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Canon of Star Wars Meets the Martin Luthers of Disney


David Ives - published on 12/17/15

In the post-George Lucas era, fans of the "Holocron" may be in for some unpleasant surprises

The Force Awakens has finally arrived amid a heady atmosphere of anticipation so thick you could cut it with a light saber. That’s the way it’s always been, though. After the release of the original Star Wars back in 1977, moviegoers immediately clamored for more. Unfortunately, fans would have to wait three years for The Empire Strikes Back, so to fill the gap until then, CBS convinced George Lucas to let them produce The Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. Needless to say, it was a ratings bonanza.

It was also one of the worst shows ever broadcast in the history of television, so horrible that George Lucas immediately purchased the rights back from CBS, locked all known copies in a vault and vowed never to let the unholy thing be seen again. Lucas had, or so he believed before the Internet proved him wrong, erased the show from existence. From there, he called a council with his licensing team and instructed them to develop a database dubbed The Holocron, which would establish and safeguard an official “Star Wars Canon.”

The Holocron consisted of four tiers with varying levels of authority based on their relationship to and distance from the films. G-canon included the movies, any novelizations or radio plays based on their scripts and any statement George Lucas spoke ex cathedra. The second level, C-canon, included any works that expanded the universe beyond the movies and didn’t contain any blatant contradictions. Next was S-canon, which was comprised of works with some contradictory elements that placed them outside of continuity. Finally was N-canon, which was populated with fan fiction and given no credence whatsoever. It took some vigilance, but for the most part the Holocron did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Until Disney took over, that is.

Once they acquired the rights, Disney charged in like a bunch of mouse-eared Martin Luthers and declared substantial changes to the official canon. Under the Disney Reformation, everything produced pre-Disney, except for the movies and the Clone Wars cartoon, was now deemed apocrypha. Anything added henceforth would be considered new canon, even if it contradicted what had come before. Needless to say, a large number of lifelong fans were understandably upset that much of what they had believed true about the Star Wars universe was summarily being tossed out.

Sadly, though, that’s what happens when you take canon away from the ones who created it and put it in the hands of someone else. Just ask the original Protestants. While they were mostly okay with Martin Luther booting seven books from the Christian Old Testament, even they had to cry shenanigans when he turned his attention to the New Testament and began questioning books like Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. To be fair, some Catholics before Luther had done the same thing, but fortunately, the Church had safeguards in place for just such problems in the form of apostolic Tradition.

As the Catechism notes, “Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God, which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”

However, what none of them can do, not even the pope, is ever change it. Alas, there is no such charism at work in the Star Wars universe. Pretty much whoever owns the copyright can change or invent anything they want on a whim. So, if those Internet rumors about Jar Jar Binks returning as a Sith lord turn out to be true, there’s really nothing fans can do about it. It will all be horribly, horribly official. May the force be with us if that happens.

In a world he didn’t create, in a time he didn’t choose, one man looks for signs of God in the world by … watching movies. When he’s not reviewing new releases for Aleteia,David Ivesspends his time exploring the intersection of low-budget/cult cinema and Catholicism at The B-Movie Catechism.

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