I am a Jedi, Like My Mother Before Me

My last blog post was going to be all that I wrote for #GaytheFourth, but I have reconsidered. Since December 2015 when The Force Awakens premiered in theaters, Star Wars has been a significant part of my life in a way that I never anticipated, even given my history with it.


The unblinking faces of Darth Vader, a nameless stormtrooper, and Yoda staring out from my parents’ copy of the original trilogy box set was a staple of the movie shelf of my childhood, but I never picked them off the shelf. Vader and the stormtrooper were a bit frightening when I was five, six, seven years old. My potential interest in space battles was eclipsed by colorful cartoons and violin lessons–but that wouldn’t stop my mother.

My mother: a take-no-bullshit, wildly intelligent, awkward nerd of a woman who sat me on her lap as a toddler to watch new episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and was so starstruck sitting next to Leonard Nimoy on a plane that she couldn’t say a single word to him the entire flight between Boston and New York City. When others talk of the concept of a super-mom, I think of her leading school fundraisers and setting records and every wonderful moment we shared at home that contradicted her sincere belief before my conception that she would be inadequate for the job.

In 1999, my mother and father went to see The Phantom Menace in theaters while I was at a friend’s house to spend the night; and the next morning, my mother wanted to take me to see it, insisting I would love it, and her enthusiasm was often a thick contagious cloud. She took me to see it–and being eight years old, I fell in love. I dragged her back to the theaters an additional six times until she said enough was enough, and by then I had already pulled the old intimidating VHS tapes off the shelf and worked my way to wear down the film inside.

In 1999, my mother was already sick.

I don’t think I have a single real memory of my mother where she has the shoulder-length dark blonde hair in the photo on my dresser. There’s my mother in an ill-fitting wig of the same color and my mother bald and my mother with course dark brown hair as it tried to grow back. And this was all normal to me, my age still in single digits–the chemotherapy and radiation, napping away the pain, the intense gaunt features, the summers spent in Omaha with last-ditch stem cell and bone marrow transplants.

By Thanksgiving the following year, the word “terminal” had long come out of the oncologist’s mouth, and a few days later my father found himself a single parent.


In the lead-up to The Force Awakens, I admittedly was not paying the most attention. I knew it was coming, that it was happening, but I was caught up in Marvel and my roommate–an enormous, life-long Star Wars fan–had recently moved across the country and taken his influence with him. Buying my Thursday-night ticket was almost an afterthought.

Waiting for the movie to start, I thought of my mother. The month before was the fifteenth anniversary of her death and I was sitting in a theater excited to see the latest installment in something she had wanted so badly to share with me–because that was what she did. She took me to The Phantom Menace. She practically shoved the first three Harry Potter novels in my arms and let me babble about all my theories while she got me ready for bed. After she passed, I learned this love extended to so many other things–Star Trek, The X-Files, Anne Rice novels–and as the theater darkened, it hit me for the first time how much was lost when the two of us were never allowed to live as adults at the same time.

After The Force Awakens, it was as if my eight-year-old self had reached through the years and punched my twenty-four-year-old self right in the heart. I locked myself in my car in the parking garage immediately after and screamed into my jacket, and thus began my re-descent into the galaxy far, far away.

At the same time, I also experienced a resurgence of grief that I thought had long been resolved–it had been fifteen years, but I found myself mourning my mother all over again in a different way. A child grieving the loss of a parent in the immediate wake of the event has one flavor but it burned coming back up. It tasted like bile, all the bitterness my nine-year-old self could never have hoped to process because I had just wanted for life to get back to its new normal, for the other kids to stop tiptoeing around me as the one with the dead mom. As an adult, I wanted her here. I wanted to share all the things she would have loved since her passing that I had to enjoy without her–The Force Awakens, the new Star Trek movies, the revival seasons of The X-Files, the comic-cons and superhero movies and graduations and marching band competitions and successful job interviews and, and, and.

I am my mother’s child. I can’t visit my hometown and our family friends without hearing how I look exactly like her, without noticing the sad glaze in her close friends’ eyes as they look at me and comment how we have the same speaking patterns and odd nervous tics. My mother and I grew up in the same house, went to the same schools from kindergarten through university, love the same things in the same enormous all-encompassing way. My entire life, I’ve mourned my mother but I hardly registered that to so many people I was her and not necessarily me, and I wanted her back to right the wrong the cancer had delivered to us but also to expel the ghost of her so many saw curled up in my chest.

Enter Poe Dameron.

Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the Resistance, an earnest idealist of a character I fell in love with upon my first viewing of The Force Awakens because of his charm and arguable gayness. As a queer fan, the arguable gayness would have been enough for me to claim him as favorite, but it went deeper the more I investigated into his character.

Poe Dameron’s mother, Shara Bey, was also a rebel pilot, flying an A-wing in the Battle of Endor and beyond–and Shara Bey died when Poe was eight.

Poe knew my pain. Poe as a child watched his mother die and then followed in her footsteps to work alongside veterans of the war with the Empire, veterans who had fought by her side. Did he struggle with the feeling of being in her shadow around them? Did he long for her advice and presence after a particularly hard dogfight? Canon doesn’t say, but the idea that he did, the potential for it, gave me a fictional hand to hold when I was alone and the grief came roaring back.

If he was gay, it would mean so much more.

My mother was born in the mid-1950s and had the same best friend since childhood–which isn’t a remarkable accomplishment, given that people have lifelong best friends. But my mother’s best friend is a lesbian and the time of her earlier years was so much more homophobic that it convinced me that my mother was one of the good ones. I never sought out confirmation for it, for fear of being disappointed. I, her apparent near-clone, am bisexual with a foot fairly solidly in some other queer labels I haven’t figured out yet, and the idea of her having that hate in that big heart of hers would ruin me. My father already had a difficult time making sense of it, choosing more to pretend it wasn’t a reality of my life than offering any sense of recognition.

In the wake of the Pulse shooting, on a night I was struggling, I called my mother’s friend and we spoke at length about queerness and my mother and how much we missed her. In the midst of it all, she assured me my mother loved people the way they are, whatever that meant for them.

The tears came back, and in the dark of my room I reached my hand out for Poe’s again. We were in this X-wing together, and these sorts of journeys are always better with a friend.

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In a galaxy with Wookiees and talking slugs, why is everyone straight?

Wikipedia holes are everywhere, and undoubtedly you’ve fallen into one before. It’s innocuous at first but spirals into a time-suck: maybe you wanted to see what year Tiger Woods was born or if that movie you’re debating over dinner actually won an Oscar or not, but a few clicks later you’re knee deep in an article on medieval Sri Lankan history with hardly a memory of the winding path you took to get there. It happens.

I find myself experiencing this less on actual Wikipedia and more on Wookieepedia, the Star Wars fan wiki that chronicles every detail of the galaxy far, far away from the prequel films to the now-decanonized Legends. How many moons does the gas giant planet Yavin have? (Twenty-six, though in the films we only see one.) What kind of music genres exist across the galaxy? (Several, and with a wild variety of names.) Exactly how tall is Yoda? (0.66 meters.) When I write fanfiction in the Star Wars universe, I like to stay as canon-compliant as I can within reason and that has made Wookieepedia my best friend–and also my worst enemy. Working nine-to-five doesn’t exactly give me an enormous amount of free time to write, so when I trip face-first into a Wookieepedia rabbit hole trying to find the proper term for a space guitar, there’s twinges of regret. Yes, I learned a lot of fun new trivia, but that is an hour I won’t get back.

Recently, two of my best friends started watching the television show The Clone Wars after I wouldn’t shut up about Star Wars Rebels, and one of them experienced the Wookieepedia hole first-hand. The Clone Wars reveals Jabba the Hutt’s uncle, a purple Hutt that is fond of wearing a great deal of jewelry and a flower behind his ear–or where an ear would be if that were part of the Hutt anatomy. My friend also added that this uncle had a much higher voice than they expected, and I replied with something like, “I can’t believe Jabba the Hutt has a gender-nonconforming gay uncle!” And I should have known. Remarks like that are how any Wikipedia binge starts.

A few minutes later, I received a string of texts about how in the context of Legends canon, like slugs on our own planet, the Hutts are hermaphroditic and that Jabba definitively identifies as male, and that there is another species (the Xi’dec) that have over 180 different sexes. The implications are endless–how complicated is Xi’dec courtship, does this make Jabba the Hutt trans in Legends, etc., etc.

Biodiversity in Star Wars is obvious within the films on a visual level, humans standing alongside the porcine Gamorreans, the Twi’leks and their long headtails, Geonosians speaking in clicks and buzzes over their insect-like wings–not to mention the rancors, wampas, and (now) rathtars that have frightened younger fans for decades. If you can think it, then it can exist in Star Wars. There’s a planet somewhere in the galaxy where it could survive, and it can make its way into the lengthy annals of history stretching far back even before the days of the Old Republic.

Star Wars posits a galaxy with infinite possibilities for the shapes that life can take, but our own galaxy’s prejudices and shortcomings are holding it back from being true to its own potential. The galaxy is painfully, unrealistically heterosexual and cisgender, and it is past time for that to change.

That’s not to say that there are zero examples of LGBT characters in the entire Star Wars canon. Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath novels feature three: two gay men (Sinjir Rath Velus and Conder Kyl) and a nonbinary space pirate (Eleodie Maracavanya). Trying to find other characters under the LGBT umbrella before Aftermath was published is difficult. A minor character from Legends (Goran Beviin) is stated to be gay, and an odd glitch in the video game Knights of the Old Republic led to what many players considered a segregated gay planet. None of these examples feature in the films or television shows. In a galaxy whose population is unimaginably large, where a single planet can have upwards of two trillion residents, four examples of LGBT characters is pitiful. It’s better than nothing, sure, but still pitiful.

Gay people exist. Bisexual people exist. Transgender people exist. It’s an innate part of the diversity within the human species but for all intents and purposes, Star Wars has scrubbed that diversity nearly out of existence. The Xi’dec can have 180 different sexes and the Hutt’s sexual anatomy in Legends could lend itself to a trans-friendly culture, but humans however many lightyears away from Earth have been limited. In a galaxy with that kind of biodiversity, how does it make sense from a world-building perspective to not portray humans in their full spectrum of possibilities?

Here’s a hint: it doesn’t.

Like anything creative in our world, Star Wars was made with the creators’ personal prejudices pulling the strings backstage. Until The Force Awakens, none of the films had non-white leads, and still there is a disconcerting lack of women of color across the board (though Kelly Marie Tran in The Last Jedi is a step in the right direction). The prequel films depictions of certain alien races–the Gungans, the Neimoidians, and the Toydarians–were racist caricatures.

And then there’s the aforementioned notable lack of anyone who isn’t straight. An often-told story from the original-trilogy era of fandom is that George Lucas issued cease-and-desist letters to fans writing fanfiction that depicted Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in a romantic relationship–the truth, as it tends to be, is a little more complicated but the story has its roots in it. Most legal correspondence about copyright with LucasFilm centered around the “moral protection” of George Lucas’ creations, which translated into a ban on x-rated stories in fanzines. One story portraying a non-explicit gay relationship among two Imperial characters did receive a notice from LucasFilm counsel that they “cannot authorize homosexual expression of love among the characters created by George Lucas” because they must “preserve the innocence” of these characters. Fortunately, the numerous logical flaws in the letter as a whole were refuted in the response and the story was allowed to be published–but the instance highlights the homophobia that has been there since the beginning.

So a story created by a cisgender, heterosexual, white man has long been steeped in prejudices: this isn’t anything new. But now more than ever, there is a certain responsibility to do better, to overcome that. When this idea surfaces, there always seems to be someone who asks why. Why do we need stories with women, people of color, disabled people, members of the LGBT community? Furthermore, why do we need them in this story, in this galaxy?

So much has been written on the power of media representation by better writers than me; nevertheless, it bears repeating. Narrative fiction in all its forms comprises the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. It’s how we make try to make sense of every messy thing that comes to pass in our lives and how we show what we value in them. When the dominant image in our stories is homogeneous, representative of only a fraction of the people on our planet, our stories are saying that everyone outside of that image is not valued–it’s irresponsible and damaging, not to mention a symptom of a lack of creativity. Star Wars is the biggest franchise in the world and a cornerstone of our modern culture. The responsibility to do better when it comes to representation lies more heavily on a cornerstone than it does anywhere else, and its ability for wide-spreading positive impact is greater than anyone else’s–yet the steps they have taken thus far have been minimal.

 

LGBT fans of Star Wars, in the face of this drought, have not only latched onto the canon representation but also characters they can see themselves in from subtext alone. To many, Luke Skywalker is a gay trans man; Sabine Wren is a lesbian; and Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe have been married for many years, no matter what the actual canon might say. But to see the power of potential representation among the LGBT community, all you have to do is examine the reaction to Poe Dameron after the release of The Force Awakens in 2015.

In late December, with The Force Awakens having been in theaters a few weeks, the first autocompleted example when you googled Poe Dameron’s name was “Poe Dameron gay.” Oscar Isaac’s answer to a pre-release press tour interview on Ellen only fanned the reading of Poe as gay: he was “playing romance,” but it was apparently “very subtle” and needed more than one viewing to catch.

ok oscar

(Sure, Oscar. “More than one viewing.”)

Fans were excited for the potential–Poe’s story still had two films in which to unfold, two films which hadn’t been made yet and might only exist as a vague plot outline in some LucasFilm desktop. Internet fandom hopped on this train almost immediately, as one might expect as even the smallest hint of potential gay subtext is enough to get the gears turning.

What I hadn’t expected, though, was the response I found outside of the internet. Later that winter, I was at a friend’s house party and congregating with a couple guys around the guacamole on the snack table–with this group of friends and the time of night, everyone around was some flavor of gay and edging on drunk, and somehow Star Wars came up. The Force Awakens made an appearance, and then I found myself with three gay men shouting excitedly among themselves about how gay Poe is, how into Finn he is, and how badly they were rooting for it all. They weren’t veterans of internet fandom: they were three people who grew up with a Star Wars that pretended they and people like them didn’t exist, and they were discovering a Star Wars that potentially wouldn’t.

Including LGBT characters in Star Wars is a move that’s more than consistent within the rules of its own world, but it matters more to us here in this galaxy. It matters to the real people who consume these stories and love these stories to know that they’re seen and loved right back. It’s time to let Star Wars be gay.

I did some things this week and it was pretty darn Swell

I know it’s only December 1st but the past week had me thinking about my New Year’s resolutions that were getting ready to expire. Some were slam dunked right into the trash for the year, and some are still waiting patiently in the fridge growing greener and fuzzier by the second while I refuse to give up on them just yet. These have included such hits as:

  • Joining the YMCA and getting back in shape since there is one literally four blocks from where I live
  • Creating a portfolio of original fiction to then use to apply for an MFA in this application cycle
  • Attempting dating again

And they’ve been thwarted by, respectively: sheer laziness, a healthy dose of reality, and the specter of my ex hovering over my shoulder and materializing into a “just got engaged” Facebook post.

So I adjusted. Applying for an MFA program could downsize into just finishing an original short story at all and getting it submitted it to a lit mag. Attempting dating turned into an agreement with my best friend that if I mentioned re-downloading Tinder for the fourth time that she got to yell at me. That sort of thing.

(One goal was met, though: I got the job where I currently work back in April, and it offers me health insurance! That was the most important one since my next birthday is the big 26 and would kick me off my parents’ plan.)

So: the point of all this babbling–

In the immediate aftermath of the election, fic felt really frivolous. I took a step back from the ridiculous Star Wars bit I’d been working on and tried to hash out all the emotions through fiction, as I have tended to do, and I actually finished something. Not only that, a lit mag a friend told me about was doing a spotlight collection about responses to the election. And boy howdy I submitted it to themA small step in a good direction! I did a thing I had legitimately given up on being able to do just months ago!

AND THEN, the next day, I got to celebrate a new holiday I like to call “BABY’S FIRST BYLINE.” Women Write About Comics posted an edited/updated version of an earlier post from this blog about Bodhi Rook and his lack of Funko Pop! The feud with Funko continues, of course–it won’t have anything close to an end until that Bodhi bobblehead exists–but we brought the shame to a more public platform!

(“But Haden,” you say, “given everything going on right now, aren’t there more pressing things to be worrying about than a bobblehead?” This has the illusion of more control over the situation and every little bit helps, thanks.)

So it’s been a bit of a week. It’s nice feeling legitimately proud of myself for once.

Bigfoot is Real and Shares My Troubles With Writing

Y’all, writing is hard.

Which, okay, I’m stating an obvious thing here. Any time after I finish a project that spiraled out of control–an often occurrence, to be fair–looking back on the chunk of words on my screen is daunting. How did all of them get there? Furthermore, how did they get there and make sense?

I’ve harbored aspirations of getting my fiction published one day, and it’s a simple enough goal to declare for yourself, but then you’re staring at three weak paragraphs of a contest story at quarter to midnight on a weekday wondering why you thought this was a good concept to glue your ambition to. And then maybe, if you’re me, you pull up the Google Doc with the 11,000 words of somewhat self-indulgent Star Wars fic that’s nowhere close to being done–Poe or Snap needs to respond to what Finn’s just said, and they’ve been staring at him dumbly for the better part of ten days. It’s starting to get awkward, but you can’t help them now.

This time of year might just be an annual rut. It happened last year, too; but last year I wasn’t trying to make a foray into original fiction. Fanfiction and original fiction operate on many of the same planes, but since story is driven by character, writing fic leaves you at an enormous advantage, and I’ve had to readjust.

Aside from that, I’ve had two major issues so far trying to make my original fiction work, so I’m going to talk about them, as this is my blog and I can do that.

1. Writing as healing but without hurting other people

That summary sounds bad. I know it does. Let me explain.

There have been a number of key events in my life that have left lasting scars and, if they happened early enough in my childhood, helped contribute to the anxiety and depression I’ve been dealing with for as long as I can remember. We all have events like that in our lives, and mine were and at times still are festering in ways that need to stop before I can start, y’know, actually getting better.

Writing helps! Fic has helped in particular because if I can get these characters that I know and love and cherish through these things that have so badly affected me, then I can too, right? That was the train of thought, on some level. One Marvel Cinematic Universe fic took Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes through a breakup and its aftermath in a way that mirrors the messy breakup my ex and I went through about two years prior. The Star Wars fic I posted a few months ago dealt with Poe Dameron’s relationship with his mother, Shara Bey, who died when he was about the same age as I was when my own mother passed away. Parts of the plot and dialogue for both works were deeply personal, and getting through them was cathartic.

It’s something I want to keep working with as my writing develops. The cliche “write what you know” can’t be taken so bluntly at face value–after all, someone commented that’s why we have so many novels about English professors cheating on their wives–but the advice is still useful. You can write about space adventures and superheroes, which not many people have first-hand knowledge of, and still insert pieces of things from your personal experience. Maybe it’s how one character handles the death of his mother in childhood as an adult because you’ve been there. Maybe it’s choosing a real-life setting based on the fact that you’ve been there, so the descriptions will be more true to life. (I’m so guilty of this–a lot of my MCU fic mentions or goes to Guayaquil, Ecuador because of a disastrous work trip I went on in November 2014.) And I know how certain traumatic parts of my life feel–they affect me every day. Including them would help me work through it all and also make my writing stronger–while maybe resonating with someone else who’s been in a similar spot. Art heals.

But there is where I start running into the problem. I have a fraught relationship with one of my close family members, and while it’s gotten healthier over the years (since we don’t see each other as often), at its worse it was ugly. If I incorporated parts of that ugly period, it could possibly be obvious to certain people where this or that came from; and since I’m such a sucker for any time of validation I can find, I would still want this person to read it if it got published and be proud of me even though the piece would be skewering them in some way. The same goes for the issue with my ex: if he read the MCU fic I described above, he would immediately recognize what was happening. Blasting them like that in a published work outside Archive of Our Own, even under the veil of fiction, feels grossly petty even though part of me still definitely needs to work through it.

So then I try to find subjects that aren’t so personal to me as a human being, and all the ideas come up superficial. The middle ground is eluding me.

2. The syntactical hurdles of incorporating nonbinary characters

Diversity is important, full stop.

Binary trans characters have slowly started making headway into becoming more visible in creative media–though there is still a long way to go with regards to casting as cis men are still routinely cast for trans women parts and vice versa.

But to find nonbinary characters, you might need a microscope in the great haystack of fiction. The cartoon “Steven Universe” has a nonbinary character, as does the webseries “Carmilla” and the Star Wars novel Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig. The entire idea of nonbinary gender identities is still something that doesn’t have enough mainstream attention even as trans issues were brought more to the forefront as of late, and including them in the stories we tell is one way to combat that problem.

However, another problem arises when I sit down to try to write a nonbinary character: how do I address the issue of pronouns? And I don’t mean calling attention to using pronouns other than “he” or “she” to refer to a person and explaining what that entails–I mean finding the best way to write this character so clarity isn’t lost. For instance, I mainly write in third person, and a concept for an original story involves a cis woman and a nonbinary person. How do I write third-person narration with two people where one uses the same pronouns (they/them) that I would use to address the two of them as a group? How do I maintain clarity of meaning? Part of the problem here obviously lies in the fact that this isn’t something I’m used to thinking about, so the weakness lies in lack of practice.

Plus, there’s always the option to use neopronouns, “ze” and “hir” and the like, but then the problem of people outside of the LGBT community not knowing what they’re looking at. I follow Chuck Wendig on Twitter, and after Life Debt came out, someone tweeted him a question asking about a possible typo–which wasn’t a typo at all, but the gender-neutral pronoun he used for the nonbinary character in the novel. Clarity for the reader is crucial, and if it’s at risk of being lost because of too many distinct antecedents for a pronoun or not recognizing the pronoun entirely, then that’s one more thing the writer needs to keep track of in an already difficult process. Even in sketching out the characters for this original story, I contemplated making my nonbinary character a binary trans person instead to alleviate the issue–but I didn’t. That’s just avoiding the challenge instead of facing it and finding a way to make it work. Nonbinary people deserve that.

At any rate: these are my challenges now, and I’ll probably be back to complain about different things that cropped up to smack me in the face when I wasn’t looking. If you’re somehow reading this post and have any advice, I’d love to hear it. 

Season 4 of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”: Doubling Down on Its Progressive Politics in the Year From Hell

[This post contains spoilers for the first three episodes of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” season four.]

I was lucky enough to catch the first episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” a workplace comedy about a New York City police precinct, when it premiered on FOX during the fall of 2013, and it was quickly evident that this show was nailing in one thirty-minute segment what some comedies take seasons to get right–if ever. First, it didn’t stumble out of the gate. “Parks and Recreation” arguably needed its first season to find its feet, but B99 had me laughing out loud within minutes. Out loud. Not the quick exhale from the nose when something is amusing but not quite hilarious–real laughter.

But most importantly, B99 presented a diverse main cast that didn’t rely on stereotypes for characterization or punchlines. So much has already been said about the importance of having two Latina leads (Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero), how rare it is to have a gay character (Raymond Holt, played by Andre Braugher) whose sexuality matters to his character but is as big of a deal to the show as a whole as those of the straight characters, and how Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) and Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) present alternate presentations of what masculinity can look like.

As one might hope for a show with this basis, B99 has always leaned on the progressive side. (And when they do mess up, like with the portrayal of Boyle’s infatuation with Beatriz’s character, Rosa Diaz, they fix it.) Holt, on a number of occasions, relays stories of what it was like in decades past being an openly-gay black cop. A campaign to boost opinion of the NYPD ended with an ad series reading, “We know we can do better–tell us how.” Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) surprised hesitant viewers time and time again with awareness of social issues most people don’t readily expect from the casual workplace jokester archetype so often portrayed as a white man–he called Christopher Columbus a murderer while complaining about Thanksgiving, he was visibly upset when a suspect they’d just cleared made a comment about ogling women in the yoga studio across the street, and he punched out his childhood hero for making homophobic remarks about Holt.

In the season four premiere on September 20th, Peralta called out Ace Ventura for being transphobic. A mainstream cable sitcom said the word “transphobic” in an episode. And not in a mocking or derisive way.

The “transphobic” drop is only one of many instances when B99 has refused to pull its punches this season, and the third episode ended less than two hours ago. These three episodes have been more openly political than the entire back half of the last season:

  • Peralta and Holt purchase a large amount of automatic weapons and ammo while under witness protection in Florida without any ID, the gun seller winking away any background checks (Peralta, distressed and under his breath: “Our country is broken!”)
  • Gina buys a gun from a vending machine in at a rest stop, and then finding another one in a warehouse lost in found where there were apparently many more
  • As part of a plan to escape from the local sheriff’s holding pen, Peralta and Holt stage a fight and the sheriff cheers them on instead of opening the pen to intervene like they’d hoped; Peralta then gives Holt a long, closed-mouth kiss, which flusters the sheriff and does the trick
  • While Holt (the captain of the precinct) is away, the NYPD appoints a white man who has zero credentials and zero ability as captain because he was in the right place at the right time during an arrest
  • A local news report from the Florida city previews headlines of Peralta and Holt’s escape from the sheriff, the identity of who is running against Donald Trump for president, and a puppy taking an order from at a drive-through

There’s probably more, but these were just the most obvious.

Repeated digs at the lack of gun control in the United States–and especially in parts of the country like Florida. The recreational attitude towards violence as a symptom of its numbness contrasted against the swift intolerance of displays of non-heterosexual love. White male mediocrity rewarded over the merits of women and people of color. Trump’s monopoly of the media’s attention during this presidential election and how puff pieces are taking airtime away from real reporting of issues with actual consequences.

It’s a lot to fit into three episodes, but they make it work.

And I couldn’t be more happy about it. Season 3 ended on April 19th, and between now and then, we’ve seen Trump clinch the Republican nomination and toe closer to becoming Commander in Chief. We’ve seen the shootings at Pulse in Orlando. We’ve seen North Carolina strip rights from its trans citizens. As 2016 progressed from April to September, it seemed to be spiraling into something no one could have anticipated: people are worried, flat-out scared about what’s coming around the corner for them next. Is it President Trump? Is a creepy clown with a knife? And just like no one could anticipate what has come to pass, we can’t predict where we’re going, but B99 is using its space in popular culture for good. When they include bits like what’s outlined above, it’s not only spreading the underlying message during prime time; it’s also reaching out to everyone who’s watching the rest of 2016 unfold peeking through their fingers and saying no, things aren’t the way they should be, this won’t be the new normal because you’re not the only one seeing how sideways it’s gone.

B99 not only appeals to my specific, inexplicable brand of humor while also actively being a comfort in troubling times. I’ve come away from these last three episodes feeling much less alone, and though it had already been earned, the place B99 has in my heart has been cemented even further.

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#WheresBodhi: I Wish I Could Tell You

Note: An updated version of this post has been published at Women Write About Comics!

2016 has been a mess: at times tragic, at others downright farcical. The utter absurdity of this year was even a bonding point with my new therapist at my first appointment earlier this week.

But 2016 couldn’t be all bad, right? After all, it’s the first time in history that we’re receiving a new Star Wars movie only one year after the last one was released. That’s magic right there. That’s the power of the Force.

Maybe I got a little too optimistic–even the Star Wars news got its fair share of nonsense. Some of it was fandom-related, to be fair, but now it’s moved into the category of legitimate nonsense.

Where in the world is Bodhi Rook?

bodhi-darling

Bodhi is one of the six main protagonists in the upcoming film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the rebel team’s lead pilot and go-to man for technical skills–and also a defector from the Empire, where he mainly worked in cargo shipping. He has a rich backstory, slightly reminiscent of Finn’s in The Force Awakens; plus he’s portrayed by Riz Ahmed, an extraordinarily talented actor that recently garnered mainstream attention as the lead in HBO’s “The Night Of.”

Even at this stage in the game, given LucasFilm’s normal level of secrecy about its upcoming releases, Bodhi has the potential to be an iconic Star Wars character, just as the rest of his Rogue One compatriots do.

Except there’s one difference: Bodhi is being omitted from merchandise.

It should be noted that the official merchandise from Disney has included Bodhi–he has an action figure and a Lego and has been featured in the ensemble photo shoot spreads in recent issues of Empire Magazine. Outside of that, things start to become a little dicey–if anyone of the main six is excluded, it’s always Bodhi.

Take, for example, Funko’s Pop figures released for Rogue One:

r1-funkos

Five of the main protagonists have a Pop (Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Chirrut Imwe, Baze Malbus, K2SO)–with Jyn and Cassian receiving alternates–and wild card Saw Gerrera has one as well. The rest are Imperial characters: Krennic, nameless variations on stormtroopers, R2-D2’s Imperial cousin, and two figures for Darth Vader.

Star Wars fans who have been eagerly anticipating Rogue One since its first teaser was released at the beginning of this year immediately noticed that Bodhi was missing from the lineup and took to Twitter to inquire:

funko-nonsense

Funko did not actually confirm he was coming in the second wave of Rogue One Pops, only hinting that he might be included, before offering the reply above.

Excuse me: I meant offering the complete bullshit reply above.

Saying that Bodhi didn’t get a Pop because we know nothing about him and because he might be a traitor makes absolutely no sense–we know as much about Bodhi as we do about the other new characters Rogue One introduces, and how is the possibility that he could maybe be a traitor going to disqualify him when known antagonists like Krennic have a Pop. Furthermore, generic stormtroopers were made into Pops when they are definitely on the side of evil and nobody knows a single thing about them as individuals.

This would be merely annoying in most cases, but Bodhi is not most cases. His is the first main character in the Star Wars universe to be portrayed by a South Asian/Muslim actor.

Let’s take a moment to remember the current political climate in the Americas and Europe regarding Muslims.

Okay.

Why is it that the character played by a Muslim actor of Pakistani descent is the one omitted from most of the group merchandise? Why is it that the Muslim actor of Pakistani descent is the one insinuated to be a traitor with no evidence to back up the claim?

Coincidence? Anything is possible, but nothing exists in a vacuum. Merchandise for women and characters of color are often the most difficult to find for “nerd” properties–Funko didn’t release a Sam Wilson/Falcon Pop in the lineup for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow is conspicuously absent in Avengers: Age of Ultron Lego sets based on scenes she was in, and there was a noticeable lack of Rey toys in the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens‘ release.

Bodhi’s absence is part of a pattern. Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Muslim people face an incredible amount of prejudice and hatred in the West today. Muslims living in the West especially have to live their lives knowing a good portion of the people around them think their religion to be a violent one, urging them to turn against the country in which they reside to wage some form of “holy war.” That is a misconception Muslims have to live with, and Funko goes on to speculate that Bodhi is a traitor.

It seems less like a coincidence and more like an insidious example of racism and islamophobia.

And it’s almost funny–almost–considering a lot of the work Riz Ahmed has done up to this point in his career. For one, he’s not only an actor, but a rapper as well–his music as Riz MC as well as with the group the Swet Shop Boys is highly race-conscious. One of Ahmed’s most well-known songs is specifically about the Muslim experience after 9/11.

Just today, Ahmed posted an essay in The Guardian about how he is stopped at the airport every time he flies into the United States.

From the poisonous rhetoric of Donald Trump in the presidential election to the hijab and burkini bans in France, islamophobia is an epidemic; so often the arts can help push back against bigotry with portrayals of these marginalized communities in a positive light, and that is an enormous part of what makes Bodhi’s inclusion in the Rogue One story so important. Representation matters, being able to see someone like you in one of the most iconic film franchises in history and knowing that space belongs to you too.

And it’s not only representation that matters–it’s the recognition that follows. If you are represented, but your contributions to the story are not recognized as significant, what is that supposed to convey? Bodhi, according to revealed bits of the plot, kicks off the action in Rogue One and plays an instrumental role in the film. Yet he’s still ignored by the Powers That Be controlling the early merchandising, essentially omitting him from this stage of the marketing. Bodhi exists as a positive portrayal of South Asians/Muslims, as a key player in the film’s narrative, but he’s not important enough in the eyes of others to be included elsewhere.

You can show up, you can do good, but we still won’t admit it–it won’t matter.

It’s downright shameful.

I hope–for Bodhi and Riz’s sake, but also for my spiteful side–that Bodhi is not only an essential part of Rogue One but also a fan favorite and that the marketing teams of the companies that have mysteriously kept him from their group lineups have their Monday-morning meetings with a new level of self-awareness and a smoldering bundle of shame.

High hopes, I know. But do I like to be optimistic.

 

 

Barb-a Fett: The Mysterious Case of the Fan Favorite of “Stranger Things”

[This post contains spoilers for “Stranger Things.]

Since the debut of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” the increased flood of people who had finished the first season’s eight-episode run coincided with a rise of love for Barb Holland, a minor character who falls victim to the monster of the Upside Down.

I was late to the party: “Stranger Things” premiered over a month ago, and I just watched the finale yesterday. From what my friends had been saying about the show–about Barb in particular–I had thought she would have a larger role. But then I came across a couple stray comments that compared her to Star Wars‘ Boba Fett, saying that they were both essentially small plot devices that die yet still inexplicably capture the audience’s imagination.

Sure, I guess. Fans latching onto minor characters like this isn’t anything new. Phil Coulson of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a flat, plot device of a character in Phase 1 of the franchise, yet his death in The Avengers sparked such an outcry that he was raised from the dead to play one of the leads in “Agents of SHIELD.” Baffling, too, is Star Wars fandom’s love of General Hux of Episode VII.

Barb wasn’t compared to Coulson or Hux, though: she was compared to Boba Fett, whose cult of adoration I have never quite been able to understand. Boba Fett definitely has the aura of some hardcore action villain with his Mandalorian armor and cool reserved silence. A bounty hunter so infamous that Darth Vader himself calls upon his services–but if you watch The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Boba Fett isn’t exactly good at his job. Yes, he tracks the Millennium Falcon to Bespin, but it’s Lando that brings our heroes to Vader. And when given the chance to take Han and Luke out for good in the next film, he manages to jettison himself with his jet-pack straight into the sarlacc pit, apparently to his death. This is the character so many fans uphold as one of the biggest badasses in the galaxy? Please.

The cult of Boba Fett strikes me as one that concerns itself with the concept of Boba Fett more so than who he actually is. I would even argue that his following is the result of male Star Wars fans projecting themselves onto this mysterious bad guy who is just Too Cool to speak, effortlessly charms Twi’lek girls, and finds himself on Vader’s speed dial. Never mind that the most convincing on-screen evidence points to him being a bumbling mess in the heat of battle.

The cult of Barb has its roots elsewhere–maybe taking a similar shape at some bends, but still in a different plot of soil.

barb

Barb is the best friend of Nancy, one of the show’s many leads, and suffers a death that is fairly glossed over in the scheme of things–her disappearance when the monster snatches her at Steve’s party distresses Nancy for sure, and the Hawkins police department do search for her, but once it’s revealed that she died in the Upside Down, the repercussions aren’t there. Barb is hardly mentioned after that, not even by Nancy, who should have felt the impact of her death the most out of any of the heroes.

The lack of emotional resolution for Barb as a character is probably a large part of what is fueling the outpouring of love for her, which has notably been led by female fans. But it goes beyond the matter of the death itself into the larger context of her death in media of late. There’s the issue of a female character in a majority-male cast dying for the sake of the plot–a fridging for the sake of the plot rather than character development–and there is also the issue of playing directly into the hands of another overused trope: Bury Your Gays.

“But wait!” you say. “Barb isn’t gay!”

Let me explain.

“Stranger Things,” as some have noted, has zero explicit LGBTQ+ characters, though this isn’t for the lack of the concept’s existence in-universe. The two “mouth-breather” bullies that torment Mike Wheeler and his friends appear to make a habit of calling Will Byers by homophobic slurs in their taunts. Of course, this is 1983–homophobia is still rampant across society and the AIDS epidemic is well underway. Given that environment, I wouldn’t expect a LGBTQ+ character to be out, especially if they were a minor like most of the ensemble.

But they would still exist. Being closeted wouldn’t erase that, and there is a case to be made for Barb being coded as bisexual or a lesbian.

  1. Short hair: not every bisexual or lesbian woman has short hair (or vice versa) but having a cut like that is for better or worse part of a stock image of LBQ+ women
  2. Reaction to Nancy’s new relationship with Steve: it could be read that Barb doesn’t like Steve’s bad influence, but it also could be read as jealousy that Nancy is with Steve

And then there’s this (source):

is that a new bra

(How would you know, Barb? How would you know?)

An LBQ+ (coded) character meeting an untimely demise? What an original concept for 2016!

Except it isn’t.

2016 alone has seen the death of twenty LBQ+ women on television, with twenty-four dying in 2015. The comprehensive list on Autostraddle shows a definite uptick of deaths the closer to the present we go–the more LBQ+ women are on television, the more there are for the writers to kill. The trope has been at play since the 1970s, but the backlash started in earnest when four of the twenty victims of 2016 were killed off over the course of March alone; and when LGBTQ+ viewers, starving for adequate representation, are likely to watch a show solely on the basis that there are characters in the cast like them, the rapid-fire nature of the deaths deals a much bigger blow.

It is emotionally exhausting to have such a high percentage of the few characters allotted to represent people like you die violent deaths. It is an unfriendly reminder of the violence LGBTQ+ people are at risk of daily in our lives, and if people like us can’t escape untimely deaths even in the most fantastical setting, what hope is there in the real world? That is underlying message we pick up when we watch this happen again and again.

So Barb wasn’t outright written as bisexual or lesbian–but we still saw ourselves in her, and her fate probably poked and prodded at some wounds that don’t often get enough time to properly heal. And when the death doesn’t appear to resonate emotionally within the narrative, that only makes it worse.

The cult of Barb is the result of her character being tossed aside when it was no longer needed to support the narrative, all within the context of a lack of female characters and something that looked too much like Bury Your Gays. The cult of Boba Fett is the projection of male fantasies.

They’re not the same.

Justice for Barb.

justice for barb

(source)

Doctor Strange or: How I Learned to Head!desk and Wanted to Love Suicide Squad

The Marvel versus DC debate is exhausting.

Fans have a tendency to want to defend the things they love with fervor, and when the comics industry is dominated by what people call The Big Two, the arguments were inevitable. That they’ve stretched on so long is exhausting in itself, but the new life that has been breathed into the conversation by the movie franchises has taken exhausting to a new level.

The main talking points on either side have been hashed out past the point of usefulness:

  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has enjoyed a combination of high box-office revenue and good Rotten Tomatoes scores
  • The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is scrambling to catch up with creating a shared universe and while the movies have made money, the reviews have been unkind
  • The reviewers are biased towards Marvel and go into a DCEU movie expecting Marvel’s flavor with different ingredients, resulting in the poor reviews; or they are explicitly being paid off by Disney to lean on the negative side

The first two points are verifiable facts. The MCU, with its origins in 2008’s Iron Man and spanning thirteen movies as of posting date, has been wildly successful. Meanwhile, the DCEU has struggled with Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad–at least with critical reception. Man of Steel, the highest-rated DCEU film on Rotten Tomatoes, is still twelve percentage points below The Incredible Hulk, the lowest in the MCU.

So the debate rages. Fingers are pointed. Non-fans of superhero films groan as more of the two franchise’s movies loom on the blockbuster horizon.

I would rather not pick a side in the overarching debate, but if I was forced, I would side with Marvel–I have, on many occasions, described myself as “Marvel trash” because of how much I love the MCU and the comics I discovered because of it. One might think that I would be somewhat pleased with how the DCEU is tanking.

I’m not.

For one, DC fans don’t deserve to sit through bad movies to see their favorite heroes on the big screen (some of them for the first time).

But even more than that, Marvel needs to step its game up and the competition a critically-acclaimed DC franchise would provide the push they need. It’s precisely why I wanted Suicide Squad to be good–it’s made money, which is definitely an important metric of success in the eyes of executives, but it needed to succeed in the eyes of the wider audience.

I say this because, as most every fan knows, the MCU loves its white male leads. Just to prove a point, here are the current main leads in both the movie and television side of things, that are not white men:

  • Peggy Carter (“Agent Carter”) – white woman
  • Skye/Daisy Johnson (“Agents of SHIELD”) – Asian woman
  • Jessica Jones (“Jessica Jones”) – white woman

And here are the non-white-male leads whose movies/shows haven’t come out yet:

  • Luke Cage (“Luke Cage”) – black man; premiering 9/30/2016
  • T’Challa (Black Panther) – black man; premiering 7/6/2018
  • Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) – white woman; premiering 3/8/2019

Of course, there are the featured characters who don’t get their own title–Natasha Romanoff, Sam Wilson, Rhodey, Nick Fury, Elektra–but the fact that I barely have to get a second hand to count the actual title leads is embarrassing. Fans have to wait another two years to see a non-white man leading his own movie and three years to see the same with a white woman, with no promise as to when a woman of color will be given the opportunity.

Especially egregious is the MCU’s commitment to maintaining the whiteness of its leads. Within the Netflix series, a few characters were cast as people of color where they had been white in the comics: in the “Daredevil” series, Ben Urich is a black man (Vondie Curtis-Hall), while Elektra Natchios is played by a southeast Asian woman (Elodie Yung). Yet with the upcoming Doctor Strange, Marvel was given the chance to racebend the titular Stephen Strange and promptly ignored it, casting Blinkerbit Collarbump instead; and not only that, Tilda Swinton was cast as a character who is explicitly Tibetan in the comics. As it stands now, Doctor Strange is set to portray a white man who goes to Asia, learns mystical Asian magic from a local monk, who is now also white for some reason, and then proceeds to become better at the Asian magic than all the Asians who have been at it a much longer time.

It is a classic racist imperialist narrative. The upcoming Netflix title “Iron Fist” follows a similar arc, and Finn Jones–a white actor–was cast as the lead. The refusal to even try to correct the issues with those arcs (and in Doctor Strange‘s case, make it worse) is gross and unfair to Marvel’s non-white fans, and it’s tiresome. It’s exhausting to be handed disappointment after disappointment.

(I should note that there have been steps in the right direction with more diverse casting. Taika Waititi, the director of Thor: Ragnarok, cast Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and there are unconfirmed rumors that Zendaya will be playing the role of Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man: Homecoming.)

(Furthermore, there’s an entire other post to be written about the MCU and LGBTQ representation, so I’m tabling that for another time.)

But back to Suicide Squad: I wanted so badly for it to be good. It was the fourth movie in the DCEU, and its ensemble was more diverse than most of the MCU combined, featuring multiple women (including two women of color) and multiple men of color. In the universe of the comics, one of the leads, Harley Quinn, is bisexual. The potential was there to show Marvel that you could make a box office hit and a critical darling of an action movie without relying on white leads.

The potential was there, but wasted. Not only was the movie messy from a technical standpoint, it did wrong by a number of characters whose inclusion in the ensemble was lauded from a diversity standpoint:

  • Harley Quinn’s arc with the Joker borderline romanticized the abusive nature of their relationship.
  • Killer Croc had a number of moments that flatly painted him as in a racist stereotype of a black man, despite his reptilian appearance; for example, his main request at the end of the movie is to get BET in his prison cell when he returns.
  • Katana is given little explanation for her role in the movie’s plot, and her backstory revolves completely around a man (her dead husband). Also, the only Asian character in the movie is basically a ninja
  • Diablo also plays into stereotypes: he’s Latino and in a gang. (Plus, there’s something to be parsed about his backstory in how he accidentally kills his family and the undertones it carries of domestic violence–not a stereotype, but it was still framed within the story as something the viewer should sympathize with.)
  • Slipknot is thrown in with the rest of the crew at the last minute before setting off on their mission with barely enough time to learn his name. Less than five minutes into the mission, he dies. Given the extraordinary lack of Native American representation in the media, this plot detail was not a good look.

Neither studio is really succeeding with regards to the diversity of the characters and the stories they are telling, but they’re falling short in different ways. The DCEU has chances to redeem itself with Wonder Woman slated early in the franchise and the casting of Jason Momoa as Aquaman–just as the MCU can try to course-correct itself with Black Panther and Captain Marvel, however late to the show they are.

As for the debate, it doesn’t matter which one is “better.” It never really did, but at this point neither is better than the other–because both have so much work to do.

Government Contracting in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars has had a way of looping back through in unexpected ways.

After a tiresome week working for a Department of State construction contractor last year, I sat down with a frozen pizza and a new burn from my troublesome oven door to watch A New Hope. There was Leia, giving C-3PO and R2-D2 the stolen Death Star plans–and the Imperial officers were beside themselves. How could this have happened? How could these rebels have gotten their scummy hands on these important documents?

I’ll tell you how: the Empire has a poor sense of document control. Ask the US government about their pages and pages of protocol around the plans for diplomatic buildings, no matter the classification. If Darth Vader knew what he was doing, those documents should have been locked away a lot further than they were.

(Granted, Rogue One is coming and still only a handful of question marks. I may be proven wrong, which I will take gladly. Here’s to the plucky band of misfits overcoming the iron fist document control of the Dark Side and saving the galaxy.)

I no longer work at that construction job, but I didn’t leave government contracting behind. That’s a difficult task in DC, especially when the bulk of your marketable professional experience is in proposal writing. But I digress.

Scrolling through Twitter during lunch at my shiny new contracting job, I happened upon the following exchange:

imperial contracting

So it got me thinking: when most of the galaxy is at your beck and call, how do you manage to settle for less-than-stellar stormtrooper armor?

It became apparent that the possibilities were almost endless, even discounting corruption. Here are a couple possible scenarios.

SCENARIO 1

The Empire’s defense contracting department has issued an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for outfitting stormtroopers with new blasters, TIE fighters, armor, and the like. Contractors submitted proposals for the parent contract and then those that are accepted compete only among each other for the individual task orders issued under that parent contract, knowing that they are guaranteed at least one award with a minimum contract value per fiscal year.

So let’s take this Imperial IDIQ. The end of the fiscal year is approaching and there still hasn’t been an acceptable bid for stormtrooper armor. Out of the twelve prime contractors, only five have the in-house ability to manufacture the armor and their past performance, upon closer examination, indicates that this wouldn’t be the best route for what the stormtroopers need. The contracting officers have canceled and reissued the task order three different times, each time hoping that the contractors would have formed a team of subcontractors to help cover their individual gaps. But alas, they had no such luck.

At this point, the contracting officer would likely remove the task order from the IDIQ and issue it as a separate contract that any galactic defense contractor could bid on, whether they were on the IDIQ or not–otherwise referred to as “full and open.” The Empire needs the order filled and it doesn’t matter if it comes from one of those original twelve or not.

However, here we have a smaller contractor, Dantooine Defense LLC, that hasn’t won a single bid yet this fiscal year. They manufacture armor that the stormtroopers could use–of the mediocre bids submitted before, theirs were the best of the bunch–and based on what the contracting officers know of their capabilities, DD LLC couldn’t expect to perform adequately enough on the year’s remaining projects up for solicitation.

The armor contract request for proposal (RFP) is then issued for a fourth time as a sole source, meaning only Dantooine Defense LLC is allowed to submit a bid. And of course they win, and of course the armor is sub-par.

SCENARIO 2

An RFP for stormtrooper armor is issued full and open on ImperialBizOpps. They receive a number of proposals in return by the deadline and move to evaluate them on the basis of “best value,” which usually translates as the lowest priced bid out of those that were acceptable in their technical content. Even if the solution is the best one presented, it could still lose out to a less expensive option that would also work.

In this case, the best value proposal came from Da Puna Inc. with corporate headquarters on Nal Hutta. Fantastic armor, they promised. Can’t beat this price, they said.

But when Da Puna Inc. goes to fill the order, problems arise. Then more problems arise. And so on and so forth. By the time the order is completely filled, it’s evident that the proposal grossly exaggerated their capabilities and that the past performance questionnaires (PPQs)–evaluations from previous clients–had been forged. The stormtroopers need the armor for upcoming battles, so they take the material and use it until they can get another contract with a more reputable company.

But when war against the rebels takes a different turn after the Battle of Yavin, they may not necessarily have the time–or even the resources, if the contracting division was based on the Death Star. At that point, they’re stuck with terrible armor for the rest of the war and the First Order has little better on which to base their own designs once they come into play.

SCENARIO 3

A contract for stormtrooper armor is awarded to a company based in the outer rim; out of all the solutions submitted, theirs was by and far the only one that was technically acceptable. This particular planet has a robust import/export economy, which this company uses to bring in the materials necessary to produce their armor as none of it is naturally-occurring there.

The only importer of their most important material was Alderaan.

The stormtroopers still need their armor, however, so the company tries in vain to complete the order, but it is soon clear that they won’t have anything to show for their efforts. The contracting officer declares them to be non-compliant with the contract, rescinds it, and quickly reissues the RFP in hopes that another contractor can fill the order as well as their first choice would have been.

(They can’t. And so it goes.)

SCENARIO 4 

Say Grand Moff Tarkin had a brother, Adelbert. Adelbert didn’t ascend to such lofty Imperial positions as dear Wilhuff or cousin Ranulph, choosing instead to stay on Eriadu and make a life for himself there. Say he managed to get into defense contracting by manufacturing armor and other protective gear. Say the Grand Moff was beyond tired of the holos from Adelbert complaining about how his business was floundering and that he needed money.

So to shut him up, the Grand Moff struts over to the contracting division and threatens the contracting officers harshly enough that when Adelbert submits a proposal for the stormtrooper armor contract, it is awarded to his company in the shortest evaluation period on record.

There was a reason Adelbert Tarkin’s business was failing, but the Grand Moff didn’t have to face the consequences of his nepotism directly. It was only armor for clones, after all. They could always get more clones.

SCENARIO 5

The Imperial contracting office awards a contract for stormtrooper armor to a company on a neutral planet; but the two days later, Imperial troops invade, a plan of attack that had not been communicated to the contracting officers in charge of the award. Orders come from top brass to save the Empire some credits by taking advantage of the situation, reneging on certain important parts of the contract.

The company is forced to carry out the order for free under watch of armed Imperial troops–additional workers are recruited from the surviving civilians, and they’re worked to the bone, terrified. Some try to resist and the Empire uses them to make an example.

Naturally, the products aren’t adequate. But they got them for free, and according to Empire leadership, the rate of return checks out.


In short, the explanations can range from basic incompetence to the Empire’s anticipated levels of disregard for human life. In the most rounded view of things, it would likely be a combination of both: administrative screw-ups fueling the already raging fire of evil at the belly of the Empire. And like Al-Mohtar said above, any iteration would be a compelling story once it’s fully fleshed-out.

What I’d really be interested in, though, is how the Rebel Alliance procured their fleets of ships–the Resistance would at least have a starting point with the X-wings of the pilots defecting from the New Republic. That’s a story I would be interested in teasing out.