A screenshot of the futuristic vespas in question

Image Source: The Book of Boba Fett

The latest episode of The Book of Boba Fett has some Star Wars fans asking a question: What even makes something a Star Wars, anyway? Getting to the root of that question is more complicated than it first appears.

When you think of Star Wars, you might think of lightsabers, Jedi, or the twin suns of Tatooine. The iconography of the series is highly identifiable, and also very marketable, having been an internationally successful science fiction series since its debut in 1977. It was once the brainchild of George Lucas, an experimental filmmaker with a fondness for pulp adventure series. As time went on, and Star Wars got more and more successful, he grew disinterested in being the series’ shepherd, and sold it to Disney over a decade ago.

Unlike Lucas, who rarely added to the franchise himself, instead letting its expanded universe develop into a not entirely consistent web of additional texts, Disney, has taken a more centralized and in some ways maximalist approach, with a new series of movies as well as multiple television shows and an entire section of one of the Disney theme parks devoted to the series. One would assume that more Star Wars would make Star Wars fans happy, but even before the fandom fallout from The Last Jedi, that has not been true at all.

The Book of Boba Fett as a show should be an easy win for the fans, given that Boba Fett has long been a beloved character despite—or, as pages-deprived fantasy author George R.R. Martin would have it, perhaps because of—not actually doing much of anything in the movies. The Disney+ show gives you a lot more Boba Fett, including his backstory, which fans have speculated about for decades. But the most recent episode inspired some nerd ire in response to Jon Favreau and Robert Rodriguez’s presentation of the Star Wars universe. 

In the episode, the titular bounty hunter gets an assist from a gang of cool teens riding futuristic Vespas. The episode itself isn’t too interesting—most of it feels like wheel spinning while the overarching plot of the season kicks into gear—but Vespas are a real sticking point for some fans, who feel that they don’t fit into the rest of the dusty, brown landscape of the Tatooine criminal underground.

It’s easy enough to poke holes in that idea—George Lucas, first off, very evidently loves hot rods, which are all over his early feature film American Graffiti. You don’t have to look very far to find aspects of that culture in other Lucas Star Wars films too, from the way that Han Solo talks about his Millennium Falcon, to “now this is podracing,” to the more overt references to 1950s rock n roll culture from Attack of the Clones.

Deciding what is or isn’t a Star Wars, though, isn’t up to the fans. In the case of The Book of Boba Fett, it’s ultimately up to Rodriguez and whoever he answers to at Disney. That doesn’t mean fans are obligated to like it—this episode was truly not very good—but to say that it isn’t fundamentally Star Wars is both not true and not the responsibility of the fandom to decide.

What Star Wars is is always changing, and will continue to change if you’re going to make more of it. Disney infamously (and confusingly) first deemed the widely-beloved expanded universe that had flourished under Lucas to largely not be canon before allowing many of its elements back in, so that even if you’re persnickety about these things it’s truly unclear what even counts as canon Change isn’t necessarily good or bad. Sometimes it will be lame. Sometimes, pushing the conventions of Star Wars into new places can lead to exciting takes on the series, as demonstrated by the critically acclaimed series of anime shorts Disney produced called Star Wars: Visions.

With the television shows, Disney treats the universe of Star Wars as something closer to a Dungeons and Dragons setting, with established locations and characters for each series to play around with, rather than a continuous narrative franchise. For the most part, especially when it comes to The Mandalorian and Dave Filoni’s work on the Clone Wars cartoons, this has worked out a lot better than trying to continue the story from the movies. The story of Luke Skywalker and his relatives and the rebellion against the Empire has now played out three times on the big screen. Exploring other kinds of stories in this vast universe might unearth another hero worthy of such reverence.

All of this aside, there are hundreds upon hundreds of populated worlds in the universe of Star Wars, containing unexplored cities which contain unexplored neighborhoods Some of them are home to fan favorites, like droids and jizz music and alluring Twi’leks. Some are inhabited by disgraced Jedi, who roam the land like the ronin from Lucas’s beloved Akira Kurosawa films. Others still might have hot rods on or in them. If your imagination is so limited that that seems like an impossibility, then maybe Star Wars isn’t the problem.

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