Unlearning What You’ve Learned, and Why It’s Impossible When You Know Nothing

Yeah, I’m still bouncing over The Force Awakens teaser. When I say bouncing, I mean I’ve been watching the teaser ad nauseum and drooling over Oscar Isaac and the new X-wings. I like the teaser the more I see it, and appreciate what they were able to convey in such a short amount of time. We can assume we’ve seen the new big three, and that there’s still a conflict between the Empire and “Rebellion”, or the New Republic, or whatever it’s called now. And then of course there’s the voiceover, which tells us something big has happened in the Force. This is all more than we officially knew, but we still know very little.

And this makes it impossible for me to to unlearn what I’ve learned about the post Return of the Jedi era. Allow me to explain.

It’s no secret that I became a fan of Star Wars mostly in part due to the Expanded Universe. That era has always been my main area of interest, even when the prequels were coming out and now with Rebels on my TV every week. The stories from that era are my favorites, the characters from that era the ones I relate to the most. This isn’t another post about turning the Expanded Universe into Legends, though. We’ve all come to terms with that, and the fact that we might never see a continuation of those stories. I’m ready for new stories. But I need to know what to expect. I need to unlearn what I’ve learned.

How can I do that when I know hardly anything about The Force Awakens?

I know that the teaser trailer did exactly what it set out to do: it created an astonishing amount of hype and teased all of us for what we have to look forward to. It was extremely successful in that way. But it raised more questions, and more frustrations. Debate abounded on who was saying the voiceover (some entertainment reporters have confirmed its Andy Serkis), and who is the robed figure (I speculate Adam Driver, since he’s pretty high on the cast list and we didn’t see his face in the trailer). And fans started to ask who are these characters? What are their names? What should we call them? Why are they important?

We’ve seen them in action now, but we still don’t know the answer to those questions. When will we find out? We don’t know the answer to that question, either. Perhaps Celebration? Comic Con? Will they do similar character videos like they did with the Rebels cast? (I would love that!) Your guess is as good as mine. One thing’s for sure, though: I want to learn these things from official channels, not leaks. Not rumors. Not because someone saw descriptions in a toy catalog. I want Lucasfilm to say “these are your new Big Three, here are their names, and this is what the galaxy looks like when The Force Awakens begins.”

Why is this important? Why can’t we just go into the movie blind? Sure, there are people who prefer this. I don’t. Because for over 20 years I’ve had a certain picture in my mind of the post Jedi era and that needs to change before I go into a movie theater to see The Force Awakens. I need to get used to the idea that Luke might not be married. I need to get used to the idea that there might not be a Jedi Academy. I need to get used to the idea that Han and Leia might not be married or have three children. I need to get used to the idea that the Galactic Civil War never really ended.

I have opinions on all of these possible changes, some good and some bad. I need to reconcile all these thoughts in my mind before going into the movie. How am I supposed to judge The Force Awakens on its own merit when I have all this baggage coloring my opinions? And it’s not just Expanded Universe fans who’ll have this problem. I know people who stopped reading the EU because they had their own ideas of what should happen after Jedi and the EU didn’t match that. I know people who think the movies are the only things that matter and they also have their own ideas of what happened after Jedi. Think about it: many of us had our own ideas of how the Empire came to be and how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, because we had 16 years in between Jedi and The Phantom Menace to think about it. And for some people, that predisposed them to dislike the prequels. It’s the same concept here, only now we’ve had 31 years to come to our own conclusions.

I can’t count the number of times someone has gotten on their high horse and said something to me like, “Well the New Republic might not even exist!” “Well there might not even be other Jedi besides Luke!” “Well Han and Leia might not even be married!” Yes, I know all these things might be true, and I know I need to get used to that. I can try to do that on my own, but that’s almost impossible to achieve without knowing what to expect in The Force Awakens.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying we need to know everything. I’m avoiding rumors and plot points like the plague. I like Eleven Thirty-Eight’s explanation on what constitutes a spoiler: saying there’s a battle on a snow planet is not a spoiler, but saying Vader is Luke’s father is a spoiler. Telling us what planets The Force Awakens will visit isn’t going to give away the plot. Likewise, giving character names isn’t going to ruin the movie. In fact, it’ll might make it better, because I’ll have sufficient time to unlearn what I have learned.

I appreciate that J.J. Abrams and everyone at Lucasfilm have to walk a fine line between keeping the story a surprise and giving too much away. But right now, I feel they’re keeping too many secrets, and I fear they’re going to continue subscribing to the mystery box theory until The Force Awakens comes out. I fear I’m not going to learn about what Luke’s been doing since Jedi until I sit down in that theatre, and my reaction to that knowledge is going to ruin the movie for me.

I’ve been through this before: prior to seeing Revenge of the Sith, I was adamant that Anakin couldn’t know Padme was pregnant before turning to the dark side. It didn’t make sense to me at all, and I’d argued against it many times, even using the Jedi novelization as support. Of course, Padme tells Anakin she’s pregnant near the beginning of the movie, and I sat there glowering for a long time. This was stupid. It’s not what I thought should happen. It didn’t make sense — if Vader knew there was a chance he had children out there in the galaxy, wouldn’t he stop at nothing to find them? Look at how obsessive he gets after Luke blows up the Death Star.

But then Padme dies at the end of the movie, and Vader assumes the baby (he didn’t know there were two) died with her. It wasn’t what I’d expected to happen, but it still worked. And after seeing Sith multiple times in the theatre, I got used to it. It wasn’t even a problem anymore. And I loved the movie.

I don’t know if I’d ever be able to get that used to the idea of Luke not being married, or Han and Leia not having children, or any of the other things that became the backbone of the Legends universe. But I sure could try. I want to try. I want to believe.

I just prefer to get used to these ideas before seeing the movie, rather than after. I want my first viewing of The Force Awakens to be filled with anticipation, not dread and worry. Perhaps a sense of worry and dread is always going to be inevitable when you’ve hyped up a movie as much as Star Wars, but there’s ways to make it easier for folks. Giving us something concrete to reconcile in our minds will go a long way towards helping us all unlearn what we have learned.

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4 thoughts on “Unlearning What You’ve Learned, and Why It’s Impossible When You Know Nothing

  1. 'But right now, I feel they’re keeping too many secrets, and I fear they’re going to continue subscribing to the mystery box theory until The Force Awakens comes out.'

    I worry about that, too. Though I do think there's reason to hope for otherwise. I recall JJ Abrams saying that he thought keeping Khan secret was a mistake (http://io9.com/j-j-abrams-admits-lying-about-star-trek-2s-khan-was-a-1475078061). From that I - somewhat tenuously - extrapolate that he's learned from that and thus he won't be keeping too many secrets.

    Again, that's still tenuous. But I, too, want to know more about the post-ROTJ universe, and I find such self-delusions comforting, haha.

    Also, I'm liking either Christie or Driver for the baddie (with Nyong'o or Gleeson as possibilities). I rule out Hamill and Sydow as the baddie - I hope they can forgive me for saying this - based on body type. Which would mean those rumours about Luke dwelling over Vader's helmet would be untrue.

  2. I'm not sure the issue is quite the same as the identity of Khan, though. The thing with Trek was...we knew going in this was going to be a Wrath of Khan reboot. We knew Benedict Cumberbatch was the villain. Ergo....We don't have a similar frame of reference here. I also wouldn't limit it to one bad guy--I'm not going to assume because that figure with the saber is clearly NOT Mark Hamill or Max von Sydow it means they are both automatically not bad guys. Heck, I'm not assuming that's the MAIN bad guy, except in the sense Darth Maul was.

    I don't really NEED to know exactly what happened with the main characters, especially if that's an integral part of the plot. What I would like is some idea of the lay of the universe. Is this thirty+ years of constant warfare? Is this more like Zahn's first book (the "good guys" have the upper hand but the Empire's not out of it yet?) Two days after Endor, did the rest of the Imperial armed forces show up to curbstomp the Rebels? Did they give it a go and discover what we should have learned from the prequels (the Republic was a really stupid way to try and run a galaxy) and tear themselves apart? On many levels, I trust JJ--he took a huge risk rewriting the Trek universe and he managed to do it in a very effective, dramatic manner in the first ten minutes of "Star Trek". I trust that he's going to show me what I need to know early in the movie, he's not going to take a half hour to wander into the vicinity of a plot or wander down cul-de-sacs on the way to the big finish. (TPM, AOTC, I'm looking at YOU.) But some part of me would still like a little hint of where we're starting from.

    • Oh, I know it's hardly the same - that's why I said it was tenuous! Also, I'm rather embarrassed to admit it, but the thought that there could be more than one baddie never crossed my mind. It's certainly a good idea, and would fill in a few holes in my personal theory, as well as rewrite some other ones.

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