Disney: Why I Prefer Talking About Animated Star Wars

Screenshot of Ahsoka and Captain Rex from ‘Clone Wars’ Season 7. Copyright goes to the Walt Disney Company.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’m sure many of you noticed, but since ‘The Bad Batch’ released I’ve been looking towards more Star Wars content to fill the void Marvel is leaving while I wait for the Marvel Disney+ shows to return. This May has actually marked the most I’ve talked about Star Wars on this blog. That’s because I don’t like interacting with the Star Wars fandom on most occasions. Star Wars fans can get really nasty. We’ve seen racism, sexism, and homophobia come out of this fanbase more than I’ve seen come out of any other group of fans. We’ve seen people act disturbingly vicious over which Star Wars trilogy is best or which content is worth consuming. I don’t find myself wanting to get in the middle of these conversations, so I don’t. I stay silent on most Star Wars topics, despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of the series. But there’s something different about talking about the animated series. There’s a lot less problematic behavior from the fans that consume things like ‘Star Wars Rebels’. I want to talk a bit about why I see more accepting behavior coming from the fan groups attached to the animated Star Wars content.

Star Wars Isn’t Exclusively for Adults: I’m going to start out with an opinion I’ve seen brutally shot down by many Star Wars fans. Star Wars wasn’t written for adults. It’s a high-fantasy story about princesses, knights, and terrible evils. It’s a fairytale that uses common tropes to easily reach any audience member of any age. Yes it’s about a series of wars, but you honestly see more deaths and consequences of war in the cartoons than you see in the live action trilogies. Can adults enjoy this series? Absolutely. Is it exclusively for them? No. Star Wars was written for families. A lot of it was, and is, marketed towards children. But many fans have refused to admit this fact. Because of that we see fans attack each other over small details in the Star Wars universe and the “complicated” themes we should be picking up on from the movies. We don’t see this in the community backing the animated content. Because there’s no denying that the Star Wars cartoons are primarily for children. Yes, there’s a range of content for various audiences. ‘The Bad Batch’ is aligning itself with some of the darker seasons of ‘Clone Wars’ to cater towards a slightly older audience. Meanwhile ‘Star Wars Rebels’ and especially ‘Star Wars Resistance’ are made for slightly younger audiences. But all of them are marketed towards children first. This makes fans a lot less prone to kill each other over the small stuff and more likely to enjoy each show as it is. It also leads to a bigger reaction when something deep or heavy is revealed to the audience. Adults can appreciate the dramatic story beats in the cartoons that fit well with other ‘Star Wars’ content, meanwhile kids can still enjoy a well-written story with well-defined stakes. And very few people argue over the logistics of a lightsaber’s hilt turning into a blaster. It’s nice.

More Diversity Acceptance: We’ve seen many Star Wars fans attack women and people of color as the movies have been released. We’ve especially seen this as the sequels were released into theaters. Kelly Marie Tran was famously brutalized on social media until she deleted most of her social media accounts simply for being in Star Wars. After this fans used the slightly confusing Finn and Rose storyline in ‘The Last Jedi’ to justify completely tearing apart both her character, and the character of Finn. This led to both characters being shoved into the background in the final movie, Rose only receiving a handful of lines. Rey, on the other hand, was attacked for her gender. Fans called her a Mary Sue because she was “too good at everything” even though her natural talents were no different than Luke’s and aligned with most other Jedi introductions in Star Wars. You don’t see this nearly as much coming from animated fans. We got our first female Jedi from the animated series, Ahsoka Tano, and she was accepted with open arms. We’re seeing the first female clone step onto the scene in ‘The Bad Batch’ without fans questioning her existence. POC characters aren’t questioned when they appear, either. Fans simply enjoy whichever character comes on screen as they are, rather than questioning their right to be there or how much it “makes sense” for a non-white, non-male, character to do something fantastical in a fantasy universe. We don’t see fans unwilling to see the animated series diversify because it’s not the Star Wars of their childhood. It’s Star Wars content made to affect other childhoods. And that’s ok.

The Downside: The animated shows don’t have many downsides. Their storylines are just as well written and impactful as many of the movies. They take into account both kids and adults in a way that is satisfying to both but also makes fighting less prevalent. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have glaring issues. While POC characters are more accepted by audiences in these shows, that doesn’t mean that there are nearly enough POC creatives behind the scenes. The voice acting community is largely white and the casts for these animated shows reflect this. The clones for example, who are POC characters, are voice by a white man who can do a killer impression of Temuera Morrison. Ahsoka was changed to Black actress Rosario Dawson for ‘The Mandalorian’ after years of being voiced by a white woman to address the lack of diversity. But it goes even beyond that. ‘The Bad Batch’ recently came under fire for white washing characters. So much so that they are reportedly re-editing some of the episodes that have already been released. And critiques of the lighter skin tones are correct. So far members of The Bad Batch have looked lighter in color than the clones we have seen throughout ‘Clone Wars’ and even young Kanan looks much lighter than he does in ‘Star Wars Rebels’. These things are awful, and they show just how far Disney needs to go before they actually accomplish the diversity they claim to be aiming for. And still, I see far more acceptance for POC characters amongst fans of the animated shows than I do amongst fans of the major theatrical releases. And that’s kind of sad.

The animated series feel like a bit more of a safe space for me in the Star Wars community. They still suffer from major issues, don’t get me wrong, but I see a lot more respect amongst fans here. I don’t feel like I’ll be immediately attacked for my opinions when I talk about an animated show. I don’t feel like I’ll run into fans who are willing to disregard characters because of their race or gender. I see a lot of people lightly making fun of themselves for enjoying kids shows, but even more than that, I see fans praising these shows for being great additions to the Star Wars franchise that everyone can enjoy. And that’s what I wish I could see from all Star Wars fans.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

Edit: This post previously mentioned my discomfort with actor David Oyelowo playing Agent Kallus in ‘Star Wars Rebels’ due to the obvious lack of prominent Black characters present in the series. I took this out because I don’t feel that a Black actor voicing a white character is a problem, I instead feel that a Black actor voicing a white character in a series devoid of Black representation is the problem. My statement didn’t properly reflect this. Also, as a white person, I’m not completely qualified to discuss this topic.

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