Our Imposter Syndrome cancels out our Dunning-Kruger

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. James Wylder
    February 20, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

    As a lifelong Star Wars fan (you might say it was my “native mythology” mashed up with Doctor Who as a child, to paraphrase Lawrence Miles) this series is really enthralling me. But its also making me a bit sad in that… Man the level of quality of analysis of Star Wars over the years really has been lacking, hasn’t it :/? Its a bit depressing. This is legitimately some of the best stuff I’ve read ever on the series, and that shouldn’t be the damn case.

    I know you’re not going to, but it does make me so curious what a Tardis Eruditorum esque take on the Clone Wars/Rebels shows would be like. If I ever start up a Patreon and can find a home for it, I might very well try to take it on myself in the future. The Clone Wars show is great, surprisingly great, and probably the most accurate picture of how George Lucas really imagined the Star Wars Universe. Weirdo vision planets and all.

    Also, RE: Han Solo. He definitely is a character who gets even better thanks to the contrast of the prequels, something that gets overlooked now yeah…

    But also notable is how the “Emperor has dissolved the Senate” line is so much more poignant now. Its casualness is part of its power. Of course the fascists offhandedly kill Representative Democracy. Now onto other business.


  2. halcoromosone
    February 20, 2017 @ 2:40 pm

    “he immediately assumes the vacant role of moral viewpoint character for the saga. Which is by some margin the most interesting choice made so far.”

    Something that Firefly/Serenity would then pick up and run with.


    • Kiki Basco
      February 20, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

      Not to be anal, but surely Blake’s 7 ran with that torch first? And Blake’s 7 is also the model for Firefly, not Star Wars (occasional “they’d be crazy to follow us” joke aside).


      • halcoromosone
        February 20, 2017 @ 4:51 pm

        Haven’t seen Blake’s 7, so can’t really comment on whether it and Firefly share elements, but it seems peculiar to suggest Firefly/Mal therefore couldn’t have been modelled on Star Wars/Han…

        Also according to this, Whedon’s never seen Blake’s 7: http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-real-reason-why-joss-whedon-named-his-space-western-1614273050


        • Jesse M.
          February 24, 2017 @ 2:43 am

          Whedon has said that Firefly was inspired by imagining the Civil War era crossed with life aboard the Millennium Falcon, see this interview:

          Step outside your viewing zone, your reading zone. It’s all fodder but if you only take from one thing then it’ll show. I read The Killer Angels. It’s a very detailed, extraordinarily compelling account of the Battle of Gettysburg from the point of view of various people in it and it’s historical. It’s historically completely accurate, and the moment I put it down I created Firefly, because I was like, ‘I need to tell this story. I need to feel this immediacy. I so connect with that era, the Western and how tactile everything is and how every decision is life or death, and how hard it is and how just rich it is, and how all the characters are just so fascinating.’ But so I should be on the Millennium Falcon. Now, if I only watched sci-fi I would have just had the Millennium Falcon part, which has already been done, but finding that historical texture, it literally, I put the book down and started writing Firefly.

          Also, there’s a rumor that another element of the inspiration for Firefly was the old roleplaying game Traveller, see here.


  3. col
    February 20, 2017 @ 3:55 pm

    this has been a great series, Phil. & yes the condundrum of trying to reconcile the first, founding Star Wars movie with its canonical “fourth” position is near-impossible at times (another minor nit—why doesn’t Vader ever say, ‘huh, Tatooine. I know that world. Why don’t you look here and here, and talk to this guy” when the stormtroopers are looking for the droids?)

    but the biggest disjunct is how the original movie at the time made the past seem much more distant, not a 20-year gap. the Clone Wars, the Jedi, the Force all seem to be from another long-lost world, like talking about WWII to a kid in 1977. perhaps you can say it’s how fascism moves so swiftly at times that it makes the recent past seem suddenly far away.

    another thing Rogue One did to complicate matters was to make the Rebellion very aware of the destructive power of the Death Star, and how it was essentially an endgame situation–they had to destroy it ASAP or they were done. in the orig. SW, they still seem to have only a murky idea about it & you get the sense the attack-the-death-star gambit is just one option—that they might’ve tried something else if the plans hadn’t come through.


    • kevin merchant
      February 20, 2017 @ 5:19 pm

      Only a 30 year gap in 1977– like the eighties to us now


    • David Ainsworth
      February 20, 2017 @ 6:32 pm

      In fairness, most of the rebels who recognized the threat of the Death Star and saw it in operation were dead by this point, and of the rest, only Leia is on the moon of Yavin. Given what happens on Hoth later, the rebels seem to naturally gravitate toward evacuation over confrontation with a lot of good reasons to do so. The Death Star as existential threat becomes clearer later, especially when word comes that the Empire is constructing a second one (which will presumably fix the flaw in the first).

      I can actually buy Vader a lot more after Rogue One: he’s in hot pursuit, he’s especially mad at the situation (explaining why James Earl Jones yells so much more in the early scenes), and there’s no indication that he knows they’re in orbit of Tatooine. In fact, he sends troopers after the escape pod while jumping his ship back to the Death Star to join Tarkin. He’s obviously more concerned with using Leia to find the rest of the rebels, and why not? Kill the rebels and there’s nobody to smuggle the plans to!

      You can clearly see that things like data security (or even easy data duplication) simply aren’t factors in this film.

      A nice reading here, one that plays against Phil’s aside that we encounter no slaves in ths film, is that because the Empire (and the Republic before it) consider droids to be objects or property, nobody seems to consider that droids were in the escape pod and could abscond with the plans. This Imperial disregard, coupled with their disregard of small fighters and of surprise smuggler attacks, stems from the same sources that produce the inequitable and often insufferable social conditions in the prequel films.

      Which in turn plays into Phil’s anarchist reading. What brings down the Imperial war machine isn’t a galaxy-striding hero, but rather the grit in the machine, the little people the Empire never considers. Of course Anakin doesn’t like sand.


      • Harris
        February 21, 2017 @ 7:24 am

        It’s literally little Little harmless-looking teddy bear people that help destroy the second death star.


  4. kevin merchant
    February 20, 2017 @ 5:16 pm

    Also Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were lying through their teeth


  5. RHS
    February 21, 2017 @ 2:06 am

    What’s really strange watching these in order is how the clones just disappear from the plot. The building of the clone army is the central mystery and moral conundrum of the second film, the clones wipe out the Jedi in the third, and then…nothing. We get an offhand mention of the Clone Wars in the fourth one, and that’s it. No more clones.

    But if we’re watching A New Hope directly after Revenge of the Sith, with no outside knowledge of Star Wars, we might think otherwise. The EU doesn’t support this, but as far as our hypothetical, cave-dwelling, first-time viewer can tell, the stormtroopers in A New Hope are clone troopers, or at least a model of clone trooper. They wear similar white armor, are known only by their alphanumeric designators, and have a distinctive physical build (“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”).

    If we watch the prequels with this in mind, it looks like the political decline of the Republic tracks with the moral decline of the Jedi, who go from ignoring slavery to industrializing it to being replaced by it. Fittingly, Darth Vader, the last surviving, active Jedi, has been reduced to a glorified stormtrooper, a manufactured being who wears humanity-concealing armor and serves the will of the state.

    The Jedi, like so many of their real-world counterparts, never come to terms with how their tolerance of injustice led to the rise of their enemies. The Republic is “a more civilized age,” the Clone Wars are an “idealistic crusade,” Darth Vader “turned to evil.” They tell themselves that the Republic was a better world undone by bad people doing bad things…and because it was a better world undone by bad people doing bad things, at least in part, the simplified narrative is easier to swallow.


    • RHS
      February 21, 2017 @ 2:11 am

      Sorry about the italics.


    • T.Hartwell
      February 21, 2017 @ 5:46 am

      I know there’s at old bit of SW errata from I wanna say around the time that ESB came out that outright explained the Stormtroopers as specimens grown in a lab, incapable of individual thought (notably, not labeling them as Clone Troopers, but implying them to be something altogether distinct from the vague idea of the Clone Wars).

      Personally I’ve always found that to be a load of rubbish, if only because there’s absolutely no sense within the original film that the Stormtroopers aren’t just regular people–certainly it becomes hard to square away their chatter when Ben is traipsing about the Death Star.


  6. Ciaran M
    February 21, 2017 @ 9:53 am

    Of course, I standby the idea that A New Hope is worse than the prequels, by the simple virtue of being more boring.


    • phuzz
      February 21, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

      I’ve made a similar argument in the past:
      The plot of “The Force Awakens” is so similar to “A New Hope” as to basically be the same film. Thirty-something years have brought massive improvements in CGI and graphics, so TFA looks much nicer (a bigger budget doesn’t hurt). There’s more than one woman in the entire cast of TFA, and not everyone is lilly white (despite growing up on a desert planet with multiple suns, hmmmm). The back story of TFA is much better thought out because it’s not just being made up by Lucas as he goes along. etc etc.
      So, for these reasons and more, The Force Awakens is a better version of Star Wars.

      (After I have made this argument I usually duck and hide)


      • Ciaran M
        February 21, 2017 @ 10:32 pm

        I mean, I think TFA is an almost disgustingly cynical cash grab… that is also very boring. A New Hope is boring, but it’s groundbreaking and daring and new. The prequel trilogy- massively flawed, often boring, incredibly misguided- still trying to do something, to say something.

        TFA was made with the single mandate of ‘don’t fuck it up’. And I guess they didn’t. But good lord is it a boring film.


  7. Ciaran M
    February 21, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

    I think there is something here to be said about the fact that although the films are meant to form a single saga, they’re still two separate trilogies. A New Hope doesn’t follow directly on from Revenge of the Sith anymore than Rose follows on from Survival. There’s a gap in-universe and out.

    I think, in a six film saga, there is merit in the film taking the space to introduce the new cast before drawing the threads together once more. The payoff to Revenge of the Sith was always going to be Return of the Jedi.


  8. Jack
    February 22, 2017 @ 4:58 am

    It is simply impossible to attempt to reconcile Star Wars (that was what it was called when I saw it in 1977, and that’s how I will eternally think of it) with the prequels for the most obvious of reasons:

    It wasn’t part four of anything when we first saw it. The backstory that was hinted at was not the backstory we got.

    There’s a telling moment in one of the Timothy Zahn books that relaunched the Star Wars universe as novels that shows how people viewed what little backstory Lucas gave: one plot point is the discovery that the Empire has gained access to cloning technology and is about to start…wait for it…cloning stormtroopers. Something the Empire had never done.

    So, yeah. Trying to analyze these movies as six films with the putative fourth film leading from the third would be easy to do, had Lucas bothered to write three movies that, you know, actually did that. You can’t convince me that in 1977 Lucas meant that the Clone Wars were “the Republic using an army of clones against an army of droids”, any more than “When I met your father, he was ten years old.” The effort is applauded, but it seems odd to even try.


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