Recently, I finally worked up the courage to send a draft of a letter with which I was finally satisfied to Lucasfilm. Previous versions were too long and the one I ended up sending was much more pithy. I got a fairly quick reply. While I appreciate the response–they didn’t have to reply at all–the tone of this letter was more or less the same as a reply I’d received in 2007 to a letter expressing similar concerns.
After thinking about it and after some semi-private discussion on my LiveJournal, here are the conclusions I’ve reached about Lucasfilm, fandom, and the prequels:
1) Lucasfilm obeys the Prime Directive with intramural controversies, including pro vs. con on the prequels. It will not interfere in any way. It is not going to be proactive with retailers like ThinkGeek that slag the prequels even if those retailers have licensed exclusives and it is not going to twist Williams Sonoma’s arm to make some Darth Maul pancake molds. There’s no sense of moral obligation on its part to “do something” and talking about it is a waste of our time. Why?
2) It’s a business, folks. There are the creative guys who bring us the movies and t.v. shows and there are the business guys who handle all of the rest. When I mused on my LiveJournal why Lucasfilm is so passive about defending the prequels and doing more for them, someone pointed out the reason that should have been obvious…money. Star Wars is still a money-making dynamo even without a new live action film in six years or any prospects for more. As far as the bottom line is concerned, the Star Wars brand overall is strong. They don’t think prequel bashing is a problem because it hasn’t hurt The Brand.
If TPM succeeds in its 3D re-release, it will only serve to bolster this belief. If it doesn’t succeed, though, I don’t think they will say, “Wow, maybe letting people trash the movies all of these years wasn’t too helpful. How can we change that?” I think they will regard the prequels as poisonous to The Brand and we’ll pine for the good old days when we could at least find some clone action figures in the store. They know the first three Star Wars films are always a safe bet, they know little kids like Clone Wars. It’s easy to “shuffle” the franchise to favor whatever Lucasfilm thinks its customers want.
I don’t want to sound like the purveyor of gloom. I dearly hope all of the bluster we see on the internet and among fans is just that, and it has had no real effect on what most fans or moviegoers perceive about the prequels. Unless the 3D’s really terrible or the promotion’s lousy, there’s no reason to believe TPM won’t at least make enough in its run to justify re-releasing the other films in 3D. After all, if everybody really hated the prequels that much, why would anyone have tuned into Clone Wars?
3) There’s an ad on t.v. for a bank where all of the execs say one word, “money,” over and over. WE have to start talking that way ourselves if we want things to change in our favor. It may not have the same emotional appeal as a long heartfelt soliloquy about truth, justice, and art, but the folks who are making the decisions aren’t paid to care about those things. A licensee will produce something if it thinks people will buy it. Her Universe got off the ground not because Ashley Eckstein delivered a speech on sexism in fandom but because she did her own market research and successfully convinced the suits they were leaving money on the table by ignoring young/youthful women fans. I don’t have the time or means for anything that fancy, but the key is to remind people they are leaving money on the table by ignoring the prequels.
4) Prequel fans are at certain disadvantages that might make our responses seem weak and scattered or fuel a perception that we’re apathetic. Most of us love Star Wars enough that we don’t necessarily not buy something because it isn’t prequel-related. We also don’t have anything to hit back against; I don’t feel comfortable attacking Eps. IV-VI to prop up the prequels because I love those films too. I’m guessing most of you are the same way.
There’s a passion gap between many of us and the kind of people who haunt the Original Trilogy.net forum. Like them or not, they have a fire in their belly I really wish we had. Granted, all we want is a little respect while they want to be in charge of actual creative decisions, but who do you think gets pandered to more often even if they don’t get exactly what they want? Who is treated as though they have God on their side by the media? ThinkGeek wouldn’t even think of trying to pit trilogies against each other if it knew it would catch hell from scores of Star Wars fans.
I know what I’m about to say might be taken the wrong way, but I think another issue is many fans who got into Star Wars within the past 10-15 years are not singularly interested in Star Wars as a fandom. The loud crowd is largely around my age, though not exclusively so, and many of them are Star Wars fans (Eps IV-VI) only. They’ll fight their battles while many of these newer fans with multiple interests may find it easier to seek shelter in less contentious fandoms/interests than to push harder for acceptance.