A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away… … A Debate Was Born A Treatise on the Canonicity of the EU A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away… Or May 25, 1977 to be precise, Star Wars was first brought to the silver screen, entrancing millions of viewers worldwide. The newly created hordes of fans demanded more and more Star Wars content. This lead to the creation of arguably the largest fictional universe to this day (certainly the largest grossing franchise), The Star Wars ‘Expanded Universe”
And what exactly is the “Expanded Universe? ” Well the “Expanded Universe,” or EU for short, is defined as, “All of the officially licensed, fictional background of the Star Wars universe, outside of the six feature films produced by George Lucas. ” This includes every officially licensed book, comic book, video game, spin-off film, television series, toy, and other media. But something that most “casual” fans don’t realize is that there has been a heated debate taking place since its inception, and that is the canonicity of the EU.
Now, what I mean by canon is “Those sources which are generally considered authoritative regarding a given fictional universe” (canonicity is the adjective form of canon, so when I say canonicity, I mean canon, and vis versa). So canon, in this case, is the official version of events. “Hardcore” fans have always argued over various aspects of EU canon, (For example, did Boba Fett actually die when he “fell” into the sarlacc, and is he really a clone? ) but the discussion has recently flared into a large conflict when two well known, and loved, storylines clashed irreconcilably.
But before I describe that, let me first explain a little bit about the processes and rules that are used to decide what is canon. Foremost, there is a team at Lucas Arts, George Lucas’s company, whose sole job is to ensure and regulate consistency between the movies and the EU. To this end they have developed the five levels of canon, “G” canon, “T” canon, “C” canon, “S” canon, and “N” canon, and their precedence in that order. The G canon is anything that George Lucas has ever written, directed, or said. The six original movies are under this category.
G canon is absolute, and no other canon can contradict it. T canon is television canon, or anything that happens on the television series. C canon is “Continuity” canon, and contains the bulk of EU material. Almost every novel and comic is under this category. The S canon stands for “Secondary canon, and it contains the older, less accurate EU material. And lastly there is the N canon, and that is the “Non-Continuity” material. This consists of everything else done under the Star Wars label, “what if” stories and the like. This is usually considered not to be canon.
Obviously canon inspires debate no matter what the subject is, (Take for example the debate over the canonicity of the apocrypha) and Star Wars is no exception. Now, I want to give you an example of this debate with a recent issue, a conflict between a “C” canon storyline, and a “T” storyline. As established over many books and comics, the Mandolorians are a nomadic clan based people group whose culture revolves around conflict. They have strong a strong sense of honor and duty, and most of the able-bodied become mercenaries or bounty hunters, Boba Fett being a good example of this.
Now, the very popular kids TV series, The Clone Wars, was pretty ambiguous during the first season. It mostly dealt with revisiting the places and people from the movies, and solving generic Star Wars issues. But in the second season it attempted to introduce a controversial concept, that the Mandolorians are actually a peace loving people who exiled their culture’s warriors to the planet’s moon. Now according to official rules, the TV series is considered “T” and therefore higher than the “C” version of Mandolorian history, but the majority of fans are outraged that the producers would try to change events so.
Now, I am admittedly biased on the matter so I took this opportunity to get someone else’s opinion on the matter. I interviewed a local, self proclaimed Star Wars fanatic by the name of Joshua Chick. He has even gone so far as to start learning “Mando’a,” the fictional language of the Mandolorians. Joshua has spent extensive amounts of time researching, and reading books on the subject, and for this reason, is considered a literary expert, in this area. And by glancing around his room I can see why.
The bookshelves that line his room are filled with such titles as The Institutes, Herodotus, Anna Karenina, “Les Miserables” and many others such as these. As I interviewed him, I sensed that like so many other Star Wars fans, he was not pleased with George Lucas’s “meddling” where he has no perceived business; no matter that it is his prerogative to do so. It was one fairly ambiguous statement that clued me into his mood, “George Lucas has ruined everything die hard Star Wars fans stood for. ”
For Josh and other fans the question is not whether or not Lucas has the right to change canon, but whether or not he should exercise it. As Josh puts it, “George Lucas has concerned himself with one thing, his movies…. Now that he has entered into the EU with no comprehension of what fans appreciate and have come to love, he has trampled and smashed through major star wars story lines, effectively wrecking them permanently and rendering them useless. ” You see, the reason Star Wars has one of the largest fan bases is because of the engaging storyline, and characters that fans can become emotionally attached to.
The Mandolorians, and especially the novels by Karen Travis outlining them, have become one of Star Wars most beloved story arcs. So it should be no surprise to anyone that when someone attempts to fundamentally change it, that fans would put up a fight. Josh sums up their sentiments with this statement, “If you want to hire people to work on the EU, let them do their jobs. ” As you can see from some of the details I have provided this issue is quite a clash of ideals. Some have even likened it to the “Holy War” of Star Wars canon.
And by no means is this the only instance of this kind of thing, merely one of the latest, and some argue biggest, issues. A personal theory of mine, as to the reasoning behind the clash, is that a majority of people feel like their life is out of control and they are just “along for the ride. ” Their history is set in stone and there is nothing they can do to change it. So when they come across a story, or in this case fictional history, that they become emotionally attached to, they don’t tolerate it being meddled with.
Although they have no say in real history, they can in this fictional universe. And so the aforementioned vehemently object when one of their favorite people groups are transformed from a proud and noble race into “pacifist sissies. ” Or as Joshua puts it, “Lucas has dynamically altered the potential perception of Mandos, as fans who used to admire and imitate a pragmatic and Spartan-esque warrior culture are now reduced to rooting for a planet that has pacifistic neutrality attitude of Switzerland, with none of the military preparedness they utilize. But for those who fear for the fate of the Eu, fear no more, because the Star Wars canon has been tested before, and came through stronger than ever. It is this very issue of canonicity that defines Star Wars, and makes it so indomitable. After all, if fans care about it enough to debate the technicalities of canon, then how much more care goes into crafting the stories. I think that Joshua puts it best like this, “No matter what turmoil and upheavals the canon goes through, the enduring saga will live on. ”