Epic Fun In The Fandom: #ReyloNight

So last night Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered on ABC and to celebrate, the Reylo fans of Twitter decided to do a Reylo watch party and live-tweet throughout the entire movie, and your girl totally joined in the fun!!! I’ve never done a live-tweet movie watching event and considering how I fared last time I tried to watch a movie and take notes, I didn’t think it would go over well, but it actually ended up being fantastic fun!!! Like it’s probably sad how much fun it actually was!

 

I had actually already watched the movie earlier in the day (because I completely forgot about the event) so at first I just followed along on Twitter, reacting to people’s hilarious comments and getting the gist of how the process worked but after awhile I dove straight in, commenting, posting, finding gifs for epic moments, and just generally just gave in to the epic Star Wars collective fun — AND MY GOD WAS IT FUN!!!

I seriously didn’t expect that, so it was a helluva pleasant surprise on my end. I’ve never been to a Con or fan event (besides like Harry Potter midnight book releasing’s) so I didn’t know how interactive the whole experience would be, but it was completely immersive. It felt like a bunch of new friends freaking out about one of my all-time favorite movies and I was HERE FOR IT!

Overall I laughed, I cried, and most importantly I interacted, I engaged and had soooo much unexpected fun. I never realized how amazing it felt to be completely surrounded by fellow fans all being so supportive and hilarious and basically just loving this movie and seeing things in a similar light to the way I see them. I’m so used to having to defend my ship or Kylo himself as a character but last night there was no need and it just felt so liberating and right.

I forget sometimes that the fandom is an awesomely-fun interactive place, but after last night I can’t wait for the next #ReyloNight! Bring on The Last Jedi!!!

 

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Star Wars Episode IX: The Beginning of the End

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That’s right my fellow Star Wars fans, J.J. Abrams himself graced us with one helluva epic photograph today from the set of Episode IX along with the news that photography has wrapped and I don’t know about you but I am so torn between screaming with joy because we’re one step closer to finally knowing the whole story and having all our questions answered and flat-out sobbing because we’re almost finished with this epic sequel trilogy and I’m not ready to let go just yet!!! Suffice it to say I’m emotional AF and my voice is now at the register that only dogs can hear 😀 But happily we’ve still got a long way to go until December and the film’s ultimate release and I look forward to each and every post we get to share here on Whimsical Mutterings as we travel through the films together! Love you all ❤ Tara

 

The Phantom Menace: Shadows In The Force

When I started today’s post (yesterday) I actually thought it was going to be a relatively easy one to write. It was one of the first ones I jotted down when I decided I wanted to do the one-film a month theme, and I just felt so passionately about it. Then when I started writing, the words flowed so effortlessly and with a humor I don’t often achieve, so suffice it to say, I was thrilled.


Until about 8:30 pm last night when I’m about halfway through writing and it hits me, and dammit if it didn’t hit me with my own Star Wars logic that I was using at that very moment to prove my point: I was wrong. I was very, very wrong, and the entire half a blog post I’d already written was going to have to be scrapped because although I could finish it and it would make sense to most everyone else, I knew it was flawed and would make my arguments inconsistent. So…I panicked. I shelved the unfinished post and created a Whimsical Mutterings tumblr account to give myself something to do while I calmed down and figured out what to write instead. Needless to say, it was a long night.

Originally this post was going to be all about how Qui-Gon stole from Fate (the Force) by manipulating the dice-roll to obtain Anakin’s freedom and in retaliation, Fate fought back in the finale and claimed his life. I mean the song playing as he, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul are fighting is even called Duel of the Fates! It was so epically perfect!

Until it wasn’t…

“All is as the Force wills it.”  — Chirrut Imwe   Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Ironically my notion of Karma being a bitch ultimately bit me in the ass. My argument was predicated on the fact that Qui-Gon acted outside of the will of the Force, to obtain what he wanted. And in my defense, it truly does seem that way. He wants Anakin freed, there is a 50/50 chance this will happen on its own or that the Force will choose Anakin on its own, but Qui-Gon uses the Force to ensure that it does. He took away the possibility of Shmi being liberated and in doing so set Anakin on a path that led directly to the Jedi Council and their own deadly neuroses. It made perfect sense then that since he interfered and essentially tipped the scales, there would be resulting consequences. He dueled with fate and ultimately fate claimed victory. Thank you, the end, put a nice bow on it and we’ll call it a day.

Except that I believe (and have said so before) that Anakin’s destiny was predetermined. He was the one foretold to bring balance to the Force and that meant he had to walk a certain path in life, no matter how difficult or painful. So how could I then say that Qui-Gon acted outside of the will and desire of the Force by essentially ensuring that Anakin goes where he needs to, to fulfill his ultimate destiny?! I can’t. It doesn’t work. Yes, Qui-Gon interfered because he wanted to, but also because the Force knew he would want to and placed him there to do just that. He didn’t steal from fate… he helped it.

So naturally you can see my dilemma, I couldn’t publish something that I no-longer believed in myself, but there was still something about the idea of fate and Qui-Gon that wouldn’t stop nagging me. And the title of the song – Duel of the Fates – it, it was basically taunting me, I mean it couldn’t be for nothing right? There was something there, I just had to find it. And after many hours of pondering and some verbal sparring, I hit upon something: Qui-Gon didn’t steal from fate/the Force, but at the very end he did unlock a new aspect of it.

His role in the Chosen One’s life was always meant to be short. He had to die to ensure Anakin turned out the way he did under Obi-Wan and the council’s guidance and tutelage because eventually Anakin would have to turn on the Jedi to bring balance to the Force, but he never would have if Qui-Gon had lived. It was Anakin’s anger, resentment, insecurity, and need for secrecy that was necessary to make him break from the Jedi, but they would be non-existent had he grown up with a more tolerant Gray Jedi like Qui-Gon who would have tailored his training to fit Ani’s unique situation and personality. He would have taught Ani hand’s on and with a calm passion and determination, instead of spouting off never-ending rhetoric and sarcastic witticisms. Therefore Qui-Gon had to die. He had to pass the torch on to his morally-upright padawan, Obi-Wan for Anakin to become the conflagration that the Force needed to cleanse itself. And he did.

But that was only the beginning.

Qui-Gon is the first Force Ghost we get any mention of it the Star Wars saga (not the first to appear onscreen, but in the timeline of the episodic story I mean). He is the first to transcend death and still remain himself after the passing of his mortal body at the end of The Phantom Menace, which seems to come as quite a shock to others – even the great master Yoda himself. So it stands to reason that this occurrence is outside the norm, even in this fantastical galaxy far, far away. Unseen and mostly unheard, Qui-Gon can no longer affect the outcome of the prophecy of the Force, but that doesn’t stop him from at least being present when Anakin needs him most. We hear Qui-Gon call out to Anakin in The Attack of the Clones when Ani takes his vengeance upon those who killed his mother. He reaches out, desperate to reach that little boy he’d found so long ago who has grown up to know such desolation and pain. Even in death, he never gives up on Anakin. Instead he stays with him, trying to guide him even when no one can hear him. Until Yoda does.

Just as Anakin’s resentment, anger, and insecurity were necessary for him to become the balance of the Force, so to were Qui-Gon’s skepticism, determination, and his absolute belief in Anakin, in allowing him to accomplish what no other Force-user had done before: to open a doorway to immortality, and perhaps time itself. I know they’ve delved into the shadowy realm of time in the Rebels show so it would not surprise me if the subject came up again in Episode IX. There is something there in the space beyond death, in the web of fate and time itself that Star Wars wants us to see and comprehend. And when we finally reach that moment of clarity and understanding it will be with the knowledge that Qui-Gon, a Gray Jedi, led the way for us.

 

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The Phantom Menace: Enter The Gray Jedi


Hello again my fellow Star Wars fans, thanks for joining me once more on this Epic Star Wars adventure! Now, by this point my distaste for the Jedi and their manipulative practices has probably become apparent, but for those just joining us, let me basically sum it up: I don’t dislike every Jedi simply for being what they are, as individuals they are either descent or not, but as a collective group and power I think they are as morally corrupt as their dark counterparts, the Sith. I think Kylo Ren pretty much had the right idea: the Jedi, the Sith, all the constructs of the past that separated people into opposing groups needs to end. People are not made to be all good or all bad, and to say otherwise is setting people up for discontentment, failure, or in Anakin’s case total and complete destruction. That being said, I didn’t always feel this way. It wasn’t until I got old enough to read between the lines and dissect what was actually happening in the story that my opinion of these lightside heroes began to shift.

“Remember: Your focus determines your reality.” — Qui-Gon Jinn

As a child, my heart was set on being a Jedi. Dear God, did I want to be a Jedi, and I was partially convinced I was one until I discovered Harry Potter on my eleventh birthday and then I just knew I was a Jedi/Witch hybrid the likes of which the world had never seen. I mean I used to walk around grocery store with my eyes (mostly) shut and pretend the Force was guiding me – I was that kid. I LIVED by Yoda’s fear leads to anger leads to hate leads to suffering speech, like hardcore. I refused to hate anything, even in jest as a preteen because my ass was not walking down that path. Dramatic much yes, but I was a writer even then and we tend to be a rather emotive people. Suffice it to say, I was enamored with the Jedi-code…which is why I think it’s funny because even then, when I all-out believed in the Jedi way of life, my absolute favorite Jedi was the one who called them out on their bullsh*t and questioned the council every step of the way: Qui-Gon Jinn.

As soon as he appeared onscreen in The Phantom Menace, calm, cool, and collected, Qui-Gon had my attention. I know most people were thrilled to see his apprentice Obi-Wan and I was too, but there was something about Qui-Gon that just captured my interest. Looking back on it now, I recognize him as being the closest representation to a Gray Jedi that we ever get onscreen – a Force-user who embodies the middle-ground between the light side and the dark side of the Force, neither completely good or bad but capable of using both sides at will. Gray Jedi’s believe in balance: light and dark, love and hate, compassion and passion. They are what I hope the sequel trilogy is leading us towards: more all-rounded individuals who don’t suppress aspects of their personality, but instead use moderation.

“Keep you concentration here and now, where it belongs.”

Qui-Gon espouses some of the most meaningful wisdom in the prequel trilogy, reminding us all to live in the moment while it’s here and now and that what we focus on determines what we get in life. He sees the injustice of the council purposefully shutting Anakin out and resolves to teach him anyway. Yet he’s also a masterful user of subterfuge and is definitely not above cheating, using misdirection, or threats to get what he wants. He’s unafraid to walk that hazy middle-ground of Jedi morality to ensure that things happen as they should and even back then I noticed and appreciated Qui-Gon’s uniqueness. He chose to defend the galaxy, uphold goodness and order, but he didn’t do it blindly. Qui-Gon questioned everything every step of the way, and when those in power turned their backs on a child for their own security and ease, he called them on it.

In the end, Qui-Gon Jinn is not perfect. He makes assumptions and mistakes that cost the galaxy greatly, but he does so with the best of intentions. He acts with what I would call societal morality, or common morality, not the limited concept permitted by the Jedi teachings, and though it is flawed, it is the most like our own human morality. I think what Qui-Gon represents in The Phantom Menace is the beginning of the shift towards true balance – which is what the Force itself desires. With this in mind, I also think Kylo Ren is a composite character of Qui-Gon, Anakin, and to a certain extent Luke, much like Tolkien used the best aspects of Bard and Thorin from The Hobbit to later create Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. For any kind of major change, the groundwork needs to be laid in the beginning, and Qui-Gon, unperfect as he is, set the foundation for what I hope to see as the story progresses, a shift from uncompromising and restrictive dogma, to the acceptance of people just as they are. Good and bad, light and dark, compassionate and passionate, individuals striving for the betterment of the universe but with the option to pick their path as they go. We have that opportunity with Rey and Kylo in the final upcoming film, to see a dark-sider find the light inside himself, and a light-sider embrace the darkness that fuels her. Together with both halves of their personality present and accepted by themselves and each other, they could do what Qui-Gon tried to do in The Phantom Menace: bring true balance to the Force and with it, peace to the galaxy.

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The Phantom Menace: A Light in the Darkness

“Are you an angel?” — Anakin Skywalker

Before May of 1999, it was hard to imagine Darth Vader having any sort of relationship with a woman that would lead to her having his kids – you know, back when he was a suited-up, mechanical cyborg-man bent on destroying all the good in the galaxy – but watching little Ani meet Padme for the first time was like seeing the hands of fate in motion. He’s so unflinchingly emotive, everything he feels and thinks he says, and right from the get-go he understands Padme is important to him and has no qualms about expressing that. True love, soulmates, Force-bonded, whatever you want to call it, these two are meant to be and their love is so powerful it changes the face of the entire galaxy for generations to come, and in more ways than one. But it’s the genesis of this love, its very own origin story if you will, that we finally get to see in The Phantom Menace and it’s as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.

“There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” – Shmi Skywalker

Anakin was a child of the Force itself, made manifest to complete a destiny that was already written in the darkness of the stars. It crafted Anakin, creating every facet of his personality to be the one who bought balance to the warring sides of its supposed-practitioners. It gave him Shmi, a loving, intelligent mother to instill in him the desire and drive to act as his conscious saw fit. It made him a slave, so that he recognized and understood the slow-burning hatred of being controlled and oppressed. It made him powerful enough to attract the attention of those who might otherwise overlook him. And finally, when the time was right, the Force ensured an unbelievably strong, powerhouse of a person came into Anakin’s life at the exact right time.

Fate can be cruel, but it can also be kind.

Now personally, I believe that Anakin was always meant to destroy the Sith and the Jedi, because balance does not mean wiping out one side so the other can become more powerful and be left completely unchecked. Balance means evening out the playing field, or in more drastic cases, wiping it clean to start completely over again. I never understood how the Jedi interpreted that prophecy any other way considering the amount of time they spent meditating and seeking the will of the Force (I mean talk about narcissism am I right) but I don’t want to dwell too much on the subject because that’s another post entirely. The basis of my thought just needs to be explained for the rest to make relative sense.

The Force crafted Ani – knowing exactly what was going to happen later and what he was going to have to do – and there is great cruelty in that, creating something to purposely make it suffer for your own ends. But the Force is neither good nor evil, malicious nor kind, it’s that middle-ground in between that just is. It is the balance. So alongside that cruelty there is compassion, and it is that compassion that brought Anakin and Padme together. Despite the looming darkness of the future, they were given this time to bask in the light. Yes, they would both live incredibly harrowing, painful, and ultimately short lives, but they would also know the greatest joy and beauty that can ever be found in life: love. Deep, everlasting, pure love.

Knowing the death and despair that was to come, the Force provided a short span of years – the calm before the deadliest of storms – to know that they were absolutely loved heart and soul and it all began here in The Phantom Menace when Ani walked into the Watto’s junk shop and found Padme waiting for him. He recognized something in her immediately, and voiced it. He was brave enough to speak out, and Padme was brave enough to reciprocate. Anakin needed to know this love, needed to feel it soul-deep, because only the absolute fear of losing it would ever make him turn so far from the light and reach out instead for the darkness inside him. Even in compassion there is cruelty, and there can be no cruelty without compassion. Balance.

But for now in The Phantom Menace, the scale is tipped in our favor. And in the bright heat of desert-swept Tatooine and jubilant celebration of lush Naboo, we can revel in the triumphant light of hope and blossoming love for as long as we possibly can.

 

 

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The Phantom Menace: The Emergence and Importance of Fate


When I think about The Phantom Menace, I am overwhelmingly struck by the quintessential fairy-tale nature of the entire film. The scope, the dreamy colors, the adventure, and dangers, and daring! It’s all there and so are the familiar characters we as an audience know by heart: the age-old damsel in distress (who valiantly saves herself IMHO), the Arthurian-esque knights of morality who color our perception of good and evil for better or worse, the archetypal lost prince with an uncertain destiny, and larger than life villains who seek to overthrow goodness and humanity, etc. etc. In essence, TPM truly is the “Once Upon a Time…” segment of the Star Wars saga and without it the entire series is immediately unmoored and unbalanced.

The trials and tribulations of the future don’t mean as much or pack as much of an emotional punch when you don’t know that before Vader was Vader, he was Anakin, a young slave who dreamed of setting his people free and who opened his heart and his home to people in need and risked his life to help them when no one else would. And it’s hard to care about the momentarily-mentioned broken bond between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in A New Hope (when so much else is happening onscreen with Luke and Leia and Han) unless you’ve witnessed the two meeting for the first time and felt the ripples of fate move across the surface of the galaxy. And it’s difficult to feel pity for a man who makes ALL THE WRONG DECISIONS when it comes to his family unless you know that that entire future of that family began with a little boy innocently asking a beautiful young girl if she was an angel.

And that’s what I love so much about The Phantom Menace. More than any other prequel film, it shows the working hands of fate – or the force – and all that was required for the story that we know and love to come into existence. Padme’s world had to be invaded so she would leave it, her ship had to be damaged so it would need repairs, and Ani had to be a slave so he would be in the shop when Padme walked in looking for help. Because how else would a Queen from a lush, green planet meet a slave boy from a harsh, desert world?

In short, this movie had to happen, these events had to take place for the rest of the story to mean anything. Without TPM the story of Darth Vader is still there, but the emotional impact is stunted, and the characters only partially fleshed out. After all, a villain is only a villain at a certain time in his life, and a hero is only a hero when the story is told a certain way.

 

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The Phantom Menace: Judgement and Consequence

When I originally planned this post a few weeks ago I had the idea to do a running commentary of my thoughts and reactions to watching The Phantom Menace. That being said, about thirty minutes into the movie I realized two rather crucial things. First: I can’t concentrate on taking notes and watching a movie at the same time, it’s just not in me. I don’t know what I was thinking really, I’m one of those nutters that nearly drowns while drinking things because I sometimes forget to stop breathing for a second and I end up inhaling a lungful of sweet tea or something. Seriously, it’s sad, I have to give one thing my full attention and it quickly became a nightmare trying to watch and write. Second – and perhaps more important – my “revelations” and inner-thoughts were boring as hell. I mean I have my own Star Wars theories and ideas and a crap ton to talk about, but I couldn’t make a compelling list of thoughts to cover an entire two-hour movie where some things just aren’t worth talking about. It just wasn’t happening and I was losing my own interest lol.

So, I had a dilemma… what to do for this post since I have all my other ones already planned out for the month and set in the order I want them in? I couldn’t think of anything at first, I just kept swirling back to a quote in the movie that nearly smacked me across the face this time. And then it hit me. There are so many exceptional quotes from The Phantom Menace that just set up the basis for not only this singular movie, but the entire saga, yet there was something so relevant about this one in particular, something that wouldn’t let my mind rest. I had to discuss it! The quote is simple enough, it’s Qui-Gon’s defense of Anakin after Obi-Wan insists that he and the entire council can see that Anakin is dangerous.

“His fate is uncertain. He’s not dangerous.”

And it’s true, Anakin wasn’t dangerous, not at this point. Ani was a relatively happy little boy who was expressive, emotive, and unerringly kind, who had been raised to think intelligently for himself and problem-solve along the way. But the things that made him a good person in normal circumstances were the very things that turned the Jedi order against him. The Jedi would need to take everything that was Ani away and instill their own doctrines, beliefs, and ways of seeing the galaxy to make him one of them, but at advanced his age, Anakin’s personality was likely setting into place. They wouldn’t be able to fully overcome his own instincts and opinions – he wasn’t a baby or a toddler who they could teach or force to think how they chose – therefore he was dangerous, he was other, and they immediately treated him as such.

Instead of welcoming him with acceptance and understanding or even compassion, the council immediately set themselves apart from Anakin and make it clear – to a child who had just escaped enslavement and had helped two of their own order – that he was not welcome in their company because he was going down the darkside path simply because he admitted to feeling fear. Yeah… let that sink in for a moment because I’m getting mad just typing this. In an entirely new place with strangers who are testing him left, right, and center, far away from the only source of love and security he’s ever know, it’s no wonder Ani is afraid. The Jedi use a little boy’s love of his mother to make him unworthy of their time and consideration, they twist love into a weakness and call themselves the better for it.

Needless to say, I have A LOT MORE to write regarding the council and that’s already planned for later, so I’ll stop myself here. But I will say this: Qui-Gon was right. Anakin wasn’t dangerous until the Jedi made him so. The Jedi created their own destruction and it eventually cost them everything. I think this is a theme that often goes overlooked because it’s the “good-guys” doing the wrong things and we like to turn a blind eye to that sort of thing, but it bears noting that the same thing happens again in the sequel trilogy. Lessons are not being learned here. Ben Solo struggled with the darkness inside himself all his life, but it was Luke –a Jedi – who sealed his fate and the galaxy’s by deciding for everyone that his nephew was dangerous and needed to be dealt with. Another great evil is born because of the judgement of the peace-keeping righteous. And it’s just as Rey says, Luke created Kylo Ren, the same way the council created Darth Vader, and it began here in The Phantom Menace.

Today’s post ended up being a little darker and heavier than I wanted to start out with but hey, that’s Star Wars for ya! There is always darkness at the heart of fairy-tales and if you don’t see it then you’re missing the entire point of the story itself. But what about you guys, what quotes stand out to you when you watch The Phantom Menace? Are there any moments that you just can’t let go of? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see you guys next time!

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The Journey Begins: The Phantom Menace

The year was 1999 when the biggest Star Wars event of my young life exploded into existence, changing everything I thought I knew about that galaxy far, far away and the people there who had captured my youthful attention. The Phantom Menace hit theaters in mid-May, a few months shy of my tenth birthday and it was like a gift from George Lucas himself. Fifth-grade was looming at the end of the summer, I was a year into my Pokémon craze and a year out from discovering my next great love – Harry Potter – and I had been a die-hard Star Wars fan my WHOLE life. Simply put…life was good.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember actually being in the theater watching the movie with my mom and little brother, but I do remember coming home and repeating Every. Single. Jar-Jar line to my dad and basically reenacting the entire movie. I was a storyteller even then, and Star Wars was the most dramatic, earth-shattering, mind-blowing story I had ever come across and this new installment was everything I never knew I needed, both as a viewer and a writer myself. To see the greatest villain of my childhood portrayed onscreen as a kid almost my age was astounding, add to that the fact that he was an absolute sweetheart was mystifying. How had this eager, helpful, little optimistic Ani become one of the darkest forces in the galaxy, someone capable of destroying entire worlds and torturing his own family?

And Padme! She was only a few years older than me, but she was already a stalwart queen and a determined, powerful woman I envied and respected equally. I saw her up there, in both her handmaiden and her queenly guise, living out the adventure and I wanted so badly to be her. Leia was always, always, amazing but with her ferocity and quick wit, she seemed so far above me, so completely unreachable to a nine-year-old, but Padme felt like she could be me. She was young, scared, intelligent, and determined, she didn’t know what to do but she was brave enough to try. She made me realize that we all start somewhere, that people aren’t just born Leia’s, but that they can become women like her and that that pathway started now. I’d known Leia my whole life but now I would grow up with Padme.

Not to mention the story itself…suffice it to say, I knew the story of Star Wars. But now there were even more stories, more pieces of the puzzle I had just blindly taken for granted before… and therein lies The Phantom Menace’s greatest gift and lesson. I already understood that there is great power in the telling of a story – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi had already taught me that – but The Phantom Menace taught me there is always more to a story, and it’s the way you deliver it, (i.e. telling it in a certain order or a specific way) that elicits totally different responses. TPM didn’t change what happened in ANH, but it changed our entire perception of it. It forced us to ask those simple, powerful questions: how? Why? And it’s those questions that make us realize, we only know half of the story.

I never questioned Vader as the villain in the original saga, he was presented to me as such and I accepted it immediately. But after TPM I could never see Vader without picturing Ani’s face beneath the mask. The story was done, nothing could change Vader’s fate, but Ani’s was still uncertain, and I couldn’t give up on him, the kid who risked everything to help a group of strangers for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. Ani had a story to tell and even knowing where it was going, I was determined to stay by his side until the very end, to hear the part that no one had ever heard before, the forgotten tale of that little slave-boy who loved his mother with all his heart.

Like I said, in the end you can’t change Vader’s story. Redeemed or not he goes down the darkest path possible and becomes one of the most powerful, terrifying villains the world has ever seen – whether you start his story from the beginning or from the middle. But by beginning in the middle and circling back once the tale is done, we aren’t left with just Vader, we are left with Anakin and that’s the whole point of Star Wars. There is always more to the story, always more to the people we see on screen, whether we want to admit that or not. We can accept Vader as bad simply because he is, or we can understand that he was once a person who made the choice to help people, and that choice led to more choices and those choices led to a path he never expected. We can ignore Anakin’s story if all we want to see is Vader, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And this is something I use in my writing even now. Readers see the world as the writers choose to display it, I give you the side of a character I want you to see and you judge in an instant whether they’re good or bad or a million shades in between. You judge an entire lifetime with a moment, deciding a person’s fate and worth with my perception of the story as well as the main character’s coloring the entire thing in our favor. And I know you’re going to do it. There is unlimited power in that, and The Phantom Menace taught me to see it.

Now, back to 1999, flash forward three months and school had started again, and I was finally ten years old. Fifth grade was the epitome of my elementary school journey and conclusion of the first part of my young life. Just like in the galaxy far, far away, things were changing, I was gearing up to strike out on a new adventure, with new places and people and situations I could never dream of. It was exciting but hella scary. But for the time being, Star Wars was all anyone was talking about, Jar-Jar was everyone’s absolute favorite character, and I had pod-racer Ani plastered all over my new school supplies. Simply put, life was good.

*Starting this month, I will be focusing on one Star Wars film each month as we countdown to the final episodic film release in December. And if you couldn’t tell already, we will be starting at the beginning of the story as we know it: The Phantom Menace. I have some awesome posts already planned and I can’t wait to see what others emerge as inspiration strikes and my muse goes into SW overdrive. I hope you join me on this Star Wars adventure and make it the most fun it can possibly be so we can share this year together waiting and reminiscing about all those characters we love to love. This Monday I’ll be watching TPM (again) and doing a running commentary of my inner thoughts and opinions and all that fun stuff and I hope to see you there… I’ll bring the popcorn! – Tara

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Fandom Favorites: Who Talks First

Hello again my fellow fandom fans! I figured after Monday’s revelatory post (ya know…where we discussed Kylo Ren being a Hufflepuff and all) we’d take it a little easier today and I could think of no better way to chill out and celebrate the middle of the week than to share one of my all-time favorite groups from the Star Wars community with you… so welcome to the first installment of Fandom Favorites! This will be an ongoing installment because there are seriously SO many amazing members of the SW fandom and they deserve to be celebrated for being so awesome! Each new Fandom Favorite post will feature at least one of my favorite artists/podcasters/YouTubers, writers etc. etc. that make up this epic Star Wars Fandom. So, without further ado, let’s get to it shall we!

Up first is my all-time favorite Star Wars peoples: CT and Solo from Who Talks First: A Mostly Star Wars Podcast (aka The Knights of Rant)!

Now I’ve been a Star Wars fan since birth but when I first started delving into the sequel trilogy and the Reylo fandom, it was a YouTube video by CT that really caught my attention and made me question everything I thought I knew about Rey from Nowhere and the mysterious, brooding Kylo Ren. The way she explained their bond after TFA and the then-possible reasons behind it, made perfect sense and because I was new to the whole “Reylo” thing and unsure of how I felt about it myself, she really set the tone for an intelligent and intriguing intro into the sequel/Reylo aspect of the Star Wars fandom. I was so grateful that she was brave enough to post these things that I was quietly wondering about myself, especially since this was well before The Last Jedi and all the canon Rey/Kylo force connections.

What started out as a smattering of Star Wars videos then became the Knights of Rant channel, followed quickly by the Who Talks First podcast, and with each new video and podcast their content just kept getting better and better. I was instantly hooked! CT knows her SW lore and has such a great grasp of what Star Wars really means and what it encompasses, and Solo has some of the best observations and opinions on literally everything. It’s so refreshing and insightful to hear the opinions of someone who is relatively new to the Star Wars game because she sees things that the rest of us miss when we can’t step far enough away from the picture as a whole. And did I mention how hilarious they are?! Seriously, there is never a time I don’t end up smiling or literally laughing out loud (as my co-workers can attest) just listening to their stories and ideas. From piecing together the intricacies of canon lore to crazy mad-dash Force Friday shopping sessions, they take you on one wickedly wild and fun Star Wars ride after another!

So, if you’re ever in the mood for a hilarious but incredibly thought-provoking look at the Star Wars universe (with an emphasis on the sequel trilogy) definitely check out Who Talks First on YouTube, SoundCloud, and iTunes (links below)! And as added bonuses, check out CT’s Esty store Squadron Goals for some of the cutest SW merch you will ever find as well as Solo’s second podcast We Could Be Heroes, an epically fun D&D channel!

And, there you have it guys, the first of many Fandom Favorites to come and I’m so happy to start this thing off with my all-time favorite Star Wars group! I’d like to say a big thank you to CT and Solo for all the fun and happiness you’ve brought my way and for all the time and energy you put into making Who Talks First as amazing as it is! You guys genuinely make the waits between films easier and the fandom an all-around nicer place to be!

What about you guys, are you Who Talks First fans? Do you laugh as loudly as I do every time you listen to them?! Who are some of your favorite members of the Star Wars fandom? Make sure to let me know in the comments below so I can check them out too!

Find Who Talks First on:

iTunes, YouTube, Patreon, SoundCloud

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KYLO REN IS A HUFFLEPUFF!!!

Yes, you read that title right and I’ll say it again for the people in the back…KYLO REN, MASTER OF THE KNIGHTS OF REN, SON OF DARKNESS, HEIR APPARENT TO LORD VADER, AND THE NEW SUPREME LEADER OF THE FIRST ORDER…IS A HUFFLEPUFF.

Surprising I know but go figure.

I stumbled upon this discovery after reading a hella fun article over on Strangely Pop Cultured a few days ago wherein the writer explained how Kylo’s parents are both actually members of the Slytherin house. As a Snake myself, I was thrilled to have Princess Leia and Han Solo among my ranks because in all honesty, we need all the heroic Slytherin examples we can get — but it left me wondering… if both his parents are heroic Slytherins, what exactly is Kylo Ren/ Ben Solo?

I won’t lie, this question stumped me for a while. Kylo is an extremely complex character wrapped in layers of frayed emotions and self-deceit and I wanted to do him justice. The easy answer and the one I think most would give is that he’s a Slytherin as well, but I think that’s for all the wrong reasons i.e. Slytherin is evil and so is Kylo therefore bad person equals bad house, but that’s unfairly profiling and simplifying both the character and the house. Slytherin is not an evil house comprised solely of evil people. Evil isn’t house specific (I’m looking at you Pettigrew and Lockhart). Slytherins simply idolize cunning and ambition, traits that when wielded correctly can actually be used for great good! And Kylo Ren is one of the most complex, fully realized characters in the sequel trilogy, so to judge him without understanding his motivations would be childish. So again, I asked myself: what Hogwarts house would encapsulate all that Kylo is?!

And the answer was simple.

For all his over-the-top destructive behavior and bravado, cunning and ambitious are not keywords I’d use to describe Kylo Ren. Slytherins are go-getters and he’s reactionary at best. Brave and wise go out the window too and with them, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw – not because he doesn’t have any of these qualities, he does, but they are not driving forces behind his personality. No, Kylo at his core exemplifies dedication, fairness and above all: loyalty. A Hufflepuff through and through.

Still don’t believe me? Let’s break it down a little bit shall we?

First up: dedication… Kylo’s pretty damn dedicated to a few things, namely eradicating the last vestiges of the Jedi and the Sith teachings in the galaxy. As an ex-padawan learner, Kylo saw first-hand how dangerous the Jedi ideology and practice is when his own uncle nearly killed him in his sleep because of perceived darkness. Never mind that Vader actively wielded and misused his inner darkness for over twenty years and was somehow still forgivable, it’s the mostly-dormant darkness in Kylo that warrants an immediate death sentence. This easily demonstrates how unjust and unreliable the Jedi/Sith system is as it houses no room for middle ground and yet is executed with individualistic concerns. That being said, Kylo has spent years methodically searching for his uncle to ensure that that kind of uncompromising lethality is annihilated and if that’s not dedication I don’t know what is.

Second up is fairness and again, it’s easy to see in both films. Kylo is extremely reactionary, he’s a tit for tat character when it comes down to it, you strike out at me, I strike out at you. Fair is fair. We see this best when he faces his father Han Solo. Whatever our preconceived notions of Han, it is made abundantly clear in the supplemental reading and The Force Awakens itself (Kylo telling Rey Han would have disappointed her as a father) that Kylo has unresolved issues with his father. In Daniel Jose Older’s novel Last Shot, we see a young Ben Solo distraught when his father leaves him for a mission that almost ended with baby Ben being killed by his unqualified babysitting droid and we’re left with the sense that this forced separation will be a reoccurring theme in their relationship. And once he’s older, Ben is sent away to Luke for training (an act again that almost resulted in his death) so it’s not hard to imagine the resentment that comes from being constantly left behind or sent away. Therefore, after all the years of unnecessary painful goodbyes and resulting near-death experiences and a lifetime of Snoke whispering poisoned words in his mind, it’s no surprise that a severely conflicted Kylo redresses the issue and strikes a blow for himself – in the worst way possible of course, but morality aside, Kylo finally stands up to his father and makes it clear: you hurt me, now I’m hurting you. Again, worst possible way to make this point, but it’s a space opera and it’s go-big or go home. This goes double for when he faces Luke in The Last Jedi. Whether or not he completed the act and whether or not it’s understandable, Luke tried to kill Kylo and Kylo definitely returned the favor. Fair is fair after all.

Last, but not least, the epitome of Hufflepuff traits: loyalty. Broken and used as he is, Kylo Ren is undoubtedly loyal…to those who deserve his loyalty. He doesn’t bestow it lightly, it’s made clear that until Luke’s ill-fated attempt on his life, Kylo struggled with the darkness inside his head, never giving into it until that final act of familial treachery. Betrayed by his uncle, sent away by his parents, Kylo made his way to the only constant presence in his life: Snoke. He does all that he can to become the person Snoke wants him to be, aka the next great Vader. He constructs a mask for himself, literally and figuratively, drawing any tangible or perceptible lightside qualities deep into himself until he is left with Kylo Ren, a deception, a mask in every definition of the word. The loyalty that binds him to Snoke takes him down the darkest paths, nearly destroying him, but he endures it and it’s not until Snoke proves un-loyal in turn by first tasking him with killing his own father and then again by using his connection to Rey for nefarious purposes and then demanding he kill her that Kylo retracts that loyalty. For a moment we think that loyalty will be given to Rey, but Rey isn’t quite ready or deserving of it yet. She doesn’t know enough about Kylo, his motivations, or the galaxy at large to be deserving of a Hufflepuff’s loyalty, she can’t see past what she herself wants and so for the time, Kylo is loyal to the only person he has left: himself. I imagine that will change in Episode IX, but for now it’s for the best, he needs to heal before he can give such a large piece of himself away to another person and another cause.

And there you have it, Kylo Ren is a clear-cut Hufflepuff if I ever saw one: dedicated, fair, and above all, loyal. Destructive and dangerous, it’s easy to take his actions for those of a “stereotypical” Slytherin, but he’s not. He playacts as one, trying so desperately that it comes off as unauthentic and that’s because at his core, Kylo Ren embodies the very best of the Hufflepuff qualities – they’ve just been twisted by negative forces both outside and within. But there is still hope for his future. As my favorite Gryffindor once said: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” (J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). I think we’re going to see a whole new Kylo Ren in the next film, a Kylo who chooses for himself for once, someone who had taken the time to examine the mistakes and hurts of his past and has resolved to be better in the future. Not a perfect person mind you, because as Luke famously said himself in The Last Jedi, “It is time for the Jedi to end.” The galaxy doesn’t need perfection, it doesn’t need absolutes, it needs people who truly understand themselves and can act with both passion and clarity. It needs a middle-ground. Souls with a touch of darkness and a taste of light.

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