As the (binary) sun(s) set on another Star Wars Day, some fans aren’t done celebrating. On the 5th of May, the party goes on. The Revenge of the Fifth is the sequel to Star Wars Day made up by fans playing on the title The Revenge of the Sith. (Interestingly, some fans celebrate the Revenge of the Sixth after Star Wars Day, thinking it a better title pun.) Yet, where Star Wars Day celebrates the franchise as a whole, the Revenge of the Fifth is a day that’s pretty much focused on just the prequel trilogy. There was drama in the Star Wars fandom long before the Dark Side-loving Kathleen Kennedy allowed a stinkin’ Mary Sue to take over the name of Skywalker. Though angry fans lament the loss of George Lucas (who hired Kennedy, by the way) he also “ruined” Star Wars once.
One would think that Star Wars Day is enough, but after a decade of undue mocking and fan-hate, the prequel fans earned The Revenge of the Fifth. In fact, it still goes on. A scan of Star Wars tweets yesterday would have found some folks lamenting that any films other than the originals exist instead of celebrating what little about Star Wars they love. (More on that later.)
Honestly, if we think about it, it’s entirely appropriate. Of course Star Wars Day gets a sequel (just like everything else), and it’s the Revenge of the Fifth. This is the day that young Obi-Wan, both young Anakins, and even Jar Jar Binks are celebrated by the kids who grew up loving them.
Why Revenge of the Fifth Is Great, Even Though It’s a Second Star Wars Day
Image via Lucasfilm
Look, I am fully aware that the most passionate Star Wars fans are (mostly) insufferable. I write this having been one for (at least) 37 of my 40 years in this galaxy. George Lucas adopted the most fundamental rules of mythic storytelling for his space opera. Still, that allows us fans to imbue this goofy space romp for kids with the kind of life-affirming philosophical pondering that religions are made of. (In fact, hundreds of thousands of people across the globe register their official religion as “Jedi.”) And, like most religions, schisms develop among the faithful.
After the prequel trilogy failed to be simultaneously brand new and make people feel like kids again, old Star Wars fans were upset. They got angry at George Lucas for telling the story the fans themselves demanded. So angry, in fact, they made a documentary about it called The People vs. George Lucas. A bunch of Star Wars nerds first extoll the man for lighting the spark that lit their imaginations, then deride him for “ruining” the story he created by telling more of them.
Yet, Lucas didn’t make the prequels for those fans. He made them for the kids who could see them in theaters or find them later on home video. The prequels have everything the originals have. They are goofy, awkwardly written or acted, and full of special effects that, before then, didn’t even exist. Ask most people between the ages of 18 and 30, and they likely love the prequels as much (if not more) than the originals. So, while Star Wars Day is for everyone, the Revenge of the Fifth is the revenge prequel fans get for sticking it out. (Especially now that many sequel-haters have forgiven the prequels in order to hate the newest thing.)
The Reasons Why the Prequels Struggled When They Were Released
So, in light of Star Wars Day and the Revenge of the Fifth, let me explain why the prequels aren’t worse than any other Star War. There are two reasons, I believe, why fans of the originals reacted so strongly to the prequels. The first reason is the sad truth that for some fans, part of their fandom is hating whatever is the newest Star Wars.
Why Some Star Wars Fans Hate New Star Wars
Image via public domain
The epic scale, brilliant music, and compelling characters are what draws people into Star Wars. Yet, even as early as 1983, some fans hated what came next. At the time, Empire Strikes Back was a controversial film because of its stark change in tone and separation of the central characters. After that, Return of the Jedi also sucked, with fans pointing to everything from Ewoks to Jabba’s Palace to another Death Star as the reason why. Thus, the prequels and the sequels suffered the same fate. (As did The Clone Wars and even the much-beloved Star Wars Legends books that continued the story.)
It is true that, for some, they may simply just not like the successive stories as much as the first one(s). However, that the pattern keeps repeating makes me think it is more than that. Part of what makes Star Wars so special for fans is because it can instantly transport them back in time to when they first watched it. They want the “new” Star Wars to do the same, and that’s often impossible. The backlash against The Last Jedi was part of that, because that film challenged our assumptions about the characters. Ironically, the biggest complaint against the much-beloved The Force Awakens was that it was too similar to what came before.
As George Lucas reportedly said, according to Bob Iger’s memoir:
“Just prior to the global release, Kathy Kennedy screened The Force Awakens for George. He didn’t hide his disappointment. ‘There’s nothing new,’ he said. In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to him to present new worlds, new stories, new characters, and new technologies. In this one, he said, ‘There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward.’”
When the prequels were about to come out, the hype was incredible. Star Wars fans waited sixteen years for more Skywalker stories from the mind of George Lucas. Yet, when what they got didn’t match their expectations, they didn’t like it. For example, as much as I like to like things, even I didn’t love the prequel trilogy until Revenge of the Sith came along. What helped me learn to love those movies was listening to other Star Wars fans who grew up loving them like I loved Lapti Nek, the Ewoks, and the Death Star II.
That is what makes the Revenge of the Fifth as important to the culture as Star Wars Day. Perhaps by seeing people celebrate the prequel films, those who hate pod-racing, spinning (a good trick!), and discussions about the negatives of sand might learn to appreciate them.
The Politics of the Prequel Trilogy Are Hard for Some Fans to Accept
Image via Lucasfilm
One of the most interesting comments from modern-day angry Star Wars fans is that they don’t like the idea of “politics” being in their films. Disregarding that by “politics” they usually mean diversity in front of the camera, this is a ludicrous statement. Star Wars is, literally, all about politics. The Emperor was based on Richard Nixon. The Battle of Endor was an allegory to Vietnam, where the supposedly primitive indigenous people took down a technologically superior war machine. The whole trilogy is rife with politics, from Darth Vader and Captain Antilles’s first discussions about “consular ships” and “ambassadors.”
The politics of the original trilogy are easy to accept, of course. Do you hate things like tyranny, murder, and genocide? Congratulations, you are no friend of the Empire. Yet, the politics of the prequel trilogy are more difficult to grasp, though remain (sadly) as relevant as ever. In fact, it was The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson who succinctly summed up the ultimate political message in the prequels in a now-deleted tweet. (It was in reply to a discussion of whether the prequels should have even been made.)
“Psst. Devil’s advocate: the prequels are a 7 hour long kids movie about how fear of loss turns good people into fascists.”
In our earlier post talking about the philosophical differences between Star Wars and Star Trek, we touched on this point. Every institution we’re introduced to in the prequel trilogy (save for the Trade Federation) is, ultimately, benevolent, from the Jedi to the Senate. Even the Separatists seem like good people corrupted by the phantom menace of the Sith. Yet, the way the corruption happens is remarkably similar to the current political reality across the world. Palpatine orchestrates political problems to advance his own power and preaches democracy while acting like an authoritarian.
And, like the Ewok thing from before, it’s not even that the “moral” side of the argument is a stand-in for America. Anakin’s idea that an all-powerful central executive who can prosecute a war without waiting for approval from the people’s representatives is the current reality of the American political system. The “emergency powers” granted to Palpatine in Attack of the Clones is not unlike the AUMF that every president since George W. Bush has used as legal authorization for wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. Whether or not you agree with Lucas, there is no denying that politics in this series are far more complex than “Death Star = bad.”
Revenge of the Fifth and Star Wars Day Are a Dyad In the Fandom
Image by William Tung via Flickr
The more general Star Wars fandom and those who love or hate the prequels are not unlike the dynamic between Ben Solo and Rey. They are forces in opposition to one another, yet they should be working together instead. Hell, even the people who loved The Last Jedi and hated The Rise of Skywalker are contributing to this continuing cycle of Sith-y absolutes. Humans are tribal by nature, from sports teams to politics to fandoms. Yet, no one’s enjoyment of something affects your enjoyment of it or similar materials.
As much as I wanted to, I didn’t like the 2016 Ghostbusters movie. Yet, I can enjoy the original films or even the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife without giving that film a second thought. My mother likes both films immensely. My daughter couldn’t care less about any Ghostbuster. The same goes for Star Wars. If you don’t like the prequels or the sequels (or the original trilogy), you don’t have to watch them. Their existence does nothing to take away from the thing you do like.
So, enjoy Star Wars Day, the Revenge of the Fifth, or both. If you don’t (or if you’re “mad” at Star Wars) that is not an excuse to try to ruin the experience for others. Fandoms are a place for you to find joy and community. That said, no one is entitled to be a part of it or make the experience for others who don’t agree which films are the best or worst. Hopefully, as time goes on, the current divide in fandom, culture, and politics will return to a more a civilized age.
What do you think? Are you a fan of Star Wars Day and Revenge of the Fifth or do you think even one “day” for the franchise is too much? Share your thoughts about them or Star Wars in general in the comments below.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.