subject goes to other, non-nerd topics, I find most nerds are of a like mind on many of them. I’ve also found that many nerds, because of their experiences with non-nerds, are generally a very welcoming and kind sort of folk. Nerds have felt the sting of being alienated in some fashion and usually reluctant to do the same to others. Usually.
Unfortunately, there are some nowadays who have taken things a little too seriously. They act as though things are sacred when they are clearly not. Nerds, geeks, and dorks lash out at those that attack the things they love. It’s not entirely their fault, though. I get where some of them feel they are in the pecking order, and it sucks. We also seem to live in a society in which everyone plays the victim, and everything is a cause.
The times are a-changing, which is good. But they need to a-change a little bit more. While pop culture at large has seemed to embrace many of the properties, franchises, and characters nerds hold dear, the people in those fandoms don’t feel as embraced many times and even resentful that others feel they can have any sort of claim on their favorite pieces of entertainment.
The release of ‘The Force Awakens’ has brought out some of the ugliness that can exist in nerd (and pop) culture, and I’d like to address a few of them now. We have nerds on the offensive, going overboard in the defense of Star Wars. We have nerds who cling to largely traditional ideas of race and gender because of how they have previously been portrayed in Star Wars and other properties. It is the Dark Side of fandom…
From the moment the first teaser trailer for ‘The Force Awakens’ graced computer and movie screens, one thing had nerds freaking out. And it wasn’t a good freaking out. It wasn’t an ‘Oh, that was awesome!’ Or ‘Look at that sweet thing/guy/girl/creature!’ It was ‘Storm troopers aren’t black!’ To which I said, ‘Say what the f**k now??’
The entirety of the statement and what it represents is wrong for so many reasons, socially, and historically- in the real world and the realm of Star Wars. First of all, the year is 2015 of our Lord. It has been long established, to clue in the morons who didn’t already know, that black people are THE SAME as white people. I really hope I don’t have to go into that any further, until the next racially bent casting choice is made.
Second, let me take you “nerds” to school. The Imperial Army of Star Wars mythology began as a mass cloning operation to create the Grand Army of the Republic to battle the Trade Federation and the increasing number of separatist forces and their droid armies built by the Geonosians. The template for the clone army was the bounty hunter Jango Fett (played by Temuera Morrison), who was NOT a white fella.
At the end of the Clone Wars when the clone commanders and their troops executed Order 66 to kill all Jedi, that was the beginning of the end for them. This was for several reasons, including some clones questioning Order 66 because of the loyalties forged in battle. But two more practical reasons existed. The first being the number of clones. While the initial amount of clone troopers was more than sufficient, with at least two more batches on the way, there was no evidence of any additional cloning beyond that point.
Even if there were, the clones were the subject of accelerated aging to accommodate the needs of the Republic Army. So in either case, clone troopers would need to be replaced as a result of aging, casualties of war, or the possibility no more were being made. Once the Republic turned into the Empire, those numbers could be filled with citizens in the academy as storm troopers for the clones, and officers for the slain Jedi. With the change of mentality and fear in the galaxy, it was the best chance for many people to have survived. It goes without saying that in a collection of worlds as large as the Empire, there surely had to be SOME black folks, and odds are some of them were in the service of the military.
So yeah, a black guy can be a storm trooper.
As long as we’re on race, why don’t we address some gender stuff? Mainly, merchandising. In ‘The Force Awakens’ we obviously have a movie that has a strong female presence. Not only does it mark the return of iconic Leia as played by the awesome Carrie Fisher, but newcomers Daisy Ridley as Rey (who is the focus of most of the marketing), and Gwendolyn Christie as Captain Phasma (a chrome storm trooper commander who has a sweet Boba Fett-like cape). By all accounts they are awesome characters and a big step in the right direction for females in sci-fi/action type entertainment.
But there have been a few instances of really disturbing controversy surrounding products concerning the movie, and the lack of representation of obviously prominent female characters. To save myself some typing, here’s some links to a few stories:
The first is about Captain Phasma and her outfit, and not being able to tell she’s female.
The next is about a Captain Phasma costume that wasn’t labeled as such.
And finally, how about a multi-pack of figures from the movie, excluding two main characters in favor of some generic troops?
One thing we can all take comfort in is that in at least two of these cases, the transgression was called out if not even rectified as in the case of the costume on the Target website. But nerds and consumers need to continue to call out these companies, that both produce TV and film as well as merchandise based on their productions. There’s no reason we have to remain beholden to an old way of thinking that says women can’t be heroes to young boys. There are too many Buffys, and Scarlet Witches, and now Reys and Phasmas for this to continue.
To conclude this particular entry, I want to touch on one really disturbing thing, as if the last few weren’t disturbing enough. But this one is downright violent. And not in principal, in practice.
It’s insulting to those of us who call ourselves fans and hold these things up as something to be loved and cherished. The reaction shown sinks to their level and shows an ugly side to fandom. It’s sad the actions of a few give the rest of us a bad name, and feed the kind of bull shit she and others have spewed. And make no mistake, her assessment of Star Wars and the people who enjoy it is egregiously incorrect and uncalled for. Not only that, but I would probably be safe she doesn’t hold these views to Star Wars fans alone. I’ll wager she has an elitist view on most fans of most nerdy things. But that’s not an excuse to threaten her with death.
All is not bleak, however. For even after Anakin turned to the darkness, murdered a bunch of kids and helped Palpatine destroy the Jedi and establish the Empire, there were two twin children who were hidden away to grow up and later herald in an era of hope. Such is the same in reality. And that is the next episode of this particular saga.
p.s. – remember the column about spoilers? They have apps for the Interweb to block them! What has the world come to?
All the photos in this column are the property of other people. They are fine photos, and the people they belong to should be flattered I used them here. Please don’t sue us.