Why Are GoT Fans Surprised?

I don’t watch HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in spite of its fan base, its pop culture cachet, or its accolades. Sure, I like swords and sorcery as much as the next person but GOT, based on the A Song of Fire & Ice series by George “Rockin’ Raccoon” Martin (that’s what the RR is for, right?), is too smutty, too violent, and too nihilistic in its worldview for my taste. And that’s also why I won’t bother with the books. Martin’s series sort of kicked off the trend of R-to-NC-17 rated dark, amoral, nihilistic fantasy. Again, not my thing. The world is crappy enough as it is and even if it’s “fake,” I don’t need to watch children get tossed out of windows (when I’ve seen police reports of real people doing the same sort of thing), brutal rapes, or graphic castrations.

Which makes me wonder after four years of spectacles like the Red Wedding and other atrocity exhibitions, why were people bothered by a particular rape scene that aired last week? Some were outraged to the point where they insisted they couldn’t watch the show anymore. The Mary Sue went ballistic. You mean everything else that has happened was hunky dory with you and fine entertainment but somehow this was a bridge too far? Huh?

It’s not as though GOT was family-friendly fun and adventure until this suddenly got dropped on the show. I could understand viewers being upset if that was the case. It seems to me what happened was pretty much what’s been going on with GOT since it started airing. Come on, HBO didn’t decide to adapt Martin’s books into a series because HBO execs just love dragons. HBO could’ve adapted Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series ages ago if that was true. HBO was drawn to the series because HBO loves to push the envelope on content, and by that I mean boobs, genitalia, softcore sex scenes, blood, guts, and vulgarity, and Martin’s books presented plenty of opportunity. Some of the complaints about the rape scene claimed it was gratuitous. Well, yeah. HBO specializes in the sensational, shocking, and gratuitous. Ever wonder why it, Showtime, or Starz never developed general audience/PG-rated/everybody-can-watch fare? HBO only wants programming that’s “out there” because the more outrageous it is, the more buzz it will get, especially from the right tastemakers who seem to value this kind of thing above anything else. During this year’s Cannes film festival, the movie that got big crowds practically slugging each other to get in to see was a 3D porn movie masquerading as an art film. That’s what our so-called betters and “sophisticated” people are drawn to these days.

Maybe some viewers got snapped out of a stupor when this scene made them feel, well, icky inside. Maybe the culmination of four years of “eeek” finally bubbled to the surface. Or perhaps some of the social justice warriors out there realized that they can’t keep talking about the “rape culture” meme and complain about Grand Theft Auto if they shrug off rapes on entertainment that they like.

Time will tell if this means Fonzie has slapped on his waterskis as far as GOT is concerned and if it will start to lose support among the geek crowd, which has become increasingly politically correct. But I knew it was a crocodile all along. I didn’t wait for it to bite me in the butt to figure that one out.

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Fangirls: You’ve Come A Long Way Baby

Lately there’s been a trend among the media, feminists, and “geek” sites to claim various entertainment companies are in a ruthless war against its female fans. Now sometimes these companies can make missteps and overlook a fanbase that wants to give them money but are being ignored. I can also attest that the suits can be the last to know the real nature of their audience. They create X to appeal to Y and they find out that X’s appeal turned out to be much broader than they anticipated, and most annoyingly, it can take years for them to figure it out.

But I also think what’s been under appreciated is a huge sea change in how female fans are perceived and catered to. Fangirls really have never had it so good.

Today female fans of genre movies and t.v., anime, comics, games, etc. can find cosmetics, fine and costume jewelry, dresses, leggings, hoodies and sweaters, shoes, handbags and wallets, hair accessories, fragrances, etc.. This wasn’t possible even five years ago. Of course, the success of Her Universe had a lot to do with it. But I would also posit that the merchandising success associated with the Twilight films established once and for all there was a market for young women. Now fangirl gear is everywhere. It’s in Forever 21 and Target. It’s in gift shops. It’s in Hot Topic, where the fangirl gear dominates over the men’s stuff.

I also think that cons now take their female attendees a lot more seriously. I’ve noticed there are fewer “booth babes” at SDCC now, replaced with more wholesome-looking young women. Every major con has an anti-harassment policy. Star Wars Celebration Anaheim had giant “Cosplay Is Not Consent” signs all over the place, even though groping and harassment were never problems that I knew of at previous Celebrations. Now there’s even a con just for “geek girls.”

Not to say everything is perfect but having been in this game for a long time, I have to say, things have come pretty far. Fangirls were practically a subculture onto themselves, a world of zines, fan art, and other fan-made expressions of a fandom because not a lot was aimed at them specifically. I would’ve killed for Her Universe in 1993 or even 2003. I had to buy unisex/men’s t-shirts, caps, and whatever else. I remember what it was like being the only female in the room. It wasn’t bad but it did reinforce the idea that genre was only for the guys. I think the companies, slow they may be sometimes, are doing more to respond to us (some better than others).

When you take a longer view, the better you can appreciate things now.

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The Fog Of War(s): The Media And The TFA Script

Earlier this week, it was suggested in the June issue of Vanity Fair and on The Atlantic’s website that the TFA script junked all of George Lucas’s treatments for the sequel trilogy. Lucas himself had stated Disney had not used his treatments and had gone “in a different direction” in an interview this past winter. Recently at an interview during the Tribeca film festival , Lucas said he had “no idea” what was in TFA and was “excited” to see the results.

I took the Vanity Fair and Atlantic pieces as proof that Disney was basically making it a $200 million piece of fan fiction. It would be similar to Alexandra Ripley’s 1991 novel “Scarlett,” a sequel to “Gone With The Wind” officially-sanctioned by the estate of Margaret Mitchell except that Mitchell had been dead since 1949 while Lucas remains alive. On the SWPAS Facebook page, I noted it would be like J.R.R. Tolkien turning in a manuscript for a sequel (not “The Simarillon”) to his LOTR trilogy in 1965 and the publishers deciding, “Meh, let’s just get Jacqueline Susann to write her own sequel instead.” They could’ve called it “Valley of the Hobbits.”

This did not make me happy. It’s one thing if the creator is dead (Gene Roddenberry for example) or incapacitated. It’s another if the creator simply retired. I was okay with the saga ending with ROTS and had long accepted the idea of Star Wars not continuing beyond ROTJ, at least not the Skywalker family saga. I’d figured if Lucas ever wanted to return to the same universe, he could do so in other media or with a whole new story set in the same galaxy. I was interested in more only if Lucas had anything more to say. I didn’t like the idea of somebody doing the cinematic version of the expanded universe without Lucas’s involvement. The only hope I had for new movies was that they would be Lucas’s last will and testament, just with more polishing up and details added. Worse yet these news stories blamed the prequels for what Disney did, claiming Lucas wanted “kids” in his treatment.

But hold on…it comes out that Lucas told Stephen Colbert in an interview recently that “it wasn’t The Phantom Menace” all over again, and that his original protagonists were in their 20s. Which is consistent with what was in ANH…Luke and Leia were around 18. Lucas always favored young heroes and it makes sense that this emerging generation of heroes would be around the same age, since there may not have the same separation issues that Anakin had (which was why he was that young in TPM). The crazy part is it looks like those are the results we got, at least with regard to Finn and Rey, who both look under 25. (Lucas also noted in his comments that this trilogy is supposed to be about Anakin’s grandchildren.)

More confusing yet is Kathleen Kennedy’s vague comments that “some departures” of those treatments were made. What the heck is going on?

Michael Arndt was the first screenwriter hired in 2013 to write the script based off of Lucas’s treatments. He was kicked from the project because he was unable to finish on time (joining Gary Whitta and Josh Trank in Lucasfilm’s Kicked To The Curb pile) so in November 2013, Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams took over screenwriting duties. They were finished in January 2014. Unless they spent the holidays on cheap speed writing a whole screenplay in just two months or it was really a slapdash effort, they had to have used a lot of the basic ideas of Arndt’s script. The question is, just how much of Lucas’s ideas were in Arndt’s script that carried over to the final version? Up until the movie comes out and Lucas has seen it, we just won’t know.

If Disney really did pull this out of thin air it could chip away at the film’s perceived authenticity if it was widely known. I’m sure if you ask any random person on the street about TFA, chances are good that person believes Lucas is still involved in some way or that the story came from him. There’s only one way to clear the air and reassure filmgoers and that is to clarify the process, which can be done without giving anything away. That they are not doing so, even with misleading stories in the press, makes me that much more suspicious.

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Celebration Con Report: Sun. Apr. 19

Knowing a lot of people were likely to check out that morning and try to use hotel storage to keep their bags while at the convention another day, I’d suggested we check out early and store our stuff before heading over to the convention center. The 501st travel with a LOT of huge storage containers and I had no idea how much space the Marriott had to store luggage.

So we’d taken care of everything by 8:30 and got into line inside the convention center. Debbie was still planning on getting exclusives then going to some more collector panels. She and Marie were going to stay another day to hit Disneyland (they were transferring to another hotel closer to the park later on) while I was driving home that afternoon because, work. I had no real plans other than to see whatever I’d missed and take some pictures. Originally I was going to stay until three to see the Doug Chiang panel but by this point, I’d had it with waiting an hour or more to see something for an hour and I wanted to beat returning beach traffic since I had to take the major coastal freeway home. Plus if I waited too long, it would take a long time to retrieve my bags and get my car from the valet since everyone would be leaving the same time.

Knowing a lot of people were likely to check out that morning and try to use hotel storage to keep their bags while at the convention another day, I’d suggested we check out early and store our stuff before heading over to the convention center. The 501st travel with a LOT of huge storage containers and I had no idea how much space the Marriott had to store luggage.

So we’d taken care of everything by 8:30 and got into line inside the convention center. Debbie was still planning on getting exclusives then going to some more collector panels. She and Marie were going to stay another day to hit Disneyland (they were transferring to another hotel closer to the park later on) while I was driving home that afternoon because, work. I had no real plans other than to see whatever I’d missed and take some pictures. Originally I was going to stay until three to see the Doug Chiang panel but by this point, I’d had it with waiting an hour or more to see something for an hour and I wanted to beat returning beach traffic since I had to take the major coastal freeway home. Plus if I waited too long, it would take a long time to retrieve my bags and get my car from the valet since everyone would be leaving the same time.

In spite of the aggravation, the annoyances, the outrages, the inconveniences, and tribulations, there’s always something sad about the last day of a convention. Everyone’s a little wilted because after today, it was all over. Back to life, back to reality, like the old Soul II Soul song goes. In 24 hours I was going to be back at work and the convention halls packed with Star Wars merchandise, recreations of various famous sets, cosplayers, stars signing autographs, fans knocking back cocktails at one of the many mini bars set up throughout, little kids playing with Artoo, and Celebration signs were going to be empty.

Also, on Sundays, fewer people are there in the morning. Even though Sunday was also sold out of badges, there were a lot less people than there had been any of the previous days. Was everybody hung over from that mixer Saturday night? Too much time spent in the lobby bar? Who knows?

After we were let in for the final day of fun, Debbie went and got her goodies, then we took pictures together before we split up. I revisited the exhibit hall, took pictures of the various set recreations and other stuff, got in some shots of the Soviet-style Celebration Store, checked out the R2 Builders exhibit, and took pictures outside. After lunch, I considered going to the Ian Doerscher book signing at the Mysterious Galaxy booth, since I had my copy of “The Phantom of Menace” with me but then I saw there was as per usual a big line. Oh well.

My last purchase at the convention was a twisted bit of fan art for a mere five bucks. It showed Anakin winning on Mustafar while armed with Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. There had to be some kind of Terminator-esque backstory to that one.

Around 2 p.m.-ish it was time to get out of Dodge. I had my luggage and car brought out and off I went to the Five south. So long, Celebration, it’s been real. I saw that another con-goer, easily identified by Star Wars stickers all over his SUV, was also making an early start home. The car had New York plates so he had about four or five days’ drive ahead of him.

The odd thing with these cons is that they are fun almost in spite of themselves. This one was very much like Celebration II 13 years ago, with many of the same problems. I think the facilities and staff in Orlando were better than at Anaheim, but I think future U.S. Celebrations will alternate between Mouse House East and West for the foreseeable future anyway. Usually fans at Celebration are nicer than they are at other cons but this time around, I also noticed there was more anti-PT talk than I’d heard at other Celebrations and instead of talking, many fans in line just stuck with their devices. Still where else do you get to wear your most obscure Star Wars t-shirt and somebody will get it? Where else can you get chased by Artoo? Or stumble upon “pin-up” girls getting their photos taken in their trampy outfits? Where else can you watch an evening recreation of Dooku’s battle against Anakin and Obi-Wan? Or get free pizza from a big time movie director? Or see a bunch of former Ewok actors hang out in the lobby of your hotel? Or just casually catch Steve Sansweet and James Arnold Taylor greeting each other with a friendly hug? Or find Elsa as a Jedi or a Vulcan Jedi? Or listen to R-rated rap tracks?

I’m going to write ReedPOP a long letter about what could be done better at future U.S. Celebrations, namely the store and managing lines better. Fans should be treated like guests, not cattle. I’d also like to see more of a balanced program. I understand a lot is going to be dedicated to promoting the assembly line of Star Wars coming our way, but we can’t forget what came before either.

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Celebration Anaheim Con Report: Sat. Apr. 18

Of all of the days at Celebration, Saturday was by far the least pleasant.

I got up a little later on Saturday morning. I had no plans to see any panels so I had no agenda aside from seeing the Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit and trying to get into the TFA costume exhibit. Debbie was a ROW member so she got a fast pass for 11:40 a.m.. So there was no real reason to be there super early to sit on the concrete floor for three hours.

I was aware the convention had sold out, a first for the Celebration cons. The TFA trailer on Thursday received a massive amount of media attention and all of a sudden the world was back on the Star Wars bandwagon. I had never seen as much media at this Celebration as I did at this one. I saw news crews everywhere, from everywhere. My mom saw coverage from The Blaze and from the NBC affiliate in San Diego. While looking at some items in one booth on Friday, a Japanese news crew showed up. It reminded me of how all of a sudden I was bumping into cameramen and guys holding boom mikes everywhere I went at SDCC 2008 and how attendance exploded after that.

My theory is the media attention on Thursday inspired every Angeleno with a Star Wars tee in his sock drawer to tromp on down (Anaheim is less than an hour from L.A.) and be a part of the excitement.

Faced with this crush of people, what did the geniuses at the convention center decide to do? Force everyone into a single line into the convention center, even at 10 a.m. when all of the doors are supposed to be open. In fact, I’d timed my arrival at the convention center so that I’d just walk right in when the doors opened. After all at SDCC, that’s what they do when they open.

Greatly irritated, I waited until 10:30, when all of the doors opened anyway. One hour wasn’t going to be enough time to line up for the TFA exhibit, so I just went in the main exhibition hall instead until it was time for the Rancho Obi-Wan visit. While there I broke down and ordered some shoes from Irregular Choice that won’t be out until October and bought a bracelet at a booth doing brisk business selling Star Wars jewelry. It was a moebius-style bracelet with “I love you/I know” engraved on it. At 11:40 I met up with Debbie and Marie in front of the Rancho Obi-Wan exhibit. The line wasn’t too bad–it was actually longer on Thursday—but it didn’t matter because we could just walk right in. This exhibit wasn’t very big. It featured fan-made handcrafts, including artwork, customized dolls, crochet, pinatas and a whole Mexican-style altar, custom and bootleg action figures (including some of Steve Sansweet), game boards, and whatever the heck else somebody dreams up of doing. The world’s largest Star Wars oil painting was up on display. This is the one that got some press recently and it costs like $200,000. In person, it’s pretty impressive. Some characters were easy to find while others were practically Easter eggs that you had to be up close to see, like a Lobot or a Mace Windu peering up over something. Of course one can buy a few ROW souvenir goodies while there. Debbie picked up the exhibit book and had Sansweet sign it. You could also get free Little Debbie Cosmic Cakes, since Little Debbie is a sponsor of ROW.

With that out of the way, we split up (Debbie and Marie were going to a collectors’ panel in search of more Star Tots) and I went off in search of lunch. God, what a nightmare. Everywhere I looked inside the convention center and outside had giant crowds and HUGE lines. It was worse than anything I’d seen at Comic Con. Hangry once more, I marched past the monster lines for the Hilton’s food court and went in search of the sitdown restaurant. If I know anything about fans/geeks, they are would rather not spend money and time on a sitdown lunch. Sure enough I was able to get a seat in the restaurant immediately and got grilled salmon with roasted veggies. The restaurant was still fairly busy but it beat standing in a long line or baking out in the sun. It was a hot day.

After lunch, I went back into the convention center and steeled myself for a hellacious wait to see the TFA exhibit. Maybe it wasn’t the brightest idea to see it on Saturday, the most crowded day, but I had nothing I’d planned to see and I worried that if I waited until Sunday, the lines would still be long and I was planning on driving home Sunday afternoon. On the way there, I walked past Dennis Muren in the hallway and was kind of surprised nobody recognized him. When I finally reached the end of the very long line on the second floor (it went out into a back patio area), the End of the Line said the estimated wait was 180 minutes. It was about 1:30 p.m.. At first the line moved fairly quickly. I thought that maybe I’d be inside the exhibit within two and a half hours the way it was whipping along. The whole time I saw how insane it was in the convention center. The hallways were so jammed with people trying to get into the collectors’ panel room and other rooms, plus just con goers moving around, there was almost no space to walk. How did this turn into SDCC Junior?

The line moved fast until I got to the part that snaked in front of the room where the exhibit was. Then it was S-L-O-W. Worse yet, once I could see inside the dark entrance to the exhibit, I saw ANOTHER line! It was like waiting to get on Pirates of the Caribbean! Worse worse yet, every time press or some v.i.p. like a con guest felt like dropping by the exhibit, they went in the back door and entrance to the rest of us stopped until they left!! By the time Sam Witwer and some Rebels voice actors decided to drop by, I’d been waiting over three and a half hours. I don’t care if it was the Pope…folks like that should be given access to the exhibit before or after the con closes. It’s kind of crappy to fans who had been waiting hours, especially people behind me who had no chance of getting in that day after waiting the whole afternoon. By the time I got in to see the exhibit it was 5:30. Four freakin’ hours. It was ridiculous. Sure it was cool seeing the costumes up close but there had to be a better way to do this. By the way, the Celebration II costume exhibit was the same situation. I only avoided waiting for hours on end for that one because I went in with someone with a press pass.

What is interesting is that the costume descriptions give a little more info about the movie. If you’re avoiding any and all spoilers, flee now.

The new stormtroopers include a “flametrooper” whose job is to shoot flames at targets and an updated snowtrooper. The stormies serve something called The First Order, which sounds to me like a neo-Empire. The X-Wing was a “Resistance X-Wing,” and I assume the Resistance is a neo-Rebel Alliance. In other words, they kind of dredged up the same conflict from Eps IV-VI. Whoever Kylo Ren is, he’s really tall. And yes, I think it’s basically “Gee, what do we do without a Darth Vader? I know, let’s create a new one!” Ren’s lightsaber was there too. Rey’s costume from the trailers is there and Finn’s costume is on display as well. In the concept art you can see that Finn is carrying a lightsaber but it’s not necessarily his. Other costumes include “junkyard thug” and “desert nomad.” Was it worth waiting four hours to see? I don’t know. But it’s probably going to be years before I’d have the opportunity to see any costumes from TFA again.

After that I went back to the hotel, dropped off my stuff and went off in search of something to eat. Saturday’s crowds seem to have picked over everything, even the food trucks. I was worried about a lunch time crush on Sunday, so I got a sandwich from Submarina to save in the fridge for the next day. They very nicely helped me even though they were about to close. I ended up getting a grilled chicken sandwich from again the Barcelona Café truck. It was pretty tasty.

That night was the “mixer” on the plaza between the Marriott and the Hilton. More bars were set up. One of the funny things about Celebration is that it’s still the only con I’ve been to where you can get alcohol any time of the day. Around eight, I decided to go check out the party in full swing, while Debbie and Marie were busy packing up. I didn’t expect much since parties with a geeky crowd can be super awkward. Well, this was totally different. That DJ Elliott guy was playing music while people were actually dancing. Not all of them were bad either. There was even a dance off with Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, and Iron Man. The sponsors of the event was doing a bean bag toss to win prizes nearby. I didn’t stick around too long but it was fun.

Again, the lobby was packed with cocktail and beer drinkin’ 501st guys.

Debbie and Marie lit out early while I sat up watching Coachella acts on AXS TV because there wasn’t a heck of a lot on. I sat through Alt-J, who were pretty good, Father John Misty, who was all right if you’re into that ballady type stuff, and Robert Pattinson’s alleged fiancée FKA Twigs, who was kind of bad.

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Celebration Anaheim Con Report: Fri. Apr. 17

Since I didn’t go to bed until midnight, I got up later than my friends did and they were gone even before I was up to get breakfast. Even after I got up around 7:30 or so, I was not in a rush. I figured there wasn’t much of a point to getting there super early since the Clone Wars Bad Batch thing was at noon. Unfortunately, I made a bad decision while getting ready that came back to haunt me later on. I ambled into the holding pen around 9:30, another noisy, stuffy, smelly room of con goers waiting to get into the exhibit hall and the rooms upstairs. Again the staff expected us to pack in like sardines. Already it had become a tradition for people to cheer and applaud if someone accidentally knocked over one of the poles separating out the lines.

It took so long to march people out, I didn’t get out of the holding pen until almost 10:30. It was like the world’s longest Communion line at Mass. I went up to the second level and saw that the TFA costume exhibit line was already pretty long. I decided to try it on Saturday. So with nothing better to do, I headed up to the holding pen for the Digital Stage. I saw Candy there again and got into line. Unfortunately the line was being managed by the Line Nazi, a young lady who didn’t so much project her voice as she screamed at people coming in. I’m surprised there weren’t barking dogs jumping at them too. She screamed that we were prohibited from leaving the room or else be banished to the “back of the line.” Now, getting something to eat for lunch was no problem. Fortunately I’d thought way ahead and bought a grab ‘n go sandwich in the hotel yesterday afternoon. I kept it overnight in the fridge and brought it with me in my soft-sided cooler bag along with a soda and other stuff to eat for lunch. But forbidding us from going to the bathroom? That’s inhumane. Luckily, the people in line were good about holding spots for people who had to use the restroom. Does anyone realistically expect a little kid to hold it for four hours? It’s tough even for me.

Finally we got into the Digital Stage—I brought my travel blanket with me which was helpful again with the freezing AC. They rolled into the Bad Batch arc, four unaired Clone Wars episodes about an outcast group of clones. The animation was still in its primitive stages, but the sound and voice work were complete. I ate my lunch while watching. The episodes were fantastic. Completed, they would’ve been even better and likely would’ve been ratings gold and a fan favorite. There was lots of action, adventure, humor, and touching moments as Rex discovers one of the Domino Squad was alive after all. After the showing, Dave Filoni, two of the show’s writers, and Dee Bradley Baker, who voiced just about every character in that arc, came out on stage. Unfortunately the Q&A session was along the lines of, “What about this guy who was in that Season Three fifth episode? What do you think he’s doing now?” Finally someone asked if the Bad Batch arc was going to be online, and the answer was, “We don’t know, yet.”

I left the auditorium just before 2 and went down to the exhibit floor to poke around. I’d stopped by Matt Busch’s booth to say hello and saw the March of the Mandalorians. Preferable to the running of the Wilrow Rood or whatever the ice cream guy’s name is the day before. Then I realized it was almost three o’ clock, time for the Ahsoka Lives photo in front of the fountains outside. Of course I was wearing one of my Ahsoka tees and one of those cheeseball floral crowns to bring a little Coachella poseur style to the con. I dashed outside and saw that they had already started with the pictures. I jumped in on the far left, ensuring I won’t be seen at all. Oh well. But Candy managed to stand right next to Ashley Eckstein and I did get to meet another internet friend, Stephanie. I went back in the exhibit hall, pretty much finished with everything, but was still undecided about a couple of things. I’d already bought on Thursday the Her Universe stuff, a t-shirt from the Celebration Store, a necklace from the Han Cholo booth, and an Artoo scarf from another booth. I bought autograph tickets and a thing to hold my autographed pictures. I forgot to mention that on Thursday I found time to get Orli Shoshan’s autograph. I’d managed to get Amy Allen’s autograph on Friday, which I didn’t think I had. So around 4:30 I went back to the hotel room, dropped off my stuff, chatted with Marie for a while, and went out in search of something to eat for dinner so I could bring it with me in line to see ROTS. Since I had no idea of what the lines were like on Thursday to get into the Digital Stage for TPM and AOTC, I assumed it would be fine if I got in line 5:30 p.m. for the 6:30 showing.

There were a couple of problems. First, the Filipino food truck was out of chicken adobo, which nuked my initial plans for dinner (*sadface*). So in desperation, I went inside the Hilton’s little food court and got some spaghetti marinada and a breadstick from Sbarro’s. That slowed me down.

The other problem was WAY more people than I anticipated showed up for the ROTS screening. Instead of the usual room used for penning people for the Digital Stage, I was hustled into another room across from it used for penning up additional con-goers. It was hot, stuffy, and noisy in there. Notice this has become a theme. At first it wasn’t so bad. I figured there was no way that everyone in the other room would fill up the Digital Stage. But I was toward the back of the overflow room and Stephanie had mentioned on Twitter she was lined up out in the hallway and they were told fat chance you’re getting in. Then I noticed it was getting late and nobody had moved out of the room yet and neither was staff coming in to give updated information. We were just stewing there. I am slightly claustrophobic and my anxiety was starting to spike. Figuring I needed to do “something,” I went to the front of the room, stepping over a lot of people, and asked the green shirt at the door what was going on. She said, “They’re seating the other room now and they’ll be getting to this room soon.” She also said the movie was going to start late. Gee, thanks for the update. Sure enough a few minutes later, they started to move out rows by the door. But it was extremely slow. People would move, then they wouldn’t. Finally, I was in a slow moving line to the door when two con-goers came in and said, “Forget it! The room (Digital Stage) is full and the movie already started!” The staff couldn’t be bothered to tell us. Annoyed and frustrated, fans on the way out just knocked over all of those poles used to separate the lines.

The ROTS screening should’ve been on the Celebration Stage, there should’ve been wristbands, and the higher number of people attending Friday along with Ian McDiarmid introducing the movie probably increased demand. It was also the first time ROTS was shown anywhere in 3D. On the way out, I ran into Stephanie. I commiserated with her the poor organization of it all when a guy at the escalator was handing out postcards advertising a party on the nearby outdoor patio sponsored by Pacsun. For those of you who have no idea what Pacsun is, it’s a chain/brand aiming at the young skateboarder and surfer crowd. I don’t stand on boards either on land or sea nor am I young, but with ROTS a bust, I figured what the hey. Debbie and Marie were supposed to go to some dinner with the D.C. Collectors’ Club at Tony Roma, so it wasn’t like I could go catch up with them anyway.

The party had a cash bar, a booth where you can pose for goofy but free pix with toy lightsabers, a small display with some new Star Wars-themed clothing from Pacsun, and a DJ playing rap and hip hop. Supposedly rapper Riff Raff was going to perform later. The highlight of the sparsely-attended event was the totally inappropriate music. The tracks were all uncensored, so n-word this, f-word that, and whatever other vulgarity you can imagine was blasting away at a Star Wars convention. Who thought this was a good idea? I couldn’t help but laugh at the whole thing. Speaking of inappropriate, do you Celebration IV veterans remember the toddler in the slave girl bikini? I seem to recall my reaction at the time was, well, it was unsettling. I spotted the girl, who was about 9 or 10 now and still wearing a slave girl bikini. She was there with her proud pops wearing a t-shirt of his little punkin at age two or three in the bikini from Celebration IV. Oh. My. Gawsh. Cree-py. Thankfully they didn’t hang around long. The sun set over the hills, a nice view I have to admit, I got a free picture (I was crossing two lightsabers a la Anakin in ROTS), and some guy half my age tried to talk me up. Unfortunately for him I did not understand his lingo and I just shrugged. Oh well.

I went back inside and talked with some of the Pro Staff people for a while about how the party was a bust. Then around 8 I thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll check to see if there’s any room in the Digital Stage.” I walked back to the auditorium and a young couple came out through some of the side doors. “They’re unlocked!” the girl said. So I opened the door, went inside, and tried to look for an open seat. One guy pointed me out to one on the aisle and I sat down. Then I remembered I didn’t have any 3D glasses. The glasses I got from TPM/AOTC the night before? I had taken them out of my bag that morning! D’oh! But what could I do? If you squint, it almost looks normal.

After the movie, I went back to the hotel and sure enough the lobby and bar were packed with drinking 501st members.

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Celebration Anaheim Con Report: Thurs. Apr. 16

After getting up at 5:45 a.m. I wasn’t in a real big rush. Debbie and Marie left by 6:30 to get in line for the exhibit hall and around 7, I went to stand in the Starbucks line to get my breakfast sandwich and tea. I’d brought my own juice from home because I know that Naked OJ is pricey. Virtually everyone in line was wearing some kind of Star Wars t-shirt or costume and convention badges.

I went back up to the room, ate everything while watching t.v., brushed my teeth, and headed to the elevator by 7:30 a.m.. So far the Celebration app hadn’t said the lines were full, so I figured I had a chance. In the elevator I ran into Tricia Barr and said hello. We talked for a bit as we walked toward the convention center. This was it, the big morning panel. Was I getting in? Where would I be?

I noticed that there were a bunch of food trucks already parked in the turnaround that was in the middle of the Hilton, the Marriott, and the convention center. Fans were steadily streaming toward the glass and steel building. Staff, both in green shirts and Pro Staff blue shirts, were directing people to enter by Hall D. A set of stairs led down to the basement where they were holding everyone waiting to get into the Celebration Stage and the overflow rooms. Tricia disappeared right about this point, so I headed downstairs and walked into a huge smelly, hot, and noisy room. There I was given a wrist band marked “Digital Stage” and got into line with the rest of the cattle. They had us herded into lines separated by poles. Staff told everyone to “pack in” as close as possible. I found out that they really did expect everyone in a line throughout the con to stand packed together like sardines in a can for hours on end.

Reassured I was getting to see the panel on something other than my phone, I sat down on the floor to wait out the next couple of hours. I talked to the people in line around me, including a man with his young son also from San Diego. I also would send occasional tweets on my phone. As late as 8:30 people were lining up but one of my Twitter followers/friends said a few minutes later the staff was no longer letting anyone in and herding late arrivals outside. This made no sense to me because people in line next to me also had Digital Stage wristbands. I guess the other stages weren’t very big.

I estimated they were going to start seating people at 9 since it was going to take a long time to get everyone out of there. But it was well after 9 when they started moving people into the “Celebration Stage,” which turned out to be a small arena at the other side of the convention center. And it took forever. I had time to run to the restroom and back before they started moving us out of the basement to the Digital Stage three levels up. As you can imagine, it was a bit of a challenge and it took a while to seat everyone. Before walking into the auditorium the staff told us to lift up our arms to show the wristbands. Stick your arm up in the air and wave it like you just don’t care…

The auditorium was already dark when I got seated and the big screen was showing the proceedings of the Celebration Stage, which consisted of the same warm up act at the Orlando Celebrations: DJ Elliott and that other guy. The latter kept telling everyone to cheer, wave their hands, wave their lightsabers, etc. and I was befuddled to see people in the Digital Stage doing the same thing. WHY?? You’re not in there. You’re basically watching a big t.v..

Miraculously, the program started on time. First on the agenda was the panel host–some guy from Entertainment Weakly–interviewing J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy. While they talked, they occasionally showed some behind-the-scenes shots and stills I’d never seen before. This was the most info divulged about the film to date. It wasn’t very much, but more than Abrams normally gives away. Somebody must’ve threatened to shave his cat or something. Abrams revealed the desert-y planet was NOT Tatooine but some other dumpy dustbowl called Jakku. Unfortunately, some of the ‘tide coming from the stage was a turnoff. It seemed to me there were some serious dog whistles playing to the anti-prequel crowd, such as the blathering about “practical effects” and “real sets” and “real locations” to the fist pumps of some in the audience, all based on tropes about the prequels that they should know are not true. Abrams didn’t really show anything more than a glib understanding of Star Wars. It’s NOT a Western and there’s no written rule that everything has to look “used.” The end results might turn out to be better than what’s indicated but TFA needs better than a B-student’s attempt at continuing the saga. Kennedy promised more women characters, which is nice, but I cringed when she said Lucasfilm was taking the fans into account for their future endeavors. Nothing’s worse than art by focus group.

During the Abrams/Kennedy chat there was a short interview with the two R2D2 Builders who lucked into jobs wrangling Artoo during TFA. That might’ve been fine for another panel, not this one. But out came a real star, the delightful BB-8, which everyone was like, “LOOK AMERICA, IT’S A REAL ROBOT! HE’S NOT CGI!!!” Some company was contracted to build it.

The program moved on to the human Star Wars noobs. John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac took to the stage. I have to say, Boyega was a charmer. He was funny, positive, and obviously a big Star Wars fan. He had a great anecdote about having Harrison Ford sign some Han Solo thing for him and Ford said, “That’s weird, but okay, I’ll sign it.” It was later reported that Boyega and Ridley put on masks and wandered around the convention floor, similar to what Hayden Christensen and his brother did at Celebration II. Boyega later posted photos of himself in a clone trooper helmet wandering among the crowds and even having a little lightsaber duel with a totally unsuspecting fan! How cool is that? Ridley talked a little bit about her character, describing Rey as a self-sufficient scavenger type of gal. Isaac described Poe as “the best freakin’ star pilot in the galaxy” or some such, which doesn’t portend well for the fates of Han or Luke.

It was then time for the senior class. Out came Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Daniels. Harrison Ford was allegedly supposed to have appeared but he was still recovering at home from the plane crash. Riiiiiight. Fisher was as usual funny and inappropriate. Everyone was thrilled to be back doing Star Wars. Hamill thanked the fans and said we’re like family.

After a brief photo call on stage, it was the moment everyone was waiting for. They rolled the new teaser trailer for TFA, everyone went nuts, and they rolled the trailer again. The end!

I bumped into Candy, one of my internet friends, after leaving the auditorium. The game plan was head down to the exhibit floor and hit Her Universe first. But there were crowds standing around in the lobby area and I saw that none of the exhibit hall doors were open. By this point it was well past 11 and they were supposed to open at 11. Of course no explanation was given. Finally doors opened close to 11:30 and off we were to Her Universe’s surprisingly tiny booth. They have a big booth with lots of room to move around at SDCC. Here it was a small space right by the already-crowded LEGO booth. At first we thought there was a line, but it turned out it was just people there to meet Ashley Eckstein, who was there at one end of the booth. We went to the other end and quickly bought our stuff. I splurged on the lightsaber skirt, the gray Imperial cardigan, the blue X-Wing cardigan, and the Ewok crochet bag. Congratulations HU, you win for the single biggest expenditure of any booth at Celebration.

We then headed to the Celebration Store. At that point,there was no organized line, so I just slipped in where there was a gap in the poles around the sales area. Candy decided to wait outside of the store area. I quickly realized it was going to be an ugly flashback to the horrible Celebration Store experience of Celebration II, where I waited two hours to buy an action figure and a t-shirt. They’d finally got their act together with the last few Celebrations but this time they didn’t count on people descending on the store to grab any t-shirt they could buy, especially the TFA and Celebration logo shirts. It’s as though they didn’t expect 60,000 Star Wars fans to want a TFA shirt less than an hour after seeing the trailer. The racks and shelves seemed to have been stocked by former Soviet department store employees….things were bare and left bare. I saw a girl with the coveted TFA tee and asked her where they were since I didn’t see them. She said she’d taken the last one. I went over to where they sold custom t-shirts, including the Jar Jar Is My Spirit Animal design I wanted. What you did was go up to the guys running the press, order your t-shirt, pay for it, and pick it up. The guy who took my order said it would be finished by the time I paid for it. Okay, cool. So I waited. And waited. And waited. The line didn’t move. I saw the same people at the front of the line for what seemed like an eternity. I thought maybe their credit cards were no good or something. In the meantime, I saw a TFA shirt left hanging on a rack about 50 feet away from me. Some guy was standing nearby but was totally oblivious to the shirt. I told the lady behind me in line to hold my place and I *ran* to the shirt, only for the guy to suddenly notice the shirt there and pick it up just as I got there. I asked him if it was his and he said no, he was just checking the size. It was a “large” so I told him to keep it. It was too big for me anyway. So I got back in line and waited some more. I was getting hangry. Then word got out the credit card lines were down because they were running it on wifi. You know, in a busy convention center full of people tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, texting and what have you all at the same time. The crazy thing is, they didn’t have any way to manually run cards nor did they take cash transactions! The store closed shortly thereafter. Frustrated, I left but I still had the receipt for my shirt.

I went to one of the concession stands for food and got a grilled chicken sandwich. Of course there was nowhere to sit so I had to sit on the floor to eat. Still hangry, I reflected on how Abrams and Co. were probably having some swank lunch some place while I’m scarfing a sandwich and pita chips on the floor like an animal. I am not an animal!

After eating and a trip to the restroom, I figured I’d lost Candy until the Clone Wars panel. So I went to the art show to pick up my prints. The art show still had an idiotic system in place. You had to give your name to the guy up front if you pre-ordered (of course my name wasn’t on there…lucky I had my confirmations printed out), get blue tickets, go to the artist’s booth, give him or her your ticket, and then get your art. I had to do this three times over.

Then I went upstairs to what was to become my home away from home, the Digital Stage to wait for the Untold Clone Wars panel. There I saw Candy and her friend accompanying her to the con. Dave Collins was the host while Dave Filoni and Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo served as panelists. The panel showed concept art and animatics—often with voices and sound effects—from various episodes that never got to see light of day.

Filoni and Hidalgo kept joking about how they never got permission to show any of the stuff but nobody told them no either. As great as it was to see the tantalizing art and clips to a room packed pretty close to capacity, in many ways this panel just dug the knife deeper into your gut. There were so many great ideas left for the show, some of which will be told in other media such as Christie Golden’s upcoming novel, which is indeed based on eight scripts from the series. But others may linger in Star Wars Limbo forever, such as Ahsoka’s post Jedi adventures (there was a great action sequence when her bike breaks down while flying around Coruscant). There were even plans to introduce the expanded universe’s Yuuzhan Vong to the series. Other ideas, such as Ahsoka’s crew of loyal clone troopers, clearly made their way to “Rebels.” During the Q&A session. I really had planned on getting up and asking why the show was canceled but some other lady, who happened to be the same age as me and everything, got to ask it first. In fact, there were people who thought it was me. Seriously, it wasn’t! Filoni of course had to be diplomatic but my takeaway from his answer was that the suits simply didn’t want to deal with that era anymore. If cost was an issue, and it may very well have been an issue, it wasn’t mentioned nor hinted at. Another person asked if there will be another art book or something publishing the concept art from the show. Pablo Hidalgo asked the audience if that was something they would be interested in and when the audience shouted, “Yes,” he said to tell every publisher. Throughout the panel, the crowd was enthusiastic and I heard “save the Clone Wars” shouted more than once.

I went back to the hotel room, rested for a bit (Marie had come back with the same idea), and dropped off stuff I didn’t need for the evening. I packed a travel blanket because boy that Untold Clone Wars panel was COLD. After five or so, I left and headed to the food trucks to find something to eat for dinner. I can’t handle super greasy or fried food anymore, so that eliminated just about every truck there. Fortunately the Barcelona Cafe truck had grilled shrimp tacos, so I went with that.

By 6 p.m. or so in the convention center, it was clearing out, so it was ideal to wander around the booths since everything was open until 8. I went back by the Celebration Store to ask about my misbegotten t-shirt. The green shirt working the store entrance said they were not admitting anyone else since it would take until 8 to serve the customers that were waiting to pay inside the store. I asked the guy about my t-shirt and he waved his hand toward the custom t-shirt section and said, “Ask a staff member.” There wasn’t a staff member but I did get the attention of one of the guys working the custom t-shirt press. I showed him my receipt and explained what happened. I paid him in cash and he got me my t-shirt. Success!

Around 7, I returned to the Digital Stage to see what the situation was for AOTC 3D. TPM was already underway and the staff working the door wasn’t sure if there was room left. But I could see when the doors open there were seats left in the back. I plopped myself on a couch out in the convention hall to wait. Originally I wasn’t going to see TPM, just watch AOTC but by about 7:30 or so I thought, “Why sit around here being bored not looking at anything when I can at least be entertained with the movie?” So I ended up seeing 2/3rds of TPM anyway. The crowd got into the movie, cheering when Anakin won the pod race, going nuts when the duel with Darth Maul got started, and cheering again when Maul was defeated and the Trade Federation ship was blown up.

AOTC got going sometime after 9 p.m.. The crowd thinned out a little after TPM ended because it was late and for many Celebration attendees, it had been a long, long day. Many had been up all night or since early that morning for the TFA panel. The 3D looked fantastic, even better than the TPM conversion. I was particularly impressed with AOTC’s opening scenes and the chase through Coruscant. The crowd was a little quieter but there were plenty of cheers when Yoda showed up to duel Count Dooku.

When the movie ended, it was 11:40 p.m. and I was tired. But there were still lots of people around. The Marriott lobby was packed with 501st members, drinking and socializing.

I crashed, not quite ready to do it all over again for Friday.

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