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Using the Force: Creativity, Community and…
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Using the Force: Creativity, Community and Star Wars Fans (edition 2002)

by Will Brooker (Author)

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In this intelligent and entertaining study of fandom at its most intense, Will Brooker examines the Star Wars phenomenon from the audience's perspective and discovers that the saga exerts a powerful influence over the social, cultural, and spiritual lives of those drawn into its myth. From a Boba Fett-loving police officer in Indiana to the webmistress of www.starwarschicks.com; from an eleven-year-old boy in south London to a Baptist Church in South Carolina; Brooker unearths a seemingly endless array of fans who use and interpret the saga in a number of creative ways.… (more)
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Title:Using the Force: Creativity, Community and Star Wars Fans
Authors:Will Brooker (Author)
Info:Bloomsbury Academic (2002), Edition: 1, 272 pages
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Using the Force: Creativity, Community and Star Wars Fans (Updated Edition) by Will Brooker

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Star Wars premiered in 1977 and was an unexpected smash. 25 years later, that original Star Wars generation has grown up and become lawyers, booksellers, truck drivers, filmmakers and even academics. In Using the Force, Brooker (one of the aforementioned academics) attempts to track what the whole Star Wars> saga has meant to his generation and to speculate on what it might mean for later generations.

There is an inherent danger in academics writing about popular culture. Some are too far removed from that culture to be able to portray an accurate picture of it. Others understand the subject just fine, but are unable to communicate their ideas to a general audience. Brooker addresses both of these concerns in his introduction, telling us of his own Star Wars fanship and promising to keep a more general audience in mind. Was he successful? For the most part, yes.

Brooker is a geek, who genuinely cares for the Star Wars saga and its related products and for the community of fans. He takes great pains to present a clear and honest picture of the fans he interviews without mocking. This choice to be as even-handed as possible to all of the participants is both admirable and necessary for an academic work to be taken seriously, but I have to admit that I missed the sense of fun to be found in something like Trekkies, which highlighted some of the odder Trek fans without making fun of them. Well, not much, anyway.

The book is overflowing with footnotes and endnotes and bibliographies and all of those things that make a scholar’s heart go pitty-pat, but Brooker’s prose is both informative and accessible. He also has a sense of humor; you’ll definitely get that thrill of recognizing a fellow geek. His transcript of a group of 20-something Brits who’ve gotten together to watch The Empire Strikes Back is well worth a read; it’s both hysterical and embarrassing. I know I’ve been at that party, and I suspect most of you have, too.

Brooker also makes some interesting observations about fanfic writers and fan filmmakers and the “official” reaction to both from LucasArts. It’s no real surprise that 90 percent of all Star Wars fanfic writers are women—that’s true of fanfic pretty much across the board. It’s also not surprising that an equal percentage of the filmmakers are men. What interested me was Brooker’s observation of the support of LucasArts for the filmmakers (within certain rigidly-defined parameters) and the utter lack thereof for the fanfic writers. He doesn’t say that LucasArts (and therefore, Lucas himself) is misogynistic or homophobic, but it is interesting to speculate about why one form of fan expression is so much more palatable to the Powers That Be than the other.

Brooker paints what feels like an accurate portrait of a subculture, and he makes a pretty convincing argument about the Star Wars saga as a cultural touchstone. But was that ever really in doubt? Perhaps I’m too biased—I’m part of that Star Wars generation, as are most of my friends, so it feels a bit like preaching to the converted. Most of the observations that Brooker is making about Star Wars fans in particular seem to me to be applicable to fandom in general. Goodness knows I know Trekkies/ers, Xenites, X-philes and even Rocky Horrorites (Rocky Horror-ists? Rocksters?) who act in similar ways.

Using the Force is an entertaining read. I have some quibbles about his overall points applying only to Star Wars, but I did enjoy reading the book, and I certainly recognized myself and some friends of mine in Brooker’s descriptions. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you should definitely check it out, if only for the staggeringly complete list of Star Wars-related websites.
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  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
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In this intelligent and entertaining study of fandom at its most intense, Will Brooker examines the Star Wars phenomenon from the audience's perspective and discovers that the saga exerts a powerful influence over the social, cultural, and spiritual lives of those drawn into its myth. From a Boba Fett-loving police officer in Indiana to the webmistress of www.starwarschicks.com; from an eleven-year-old boy in south London to a Baptist Church in South Carolina; Brooker unearths a seemingly endless array of fans who use and interpret the saga in a number of creative ways.

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