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The Secret of Star Wars Fandom

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Six feature films, three spinoff films, five television series, plus video games, books, and merchandise, plus a big chunk of the internet, all devoted to the Star Wars universe. There will always be movies with fans, but those who identify with Star Wars are so numerous, so prolific, and so vociferous, they redefine what it means to be a fan. For those of you who enjoyed the movies, but aren't rabid Star Wars fans (I'm more of the Star Trek type), here are some clues to how they feel. Andrey Summers summed up what makes Star Wars fans so different in The Complex and Terrifying Reality of Star Wars Fandom.

If you run into somebody who tells you they thought the franchise was quite enjoyable, and they very-much liked the originals as well as the prequels, and even own everything on DVD, and a few of the books, these imposters are not Star Wars Fans.

Star Wars fans hate Star Wars.

Let me count the ways...

Those who love the Star Wars universe the most spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing the movies. The biggest complaint is continuity. Although no one would have preferred the series to have been delayed twenty years, real fans cannot forgive George Lucas for producing movies before he had the whole story written. In 1977, Lucas said he had a grand plan for nine chapters. By the time Return of the Jedi was released, it was apparent he didn't start with a complete outline for the story arc.

Luke and Leia
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We didn't know which of the two heroes would get the girl in the first Star Wars movie. Lucas' choice in this matter was neatly explained away by making Luke and Leia into siblings. Eww. Episode Four never looked the same after you knew that. And it wasn't possible to edit out their earlier attraction. You'd think Obi-Wan would've said something, but he apparently forgot who the princess of Alderaan was.

Han Shot First
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In the first Star Wars movie, Han Solo kills a minor character named Greedo. When the 1997 Special Edition was released, this was changed to show Greedo shooting first. Lucas wanted Solo to be seen as a more of a hero and less of a rogue, because after all, he eventually got the girl. Fans saw this as rewriting history, like whitewashing your own Wikipedia entry, and cried foul. The explanation that Greedo shot first and missed (at point blank range) was unacceptable. When Lucas was spotted wearing a Han Shot First t-shirt, fans reacted with delight.

Chewbacca
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Chewbacca is a freedom fighter who is friends with Jedi Master Yoda in the prequels, but later is found to be a mercenary sidekick with no noticeable familiarity with Obi-Wan or the Jedi. You can explain using the familiar characters R2D2 and C3PO in the prequels by having their memories erased, but that won.t work with a Wookiee. Check out more continuity problems here.

Comic Characters

250jarjar.jpgStar Wars fans hated the Ewoks, because they were so cute and heroic, their entire reason for existence appeared to be toy sales.
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The character Jar Jar Binks took fans over the edge. Lucas denied that Jar Jar was a racial stereotype, but that's how he came across.
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Mitichlorians are microscopic characters first mentioned in The Phantom Menace. It seemed like a way to turn the supernatural Force into a biological science project. What's the fun in that?

Technology
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The implausibility of the technologies in the Star Wars universe isn't such a sore spot with fans as the continuity and character problems, but fans have fun deconstructing the science and technology of the movies. Even NASA has thought about the possibility of hyperdrive. Forums debate the physics of lightsabers. Jay Garmond figured up the necessary power for the Death Star laser. The million-to-one shot that destroyed the first Death Star not only stretched the limits of credulity, but led to conspiracy theories, as in Was the Death Star Attack an Inside Job? And McSweeney's explained the implausibility of the Death Star's trash compactor.

In the end, Summers sums up how a Star Wars fan really feels:

Maybe I'll put it like this. To be a Star Wars fan, one must possess the ability to see a million different failures and downfalls, and then somehow assemble them into a greater picture of perfection. Every true Star Wars fan is a Luke Skywalker, looking at his twisted, evil father, and somehow seeing good.

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Radio Flyer
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Pop Culture
Tiny Star Wars Fans Can Now Cruise Around in Their Very Own Landspeeders
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Radio Flyer

Some kids collect Hot Wheels, while others own model lightsabers and dream of driving Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder through a galaxy far, far away. Soon, Mashable reports, these pint-sized Jedis-in-training can pilot their very own replicas of the fictional anti-gravity craft: an officially licensed, kid-sized Star Wars Landspeeder, coming in September from American toy company Radio Flyer.

The Landspeeder has an interactive dashboard with light-up buttons, and it plays sounds from the original Star Wars film. The two-seater doesn’t hover, exactly, but it can zoom across desert sands (or suburban sidewalks) at forward speeds of up to 5 mph, and go in reverse at 2 mph.

The vehicle's rechargeable battery allows for around five hours of drive time—just enough for tiny Star Wars fans to reenact their way through both the original 1977 movie and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. (Sorry, grown-up sci-fi nerds: The toy ride supports only up to 130 pounds, so you’ll have to settle for pretending your car is the Death Star.)

Radio Flyer’s Landspeeder will be sold at Toys “R” Us stores. It costs $500, and is available for pre-order online now.

Watch it in action below:

[h/t Mashable]

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Art
Artist Makes Colorful Prints From 1990s VHS Tapes

A collection of old VHS tapes offers endless crafting possibilities. You can use them to make bird houses, shelving units, or, if you’re London-based artist Dieter Ashton, screen prints from the physical tape itself.

As Co.Design reports, the recent London College of Communication graduate was originally intrigued by the art on the cover of old VHS and cassette tapes. He planned to digitally edit them as part of a new art project, but later realized that working with the ribbons of tape inside was much more interesting.

To make a print, Ashton unravels the film from cassettes and VHS tapes collected from his parents' home. He lets the strips fall randomly then presses them into tight, tangled arrangements with the screen. The piece is then brought to life with vibrant patterns and colors.

Ashton has started playing with ways to incorporate themes and motifs from the films he's repurposing into his artwork. If the movie behind one of his creations isn’t immediately obvious, you can always refer to its title. His pieces are named after movies like Backdraft, Under Siege, and that direct-to-video Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen classic Passport to Paris.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of Dieter Ashton

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