Whether you’re a casual fan or full-on obsessive, few could have failed to notice the debut of Star Wars Resistance, the brand-new series from Lucasfilm Animation. Certainly, the complaints leading up to its airdate were loud enough. Some took exception to its anime-inspired cel-shaded visuals, which had more in common with Knights of Sidonia than anything seen in Rebels. But the bigger issue was the lighter tone, both visually and thematically, and how the show was being geared towards a younger audience.
Let that sink in for a minute. People were angry that a Star Wars cartoon was being tailored for kids. Never mind that George Lucas maintains that his mythic movie cycle was always intended for younglings. This argument robs the current generation of experiencing the joy of Star Wars as children. The crux of the issue is that assuming art or media aimed at kids is inherently ‘childish’ and, more to the point, without any critical merit. That’s a reductive and dangerously short-sighted viewpoint.
Children operate on a different wavelength to adults, their minds still vast and fertile as their personalities coalesce and form. Some of the best storytellers understand that children possess an intelligence unbecoming of adults and, rather than talking down to them, treat them as equals. Take a moment to call to mind all the best stories for children and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. And so, we return to Star Wars.
A New Hope was envisioned as a Saturday morning serial in the grand old style of Flash Gordon. Most of us will probably have fond memories of watching kids’ TV on the weekends, dressed in jammies and chowing down on cereal. It’s a rite of passage, through which our early loves are formed. For all its newness these last few years, the Star Wars machine is powered by nostalgia – a longing to return to childhood. Yet here we are in 2018, where a cartoon is being lampooned for giving today’s children something to look fondly back on.
Rather than this being another op-ed about ‘Star Wars always being for kids’, I wanted to put the Raising a Rebel stamp on the matter. So that means talking about my daughter. I’m lucky enough to be experiencing childhood from a new vantage point – watching my seven-month-old discover the world around her. Part of that discovery, I hope, is falling in love with Star Wars as I did decades before her. But I don’t want to put her off by forcing her to sit down and watch the films. Since the Special Editions, none of the films has clocked in at under two hours and, let’s be honest here, kids can have tiny attention spans (and smaller bladders). At this point, forty years-plus after the release of that first film, it’s safe to say that Star Wars is so much more than a handful of movies.
I’m a big fan of Forces of Destiny and while the marketing and management behind them has been lacklustre at best, they are charming little shorts the whole family can enjoy. But they don’t possess the thematic depth, intrigue and character needed to turn someone into a fan. The Clone Wars certainly has its lighter moments, but without first building a relationship to the characters involved, it lacks much of its power. Rebels, likewise, requires at least a passing understanding of the current state of the galaxy. But Resistance is a stroke of genius.
Although the show ties into events established in The Force Awakens, the show already stands on its own two feet away from what we’ve seen in the films. Where Clone Wars came after the conclusion of the prequels, and Rebels aired decades after the original trilogy, Resistance comes as the sequel trilogy stands unfinished. There’s still so much to learn about this period, much is still unknown and so there’s a lot less lore and thematic baggage for little ones to have to learn to get the most out of the show.
It offers us a location we haven’t seen before in the Colossus – a kind of truck stop, body shop and racing ground all rolled into one (that gave me serious Freemaker Adventures vibes). Then there’s the focus on ace pilots, racers and mechanics without – so far – a lightsaber in sight. It goes a long way to showing that there’s more to Star Wars than just the Jedi, Sith and the Grey in between. But even so, the show is fun, heartfelt and moralistic in the way these stories were always supposed to be. The original trilogy are fairytales showcasing the battle between good and evil. According to Lucas, they were supposed to provide a moral framework for kids, and Resistance builds on that foundation with a diverse cast of characters and a voice cast to match. Though, judging by the hateful voices in the community, it seems many missed the point.
From the few episodes we’ve already seen, it’s clear that Resistance is a bright, poppy and well-crafted show. Its true power lies not in being targeted at kids but treating them as equals. To me it seems like a show that might inspire a young girl or boy to become a pilot or a mechanic or, perhaps best of all, to be a good person. That’s something we should all be celebrating. For me, the show will be one of the first things I’ll be showing my daughter and I can’t wait to watch it with her.