Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post and a Giveaway! Why I Don't Hate Jar-Jar (or the Prequels) by Trisha Slay

When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in October of last year and immediately announced they would be making a new Star Wars trilogy starting at Episode VII, the fan universe exploded with a heady mix of anticipation and anxiety. What kind of movies would Disney make? Would they bring back the most beloved characters from the original trilogy? Could they recapture the original magic? Would they, could they possibly get it right?

Even in the midst of the horror and destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, just about every news source ran at least one article on the acquisition and announcement. As a lifelong Star Wars fangirl, I spent quite a bit of time following the coverage. Until I had to make myself stop reading the articles. Why did I stop? Because the commentary was getting too negative, too mean, too ugly. Every article I read made it a point to mention the disappointments and failures of the most recent prequel trilogy. A few mentioned the "horror" of Jar Jar Binks.

One article went so far as to say the Star Wars prequels were "universally reviled."

Ouch. That is too harsh...and I would even go so far as to say it's not true.

First of all, let's have a reality check. The prequels made a lot of money. Obscene amounts of money. Last time I checked, it is not accurate to label a motion picture a failure if it brings in a net profit on worldwide box office sales of $500 million--a profit margin that was exceeded by all three of the Star Wars prequel movies. So it is safe to say, with a net profit of over $2 billion, that the prequel trilogy was financially successful. Therefore, the movies would be considered neither a failure nor a disappointment from a certain point of view...a business perspective. And let's face it, Lucasfilm and Disney are in the entertainment business.

But what about the art? What about the magic of the original films?

OK, I'll be the first person to admit that the recent movies were not critically-acclaimed masterpieces. Some of the dialogue was beyond bad. (I hate sand, but I love you? Ewwww.) CGI technology often took the place of storytelling. At times, the movies seemed cartoonish and ridiculous. Yes, in some scenes, Jar Jar got to be pretty annoying.

That said, before any original trilogy fans get too high and mighty on the "original trilogy is SO superior to the new movies" bandwagon, let us take a moment to remember our roots. Maybe you were too busy playing with your Kenner action figures or lightsaber dueling with wrapping paper tubes to remember how poorly the original trilogy movies were received by critics. But, surely, I am not the only fan who remembers that the original trilogy received its fair share of negative criticism?

Which is why Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel felt it necessary to go on Nightline in 1983 to defend Star Wars.

If you don't want to listen to the entire 7 minutes and 35 seconds of that clip, I understand. I can't listen to the darned thing without wishing I could Force choke John Simon while cooing, "I find your lack of imagination disturbing."

Let me hit some of the highlights of what Mr Simon had to say about Return of the Jedi and the entire original trilogy:

  • When you have a film that's 90% special might just as well be watching an animated cartoon 
  • You have three lousy actors in the main roles who don't contribute much flesh and blood 
  • You have ghastly dialog, terrible plotting, miserable characterization 

Hmmm...sound familiar? I think I've heard every one of these insults hurled at the new movies.

That said, I'm not entirely immune to cracking a few jokes and cringing a bit over the new movies. I know why the original trilogy "worked" for my generation and why the prequel trilogy fell flat. I am an original trilogy girl, but I do not hate the prequel trilogy. In fact, I would even say that I enjoyed the movies.

There, I said it. Throw your rotten tomatoes if you want, but I don't think it's cinematic treason to enjoy an escapist summer movie filled with special effects and some less-than-stellar dialogue. I'm glad that the new trilogy (and the subsequent Clone Wars TV series) brought a fresh flood of excitement and a new generation of fans to the franchise. New blood and more dollars in the fan base cannot be a bad thing.

I remember very clearly the summer Episode I was released. It was a rough time for me. I'd just ended a three year relationship and lost custody of both a beloved pet and my apartment in the process. On top of all that mess, my ancient Pontiac (nicknamed Old Gray Mare or OGM by all my friends) decided to have a meltdown that required two weeks of expensive repairs. There I was...sleeping on my best friend's couch with a box of tissues and no car. The Phantom Menace was in theaters, but I had no way to go see the movie. My friend took pity on me. Even though she is not a fan of any of the Star Wars movies, she loaded me into her car and took me to see the new movie.

You know what? I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. I did. It was 136 minutes of pure escapist fun that wrapped my childhood fandom around me like a warm, familiar blanket.

The theater was full of kids. They jumped up and down cheering during the pod race. They laughed big joyous belly laughs over Jar-Jar's antics. They clapped when R2-D2 rolled onscreen.

I shudder to think of some snooty original trilogy fan informing those innocent, happy kids that Jar Jar is a racist stereotype and the scenes that made them jump for joy were lousy, ghastly, terrible or miserable. That's just hateful. And hate, no matter how intellectually it is elucidated, is always the Dark Side of the Force.


When Erika helps her best friend, teen beauty queen Cassie Abbott, escape their “Nowhere, Ohio” town, she promises to keep all of their secrets safe, but then the days stretch into weeks with no word from Cassie. Worse, the sheriff’s investigation into Cassie’s disappearance is making Erika doubt she ever really knew Cassie at all. Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe . . . until a new movie called Star Wars transforms her summer with a new hope.

For Erika, Star Wars changes everything! She volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner just to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality. At the Bixby Theater—a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era—Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making. But she can’t hide in a darkened movie theater forever.

Eventually, Erika must step out of the shadows and, armed with her Super 8 camera and the lessons she’s learned from Star Wars, she’ll have to fight to save herself and the theater that has become her home.

Paperback: 316 pages
Publisher: Deeds Publishing (May 21, 2013)
ISBN-13: 978-1-937565-58-9
Twitter hashtag: #NSLASlay
Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is available as a print and e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

About the author

Trisha Slay is a writer with a passion for storytelling. She has studied at the Institute of Children's Literature as well as furthering her skills through online workshops. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators and the Atlanta Writer's Club. She enjoys participating in writing groups and spends a great deal of time improving her craft. Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is her first novel.

Tricia hopes Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away would be compared to Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. She has said that "If those two books had a Star Wars-obsessed little sister, I'd like to think she would be my novel."

Tricia lives between the Atlanta metro area and the North Georgia Mountains, but hails originally from the way of the San Francisco Bay area. When she is not working on her next book (tentatively titled Sometimes We Strike Back), her interests include: 70s pop culture; unsolved mysteries; Star Wars (original trilogy); historic movie theaters; haunted history; reading (especially YA novels); nutrition/weight watchers/healthy vegetarian cuisine; hiking (exploring the National Forest trails with her guy); yoga/meditation; miscellaneous crafting projects (that rarely turn out as envisioned); and writing letters she never intends to mail.

Connect with Trisha

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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  1. Thank you Susan for hosting this wonderful author! I have had the privilege of working with Trisha as well as reading Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away. This is a great book with well crafted characters and a fun story line! I can't wait to hear from your readers!

  2. This sounds interesting

  3. I am very interested in reading this book. I'd love to know what secrets she's keeping. Thanks for this chance.


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