The Internet is basically just a nuclear reactor TRYING to go critical every day forever. It’s toxic, energetic, and to those safe from it, enormously profitable. While hardly a new phenomena, the latest Star Wars controversy is another bright, dangerous reminder of how the internet and the humanity that teems across its infinite digital expanse have gone horribly wrong in new and awful ways. Somebody needs to try THINKING about this, so here I am.
So if you aren’t a fan or just have that much of life: recently the Star Wars franchise has been making its way into live action television. Most recently, the creators have turned their attention to restoring the luster to and invigorating the story of one of the original movie’s most enigmatic, bad-ass characters: Boba Fett. While his childhood is explored at times through previous animated projects, “The Book of Boba Fett” is a live action series taking off from the return of this iconic anti-hero’s reintroduction from apparent death in season 2 of “The Mandalorian.” While many have praised the show in many ways, unlike the series that launched it, “The Book of Boba Fett” has seen the unfortunate return of the franchise to its previous toxic relationship with it fans. I don’t say this lightly, but like most good tragedies, this story of our world has villains on both sides.
This is a franchise known for its themes of light-and-dark and in the internet era this theme has shown itself more and more amongst those people who claim to love it. You’d think that a children’s’ saga about the power of good and the fight against hate would have chill adult fans – and you’d be right – but you’ll never know that online where there is a new fight raging across the internet every time new content comes out. This essay is a case study in the dynamic and an attempt to look beyond the material to the players and the game. While this may seem to be about a character in a show, it’s important to realize that if this dynamic can so easily exist over a work of pop culture, it could be devastating – and perhaps already has been devastating – if it occurs over something more real to more people.
Now to get to the meat of the issue at hand. Boba Fett began his character arc as a flat villain, a mysterious and effective bounty hunter willing to work for the evil empire or repugnant crime bosses depending on who paid better. Now, he has taken a turn in his life by facing death at the hand s of a conquered foe’s dear friends who risked everything to rescue their beloved smuggler and brother-in-arms. Though this changes Boba, it can’t erase his past. Arguably the most notable shadow from that past is the bounty hunter who taught Fett everything, just to kill him and make a point: a Duros named Cad Bane.
Cad Bane is easily one of the most interesting villains in all of Star Wars. He is cunning and ruthless, fast, deadly, and well-prepared for any adversary. He always looks out for himself, no matter who works for or with. His return to Fett’s story and debut in live-action is nothing less than a minor pop culture event for the ages, at least. Now given the real-world drama it has inspired, it is a cultural event of significance.
As you can see, artistic license is taken with the details of the design, but all the fundamental elements of the design are there. It is truly a marvelous moment to behold in “The Book of Boba Fett” whether you know the character or not. Truly one of the best Western scenes ever put on film, let alone in a space opera spin-off.
But why does this matter? Isn’t this all a big waste of everyone’s time? Well, the truth likely depends on your point of view. From a a brutally pragmatic perspective, all art is arguably a waste of time. Yet, an uninspired life is hardly worth living. No, this episode in the nerd sagas can matter to all of us as a microcosm of much more common patterns we are all increasingly a part of, especially online. Consider the geopolitical or ethnic divisions of our world and species from the broadest possible scope and its not too hard for most of us to see that they are really no less silly: they are just much bigger and thus harder to maintain in view with an objective perspective.
So here’s my take: I think part of the dynamic here was the significant number of people that vocalized their dislike of the live action look compared to the animation and gave a vague basis for other people to assume this fan project was catering to that demand to prove a point. It wasn’t, and that was pretty obvious to those of us who stepped back and looked closer. I must admit I immediately had a bad feeling about it as soon as I saw it – this kind of thing has happened before. For one, I think people really do confuse criticism with negativity and thus any negativity, no matter how juvenile, must be worth sharing. By all means, people can have their opinions, but that doesn’t mean those opinions are valuable to anyone else who’s worth much to the whole. I know that’s a little judgmental, but in my defense, a little judgment can go a long way. So long as we judge ideas and behavior and reserve judgment on the vast and nuanced complexity that is every individual over time, it’s worth it.
For the rest of us, I think there are some critical lessons that be taken from this and other episodes of the pattern of conflict. Attachment is natural and can be healthy, but part of healthy attachment is appreciating its limits and pitfalls. We should not confuse something we appreciate and value with ourselves. Similarly, we must be careful not to over identify with sides of a dispute. By all means, pick a side when the mood strikes you, but even if the dispute is important know when to walk away – when to walk away from the conflict and even when to walk away from your team. In the end, the team will always win over the individual unless the individual remains independent enough to get off the wagon. This isn’t weak: it is the epitome of personal strength and character. Virtue is arguably finding that balance between living with people and living without them as best benefits life as a whole.
Isn’t that really all we want: to flourish together?