Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig recently responded to the negative reaction some fans have had to his introduction of several gay characters in the Star Wars universe, and boy did he let them have it.
You’d think that author/screenwriter Chuck Wendig would be all smiles right now, sitting back and collecting the sweet, sweet moolah his novel, Star Wars: Aftermath, is making. Set just after the events of Return of the Jedi, Aftermath is the first entry of a canon trilogy that was released as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens multi-publisher initiative which kicked off on Friday.
And while Wendig’s novel has been receiving many positive reviews since its release, it’s the similar criticisms between the negative ones that have driven him to his wit’s end: Mainly, his decision to include several gay characters (and a gay hero) in the novel. Most prominently, a Facebook group called “The Alliance to Preserve The Expanded Universe” has launched a “raid” against the book, flooding its Amazon page with hundreds of one-star reviews.
One review of the book by Earl Hall was particularly unforgiving, claiming that the novel “shows how far America has fallen”:
This new novel by Chuck Wendig is being praised under the ‘diversity’ banner. Now I’m all for diversity, but how diverse are we really getting?
It seems like everyone is jumping on the Caitlyn Jenner bandwagon. Is there all of a sudden way more LGBT people in our population than we once thought? Is this really about diversity, or is it more about forcing a story line and lifestyle down our throats?
No, this new novel is just a part of long list of “art” that wants to change our traditional values.
When I saw the original Star Wars as a young boy in the 70’s, I was captivated. I was able to wonder and even create games based on these heroes. My family and friends had our Light Sabers (sticks) and X-Wing fighters (bikes) and protected the galaxy (neighborhood). We did it all without ever once bringing sexuality into it.
Right, because nothing says “all about diversity” quite like falling back on the old “traditional values” strawman. It’s like everyone has forgotten that the first gay characters were already introduced into the Star Wars canon when Lords of the Sith was released back in April.
And besides all that, is Hall simply going to pretend like this never happened?
Talk about sexuality. I can literally trace the moment I hit puberty back to this very scene.
Fed up with all the criticism aimed at his decision, Wendig took to his blog to address the notions that he was using the Star Wars universe to push his own political agenda. What followed was a takedown of epic proportions.
And if you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian – meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct. You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.
(By the way, the book also has an older woman, a mother, rescuing a man. So if that bothers you, you might wanna find a bunker for hunkering down. And I dunno if you noticed, but the three new protagonists of the movie consist of a woman, a black man, a Latino man. The bad guys all look like white guys, too. So many meteors. So little time to squawk at them.)
Now, it bears mentioning that Wendig’s book hasn’t received such a poor Amazon rating due to its inclusion of gay characters alone. Several reviewers have noted that Wendig’s reliance on present-tense voice, cardboard characters, and jarring tonal shifts are truly the source of the novel’s downfall.
“It reminds me of the worst of the EU (Expanded Universe),” wrote one Amazon user.
“As I read, I found myself not caring what happened to any of [the characters]. Whether they lived or died made no difference to me, and that’s a bad sign,” wrote another.
Other Amazon critics of Aftermath addressed the “diversity” (as Hall would put it) head on, writing, “This book includes 3 gay characters that feel so forced into the story. Disney is stuffing diversity down our throats and it’s taking me out of my suspension of believe because it feels forced. I myself am a minority but when I read star Wars I don’t want to be thinking about racial consciousness or sexual identity.”
And you know, maybe some of the detractors are right. Not every form of escapist fiction has to serve as some parallel or satire of a real-life issue. The problem is, Star Wars has kind of always done that. The original trilogy, aside from creating a philosophical mythology heavily rooted in Taoism, was modeled after the fall of the democratic Roman Republic and rise of the Roman empire. Likewise, the rise in authoritarianism beginning with the Clone Wars has often been looked at as a metaphor for the United States government’s actions after 9/11 (ie. The Patriot Act). Whether or not Lucas meant for these to be direct parallels remains a mystery, but the point is, it’s damn near impossible to build a universe as complex as Star Wars’ without drawing some influence from the one in which we live.
In order to get to the point where one’s sexual, racial, and religious background is as commonplace as the car you drive, we must first introduce a wider audience to said diversity, whether it be through a Congressional act, a character in a major work of art, or otherwise. Is that up to Lucas & Co. alone to figure out? Hardly, but can we really fault them for trying to help?