A Voyage Round The Kerfuffle Sea While Watching Star Wars 7

mapofthepuppykerfuffleV0.4I linked to a positive review of the new Star Wars by Brad Torgersen in my last round-up and over at File770 I was discussing John C Wright’s negative review.

There seems to be a real difference of opinion on the film that divides between Sad and Rabid and I’m wondering to what extent a major SF event such as Star Wars says about SF as a whole. To that end I hopped into my memetic boat, put the cat into a life-vest and set sail again.

 

A voyage and a survey of the kerfuffle islands

Rabidonia

At Vox Day’s blog there isn’t a review per-se but several negative posts:

Fair to say that VD sees the film as ‘SJW’ – in particular that Daisy Ridley’s character Rey gains skills so quickly.

John C Wright has a longer review and it is negative in a similar way:

While there are things he likes about the film, he really doesn’t like Rey.

The Sea of Puppies

Sailing off from Rabidonia into the Sea of Puppies we come to the SuperversiveSF blog. Although more inclined to the Aristotle/Literary aspect of Rabidonian culture the blog is in some ways more Sad than Rabid. The review here by Anthony M is largely positive:

However, the review does have a section called ‘Things I Didn’t Love’ criticizing how Rey is portrayed that mirrors some of John C Wright’s critcisms.

Sad Land

Two reviews both on Mad Genius. However, one if by Brad Torgersen, so I’ll count that as his section of the map.

Brad’s review doesn’t go into details and suggests that while there all sorts of faults the movie overall is good. Doesn’t focus on Rey as an issue.

The second review is by Amanda and it too is positive.

Amanda specifically discuss general criticism of Rey.

Now, in case you’ve read the reviews and posts saying she is a Mary Sue, I can say this. Yes and no. Yes because things do happen that make it so she can prevail, in a way, at the end. But then, if you look at that sort of plot manipulation as Mary Sue-ing it, so was Luke Skywalker. However, a lot of the criticism falls short when you really look at the specifics.

She then goes on to write a longer defense of Rey as a character. She is less keen on Kylo Ren as a character though.

One odd thing though is in a comment she adds below the review:

Of course, unlike certain folks who are now doing their best to point out everything wrong with the film — hint, many of them are the same ones who feel the Hugos belong to “Fandom” and not to the fans — I go to the movies to be entertained and The Force Awakens did just that. Was it perfect? No, but it was 2 hours of entertainment, enough so that I didn’t glance at my watch once.

Hmm. I’m really not sure what she means here. Have I missed some really negative review? That is possible but I had got the impression that beyond the Puppy lands  people where saying things much like Amanda (i.e. didn’t like bit X or Y for reason Z but overall they could live with that and the movie is really fun and a return to form, more please).

So back in the boat and let’s sail away from the right hand side of the map.

The Sea of Tor and Surrounds
Of course not everybody has a review of The Force Awakens and I may have missed some.

So firstly to the Starkiller Base of Puppy resistance fever dreams: Tor.com

This review positively gushes. It mentions the criticism of the movie as a repeat of the original.

As for those who say that The Force Awakens is a rehash of A New Hope or even of the entire original trilogy, I say: fair enough. It does hold a lot of the same plot aesthetics, although the fine details differ enough that I don’t mind. The similarities do bring credence to the idea of the entire Star Wars saga as being one huge ring cycle. It makes me wonder if they’re going to break the ring?

Meanwhile at the virtual HQ of notable Tor alumni the Nielsen-Haydens and according to some sections of Puppydom, were the secret plots of all things unPuppylike spring, there isn’t a review as such but there is a Spoiler discussion section.

Harder to sum up a comment section. People naturally discuss flaws in plot or style but overall people commenting seem to like the movie.

Onward to other isles of bete-noirs and to John Scalzi. The Scalzi has a number of posts on the movie. Firstly a spoiler free review that says that while the movie isn’t a great movie it is a good movie, secondly a comment about why it is stupid to get upset about the science in Star Wars and finally a spoiler-discussion thread for his regulars.

Overall fairly positive.

Downwards

Traditionally boats heading away from the Sea of Tor and on from Whatever stop off at Jim C Hines’s blog before entering the rocky shoals of the downess parts of the map. Hines doesn’t have a review, just a place for people to put spoiler comments. What he does say is positive. The comments are the usual mix of bits and bobs.

Onwards into the archipelagos of fandom. Alexandra Erin has a Rey fan theory, Amazing Stories gives it 7 out of 10 (but doesn’t like the retread aspects) and File 770 has a spoiler comment thread (mainly positive).

So where next? Sad Puppies seem to like the movie, SF establishment seem to like the movie, Puppy-critics like the movie, who is left? I must head leftwards!

Off to the recently rechristened island of Eruditorum (aka Philip Sandifer). Will occult Marxists hate the movie?

It isn’t an overwhelmingly positive review and focuses on the manufactured quality of going over old ground. Sandifer, brings us full circle by picking up on the way ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ have decided they hate Rey and why that in itself tells us something positive about the film. I think this paragraph best sums up the tone:

Even by that standard, however, there’s something intensely rote about The Force Awakens and its unblinking tour through all the classic bits of Star Wars. It would be going too far to say that it’s cynical – everybody is clearly having a good time making Star Wars. But there’s a palpable sense, in basically every scene, that what they’re having fun is very much making Star Wars as opposed to making this particular movie. There are exceptions – in particular Domhnall Gleeson, who has clearly never tasted finer scenery in his life – but by and large nobody seems invested in this film.

So more of an its-OK sort of thing.

What do the reactions to Episode 7 say about the divides in SF?

The clearest message is that the area I call ‘Sad Land’ expresses itself most consistently regarding the film when compared with the stated aesthetic of the Sad Puppy culture. The Sad Puppies wanted entertaining SF above anything else, other elements are OK (even political or cultural ‘messages’) so long as they were secondary to a really fun SF experience. Consequently The Force Awakens is seen very positively. It really does exemplify the Sad Puppy aesthetic – fun first.

Heading further right and the criticism of Rey as a “Mary Sue” character or some obnoxious form of feminist propaganda becomes more prevelant in reviews. Head off the map into the scarier seas of MRAs and that aspect dominates to the extent that people hate the film altogether.

Sailing away quickly from those scary MRA waters full of trollish sea-monsters and back into fannish waters, then on past the coast of Sad Land, we reach the comfy center of fandom. Here the tone is nearly as positive as the Sad Puppies – some acknowledgement of faults but within the context of the film being fun and a return to form. Further down the map the main criticism that grows is that the film is effectively just a retread if the original. This becomes the major criticism of the film on what we can call the left of fandom. Yes, on all the blogs there is the usual fannish dislike of X doing Y because of Z – but in the weird way fans like things by picking holes in them. This aspect is consistent on all comment sections I looked at. I suppose some of the Rey-is-a-Mary-Sue comments and some of the It’s-just-a-rehash comments fit that model of fannish behavior as well.

Overall the Force Awakens was loved. People on all sides saw flaws in it and people on all sides suggested that it had great entertaining qualities (even John C Wright’s mainly negative review). The nastiest reviews seem to be coming from the Alt-Right/anti-feminist parts of the net who seem to feel JJ Abrams was trolling them with Rey. What can I say? If Rey can so upset such unpleasant people by her mere presence then has she not demonstrated that she genuinely is a superhero? 🙂

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8 comments

  1. malcolmthecynic

    Your roundup amused me (Anthony M here, under one of my many secret alter egos). I would like to point out that you did miss my colleague Josh Young’s review, which came first, and is even more positive than mine (he liked Rey): http://superversivesf.com/2015/12/23/the-force-awakens-some-thoughts/

    As for Mr. Wright’s review, it’s odd. There’s little that I totally disagree with. I guess my biggest points were that I liked Finn more than he did and liked Kylo Ren a lot more than he did, which made me mind Rey less. Also, I liked the actress who played Rey, which helped. But mostly I think he’s about right – for example, the movie is more a remake than a sequel.

    Okay, actually, I do think he’s being sort of kind of unfair with his point about the climax of “Return of the Jedi”, but otherwise.

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    • malcolmthecynic

      (I wonder if part of the problem with the way the Kylo Ren fight played out to me was that he didn’t act injured enough. Sure he hit himself in the side a few times but otherwise it seemed as if he was moving and acting pretty much the same as he always did. Had he made it look more like he was hurt it might have helped him out.)

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  2. Mark

    The JCW review seems tautological – “There were elements that I thought were bad because they were leftist; they were leftist because I thought they were bad”

    I rather like this “Voyage” format, makes me think of a Harryhausen movie.

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