on 9 July 2002
Brooker begins his exploration of Star Wars fans by first detailing his own initial reactions and relation to the films; I feel this is how I should begin too.
I am not a huge Star Wars fan. I found myself scouring every line for something that made me feel at home in this community, though immediately, through empathy for the author's own childhood memories, I felt drawn. I found my niche alongside Emma Mepstead, quoted in chapter two as the girlfriend who had to watch SW 'as a clause of her engagement'.
I may have found SW at a later date than most my age, but it didn't mar my enjoyment of the book. In fact it's surprising how much of a fan you can become from just watching four/five films.
As a book about fans, an outsider may expect this to be 'geeky' but instead of finding yourself laughing at the 'comic book guys', you follow Brooker's insightful and informative guide to find yourself wondering how the Star Wars mythos has subconsciously affected you too.
The affects are on many levels and have created varied responses, which are documented in detail throughout the book. From a collection of toys that takes over the house, to an influence in career choice, even a moral code that works as guidance for an all-consuming faith.
While taking on an approach to the SW community similar to that of Louis Theroux on his weird weekends' program, Brooker tells us that 'the fan use of SW as inspirational escapism and a source of emotional guidance are anything but trivial.' Brooker's involvement in the research at a hands-on level, removes any chance of seeming condescending and a common affection for the films and Expanded Universe of SW gives him a more respectful tone than that of Theroux.
The overwhelming strength of this book is shown by the fact that despite a million different responses to around twelve hours of film, all of these fans can form instant connections; can share a language and fantasy life beyond their daily grind and can even make real life relationships over boundaries not only of distance, but gender, race and culture too.
One such tale is of Jacob Neher who befriended a Korean soldier while serving with the US army in South Korea, over their shared love of Star Wars. At times of conflict it can be shown that any form of togetherness is a blessing and that is what this book is all about.
I would expect that a lot of fans would feel embarrassed to tell people how a movie has changed their lives, but this book is testament to how that is true. Star Wars is not just a film for a lot of people; it's a role model, an inspiration and often an answer to the questions of how they are expected to be living their lives. As the stories unfold we begin to pick up a theme, not only of the obvious togetherness that SW gives its fans but also how its principles guide them. I began to ask myself how much Jedi I have in me.
I may have followed the bandwagon back in 2000 in citing my religion as Jedi in the national census, but how much did I really believe I followed its moral code? Many of the fans mentioned said SW had had a spiritual effect on their lives and even the Christian church in parts of the US produced an ad campaign around the 'real Jedi' trying to encourage people to follow Christianity. As a female fan, you may have previously felt out in the cold, when it was all 'boys and their toys' in the playground, but 'Star Wars Chicks' allows for those women in the minority. If you feel isolated in your appreciation for Star Wars then I suggest you buy this book, as the overwhelming message seems to be 'we are not alone.'
Although this was written before AOTC was released, it does offer some information about the new movie in 'Speculation'. Here Brooker comes across as very skeptical and reserved about Episode II, although he seems to have been right on most points. He writes in both the guise of fan and cultural analyst, which for the most part works well, offering a good balance of understanding and an unbiased dissection of areas such as the 'Slash Fiction' genre. Though at times I feel he glosses over some points, using the arguments of secondary texts which fans don't generally have easy access to over his own opinions hereby ignoring the SW togetherness.
For me, the most interesting area of the fan community researched was how they relate to the Emperor himself. George Lucas may have made the films with the aid of others, but having left twenty years between the original trilogy and the prequels, he seems to have opened up his toy box to his rebels for a little too long. With the new movies favouring CGI over plot, many fans feel the need to fill in the gaps with fan fiction and films. Something Lucas seems unwilling to accept. Has Lucas lost the real emotion of Star Wars in favour of the almighty dollar? I'll leave you to buy the book and decide for yourselves.
The final chapter echoes the feelings of togetherness from the stories of the preface. Now the next generation of SW fans have come along, the older fans have to find a new place in the saga; and what is more fitting than being the Jedi Master to a young Padawan seeing the films in consecutive order? How many more generations will be brought up on Lucas' myth? Will it bring the unity, which organized religion seems to be losing in our modern society? Will it continue to be encouragement to follow the Light-Side? Many questions I am left with; so good this book must be.
on 2 July 2002
A well written book offering plenty for the dedicated female Star Wars fan, as well as the males of that persuasion - this is not a discussion about military hardware or the handling characteristics of the Falcon. Well researched, but alas not complete. An in-depth review of fan-art, conventions and costuming would enhance any future editions enormously.
The ingenuity of fans in acting out and enjoying their obsession is made public, as they broadcast their interest on the Internet, and this book tells (almost) all in a witty and entertaining style.
Not a dry academic treatise, but interesting and uptodate coverage of that enduring phenomenon, Star Wars, and the fans celebration of it. Enough to interest me in Will Brooker's other books.
on 22 November 2005
I was disappointed the author's research on the matter.
Using 100 emails from a popular web forum leaves many areas of Fandom unrepresented, and the viewpoint and general tone is unnecessarily hostile in too many of those emails quoted by the book as representative of fandom as a whole.
I was also hoping for a deeper delving into the Star Wars Aura, but the level of scholarship is on par with the popular web forum, and no unique information is given that was not previously available.