With all of the news and announcements coming out of Star Wars Celebration in London this past weekend, I have spent more time than usual in the depths of online Star Wars commentary. A lot of it is fun and interesting and occasionally moving; some of it—mostly over-represented white dudes with podcasts—can be angry, possessive, and toxic.
That got me thinking about this scene from Chapter 21 (“The Pirate”) of the current season of The Mandalorian:
The Armorer: This was once the forge of our covert. I have been to the great forge on Mandalore.
Bo-Katan: I remember the forge well.
The Armorer: It was large and ornate, and the air rang with the music of a hundred hammers. And here stood a simple one. Yet, they were both forges; they served the same purpose.
The Armorer: Remove your helmet.
The Armorer: Do you respect my station?
Bo-Katan: I do.
The Armorer: Remove your helmet.
The Armorer: Our people have strayed from The Way and it is not enough for a few to walk it. We must walk it together.
Bo-Katan: This is the way.
The Armorer: We must walk The Way together—all Mandalorians.
Bo-Katan: I understand.
The Armorer: I was taught that the Mythosaur existed only in legends and yet you saw it. It is a sign that the next age is upon us. Mandalore must all come together. You have walked both worlds. You are the one who can unite us.
There has been a ton of discussion about what this scene means for the plot of the show. What is the Armorer’s motivation? Is she trying to trap Bo-Katan? Is she actually the villain here? Maybe the Armorer is actually Bo-Katan’s sister Satine! Or wait, maybe she is a clone of Satine!
I take a different view. I think there is a lot of work being done by the Armorer’s dialog in this scene that does not have to do with the plot. I think that what the Armorer is talking about here can be viewed on some level as being about Star Wars fandom itself.
She very specifically says that she was taught that the Mythosaur existed only in “legends”—not “legend” singular (which I think is how this phrase would normally be spoken), but rather, the plural “legends.” That also happens to be the name for the old Extended Universe, everything that was declared non-canon following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. I think that the use of that word here is a deliberate writing decision.
In the story of the show, the Mandalorians are split between the Armorer and her covert who adhere to the Way and those like Bo-Katan who have abandoned the Way and gone out into the world. The former consider the latter to be apostates, while the latter consider the former to be zealots.
I think what this show is trying to say is that—like the Mandalorians—Star Wars fans have become split and are always fighting one another about what it means to be a true fan, about what is the “real” Star Wars: the people who hate the prequels v. the people who love them; the people who hate the sequel trilogy and think Disney has ruined Star Wars v. those who have embraced the sequel trilogy; even the very current argument over whether S3 of this show is great or terrible, or whether Din Djarin was right to give Bo-Katan the Dark Saber at the end of Chapter 22 or whether she should have fought him for it.
It is worth pausing on that scene for a moment as well. After she defeats Axe Woves and he tells her that Din is the one she should be challenging, she says “Enough Mandalorian blood has been spilled by our own hands.” Indeed. The same could be said about Star Wars fandom.
What is interesting about Bo-Katan as a character is that she was once an extremist herself, a member of a terrorist group trying to overthrow the Mandalorian government led by her own sister. That conflict eventually ended in the fall of Mandalore, its destruction by the Empire, and the scattering of the surviving Mandalorians across the galaxy. On the one hand, she has a lot blood an her hands; on the other, she has a first-hand experience of how zealotry and extremism in defense of one’s beliefs can end in tragedy.
Of course, all of this is an exciting plot and a compelling story, but I really do think there is more going on here. I think the message is that, like the Mandalorians, Star Wars fandom has spent too much time and energy fighting over what it all means and who can claim ownership. There was a great forge of the old EU that rang with many hammers, and there are smaller, newer forges, but they all serve the same purpose. They are all Star Wars. Those of us who love it need to figure out how to come together.