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Why stories should be celebrated

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Everything is Awesome...

The idea that Star Wars (and storytelling more generally) is something to be celebrated would seem, at first glance, to be obvious. However, in a world where the mere mention of George Lucas or the Star Wars prequels or Jar-Jar Binks almost automatically becomes a cheap punchline, as if no-one could possibly be allowed to hold an opposing, positive opinion of them, and where creators like Joss Whedon are harrassed on Twitter (possibly being a contributing factor in his decision to delete his account recently) for daring to write a character in a way certain fans don't approve of, the point obviously needs to be made.

(Whatever the specific arguments may be for or against Black Widow's characterisation in Avengers: Age of Ultron, let's not make things personal, and let's not lose perspective. It is a film with a lot of things going for it, after all.) As Joss Whedon himself sings on Commentary! The Musical from the Doctor Horrible's Sing-a-Blog DVD, “We're gonna pick, pick, pick, pick, pick it apart / Open it up to find the tick, tick, tick of a heart / Heart, broken...”

In Joss Whedon terms, I adore enthusiastic fandom...but I don't need the other guy. When a portion of fandom collectively decides it doesn't like something, it's more like Buffy's Dark Willow than the Avengers' Hulk. But Xander still loves Willow, and that famous scene from the end of Buffy Season 6 is one of the series' greatest scenes.

Of course, people are free to articulate whatever subjective opinions they may have, and analysing the structure of stories and how they work (or don't) can be fascinating, as well as illuminating alternative storytelling possibilities. Fans being passionate about their fandoms can be a good thing. Engaged fans often make the best creators.

However, it's best if it comes from a place of love, not hate. Release your anger. But not unleash it. Just let it go. Be a Jedi, not a Sith.

One good example of fans articulating their frustrations with certain elements of a film, but still keeping perspective and enjoying the film as a whole, is this parody of The Hobbit films and Billy Joel's It's Still Rock and Roll to Me, entitled It's Still Middle-Earth to Me.

The Lego Movie's catchy theme tune posits the idea that “Everything is Awesome”. Arguably, this philosophy isn't about lack of intelligent engagement, leading to a blind acceptance of everything regardless of quality, but rather it *is* about intelligent engagement with everything, and how the (sometimes subtle) appreciation of the nuances as well as the bigger picture can help us to appreciate the texture of it. (More than meets the eye.) This applies to lots of different things, which all have their merits in different ways, and being able to appreciate this range of quality (and qualities) means that, effectively, “Everything is Awesome”. If you don't dismiss it, but take it for what it is, then you can celebrate the awesome, whatever nuance of awesome that may be.

That's one of the great things about films (and stories in general). It's possible to enjoy Transformers and The Tree of Life. And The Lego Movie, for that matter, and many others.

It's also possible to appreciate one film (or story) in several different ways, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive. A film can work on many levels.

Joss Whedon's Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron, for instance, combines the blockbuster spectacle and wit of The Avengers with the visual and emotional texture of Serenity, and as such arguably surpasses them both.

Without wishing to delve too deeply into the Black Widow controversy, perhaps one of the reasons behind it may have been that some people simply want a female action hero who's all about the action, rather than exploring emotions which some may feel make female characters seem 'softer' or 'weaker'. Joss Whedon attempted to balance the two, something that he's been doing for his entire career (c.f. Buffy Summers—the very title Buffy the Vampire Slayer encompasses three distinct genres, and that title is very important to (but not the entirety of) her identity).

(In this writer's view, he does so successfully, especially when you consider Avengers: Age of Ultron in the context of Natasha's longer arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Natasha has a dark past, which she's seeking to get away from, and she's seeking to discover who she is, learning to open up emotionally around the people she cares about. Though her Avengers: Age of Ultron arc may be unexpected, it's definitely a progression from what went before.)

With one of the year's most anticipated blockbusters having been released, there are still plenty more to look forward to, including and especially Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (or simply Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as it seems to be referred to). Just think, a couple of years ago, the fandom thought there were going to be no more Star Wars films ever, and now we have an entire sequel trilogy, plus standalone films, plus many other extensions of the franchise such as TV shows (and Star Wars: Rebels is already going), to look forward to.

The Force Awakens, as it's fittingly titled, will be the first film in this new era of Star Wars. There's always been a massive amount of anticipation around any new Star Wars film, especially after a significant gap. This feeling of giddy excitement can be a good thing. However, especially when people care so much about a franchise such as this, they can elevate their expectations so high that nothing could possibly match them. (And not just in terms of quality—also, seemingly with ridiculous levels of specificity, such that whatever the events and details of the final film, they inevitably won't be exactly the same as some people imagine (and thus demand), necessarily leading to disappointment.) Perhaps this goes some way to explain the levels of vitriol directed (unfairly, in this writer's opinion) towards the Star Wars prequels.

In any case, we get a new Star Wars movie this year, people! How cool is that? And remember Star Wars is supposed to be escapism. Yes, that often involves suspending your disbelief. It's more fun that way. So when December rolls around, can we all just try to enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens for what it is, rather than being ready to declare “Worst. Movie. Ever.” like the internet is so bizarrely fond of doing?

Here's the latest trailer again, with its signature line, “Chewie, we're home.” Enjoy it:

 

Let's all try to let fandom bring us together in appreciation of things, instead of driving us apart.

As Abraham Lincoln once said (admittedly, he was quoting Bill and Ted, in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure):

“Be excellent to each other. And...party on, dudes!”

Why stories should be celebrated - as 'The Lego Movie' (2014) tells us, "Everything is Awesome!"


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