Canon is a Construct

By Riley Hopkins

Spoilers for Rebels Episode “Visions And Voices”

For Star Wars, more than most properties, there is no trickier subject to broach than the concept of canon: what has officially happened within a given mythos. Star Wars Legends fans have to ask, “What is canon now? What isn’t?” New Canon fans wonder, “What is all this old stuff?” For folks who have only been exposed to the Star Wars movie franchise, the large amount of books, television shows, and comics make for a challenging passage into the wider Star Wars universe. After consuming all content beyond the blockbuster films, fans can find themselves asking, “How does this all fit together … should I care?”

These questions surge and compound when you attempt to create fanworks that exist within the Star Wars universe. As the game-master of an Age of Rebellion campaign, I run into these problems more often then I really should. I bungle dates, I put people in the wrong locations, I flub game mechanics, specifics about clone biology, and the pronunciation of Kaminoans (I’m an Iowan, so I would say Kaminan. It makes sense to me, I swear). Most of these are unintentional missteps, often (to be frank) due to laziness. That being said, there are things that I do change. I do this with intention because, to me, canon does not matter.

Before you pick up your vibro-pitchfork, let me explain.

It’s no surprise to a lot of people that Star Wars has its issues. It’s been getting better and better but there are still so many ways it could improve where it instead regresses. For example, Ezra’s treatment of Dathomir. To be more specific, our small blueberry friend destroyed what seemed to be the last remnants of an incredibly interesting and important witch culture in order to save his friends. This is something that was deeply upsetting for a lot of people, and with significantly good reason, which was explained (better than I could) in Episode 27 of Never Tell Me the Pods. But here’s the thing: in my game, when/if we get through the Clone Wars? If we ever go to Dathomir? That didn’t happen. Hunt me down if you must, Story Group, but I’m sticking to my guns here.

That is just one of the changes I would make, and I have made others that fly in the face of Story Group. I’m certain that you’ve got some beef with Star Wars as well. Herein lies the crux of my idea that canon is a construct. In fanfiction, RPGs, fanart, and any other kind of fanwork, the creative tools to this entire universe are put into your hands. Sure they might not be the big, gloved hands of a mouse in overalls, but they are good hands all the same. To you, everything you write is canon. When you create Tofu the Hutt and go on his adventures as a jedi/space-cop, that is as real as anything else, and no one can tell you otherwise.

As we get into the nitty gritty of this, to throw canon to the wind and fix some of the things we see as problems in Star Wars, we enable ourselves to make the story more diverse. If you, like so many of the rest of us, are tired of seeing the adventures of a white, brown haired, human hero with a heterosexual love interest, this gives you the ability to make something better, and more interesting. Then, when you publish this work, it has the potential to bring in people who haven’t seen themselves in Star Wars before. It can serve as an entry point, almost.

An example of this for a lot of us is One Shot’s Campaign. I know for a fact that it got me back into Star Wars entirely, not for lack of seeing myself but instead for the interesting and dynamic characters it provides, which I hadn’t seen in Star Wars before. I’ve seen a swashbuckling smuggler before, but never one like Tryst Valentine.  I’ve seen clones, but never one struggling with his mortality and legacy like Bacta. Indiana Jones, sure, but what if he was 1,000 times more nuanced and used to be in a glam rock band? And to top it off, I legitimately have never seen a character I find more captivating than Leenik Geelo. And that’s only the main PCs! The wealth of fascinating side characters could be the main characters of a dozen more stories on their own!

Bringing in new faces and people to the fandom can only increase the overall quality of the stories told within it, and then when we as fans have made our voices clear that we demand more diverse content because that’s what we’re creating, the curators of the Star Wars mythos can look in on us and realize that they themselves need to be better. Creators seeing things the fans make and canonizing them has happened before. Just some quick examples are Homestuck and Car Boys seeing fan art/animations and declaring them canon, like in Car Boys’ case, the animation of Busto escaping time and space. Then the Overwatch team adding in fan elements to their game (Dad 76, Gremlin D.Va, Pharamercy). To some degree, it can be considered that Legend of Korra’s “Korrasami” ship was helped along because of fan interaction.

It may seem like fighting an uphill battle at times, like we’re being ignored, or the “official canon” writers aren’t trying hard enough, but that is where and when we can throw their stinkin’ canon right in the garbage chute. We can be better than Star Wars wants to be right now, and with our work we can increase our numbers, and then the people who make fan work? Oh hey they’re making canon work now, and other people can throw their work in the trash I guess.

So get out there! Create! Ventress never died! Nautolans don’t have boobs! Jango Fett is Mandalorian! Clones are force sensitive! Tofu the Hutt is the galaxy’s best jedi! Just get out there and create, and remember, canon is a farce. Do better, be better.

Riley Hopkins can be found on Twitter @RevRyeBread or @alienhappyhour. He podcasts at Alien Happy Hour with Lucky Sevens, Chatroom, and Intended Audience, and at one point in the past came in fourth place in a beauty pageant.

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Riley Hopkins can be found on Twitter @RevRyeBread or @alienhappyhour. He podcasts at Alien Happy Hour with Lucky Sevens, Chatroom, and Intended Audience, and at one point in the past came in fourth place in a beauty pageant.

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