[B5JMS] attn jms: Star Wars DVDs - Your opinion on who "owns" a story

b5jms at cs.columbia.edu b5jms at cs.columbia.edu
Sun Sep 26 03:16:53 EDT 2004

From: "Jonathan Kass" <jonathankass at comcast.net>
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 12:43:25 +0000 (UTC)
Lines: 76


I was reading on the star wars site some of the latest "tinkering" George 
Lucas has apparently done to the original trilogy movies with the DVD 
release (I'm reading about it because it sold out a little faster than I 
expected :))...

Made me wonder your opinion on something... there is some serious fan outcry 
about some of the latest minor changes, and whether they are "true" to the 
original story, or represent a change in the story itself...

If you haven't heard about them, I'll leave the specific star wars examples 
below, and you can ignore the bottom of the message...

In a b5 context  on one level you've done this, with the Anna character by 
replacing the original actress in the flashbacks with the later cast Melissa 
Gilbert, so maybe I know the answer - but in that case one could argue it 
didn't change a thing about the character, the story, the interpretation, 
etc - it just cleaned up continuity when the part was recast.  IN the Star 
Wars examples (below if you're curious), I'd submit the interpretation of 
the moments altered has changed the story, character, etc...

So my purely abstract question to you is - do the fans or consumers of a 
story (in any media) ever really have a right to complain about stuff like 

Just curious your thoughts...




As many people may recall, Han Solo fired first, and without immediate 
provocation, in the original theatrical release of star wars when confronted 
by Greedo... in the special edition when they first reedited and enhanced 
the effects, they made it seem much more like Greedo was pulling the trigger 
before Solo (though somehow he misses)... apparently in the new DVDs, Greedo 
may be shooting at something above Solo's other hand on the wall.  The 
original story clearly casts Solo as a rogue, out to protect himself, 
willing to shoot first when necessary.  The revisions continue to sort of 
take out that ambiguity, making him act only in self defense.

But what really bugged me and triggered this question - from what i've 
heard, at the end of Return Of The Jedi, when in almost the last scene the 
ghosts of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Annakin appear to Luke - signalling Annakin's 
redemption and "resurrection" if you will - they've replaced the image of 
the actor from Jedi with Haydn Christensen.  At that moment the story for me 
itself doesn't track, and I think it'd be obvious why if Obi-Wan's image was 
suddenly Ewan Mcgregor instead of Alec Guinness... those ghosts are the 
images of the people Luke has interacted with, not their younger 
incarnations.... I've read Lucas explains that's Annakin, and the other 
image (unmasked before death) is supposedly Darth Vader, but it sounds like 
a stretch to me - its Darth Vader who is "saved", not the youthful Annakin 
who Luke may not even recognize without alot of unstated Force 
communications :)

Anyway thats what triggered the question... 

From: jmsatb5 at aol.com (Jms at B5)
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 2004 15:34:33 +0000 (UTC)
Lines: 62

>So my purely abstract question to you is - do the fans or consumers of a 
>story (in any media) ever really have a right to complain about stuff like 

Unfortunately, this is a whole bunch of questions in one...and the answer to
just about all of them is yes-and-no.

Do fans have a right to complain?  Absolutely.  I get buckets of it...some of
it quite well founded, some of it arguable, but I only tend to argue on points
of fact and logic, NOT taste...because you can't argue taste.  If somebody just
doesn't like a book or show of mine, that's their right.  Lots of folks like
anime...it just leaves me cold for reasons I probably could never qualify.
Different strokes and like that.

The larger question is, once something enters the public consciousness, who
"owns" it, and what comes of changing it?

Ultimately, the creator of a given work owns it, in some cases outright
legally, in other cases morally and ethically.  WB *owns* B5...but it's *my*
show.  Fans of a given form can purchase that work, can give their opinions and
reactions to it, but they do not *own* it any more than the audience in a
symphony owns Ode to Joy.

Then there is the side-issue of what happens when you cange something after it
enters the collective consciousness.  In the B5 situation, I re-did The
Gathering...some people liked the new version better than the original, some
preferred the first one.  (In most cases, it was what people saw the first
time.  Somebody once said, "Patriotism is at its core the love of the food you
ate as a child.")

It's your right as a creator to make those changes...and the right of the
audience to pink you if they don't work...though again "work" is subejctive.  I
think the re-edited Gathering works better...your mileage may vary, as it

In the case of Star Wars...it's George Lucas' baby.  He owns it, morally,
ethically and to a large extent legally.  He can re-edit it to his heart's
content, that's his right.  Some will like it better, some worse, but that's
just the way it goes.

Subjectively, I prefer the original Star Wars over the re-done one because
there's something about the pacing in the special edition that feels...slower
to me, less dynamic, less involving.  But is it *really* that way, or is it
that way only in comparison to the way it *used to be* and the way part of my
brain *expects it to be*?

George says this is the film the way he wanted it to be, but couldn't do it
originally, and for me that's the end of the discussion.  It's his baby, and he
has to be happy with it.  I may or may not like its latest haircut, but then it
ain't my kid.


(jmsatb5 at aol.com)
(all message content (c) 2004 by synthetic worlds, ltd., 
permission to reprint specifically denied to SFX Magazine 
and don't send me story ideas)

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