Star Wars is an iconic part of popular culture – what began as the brainchild of George Lucas and his creative team became a sensation, adored by many fans. However, Star Wars fans feel very strongly for their beloved story, characters, and universe, and these strong feelings have caused conflict in the past – Star Wars has had a dramatic history on and off the screen.
From George Lucas’s choice to edit the original trilogy to the entirety of his unpopular prequel trilogy, fans have questioned and been at odds with the decisions of Star Wars‘s creator. But, even after Star Wars was sold to Disney in 2012, there have been recent changes that have caused a stir. Additionally, there have also been fan disagreements and debates over various parts of the Star Wars universe, including facts about Star Wars that many fans get wrong.
When Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens on December 18th, it may bring controversy with it – only time will tell! Until then, take a look at some of the darker corners of the Star Wars universe with the 12 Worst Star Wars Controversies:
12. Changes To the Re-Releases
Over the years, the original Star Wars trilogy was released many times, and along with those new releases, there were new edits and additions added by George Lucas, much to the chagrin of some fans. Some of these changes utilize new CGI, although Lucas has also made changes to the audio. The first changes were made in 1997 for the 20th anniversary release of the original trilogy. Additional changes were made in 2004, including an attempt to tie elements from the new prequel trilogy into the original films, such as Hayden Christensen replacing Sebastian Shaw as Anakin’s Force ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi. Sometimes lines of dialogue were added or changed, like in 2011 at the end of Return of the Jedi: Darth Vader shouts, “Noooo!” as the Emperor tortures Luke.
George Lucas claims that the changes that he made were improvements upon the original, and that these changes reflected what he had always intended. Many fans, however, disliked them because they felt that they distracted or detracted from the original. For many fans, the idea that Star Wars could be edited to fit whatever George Lucas wanted at any given time was a threat to their treasured universe – especially after seeing Lucas’s fallibility in creating the prequels.
A long time ago in a galaxy before the prequels had been created, Ewoks were the controversial characters in Return of the Jedi that made fans doubt George Lucas’ abilities. Many fans saw, and some still see, Ewoks as pandering to children, rather than furthering the story of beloved heroes Han, Luke, and Leia. The cute and cuddly teddy bear look of Ewoks made them profitable as merchandise, but also made it all the more unbelievable when they were able to take on armed and trained stormtroopers in battle with primitive technology.
On the other hand, many younger fans, who were children when or after Return of the Jedi came out find Ewoks an endearing part of their childhood, and so perhaps George Lucas knew exactly what he was doing.
10. Star Wars Legends and Canon
Lucasfilm was sold to Disney in 2012, and a story group was established to approve and monitor the canon. In 2014, Lucasfilm announced that the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU), comprising of books, video games, comics, and other media beyond the film, was deemed to be non-canonical. Instead, the Lucasfilm story group would approve and create a new canonical story to accompany the new Star Wars films that were being created by Disney.
Many fans of the EU were upset that fan favorites, including Timothy Zahn’s Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade, were no longer part of the official Star Wars universe. By “resetting” the EU, it was believed that Disney was creating an opportunity to resell the Star Wars universe to fans for additional profits.
9. Fox News Pundit Katherine Timpf Receives Death Threats
When Fox News Pundit Katherine Timpf tweeted a joke that insulted Star Wars fans, she ended up receiving some backlash from fans, including a profanity-filled eleven minute YouTube video in which a Star Wars fan insulted her repeatedly. While that fan explicitly said that he did not condone violence against Timpf, she also received multiple death threats.
When discussing the upcoming Star Wars film on the Fox show Red Eye, her male colleagues made some disparaging remarks against Star Wars fans, and Timpf joined them in making offhanded remarks, including calling Star Wars fans “crazy” because of the death threats that she received. She has continued to be the target of profane and threatening messages online.
8. Star Wars Christmas Special
The Star Wars Christmas Special is infamous – at best, fans enjoy it because of its sheer absurdity. George Lucas famously hates it, saying that he wants to destroy every copy. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, who play very unenthusiastic versions of Han Solo and Princess Leia in the Christmas Special, have both commented on how bad it is, and how they barely remember making it.
The Star Wars Christmas Special was only created because it was part of a contract that the original Star Wars team couldn’t get out of. It is, by and large, seen as a major embarrassment to the franchise. Then again, it also features the first appearance of fan-favorite Boba Fett, so perhaps it isn’t all bad.
Midi-chlorians are merely mentioned in The Phantom Menace, and yet their existence created a series of complications and frustrations for the Star Wars universe. Midi-chlorians were defined by Qui-Gon Jinn as microscopic organisms that live within living beings, and allow them to communicate with the Force. The number of midi-chlorians varied between individuals, meaning that some individuals were more gifted in the Force than others.
However, the Force had been established in A New Hope by Obi-Wan as “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” Instead, the mystical and spiritual elements of the Force became reduced to blood samples and micro-organisms – biological factors that could not be enhanced or learned.
Interestingly, J. J. Abrams has recently positioned himself in interviews as taking a stance closer to the original, while being very careful not to attack the concept of midi-chlorians themselves. Instead, Abrams has stressed the importance of faith and belief to the power of the Force.
6. Karen Traviss Quits Writing Star Wars Books After Death Threats
Karen Traviss is the writer of a number of Star Wars books, including the Republic Commando series and the Legacy of the Force series. The gritty stories about the Clone Wars and characters that she created, such as the Mandalorian commando Kal Skirata, gained some popularity. However, her depictions of Clones and Mandalorians as heroes, while portraying the Jedi as petty or villainous, frustrated some fans, who felt that her stories and characters were counter to Star Wars. These fans wrote negative reviews of her books, and created a petition to George Lucas to stop Traviss from writing further Star Wars books. Traviss also received rape and death threats.
Traviss wrote about these experiences on her blog, attacking the fans who created the petition, and likening them to Muslim extremists by calling them “Talifans.” Traviss ultimately retired from Star Wars writing due to the threats she received.
5. Prowse is Banned from Lucasfilm Events after Fighting With Lucas
David Prowse was the actor who played the body of Darth Vader, and he was known for not getting along with George Lucas. Tension between the two only worsened after Lucas replaced Prowse’s voice with James Earl Jones’s without Prowse’s knowledge beforehand. Prowse stopped learning his lines in The Empire Strikes Back and in The Return of the Jedi, and was upset to learn that Sebastian Shaw would play the face of Darth Vader instead of him.
Prowse made repeated off-the-cuff remarks about Star Wars and Lucas, and even appeared in The People Vs. George Lucas, a documentary about the director’s famously contentious relationship with his fans. Prowse was informed that he was no longer welcome at Lucasfilm events in 2010, having been banned by Lucas. Prowse said that Lucas’s representatives told him that Prowse had “burnt too many bridges.”
4. The People Vs. George Lucas
The People Vs. George Lucas is a documentary film that was produced to look at the riff between Star Wars creator George Lucas and the fan-base of Star Wars. The documentary examined how the Star Wars universe came into conflict when fans, who felt a certain ownership of Star Wars, felt that Lucas was making creative decisions that were counter to the spirit of what Star Wars had become. The film examines both the changes that Lucas has made in the re-releases as well as the negative opinions of fans about the prequel trilogy.
While Alexandre O. Philippe, the filmmaker, claims that he tried to approach each side fairly and criticized both Lucas and Star Wars fans, the film is generally seen as an attack on Lucas. Lucas has said that he has never seen the film, and does not have any intention of seeing it. David Prowse appears in The People Vs. George Lucas, and this was reportedly one of the reasons that Lucas banned him from future Lucasfilm events.
3. Jar Jar Binks
Jar Jar Binks, who was introduced in The Phantom Menace, is perhaps the most loathed character in the Star Wars universe. Many fans of the film hated Jar Jar Binks, to the point that his character barely appeared in the in The Clone Wars and The Revenge of the Sith. He is often cited as one of the major problems with The Phantom Menace, both because of his irritating personality traits and his CGI design.
However, Jar Jar Binks, in addition to being disliked by many fans, has been repeatedly pointed to as a racist caricature of Caribbean people. This is coupled with other problematic characters in The Phantom Menace, such as Watto, who has been criticized as being an Jewish stereotype, and the Trade Federation leader Nute Gunray, who has been criticized as being an Asian stereotype. Some fans have categorized both the voices and the appearances of these characters as being offensive and insensitive.
This past year, the first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens prompted racist trolls to protest the upcoming movie as a “white genocide” on Twitter, using the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII. These trolls cited the inclusion of people of color in main roles, specifically John Boyega as the stormtrooper Finn and Oscar Isaac as X-wing pilot Poe Dameron, as a sign of the decline of white people. The illogical campaign ignored the many previous actors of color who have lent their talents to the Star Wars franchise, including Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams. It also ignored the film’s many white leads (Daisy Ridley, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver), instead blaming political correctness for the film’s “anti-white” casting.
The negative response to the #BoycottStarWarsVII campaign was overwhelming, with many fans showing support for the movie and its actors in response to these hateful messages. While the trolls who began the hashtag created some controversy, they also created an outpouring of positivity for the film’s diversity.
1. Han Shot First
One addition to the re-releases caused a larger dispute than the other edits. When Greedo threatens Han in the Mos Eisley cantina, Han originally shot Greedo before Greedo had a chance to pull the trigger. However, in a re-release in 1997, Lucas added a shot from Greedo’s blaster, which fired significantly before Han fired, and hit the wall behind Han. Lucas continued to edit and change the scene, making the shots close to the same time in 2004, and even closer together in 2011.
However, Lucas has repeatedly said that he did not believe that it was correct for Han to have shot first. Even in 2015, George Lucas has defended his belief that Han Solo did not, would not, and could not shoot first if he was supposed to be the hero that was worthy of marrying Princess Leia and helping to lead the Rebellion against the Empire.
In contrast, many fans were furious that Lucas felt that he could change the story to fulfill his whims, and in doing so, change the characters and stories. In their minds, Han was supposed to be an anti-hero, and over the course of the series, he became a hero. Fans also wanted the option to purchase the original film, which is only currently available in unrestored versions on DVD. Lucas continues to claim that Greedo shooting first was always his intention.
Did we miss any controversial moments in Star Wars‘s history? Let us know in the comments!