Friday, September 23, 2011

Mischaracterizations in the EU

Any of us who have read the EU have had a lot of similar complaints, especially when it comes to Han and Leia. I don't know if it's the fact that people started listening to us or maybe the new authors writing said books feel the same way we did and decided to fix it, but in most books since Han and Leia were estranged in the early days of the New Jedi Order series after Chewie's books, their relationship has been pretty much what I would have expected to read of them almost all along. Because of the nature of the books and the fact that they're not meant to be romance stories and Han and Leia have been married for 20-30+ years depending on which book you're reading, they are obviously not delving that much into their already well-established relationship. But they have been operating as a team and an obviously loving couple that knows each other incredibly well and they never leave each other's side. That is how it always should've been.

But, before this they treated their relationship incredibly poorly. It actually spurred a thread on boards that went on for pages and pages entitled, "To LFL: Stop abusing Han and Leia's Romance!" And yes, there were actually quite a few of us enraged about that. So let's discuss some generalizations that most authors tended to go by which I, among others, felt were pretty inaccurate portrayals of the couple that we had seen on screen in the movies.

Let's talk about Leia. Now, if you ask me, someone like her, who had lost her entire family and spent so much of her life putting the greater good ahead of her own needs might finally decide that that was not how she wanted to live her entire life. Well, apparently the early EU authors did not see her this way. First, they like to show her as someone who is always putting work ahead of her personal life. Apparently she didn't see her family that much and basically didn't even raise her own children - though that wasn't entirely her fault, I'll get to that, too.

Han gets ignored and just seems like someone she maybe occasionally lives with rather than an actual husband. She tends to treat him like an idiot, and often talks to him like he's a child. Whatever it is, she isn't treating him like a loving husband and certainly not a man of much intelligence. It's like she immediately reverts back to that cold, unfeeling woman from the beginning of Empire. Funny, because if you think about it, she really only acts like that in the very beginning of that one movie. Maybe part of ANH. Outside of that she tends to be openly affectionate and certainly doesn't talk down to Han. Apparently she doesn't have a mind of her own but is rather completely influenced by whatever the New Republic wants of her. I'm not sure I see Leia wanting the major political role she winds up with in the books.

Han, on the other hand, doesn't seem to really mind any of this. He goes off and does his thing, whatever it may be, while she is never around and usually doesn't treat him very nicely. To me, he seems to be very passive about the whole thing. I mean, I don't see Leia treating him like that in the first place, but if she did, I don't think that Han would just sit back and let it happen. Of course it's nice to think that he would just love her unconditionally, but I don't think that someone like Han would be content with just being married to her if she doesn't really treat it like a marriage. He also doesn't seem to put much effort into keeping his family intact or raising his kids.

Now, to be fair, of course there are exceptions to this. There are some moments in some books that give some semblance of what I'd consider their relationship might be like as a married couple. Unfortunately, these glimpses tend to come in books that are otherwise overall not very good. In Children of the Jedi they spend a lot of time together and work as a team, tease each other, have some sweet moments and, gasp, it actually alludes to them having sex in the book. In a totally subtle, PG-rated way, but at least it's there. And there are at least a couple of other books where they spend more than two minutes together and maybe even kiss a couple of times.

But for the most part, they have kids, but they don't really raise them. I don't think for one second that Han and Leia would decide to have kids just for the sake of it and then not really have much to do with them, including sending them away for a couple of years. Do any of us really think that they would let Luke dictate what happened to their kids? Or that Luke would even suggest such a thing in the first place?

Yes, that's right, Luke certainly isn't portrayed that well, either, I don't think. I don't contemplate his character nearly as much as Han and Leia - or probably really at all - but I don't think he would suddenly become this sage-like Jedi who only talks in annoying, Force-y sayings. At times he almost ceases to be human because he never does anything wrong.

The problem goes beyond these, but in general, the authors tend to write the characters as though they haven't developed or changed at all from the movies, especially the beginning of the movies. I mean, just read parts of the beginning of The Truce at Bakura. It is not entirely bad, but there are parts where Leia talks to Han once again like he's an annoying pirate doing a bad job of rescuing her. Forgive me for thinking so, but I feel as though once they got together they would actually want to spend a lot of time together, as well as spend a lot of time with any children they'd have. And I doubt Leia would want to hold such a prominent role in government. I think she'd want to be involved in some way, but not to the point that it takes away from her life with her family.

I really wish we could go back and basically erase most of the EU and start over and write it the way it really should have happened. But I guess that's what we have fanfic for.


  1. I thought about it like similar to a soap opera. You know how all the soap's have to have this drama surrounding the young couples. Of course, in soap operas there is usually a fair amount of cheating and divorces so we are luckier than we might think we are. But, then as a couple gets older and starts to have grandchildren and stuff, they kinda leave them alone and let them be happy. That's exactly what they've done with Han and Leia. Maybe they thought blissful married life wouldn't sell books, who knows?

    I think the sending the kids away thing was a cop out, a major cop out. Again, I'll refer to the soap opera precedent here (I really didn't watch that much, but anyway). How many times on a soap did someone have a baby and then boom, they were in a boarding school or just never shown until a few months later they were teenagers and having angsty drama that could garner ratings. I just don't think they wanted to write the kids until they were story lines unto themselves, you know?

    In the end, for me, I only consider the movies as canon and I barely consider the 3 prequels as canon, really. Anything after that is just some author's opinion and just because THEY get paid for it, doesn't make them right.

  2. Are you sure you didn't spend your ENTIRE childhood watching soap operas? I didn't watch soap operas, but based on my extensive sitcom watching, I can see your point. But Star Wars was never really about the romance. I mean, look at COPL. The book title and cover would imply that the whole book is about how Han and Leia finally got married. Except so much of that book has crap about Night Sisters and Luke and Dathomir and basically anything BUT Han and Leia's romance with the exception of maybe two scene or three scenes. I'm not really asking for much. Just some indication that they have a happy married life as opposed to just being that pilot and that diplomat who live together.

    The kids thing though does go with TV stuff I guess. It's too much trouble to waste time bothering with talk of them changing diapers and waking up for 3am feedings (admittedly, even I'm not really interested in reading about that) so it's easier to just make them go away for a while.

    I am sure the authors were given some sort of direction and weren't just given free reign, I just wish that more of them gave us some indication that Han and Leia's relationship in the movies ended with a nice happily ever after. And let me just say, that in my head, they certainly don't have to watch their children die!

  3. I could see that Leia might put the Republic first. I think she just might be wired that way. She certainly didn't allow herself a normal teenage experience. At least that we know of.

    I have a harder time believing that Leia would keep treating Han like an idiot. I think as they were together longer, that would stop, some trust and respect would built.

    I really have an issue with what they did with the kids. Was it really necessary to ship them off? To kill two of them? Really? Definitely not the happy ending and romance I was looking for.

  4. I guess I watched too many soap operas as a kid also bcs I totally get the analogy. Han and Leia are the beleagured mainstays of the story. Luke's the golden boy.

    And nobody could figure out what to do with the kids so they shuffled them off camera till they were old enough to participate.

    I think someone got too caught up in the tragic foreshadowing aspect of it all and lost sight of the fact that all of the bad stuff happens to Han and Leia!

  5. I've never watched a soap opera. Well, okay there was this one time at some doctor's office, but that doesn't really count. What I did happen to catch recently, was an episode on the History Channel about Star Wars. What does Star Wars have to do with history? More than you would think.
    When I flipped to that channel because I saw the Words Star Wars on my TV guide - as if it were fate- I tuned in right as they were talking about Leia, and showing her kiss with Han.
    It was really cool to hear these smart scholar people talking about Han and Leia's relationship. And then, they talked about Han and how he's sort of like a cowboy. So I enjoyed that last night until they started talking about Anakin and relating him to Satan. That's when I got bored.

    I've been able to avoid the Eu, save for Tatooine Ghost and some other snip-its of a few separate NJO books here and there. I've relied on FanFiction, but I'm reading it a lot faster than people can write. That's when you start running out of things to read. I hate that.

    Am I getting annoying? Be honest. I know I write too many replies, but this is my favorite blog on the whole planet. : )

  6. First of all, NEVER too many comments. We love comments. When we decided to start writing this blog we wanted it to be just as much an opportunity for discussion as for writing posts and giving information. It's great to get some conversations going on here, so never hold back on posting if you've got something to say, we love responding! And it seems weird to just comment on our own posts :)

    For tragic foreshadowing, all of the tragedy that befalls the characters in the books to me undermines the movies themselves and where we are left at the end of ROTJ, but that could probably be a whole other post.

    That History Channel thing sounds pretty cool. I hope I randomly come across it someday! I'm sure I would've gotten bored at that point in the show though, too.

    As for the EU, well, I don't know that I would ever advocate one way or the other whether someone read it. Even my favorite books I don't think are so amazing that they MUST be read. If you want something to read, then fine, just understand what you're getting into. And of course it's not all bad or else Push wouldn't be making us read all of them again and posting about them here. I just have this incessant need to remain "in the loop" on what's going on in their fictional lives even though in my own head I've decided to disregard much of it and think of my own ideas on how things turned out :)

  7. "I just have this incessant need to remain "in the loop" on what's going on in their fictional lives even though in my own head I've decided to disregard much of it and think of my own ideas on how things turned out :)"

    That quote of Zyra's totally explains my need to read the EU. Thanks for putting it into words, Z.

    Emma: Never too many comments! I agree with that, too.

  8. The thing about the kids pisses me off. I started reading the book where they decided to do it and I couldn't take it. They could have just as easily pushed Han and Leia aside for a while. Not that I would have liked that very much, but sending them away was idiotic. Surely they could have come up with something more interesting as well.

    I haven't read any of the later books yet, but so far I've been pretty disappointed in they way they've been treated, and I think you've hit the nail on the head.

    Haha, yeah I've got that same drive to read them and have as much knowledge of them as I can obtain.

    I've seen that history channel documentary, in fact I've got it recorded on my DVR. It's called The Legacy Revealed, and pretty interesting if you're into the mythological elements of the movies. They should have stuck it in the blu-ray.

  9. There are lots of other series I read where they kill off some character or go in a direction I hate and I stop reading. really, stop reading and never go back.

    but I just can't help myself, I keep reading the EU books. at the risk of dating myself again, it's like my grandma always used to be about her "stories" (soap operas). She'd talk about them like they were not just real people (as opposed to characters on a show) but who also were her next door neighbors. She was deeply invested in their wacky lives.

    all right, let's just come out and say it. we're obsessed. :-)

  10. I am intently interested...that's as much as I'm willing to admit...I may need a 12 step program to say much more.

  11. Yeah, I've been close to giving up a couple of times. Mid Legacy of the Force series I wanted to give up, especially around like the 7th book that included almost no Han and Leia and of course knowing Jacen was a Sith and was probably going to die. And then I bought the first Fate of the Jedi book thinking ok, if this sucks, I'm done. I've had it. But then it had some cute Han and Leia moments and I was actually intrigued by the whole idea that the Jedi were going insane and could no longer sense their fellow Jedi through the Force and thought they were imposters... well, I just kept going. Really, truly, if Han and Leia get much older, I don't know that I can deal with it anymore. Especially since I fear that one of them (Han) could very well be the next to die :(