More thoughts on “#DisneyStarWars”: How “Passing On” A Story Doesn’t Quite Make Sense

“Hey hey, guys, let’s use the Force!” “Shut up, Mickey. And Goofy, put your pants on.”

Okay, so after getting the snark out of my system, as well as somewhat tempering the terror that I feel about a bunch of Disney execs now running the most beloved continuity in the history of mankind, there’s a line in the New York Times piece about this deal that bothers me:

“It’s now time for me to pass ‘Star Wars’ to on to a new generation of filmmakers,” Mr. Lucas said in a statement.

With all due respect, Mr. Lucas, no, you don’t.

I understand that we pass on stories between generations all the time. In the earliest era of human history, all stories were passed down orally. Different speakers, undoubtably, would change or alter these stories. But that was then, and I’m not talking about that. This is the 21st century, and to me, the very idea of an author “passing on” a story doesn’t really work.

When you write a story–really write one, and by that I mean create the characters, the backstory, the setting, the conflict, to generate all those players and then put them into action, arrayed against another–it is yours. It comes deep from the depths of your mind, and even, perhaps, your soul. Excellent writers do that; the story they create is not just a story, it’s a piece of them.

Imagine reading a story by a person with no opinions, no feelings, no real life experiences beyond the humdrum, and no real impetus to embue said story with those qualities. An automaton, if you will. (Or a droid, if you prefer.) It would be very wooden. Technically proficient, but utterly cold and dreadfully boring. It would have no spark, no life.

It would be dead.

Lucas, when he created Star Wars, didn’t do that. He took his childhood wonder and fully immersed his story within that, with the amazing scenery and boundless breadth of the Star Wars galaxy. He took his personal sense of heroics and swashbuckling bravery, the interest in mysticism, basically what was there and made it into one of–if not the–greatest franchises in the history of humanity.

I could not make the same story Lucas did. Neither could Spielberg. Or Michael Crichton. Or Faulkner. Or anyone else. Stories are personal. That’s why there are so many fanfic authors out there. Because when you write a story, you’re pouring a little bit of yourself out and presenting it to the world. (Don’t worry, though, you’re a never-emptying teacup, even when your throat is dry.)

I understand what Lucas is saying, in terms of pure commerce, but let’s be real here. He could never truly pass on Star Wars. Look at the Expanded Universe. Look where it has gone astray in recent years. That’s not George Lucas writing there. It doesn’t feel like Star Wars because it doesn’t have him in it. To be fair, this is understandable and to a degree acceptable in modern, large-scale, sprawling continuities with multiple authors and a large Expanded Universe. A media company is going to hire on writers to actually create the extra content, and generally selects authors who are similar to–or at least, can write appropriately close enough to–the original. (Unless they deliberately want to take a different tack, which is a technique that can, on occasion, work. But that’s dangerous ground to tread, in my opinion.) At the end of the day, however, it is still the baby of the original writer. None of the other Expanded Universe authors, even if they create new characters and new settings within that universe, really own it. They’re just playing in Mr. Lucas’ sandbox with his permission.

I’m not terribly afraid that Disney will totally destroy Star Wars. (I mean, it’s kinda been destroyed already, if you ask me and a bunch of other fans.) I just think that Mr. Lucas can’t do what he’s saying. He will never be separable from his creation. He can never pass it on.

Whatever Disney does, it will be “Disney Star Wars,” not Star Wars. We must all search our feelings. We all know this to be true.

  • I’m not so sure. . . passing stories is what happens in with comics, and has created some pretty spectacular results. Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Iron Man; these characters have been revisited and redone dozens upon dozens of times. With these characters, it was that collective collaboration which breathed life into them.