“These aren’t the criteria you’re looking for” Myth and the Control of the Star Wars’ Canon (AKA The Empire Shot First but the Fans Strike Back)
Posted on March 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm by Dr. Jim
That’s the title for my paper for the regional American Academy of Religion conference in Calgary, May 9-11. It’s the first time I’m doing one for the AAR, so this should be fun.
Here’s the blurb
These aren’t the criteria you’re looking for” Myth and the Control of the Star Wars’ Canon (AKA The Empire Shot First but the Fans Strike Back)
The Star Wars franchise has generated considerable academic interest and some consider it a form of modern mythology. Others deny this because it lacks some characteristics of myth including communal ownership. Recently, the Disney Corporation has sought to clarify what is “canonical” in Star Wars, hoping to maintain internal consistencies between the six films and the officially licensed, and still growing “expanded universe” of animated television shows, print media, video games and more. Many dedicated fans, however, have rejected Lucas’ revisions of the initial trio of movies, the three prequels and some of the expanded universe. There is also “non-canonical” material produced by fans, many of whom belong to clubs, attend conventions or even claim to follow a Jedi “religion”, all of which is beyond the creative control of franchise owners. This is comparable to the interaction between religious canons some ostensibly non-canonical material may enjoy a high status with or without clerical sanction in a tradition. Such a comparison suggests that in evaluating the status of pop-cultural phenomena such as Star Wars as cultural mythology scholars should not privilege the holding of legal rights, large budgets and mass distribution over viewing the material as it functions in social and personal contexts even in defiance of “official” declarations of canonicity and orthodoxy. In this perspective Star Wars, like most other mythology, constantly regenerates itself as part of a living tradition even in the face of an empire that strikes back.
In keeping with the theme, the tentative schedule has my paper first in the Religion and Society section that opens the conference. The “fans” will probably shoot back…