Thursday, May 25, 2017

May the Fortieth Be With You: Celebrating 40 Years of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

On May 25, 1977, Star Wars released in theaters, effectively changing the sci-fi genre and Hollywood forever. Forty years later, Star Wars is beloved around the world for its adventure story, outer space action, and most importantly the plethora of characters that expand the story beyond the silver screen. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of this phenomenal franchise, we're sharing our favorite characters that inhabit the "galaxy far, far away."

H.A. Titus
When I sat down to write this, I knew I probably wouldn't win any points for originality or geeky cred for picking out an obscure character. But what can I say... ever since I first watched Star Wars when I was a kid, I've loved Han Solo.

True, there are times he's incredibly annoying. Every time I watch the "I love you," "I know" scene, I just want to smack him.

And let's not even start on my dislike of his and Leia's relationship in The Force Awakens. (We'll stick with saying it was pretty much the only disappointment in the entire movie.)

But even when he's around a bunch of Force users who clearly outgun him, he keeps a cocky grin on his face and is always ready for a smart-mouthy quip. His knowledge of the seedier side of the galaxy has saved his friends multiple times. And even though he talks tough, he's there when people need him, ready to do what he has to in order to make sure his friends survive.

It's no wonder that my favorite Star Wars EU novel is Scoundrels (and if you haven't read it, you need to! It's a fabulous science fiction heist starring Han, Chewie, and a whole host of their sticky-fingered friends. Plus the twist at the end is phenomenal), and that my most eagerly anticipated 2018 movie release is the Star Wars Story starring our favorite scruffy-looking nerfherder.

Andrea Weisner
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars as long as I can remember, and as I sit down to write this, I think back over all of the wonderful characters I’ve been introduced to. Many of them have taken turns as my favorite, and any of them would have been a good choice for this collaboration post.

But then I also think of the ones not everyone knows about from the Expanded Universe… many of which no longer are considered canon. And to be honest, even after a few years, it still breaks my heart to see them pushed aside after being fan favorites for over a decade. None moreso than the Solo children: the twins, Jaina and Jacen, and little Anakin. As much as I adore the boys and would love to write about them (someday!), I always find my heart going back to their big sister: the one affectionately known as “Jaya."

In the stories in which they were small, she was the leader and took such good care of them, despite her young age. You could always tell her number one priority was her family. Her brothers’ safety came above all else. But her heart wasn’t all that she inherited from her parents, though. She was an amazingly talented pilot, and the future of the Jedi Order lives on through her.

Being who she was, life was never easy for Jaina, but that never stopped her for long. And watching her grow up and face all that she had to… her story will always stick with me. The story of her and her brothers is one of those heartwarming, heart-wrenching, and so well-written ones, that it makes me want to improve my own writing. I’d say more, but dare not, for fear of ruining the books. You don’t have to read them, but I do ask you to at least consider giving them a chance. As interesting as I find Kylo Ren, these three, especially Jaina, are so much better.

Kristen C.
In any fandom, if there's a sentient robot, there's a really good chance it's going to be one of my favorite characters: Data from Star Trek, Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, C-3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars. They're always the funniest, the smartest, the most socially clueless, and, to me, often the most relatable. It's almost as if writers don't believe that combination of sass, logic, and helpfulness can be present in a human being. It can, I promise.

No matter how often my favorite Star Wars character changes (sometimes it's Han Solo, sometimes Boba Fett, sometimes Poe Dameron… you get the idea), I'll always love C-3PO and R2-D2. Their camaraderie and surprisingly entertaining banter through all that they go through is evidence of one of my favorite friendships in the franchise, and the fact that they fight and always make up warms my little robotic heart.

R2 manages to be one of the sassiest and most loyal and dedicated characters in the films, even though he doesn't ever speak. (Well, he makes a lot of beeps and boops, which you could argue is a language, but he speaks no words that we understand.) C-3PO, too, is sassy and loyal, and his constant pessimistically optimistic worldview speaks to me on a deep level. He's always stating facts and missing societal cues and trying to make the best of any given situation, and it's always made me happy to know that someone can be that logical, that oblivious, and still be funny and polite and, more importantly, can have friends. Even if he is a robot.

Travis Craig
My first thought upon seeing FN-2199, whom you might know as TR-8R, was that he stood out. Most stormtroopers aren't worth the dirt they stand on. Their armor is useless and their aim is deplorable. The internet is rife with jokes about it.

But FN-2199....

He did something that most characters don't do.

Most characters in the Star Wars franchise are important because they are made so by their place in the plot. Obi-Wan is important because he is Luke's mentor. The Emperor is important because he’s threatening the galaxy. Several characters are noteworthy for one reason: we’re told they are.

But let me ask: what did Luke do to become so important? Nothing, really. He happened to have some interesting connections, but beyond that he was unremarkable. He’s important because we’re told he’s important. If it weren't for his incidental connections, what would have made him worth paying attention to?

Or, getting back to Episode 7, what made Rey a memorable character? She was in the right place at the right time. She found the one droid in the galaxy intimately connected to the plot. Beyond that, what makes her special?

But look at Han Solo. You know what made Han Solo cool? Everything. He comes into town with a badass attitude and an itchy trigger finger, itchy enough to shoot Greedo. Even if he weren't involved in the story at all, he would have stood out. He made himself important.

TR-8R stands out for the same reason. With a badass-dom rivaling Han’s, he stands up to Finn, unleashes his baton, and beats the daylights out of him. When he was finally struck down, I was heartbroken. Why kill off the coolest character in the movie? And he IS the coolest. He freaking earned it. He didn't need to have special connections or be in the right place at the right time. He isn’t interesting because we’re told he is; he’s interesting because he shows us he is. TR-8R did something. Something captivating. Despite having barely a minute of screen time--if that--he earned what most characters need to be given: intrigue.

I really hope he lives. I really hope he comes back for revenge. I really hope he still has that baton. And I really, really, hope that he gets the story he deserves. Because he earned it.

Tabitha Wells
I was six years old the first time I saw Star Wars. They had just released the limited edition VHS set containing hours upon hours of interviews, and my dad thought it would be the perfect movie to test our new surround sound system on. From the moment the opening credits rolled across the screen, I was hooked. I wanted to live and breathe Star Wars.

A few years later, my parents gave me my first Star Wars EU book—Young Jedi Knights: Lightsaber.

I must have read the book at least fifteen times during the first month; everything about the story and characters captivated me.

There was one character in particular who laid claim to my heart and my imagination—Jaina Solo. Although her twin brother, Jacen, was easily my second favourite, there was something about Jaina that drew me to her.  The most obvious reason was her resemblance in personality and characteristics to her mother, Princess Leia. Leia was the first to become a hero in my mind, so it was only natural the same things leading her to that position for me would also draw me to her daughter.

Jaina was everything I ever wanted to be, combining charm, good looks, wit, cunning, and intelligence into a powerful adversary and Jedi. Loyal, protective, and determined, she laid out the kind of woman I wanted to model my own life after.

Perhaps one of the most powerful connections to this character has been that I essentially grew up with her. Though I was a few years younger than Jaina, she grew as I grew—the books released as she battled her teens and entered into young adulthood coincided with my own timeline.

There was a depth to Jaina I didn’t see in many of the other characters in the EU. While each character certainly was deep and well-rounded, few faced the kinds of struggles and battles Jaina did. Her turmoil and suffering only ever fueled her to become stronger, wiser, and more capable.

More than anything, my obsession, passion, and love for Jaina are what triggered my goal to one day join the ranks of authors responsible for the EU. And, if there is anything she has taught me, it’s that with the right amount of determination, you create your own destiny.

So on this Star Wars anniversary, I raise a glass to the character who lit the literary fire in my heart.

Jaime Heller
When it comes to Star Wars, I have a lot of favorite characters. Just when I think I've narrowed down my list, I'm reminded of another character I adore. If I have to pick just one, I will always say Darth Vader. But since we discussed favorite villains last year for Revenge of the Sith, I'm going to discuss my second favorite character, who is my favorite character of the prequel trilogy: Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It's fitting that Obi-Wan and Darth Vader are my two favorite characters of the Star Wars Universe since their stories are heavily intertwined. That's part of what I love about both of them. Their stories connect and come full circle: Obi-Wan trained Anakin, was betrayed by Anakin, and trained Luke to restore their broken relationship. Obi-Wan puts up with a lot of garbage (no, not just the Millennium Falcon and its pilot) over the course of the Star Wars saga. He's betrayed and abandoned; he loses a lot and sacrifices a lot. But he sticks to his ideals, and he keeps going even after everything. He's dedicated to helping people because he believes in people. He trains Anakin, and then Luke, despite what other people tell him (I'm looking at you, Yoda) because he can see the best in people.

*ugly sobbing* (source)

Obi-Wan is also cool. His lightsaber skills are awesome, and he's actually one of the most powerful Jedi to grace the silver screen. He defeated a Sith while he was still in training, fought Count Dooku twice, destroyed General Grievous, fought his best friend, and more. Plus, there's the sass.

Get 'em, Obi! (source)

Obi-Wan is one of the sassiest characters in Star Wars, if not in pop culture. He likes to make jokes and add a dramatic flair to everything he does. (I mean, come on, who else dramatically dies in front of his ex-best friend in order to turn into a Force ghost to help out his ex-best friend's son become a Jedi?)

#dramaqueen (source)

Obi-Wan is a memorable character for both his wisdom and skills as a Jedi. He's chock-full of humor and has a huge ego. All these traits, and more, make him one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars saga and definitely the best character from the prequel films.

#sassmaster (source)

Sky Destrian
There are a lot of characters I adore in the Star Wars universe--Obi-Wan, Poe, Rey, Finn, and even Anakin--but the one I come back to time and time again is Leia Organa: general, politician, princess, sister, hero.

I often wish I had appreciated Leia more while I was growing up--it’s a longstanding fandom regret of mine. I was exposed first to the prequels, so I often latched onto Padme as my first choice for a female hero to emulate. For whatever reason, I preferred her over her daughter. (Apparently liking both never crossed my mind.)

However, looking back, I remember moments where I still saw Leia as a hero. I loved her in the Battle of Endor especially. I saw her as a strong, competent leader who was able to fight back. When she killed Jabba the Hutt, it taught me that women could have power over their abusers and that we didn’t need to let them hurt us--in a world where I was very afraid of people who might hurt me, that meant a great deal to me.

As I got older, I started seeing how impactful Leia was as a character, both to myself and others. By the time I got to see Leia, I was incredibly lucky to have seen a bunch of kick-ass female role models already. But when Star Wars first came out, that was absolutely not commonplace. Leia was the first of her time, and once I got old enough to realize that, I was absolutely in awe of this amazing space princess.

When Carrie Fisher passed away, it absolutely broke my heart. I still can’t think or talk about it without choking up. Not only was Leia incredible, but so was her actress. Carrie Fisher imbued everything she had into life. She was an advocate for mental illness and a strong, conquering force. She was hilarious, she was witty, she was lovely. She will be greatly missed.

Her legacy as Leia was incredibly powerful for young fans around the world, especially girls who needed a role model to look up to. It was incredibly powerful for me. I will never forget Carrie Fisher, and I will never forget Leia. I will always love that strong, sassy space princess who wasn’t taken in by the wiles of a scruffy Nerfherder (well, not at first) and who grew into a general who commanded an entire Resistance.

Which character from Star Wars means the most to you? Share with us in the comments! And May the Force Be With You!


Post a Comment