The Fandom Menace

There’s this theory going around the internet – isn’t there always a theory going around the internet? – and it’s been around for a while. Of course, I am just now picking up on it, along with many other people, due to the uptick in a certain fandom based on an upcoming, highly-anticipated, and amazing-looking sequel.

I’m going to talk about it, but only as part of the overall point of this entry. Promise you won’t go away because of the certain name you see below and I swear I’ll make the rest of this article worth your while.




The big theory is that Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord – the real Phantom Menace titular to Episode I.

Lest you think this is some laughable fan theory made up to grant significance to what is viewed as one of the worst Star Wars characters of all time, I compel you to look at the evidence for yourself.

I’ll wait here while you check it out. You really should before we go any further.

Welcome to mind blow land. I’m not going to present the entire theory here, that’s why I posted the link. Please, seriously, click through and check it out. It’s important to the next few paragraphs but I suppose not the entire article as a whole.

Now, some of you may view this with a skeptic’s eye, as I originally did. Some of you may even say, “Lucas isn’t that smart,” but I would persuade you to think of your qualifier for that. Most of you feel betrayed by Lucas BECAUSE of Jar Jar Binks and his stupidity. But what if – WHAT IF – all of this was true and Jar Jar’s presence was justified by making him the most powerful Sith Lord in the universe? How would George Lucas look to you then? How would you feel knowing that the buyer’s remorse you felt for your midnight Phantom Menace tickets resulted in what could have been the most amazing reveal in all of film history?

None of us would have seen it coming. If I could wax hypothetical on the theory for just another paragraph or three, I would like to posit some quick ways this would have changed everything about the prequels. For the better. Maybe for the amazing.

Count Dooku was the shoehorn replacement for Darth Jar Jar in spots. I think the reveal would have happened at the end of Attack of the Clones. Instead of battling Count Dooku, the Jedi would have had an epic lightsaber battle with Darth Jar Jar who would instantly drop the stupid Gungan accent and suddenly be quite smooth and intellectual. He and Anakin would have some words with “Little Ani’s” heart being broken after realizing his childhood friend was a Sith Lord all along. They fight, Jar Jar gains the upper hand – maybe even says some words to convince Anakin to come to the Dark Side – and he is the one who cuts off Anakin’s arm. Then we get the Yoda vs. Jar Jar fight which would have been an epic achievement in CGI (maybe, probably, maybe not?).

This would be a much clearer influence for Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side than Palpatine blah-blahing some old story about Darth Plagueis the Wise and his ability to resurrect and retain life. Hell, Jar Jar himself could have been Darth Plagueis the Wise. My personal theory is that Jar Jar may have even been Jedi Master Saifo-Dias who supposedly ordered the Clone Army from Kamino. I’m probably wrong there, but, if Jar Jar is a missing and high-ranking Force adept on either side of the coin (or both), he could fill many holes that exist in the legends by being that “unseen” character.

Either way, Anakin’s betrayal by Jar Jar at the end of Attack of the Clones would have been brutal but his old, innocent friend seducing him to the Dark Side would have been much more interesting. Jar Jar always approved of the love between Padme and Anakin. He would be very understanding and accepting (and greedy) regarding their prophecy fulfilling children. I couldn’t even imagine the after-effects of the whole ordeal. Would they have killed Jar Jar by the end of Revenge of the Sith or would he have escaped, leaving us to wonder where he was during the events of the Rebellion? We’ll never know.

We will never know. That is the most important takeaway from this theory – we will never and can never know what exactly Lucas had in mind. Even if he confesses – which I would advise him to do immediately – that the Darth Jar Jar theory is real, we will never get to see those movies. We will never get to hear that story. Why? Because we all dropped the ball. Hard.

The reason I made you promise to stay with me at the beginning of the post was that mentioning the name Jar Jar Binks is nearly guaranteed to shut people off immediately. You think of his stupid face, his bumbling, and his meesa-yousa bullshit and you immediately want to change the channel. We ALL hated Jar Jar. We hated him so hard and so publically that articles were written about it. Hate mail was sent to Lucas because of it. The pressure of the fanbase purely hating on this character made Lucas change his plans, as evidenced in tweets and interviews.

We killed Darth Jar Jar with the unbridled hate of the collective internet before Lucas had a chance to perpetrate the end of his scheme. We were tainted by the “Greedo shot first” incident and thought he was completely off his rocker. Jar Jar put us all over the edge and made us lose faith. Lucas became a joke and, ultimately, sold to Disney because he knew that no one would ever trust him to make a good Star Wars movie again. That’s not to say that The Force Awakens doesn’t look amazing, but I digress.

Fandom banded together and pressured a creator so hard that he ditched an entire master plan for fear that people would boycott any movie which would assign an important role to a character as conceivably ridiculous as Jar Jar. I remember before Attack of the Clones came out, there were rumors that Jar Jar would become a Jedi or something like that and I remember pounding my fist on a bar and cursing Lucas’ name if he made it true. Little did I know that almost fifteen years later I would be sitting here looking back at that me as part of the problem.

The same sort of thing happened to J.K. Rowling when info leaked that, after the Battle of Hogwarts and the defeat of Voldemort, Harry would become a squib due to the loss of his connection to the Dark Lord. Fans and forums went apeshit and caused J.K. to bow to pressure and “fix” the ending.

That’s really where all this talk was going.

Fandom has a huge influence on the way modern creators craft a story. This is a pure and important fact and, perhaps, a peril of being a storyteller in the internet era. The power of internet fandom can topple dynasties in hours if they disagree with something happening on a given show or in a movie or in a book series. Fandom can become militant. Fandom can tear down worlds. Fandom can hold stories for ransom.

As a storyteller and a universe builder, my question is this – Is this the right thing to do? Should an author/filmmaker/showrunner bow immediately to the pressure of the fans? How does this compromise story elements? How much should this change the overall plot or goal?

I am not speaking out about fandom in general as I am part of it. I have written (in my head if not in word files hidden deep within my vault) the way I thought Lost and Harry Potter should have ended. I am vocal about how I think things should progress in shows (which ultimately don’t materialize). I have my own ideas of how things should go if I would write them. I am deep in the fandom of certain things but I have learned in my old age to trust in the writers for the most part. Not that they are always right, but as fandom, we should respect that it is their story to tell.

There have been moments during reading/watching where I have angrily shaken my fist or been outwardly vocal or even cried due to a plot turn or a character death or a stupidly implausible whatever. There have been characters in things that I really wanted to die who make it all the way to the end and vice versa. That is part of the emotion of the narrative.

Nothing can ever satisfy everyone within a fandom. There will always be some hate for certain characters/events/situations/places but in the end, the creator of that story should stand firm and not bow to the demands of the fandom. The fandom should respect the source material, even if it’s not created yet.

On the other side, some fan service is ok, but never at the expense of the narrative. Bowing to fan pressure to the narrative is the reason Jango Fett was the source of the Clone Army – because people just couldn’t get enough of Boba that there just HAD to be a way to shoe-horn in someone in Mandelorian armor flying Slave I and generally being an overall badass. I know I keep going with the Star Wars references but the way the fandom influenced the prequels is, in my opinion, why they were so awful. Lucas put out the Phantom Menace and we all (myself included) hated it. We railed so hard against it that he took all of our suggestions into account when proceeding to Episodes II and III and those turned out to be garbage to the point of being completely disavowed by sections of general nerdity.

If you need a more contemporary example, think about the phrase “if Daryl dies, we riot,” and tell me that doesn’t influence a certain group of showrunners.

As an author, I have to tell you – trust us. We have a plan. Even if you don’t think we do, we totally do. We have this stuff lined up. We know the direction things need to go. We have already decided who lives and who dies and we’re very sorry if that somehow puts out your favorite character but that is the story we are telling. Sometimes these things are unavoidable. By all means, if a character is killed off, you can always push for a prequel. Or an alternate universe. But, let that character stay dead if the author says they’re dead. There are enough Jean Greys out there.

And, if you don’t like the way things are going, be cool and wait it out. Let things unfold without the backlash. If we had, we would have Darth Jar Jar. And it would have been amazing.

Have an opinion on this topic? Feel free to voice it in the comments. I’m interested in fandom’s opinion on this. Also, if you’re interested in joining the Unlucky Seven fandom, let me know. I want one so bad.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

I Did It All For the Nookie

I’m currently on Chapter III of Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad”. I’m also about half way through a collection of Sherlock Holmes tales at the same time. I finished reading Treasure Island in a week (which is a good pace for someone very easily distracted) and in my possession on my to-read list is Moby-Dick, The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Prince by Machiavelli, as well as some classic re-reads of a few of my favorites (the Thebian Plays, the Odyssey, and Leaves of Grass) and I’m currently searching for more things I should have read by now to devour.

All of this I got for Christmas from my wife.

She certainly didn’t strain herself walking my gift in from the car. I do not have a gigantic stack of books on my desk or my end table in the living room. I am not drowning in a sea of paper. I am not feathering through giant leather-bound volumes. I don’t need to worry about bookmarks falling out or (by way of making me feel old) pulling my glasses down my nose a bit to read finer print at the distance I prefer.

As sketchy as I was about them at first, it turns out that e-Readers are a wonderful thing.
I had thought that having an e-Reader would just be having a narrow-functioned laptop. I had visions of a small flat-panel device which would be just a plain old screen belching out bright white light in the background of the print. I imagined that, while reading with one, my eyes would more than likely begin to water. I reckoned that spending an entire night reading would be much like spending an entire night playing video games; not much blinking, a lot of runny eyes, and probably a headache if sustained for over six hours at a go.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
Enter e-Ink screens. e-Ink seems to be more of a repackaged old technology than a new one. That’s not to hold anything against it, mind you, because it’s awesome. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the original Game Boys minus the Baby-Turd Green (Crayola, here I come) background color; black-and-white display, no backlighting. Sure, it’s impossible to read in the dark, but then again, that’s how books are supposed to be.
e-Ink screens make the display look like an actual printed page. So much so that, on my first encounter with an e-Reader on display at Staples, I rubbed my hand across the screen to see if it was a printed paper stuck to the screen or whether the printing was part of the display itself. Deciding that the thing was just a mock-up, I pressed a button. When the screen changed, my jaw hit the floor. A piece of paper had just changed its writing while I was watching. At least, that was what it looked like. From there, I was interested.
I used to be huge into reading but, with many latter-day techno-distractions, I’d all but given it up. Though I constantly wanted to get back into reading, I had a problem with misplacing books. Every time I would buy a book, I would read the first few chapters and, if it didn’t truly hold my interest, it would be put down. Once down, it would usually (after a long period of eventuality) move to the bookshelf in the office room of our house, never to be picked up again.
It was also, most often, uncomfortable for me to have a book open. I found myself annoyed at hand cramps and pinching the spines of hardcover books between my thumb and forefinger. Dust jackets were wasted on me. More often than not, they would wind up hidden away somewhere to be creased and beaten up until found and, sometimes, discarded. I didn’t like that they made my hands slip off the book, so I couldn’t read with it on there.

Having an e-Reader, I started to think, would make me read more often. If I could have something which could potentially be held in one hand, would always be the same size, and would contain an entire library (in case of boredom), I would be more inclined to use it. Also, the fact that it was a gadget by nature would probably keep me more interested in it.

It turns out I was right.

My e-Reader, the Barnes and Noble nook (another victim of the casual discarding or misplacing of capital letters in a proper noun), is freakin’ sweet.
With a price tag around US$260 (not including warrantee), it has already saved me quite a bit of money in books. I’ve been searching for classics I’ve never read and finding that Google Books has an extensive library of public domain available for free which allowed me to download the entirety of my collection thus far without dropping an additional dime.
If you’d like to purchase more recent (or recently classic) titles, they will run you anywhere from a meager $.99 to a more boisterous $9.99. This all depends on the popularity of the book and the writer. New York Times Bestsellers typically run toward the top of the price range while you could purchase, say, the Complete Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald for somewhere near the bottom (shame, that, but still…)
For instance, Stephen King’s latest monster (weighing in at 1000+ pages) would run you around $39.95 for the hardcover. With the nook, you pay $9.99. If this thing isn’t worth its weight in gold to the avid reader, I don’t know what is. The store also contains a few e-Book based newspapers and magazines available as subscriptions.
Such a weight in gold might not even be a difference maker. This thing is light. All electronics included, it’s probably less than the weight of the average paperback book. It’s thin and comfortable to handle. The back of the device is covered with a rubbery grip and bowed ever so slightly to make for a more ergonomic experience – it literally feels like you’re holding a thin paperback.
The nook, though probably the least known (and possibly respected) of the Big Three in e-Readers this past holiday season, is probably the most convenient of the three. Consider the 3G Wireless function (at no charge) which connects directly to the B&N e-Book Store whenever you get a notion to browse, feel the need for new literature, or, in my case, remember twenty minutes after your initial thought that you wanted to look for something on the store but now you’re away from home. It can also be used through any wireless network, including B&N’s in-store wi-fi, to conserve battery power.
Speaking of battery power, nook is also the only e-Reader on the market with a replaceable battery. Not sure how to do it yet, but I know it doesn’t require voiding any warrantees.
The nook also lets you interface with friends who have a nook. You can lend a nook friend a purchased book for two weeks, after which it deletes itself. Pretty nice when you’ve got friends with extensive tastes and large libraries.
As far as the large libraries are concerned, the nook has an onboard 2GB hard drive. While that may not sound big by any iPod or hard drive comparisons, realize that I’ve got over a dozen classics measuring no fewer than 200 pages each (some quite a bit longer) including illustrations and my nook still has 98% free space. Text files aren’t large, even when they are long.
The real reason for the hard drive (and the MicroSD expansion slot) is the built-in MP3 player allowing you to read with music or catch an audio book via headphones or the unit’s built in speakers. It’s the only e-Reader with that function, I’m fairly certain.

While it’s not the most popular e-Reader on the market, the nook is still an awesome piece of equipment. Really, any e-Reader is an awesome piece of equipment.

The biggest thing about the e-Reader boom is that it’s good news for people like yours truly – that being purveyors of the written word. Just when it seemed like print was dead, something comes along to save the day. Or, at least, to try to save the day.
e-Readers, if they really catch on, have the potential to be the new MP3 players. Books may be made available exclusively in e-Book format (there are some e-Serials which are already being produced, much to the thrill of your humble and as-yet-unpublished narrator) making the e-Reader both the most green way to read and a convenient way to carry around an entire library in a relatively tiny package.

Everyone I know love their e-Reader. If you like reading, go get one. The large upfront cost may look intimidating, but consider how much you’ll save paying $10 at max for a book.
I’ll still probably get more important volumes in print, but probably just for collectors reasons.
I can’t wait until you can get comic books on these things.

The future is now!

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—