The New Yorker recently posed an interesting analysis of the expanding Star Wars universe: it is increasingly empty.
The story, written by Joshua Rothman, details why this is in the final paragraph.
When the universalization of “Star Wars” is complete, it will no longer be a story but an aesthetic. We’ll be able to debate which actor played Han Solo best, just as we weigh the pros and cons of different James Bonds. We’ll keep up with the new movies not because we want to find out what happens—the plot, if one exists, will be an impenetrable trellis of intersecting arclets—but because we like their vibe, their look, and their general moral attitude…There will be an infinite supply of high-speed space chases and lightsabre duels. But the story will never end, and so will have ceased to be a story.
Interesting – but why is this happening? If we backtrack a tick in the story, we can pinpoint a reason.
During the sixteen-year interregnum between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Phantom Menace,” “Star Wars” fans were desperate. Their hunger for new films was so acute that, during trailers for the theatrical re-release of the original trilogy, in 1997, audiences cheered the Lucasfilm logo when it appeared onscreen. In 2012, when the Walt Disney Company spent around four billion dollars to buy Lucasfilm, it was hard to see the downside. “Star Wars” has never been indie; it’s impossible for a merchandising empire to sell out.
Interesting to consider, yes, but it highlights a conversation I keep having this year: things no longer die but, instead, are constantly reincarnated, reconsidered, remade to appease a supposed desire, something that is sometimes viewed as nostalgia and other times a raping of curious cash.
Think about it: nothing disappears anymore. Did you like Blade Runner? There’s a new film for you then. Miss Prince? He hasn’t gone anywhere! Longing for more sleek YSL (neé, Yves Saint Laurent) looks? He is still alive, somehow! Love a celebrity? Support their child! Nothing is gone, nothing is forgotten, everything lives on in a limbo until those people and places and things that we long for return. A load of mini Christ stories, in a way.
This is the double edged sword of the future, of the Internet. With the ability to crowd source, we can see that people enjoyed something and are interested in something – and might want more. Hollywood – or whoever the capitalist is – recognizes this, taking a fan fiction model to make something new out of something old, essentially making it known that a set story – something that once was decidedly finished – is now an unending yarn. The book never closed. This is the true neverending story. Frankly, we just can’t let shit go.
This is a discomfort with the finiteness of reality. I am so incredibly terrified of death but I’m unsure I’d want my story to be recreated in riffs, for my work and stories and thoughts to be spun out in perpetuity for some sort of leech in the audience or at the bank to keep blood pumping. Instead of these items being representatives of a moment in time, they are like the stretching stars in a warp speed: a messy blur of the past and the present that has little grasp on reality. This is a byproduct of our coming to terms with reality as we try to make characters and franchises and figures last forever. You see this in unexpected places too, from art (Warhol’s unending fifteen minutes.) to food (Newman’s Own.) to animals (“de-extinction“).
This is less of a comment and more of an observation, something to recognize and realize as we are unable to go to therapy as a society, as a people. What are we doing when we rehash and rehash and rehash? Not just stories or sequels but when we literally resurrect? What are we doing? Let things die. There is a lesson to be learned here that we are ignoring. That seems to be problematic.