The unthinkable sad end of the most influential and valuable pop culture IP of our time.

(NO SPOILERS)

Today sees the official release to public of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, the last installment of the historic (and once unanimously beloved) Star Wars franchise that premiered few days ago with screenings reserved to cast, producers and selected media, only this time the event weirdly took place without any particular emphasis or triumphalism. As a matter of fact, this release – considering it closes a narrative cycle that started back in 1977 and lasted to these days, involving the imagination and lives of millions of people – hasn’t seen any particular ballyhoo, striking marketing campaign or prominent promotion by cast members or director/producers: a very suspicious decision in relation to an event theoretically much, much bigger than the release of ‘Avengers: Endgame’, which ended the 10-year long saga by Marvel-Disney.

But it is, indeed, easy to dissolve the clouds of suspicion, and the development of the events that led to this unimaginable outcome can be unclear only to whom who are not willing to understand.

This is the story of a murder case. The victim? Our dreams.

The plot resembles one of a gruesome Greek tragedy or a twisted Shakespearean patricide: the story begins with two parties in love, both handsome and successful (LucasFilm and Disney movies), looking as they were always meant to be together one day; they met at a time when they were both looking for a fresh new start: LucasFilm, after the non-enthusiastic reception of the prequel trilogy of Star Wars, and legions of millions of fans around the world eager for a sequel trilogy, was looking for a creative and financial boost.

Walt Disney, on its side, after more than a decade of mediocre creativeness and lame releases between mid-‘90s and mid-2000s, in 2006 starts its comeback and redemption with the acquisition of Pixar, and reinforced it with the buy out of Marvel in 2009, and completed it with an unbelievable and unforeseeable move: the purchase of LucasFilm from George Lucas himself.

This is how, after flirting and getting engaged, the two major stars of the firmament of contemporary collective imagination eventually got married. LucasFilm gave us Star Wars, the incarnation of contemporary mythology and the paradigm of pop culture. Walt Disney’s common synonym was “Dreams Factory”: we all cheered up for the newly married couple, wiping tears of joy from our eyes, blessing this union with enthusiasm and unconditional love, dreaming the most daring dreams of what these two creative superpowers were undoubtedly going to deliver us.

Soon, although, we came to realize that the enormity of the joy, happiness, and hope of this beginning was only going to make more bitter the poison to swallow, harsher the fate to face and more cruel and ruthless the crime that was going to take place at the expanse of the generations of people who did not just contributed, but more appropriately did cobble and build the legacy, and therefore the value, of the Star Wars Universe.

The good faith, and hopes, of the passionate followers of the adventures from the Galaxy far far away, were cynically used by Disney to trick them in believing there was a plan in place to serve them with the story they deserved: it turned out that new Goliath of entertainment was merely and miserably only interested to squeeze people’s pockets to the last penny and never had a plan, a vision, a purpose.

The ‘conspirators’ and executors of this reckless actions are directors JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson, the Head of Disney Bob Iger and the boss of LucasFilm Kathleen Kennedy: this is the gang who managed to volatilize and destroy the most valuable IP in contemporary entertainment history.

But you might object that Disney, like any other company, has the damn right to pursue profit and run the business however it wants to do.

Well, this is when the tragedy assumes the contours of a farce, mainly for two reasons.

The first reason is that George Lucas, the creator of the saga, left a fairly detailed outline of how the series could have continued, consistently and compellingly with the previous six episodes. Lucas was led to believe that, despite the passage of property, Disney would have preserved the integrity of his work at least on a moral level, and the appointment of Kathleen Kennedy at the head of LucasFilm, endorsed and approved by Lucas himself, would have guaranteed continuity and stability of management and operative directives.

Kennedy, instead, as soon as she took charge of the operations, sided with the new boss, Bob Iger, run a cleanup in the company Stalin-style, and took over the saga to bend it to serve her political agenda at her own exclusive advantage. An exhausting series of firings of directors and creative crew members, and continuous rumors of controversies on and off the sets, have proven beyond any reasonable doubt this downward spiral of events.

The second reason is that the new management of Disney Star Wars (Iger – Kennedy) deliberately dumped the existing, 40-year long-lasting, worldwide spread base of fans, either pushing for – or allowing – creative choices and twists and distortions of the intrinsic logic and principles of the Star Wars Universe that the end result is a defacement and disfigurement of all the main plotline and the original main protagonists.

The inevitable consequence has been the almost complete alienation of the most loyal supporters of the franchise, a dramatic tanking in revenues related to merchandise, a theme park (Star Wars Galaxy Edge in Florida) that is struggling to survive, and the last movie that is vastly perceived as a necessary evil to be faced to end this agony sooner than later.

Disappointed and insulted fans are, or are going to be soon, parents of kids: has anybody in Disney thought that messing up with millions of fans would not have been without consequences? Did they really think that after millions of people who have been unfairly, unjustly and unjustifiably insulted and accused of misogyny, racism, toxicity, hate and God knows what else, would be even remotely prone to bring their kids/friends/family any closer to anything related or relatable to Disney Star Wars?

The anger, frustration, and resentment towards Disney company are unprecedented and unheard of. And all the fans were asking for was quality and respect. Nothing else.

This is the most baffling part of this whole tragedy: how this group of people thought this would have played out? How they could not see this coming? And where are the investors and shareholders of this company? The lawyers, the auditors, the financial advisor? The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) for God’s sake?

The executives of Disney and LucasFilm have proven multiple times over the last years that they do not know their product, do not understand their clientele and – even worse – they do not care about the long-term consequences of their actions.

What is most heartbreaking is that this inconceivable violence against art and creativity was not some malign plan put in place by some mastermind, was not the result of a coordinated financial strategy for some dirty business, was not an evil plot aimed to obtain power.

The vile and miserable truth is that this wrench simply is the result of blatant incompetence: these people had the unearned privilege of holding the reins of the pop culture paradigm par excellence, and what they did? They trashed it, and while on the ultimate power trip and clash of egos, they sacrificed the dreams of three generations on the altar of greed.

The only scenario that would make sense of this madness is if Disney is attempting some kind of financial speculation, trying to tank the value of their shares and depreciate them for some shady trade.

After all, widespread rumors and semi-official third parties’ leaks have reported that, behind Disney Star War’s decision of eliminating all the historic protagonist (humans, humanoids, and robots) of Lucas Star Wars, and establishing brand new characters, was solely and exclusively about the way licensing rights were managed in the Disney/LucasFilm acquisition deal.

Confused? Understandably so.

To make a very long story short, George did sell LucasFilm to Disney, but kept a percentage of the revenues from the licensing rights on the merchandise, but only on the characters he created. Therefore, Disney – with no hesitation – wiped out all the original heroes of the saga disregarding their necessity and value for the story basically only because it didn’t want to let Lucas make any more money and create new toys and merchandise so they could keep all the money. Boorish greed. That is what it was all about.

No interest in preserving a legacy. No burden of responsibility to safeguard a culture. No accountability for being the keeper of a heritage.

Money. That’s all. It makes you wonder who would do something like this? What kind of people is this?

And if you think the above are just speculations and trash-talking, well you can verify by yourself, and read the recent memoir/confession of Bob Iger himself, in which he basically admits that Lucas was lured into the deal with Disney and Kathleen Kennedy backstabbed him after she got in charge of LucasFilm.

Not enough? What about the fact that a few days ago, at the World Premiere of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ everybody from the sequel trilogy was there BUT George Lucas? The creator of the saga, the man who built this empire, the sci-fi guru for three generations, absent at the presentation of the movie that ends his story.

A ‘deafening silence’ from Lucas, as the poet would say.

One last impetus of dignity after witnessing the abuse and massacre of his creatures: Solo, Leia, Luke, the Jedi, the Force.

A desperate move, maybe the attempt to distance himself from the inevitable backlash this last installment will deservingly suffer.

But it is too late anyway. The king is dethroned, the walls are down, and the barbarians have ransacked the village.

The Greeks invented tragedy as a form of stage theater for a reason: to portray the evil in mankind, to make people look in the mirror and see themselves at their worst, and trigger a collective catharsis, a purification bath for our conscience, so we can become better beings. There was always a moral attached to the story.

If there is a moral related to the tragedy of the murder of Star Wars is that we should never let greed and shortsighted interests interfere and damage the culture and cultural heritage; that incompetence and political bias and extremism area a death sentence for art and any creative field.

Disney Star Wars reminded us of all the above, in a hard way. Let’s not forget the lesson.

Article by Joseph Ralph Fraia

 

 

 

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