The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

Did you guys hear that a new Star Wars movie came out?! With enormous gravitational force, this event drew four of SportsAlochol.com’s founding editors together to watch the movie (twice) and talk about it (a lot). For what I imagine will be the first Star Wars podcast of many Star Wars podcasts, Rob, Sabrina, Marisa, and Jesse talked a lot about The Force Awakens. Listen to our Star Wars podcast to hear:

–Analysis of how J.J. Abrams differs from George Lucas!
–Controversial nerd-baiting opinions about how the prequels rule and maybe Han Solo isn’t the best character in the original trilogy (Rob would like to point out that it’s all Jesse on that one)!
–Geeking out about our favorite scenes!
–The Mary Sue issue, addressed!
–Praise for our new hero BB-8!

AND MORE!

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.
  • Jeff Prisco

    The Rathters also seemed very JJ. They felt very much like the monsters in Cloverfield, Star Trek and Super 8.

    • jesse

      Totally. I dug it when he threw that kind of more creature-y modern monster into his Star Trek (and I love the Cloverfield monster, super scary), but it would have been nice to see something more inventive for this one. I liked those buggy-looking dudes sitting around the faux-Cantina, though.

  • Rayme

    Okay, so I have only listened to about half of this podcast. I have been listening to podcasts and/or music while at the gym. But, I have been admittedly awful about going to the gym lately due to the holidays (which is probably when I need it the most). So, I am going to just write these responses before I forget them. Let the rambling commence:

    -Basically, you suggested that this movie is essentially formulaic… But I think that’s perfectly okay! I saw the movie with a friend who was very skeptical about seeing it (he was not a fan of the prequels) and he really liked it. I think being formulaic (or basically plot recycling) invites back the people who felt alienated by the prequels. (Alienated. I just made myself laugh.) Sorry, Jesse. Not everyone liked the prequels. As a side note, my youngest brother had never seen a Star Wars movie until this one and really liked it. He doesn’t generally like “scifi nerd crap” apparently. So, I guess this movie stands alone well enough from an action perspective.
    -As for the Mary Sue thing- “the answer is sexism.” Pretty much. You can basically call any cool female character in any movie a Mary Sue. We all want to be cool. There is a male equivalent term, too, I think. Something Stew/Stu? But no one ever brings up the male counterpart. They just like to put down female characters.
    -If all the new characters are descended from familiar characters, I think that’s fine. I think viewers are attracted to that. People are obsessed with royalty and lineage.
    -As for (essentially) commenting Harrison Ford is better as Indiana Jones. Maybe for some? But, I saw Indiana Jones years before Star Wars. I always liked Indiana. He’s damn cool and Ford plays him well. I didn’t see Star Wars until 9th grade and my first young girl impression of Han Solo was, “To hell with Indiana! This is my man.”

    • jesse

      Well, you know, I’m not super-concerned with whether formula or having everyone potentially be the children of the original characters is more audience-friendly. It clearly works for some people. But a lot of bad movies are made more formulaic so audiences will like them more; it doesn’t make them interesting. It didn’t sink this one but I am hoping Episode VIII takes these characters a little further afield. I’ll be bummed if it’s just The First Order Strikes Back Yet Again.

  • So far this is the one that I didn’t get to participate in that was BY FAR the most frustrating to listen to for all the moments I wished I could chime in. So without going through and saying EVERYTHING I would have said, here are a few quick thoughts (Note: I haven’t been doing much internet in the last couple of weeks, so maybe some of this has already been said elsewhere and thoroughly talked to death):

    MARY SUE
    As I understand the term, Rey absolutely functions as a Mary Sue in the narrative of the movie. The main distinction that would disqualify her is just that she presumably isn’t actually a JJ Abrams avatar. But she fulfills a bunch of elements of that trope. She’s a fan of the original characters that we know and love and when they meet her they all seem to respect or admire her (it’s really satisfying to see Han and Chewie come to respect and like her, and even Leia gives her a hug upon meeting her for the first time while poor Chewie has to go mourn by himself!), she has a wide variety of skills (she’s a great mechanic and pilot, she can speak more languages than anybody except C-3PO, and she masters force skills that we’ve seen it take other characters training and multiple movies to acquire*). And she’s the main character (an important distinction). To me, the question is less whether she’s a Mary Sue and more about whether that matters (and if it does, does that mean it’s bad?). Like I said in that text to you guys, I thought it was great. The issue of sexism in this stuff seems actually deeper, in that the term as it originated in fan fiction seems like a criticism that is both accurate and steeped in sexism AND is about a trope that seems like it originated in response to sexism, or at least under-representation, in genre fiction. Fan fiction writers (mostly female as suggested by the name of the trope, though also including other races and sexual orientation) have always included stand-in characters that represent the writer, and very often feature these characters, due either to shaky storytelling skills or wish-fulfillment/expediency, achieving (often kind of unearned) parity with the beloved main characters (often white and male). This can (doesn’t have to, but certainly can and often does) make for boring stories, but it’s also kind of an exciting and vital part of fandom and the way that sci-fi/genre culture develops and gets more inclusive. It’s a way for people who don’t get to see themselves in these kinds of stories to imagine themselves in there, and that’s certainly part of why I found Rey so exciting. So it’s really just a relief that Daisy Ridley made her so likable and compelling, actually justifying her Mary Sue-ness for me.

    * This may actually be an Abrams thing that aligns perfectly with a fan-fiction thing, where there’s a bit of a rush to get characters to the good stuff (see also the Star Trek reboot and Kirk’s rise to captaincy).

    THE REPUBLIC/RESISTANCE/FIRST ORDER
    This does seem needlessly murky since it feels like it could have been easily explained in a couple of lines from Leia at some point. From what I gathered, after Darth Vader and the Emperor’s death, a new Republic was formed (confirmed in the Star Wars: Aftermath novel). Assuming that Kylo Ren is approximately the same age as Adam Driver, meaning he was born not long after the Battle of Endor, the galaxy had fifteen or twenty years of relative peace. Based on Leia’s conversation with Han, when Ben Solo became Kylo Ren it signaled a big move by Snoke and the First Order and that’s presumably around when the Resistance started up. It’s not clear why the Resistance is distinct from the Republic (in the Aftermath book, I think Mon Mothma similarly separates the Alliance military, not wanting the Republic to be a military government at constant war with the retreating Empire), but presumably that will be fodder for a nerdy book or comic, and the new status quo at the end of The Force Awakens is a weird question mark where it seems like there may be no central galactic government, just a weakened Resistance and First Order fighting among the ruins. I find all of this interesting from a nerdy bookkeeping perspective (and it does have more than a whiff of both Abramsy storytelling and Legacy sequel coasting), but I’m not actually sure how important it is to understand things more concretely for the purposes of this movie.

    NITPICKY STUFF (Kylo Ren, Poe’s survival, etc.)
    – After we hear about the Knights of Ren, I didn’t assume that he’d named them after his dark side name, but that rather “Ren” is kind of the “Darth” title of this particular order.
    – When Finn wakes up after the TIE fighter crash, he actually isn’t exactly close to the TIE either, so I think Rob’s point about Poe not being visible near the wreckage isn’t exactly fair. If we buy that Finn was thrown and survived, then I think it’s fair to say Poe did too (or at least as fair as it is for what seems like a cheat to keep Poe around, which none of us are/should be complaining about).

    – Hamill will clearly keep the beard, but I have to say I found his hair more breathtaking than the beard.
    – Rob, I think Poe Dameron might be approximately -4 years old or so when Rogue One takes place.

    EPISODE VIII
    I don’t actually know what I want in the next episode, beyond just something new and exciting and more time spent with all these great new characters (and Luke, Leia, and Chewie), but the sequel that this one seems to set up most clearly would be time spent with Luke training Rey and Snoke training Kylo Ren, with Leia sending (or accompanying) Finn and Poe on a buddy adventure.

    • jesse

      I like your take on Mary Sue not even being a bad thing, but I will say I think Rey’s skill set has been overemphasized. Being a mechanic and a good pilot don’t seem all that far apart to me, especially for someone who has spent a lot of time scavenging ships for parts! And she seems surprised by how well she pilots the Falcon in that situation, which to me indicates that, like Anakin’s podracing, she is utilizing some Force sensitivity without realizing it. And I don’t know that her competence (I wouldn’t say mastery) in some other Force skills is all that unprecedented (though, yes, somewhat Abrams-style accelerated). Luke’s training may take multiple movies, but in terms of actual time spent, it doesn’t seem like he gets that many hours with Obi-Wan or Yoda — certainly not as many hours as the younglings of old would have. She fights Kylo Ren to a draw while he’s severely injured, and spends a lot of that fight on the defensive. Seemed like more or less fair play to me. I mean, I like your take because it points out the sexism in that complaint even if she is a Mary Sue, but I also think there’s something a little bizarre about saying, you know, this STAR WARS character is a little TOO good at flying spaceships!

      And there was some tweet or review or something that said something I liked: Only in the U.S. is knowing more than one language considered some kind of crazy superpower. 😉

      Also, until I hear ANOTHER Knights of Ren name, I’m going to go ahead and continue assuming Kylo Ren named an order of quasi-Sith after himself. And probably that Darth Original had done the exact same thing.

    • Marisa

      I had to read this article to find out what was up with the Resitance/First Order/Republic, etc.

      http://www.vox.com/2015/12/21/10634568/star-wars-the-force-awakens-spoilers-republic-first-order

      I’m still fuzzy, though, on WHEN the stuff went down with Kylo Ren, and how long Luke had been in hiding. I don’t think the movie makes that clear at all.