May 12 2014

Why ‘Canon’ is a Big Deal for Some of Us

Published by at 11:00 am under Editorials

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A lot of us have recently heard about the news that Star Wars  is ditching the expanded universe they’ve built so far to give more freedom to licensed content creators. Some of you guys were pretty supportive of it citing that it needed to be done. However, there are others who became extremely mad and upset about the news. In this post I want to explore some of the reasons why “canon” matters to certain people. There are people who would argue that it shouldn’t affect how you enjoy content, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the power to affect the its fans.

I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. As much as I loved some of the stuff in the expanded universe of Star Wars, I was more than okay with starting over with a clean slate since I wasn’t a die hard fan of the franchise. However, give me a series I care deeply about like Mass Effect or Dragon Age then I’m really going to care what’s canon or not. Devotion and fandom are just some of the many reasons why people value it so much. Read on for more about the topic…

I don’t know if you guys remember, but I wrote about the Final Fantasy X audio drama a few weeks ago. It was so terrible that I even claimed that it managed to destroy hours worth of great story telling in thirty minutes. Oh, how my friends and I wished that Square Enix would finally clarify if the audio drama and novel were considered part of the canon. It irked me so much that I wrote an entire post about it. I took comfort in imagining that those two expansions never existed at all. In my head,  Final Fantasy X ended with its sequel. Other people do this too like how some gamers “forgot” about some parts of the Mass Effect 3 ending and chose to end it during the scene with Anderson. This seems to be the best solution whenever you are unhappy with the outcome, but it’s not that simple.

You get this feeling that you’re “in denial” if you don’t follow what’s considered to be canon. For you, two unlikely characters might be your OTP but then they’re actually not in the story. It’s strange how canonizing something somehow validates our fantasies. I have one friend who was so irked by the fact that KOTOR’s canon is that Revan is male (players can choose the gender). There’s also a canon version of the story even if it’s a choose your own adventure game. The sequel did the same thing too I think and the protagonist’s gender this time is female. I believe that my friend and many others felt like their play through didn’t matter since the game has a single definitive outcome. It’s as if the creators were saying that this outcome is what should happen. However, I do believe that you’re only going to care if you’re deeply invested in it. I didn’t give a crap about making Surik a male protagonist in KOTOR II.

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Additionally, you don’t need to have an active role in a story to be invested in it. Just look at Harry Potter! J.K Rowling’s fans go into a frenzy whenever she comments on who is one character’s true love or what she believed happened beyond her books. We get attached to stories and its characters. If it’s a part of a bigger universe, then we get used to the idea of its place in it. Once you take a part of it way, it’ll feel incomplete for some reason especially if you’re used to it being there. It has always been like a puzzle piece that makes you understand and appreciate the lore. You also don’t want people adding in things that doesn’t make sense to the universe you built in your head, but you have to somehow find a way to put it in because the creators slapped “canon” on it.

In most cases, what’s considered canon is often the basis or blueprint for future content in a particular franchise. Let’s say you imagined a different ending for a TV show or what not. Consequently, creators decide to continue the story based on the ending and narrative you wished didn’t exist. Your imagination can’t shield you from ignorance forever. Head canon won’t do you much good then. At the same time, what if you absolutely loved how one show or movie ended? Years later another team of writers write up a follow-up comic on it and somehow it managed to ruin everything. Now, people can just do what I did with the audio drama but if the creators suddenly use it as a basis for future content then it’s going to be a big deal.

Sometimes it’s annoying how people say that fans are simply “butt hurt.” While there are cases when they simply overreact, people should also acknowledge that fans can have legitimate reasons for being upset and sometimes they may even know more than the creator. There are several instances wherein creators acknowledge fan interpretation and even consider it part of the main canon. Think about that before you type in the comments.





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4 responses so far

  • Mr B

    I suppose, to put it simply, my take on the whole Star Wars canon thing is simply this- find a home for the really outstanding bits-Thrawn, & Mara Jade especially. If Kueller doesn’t make it into canon, Im not going to lose sleep over it.
    Im not surprised at all the EU stuff is non-canon now new movies are coming. And Im surprised that anyone else thought it would be. I wouldn’t be surprised if George Lucas & co has no idea what the Black Fleet Crisis was for example, so why would it be canon.

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    My opinion is that each individual can create their own canon. I treat art as something that belongs to every single person it affects. Like your interpretation of a favorite song. The musician may have had something entirely different in mind when they wrote and sang it, but what really matters is how it affects the listener. It’s the same for anything else.

    For example, Telltale games put Lilly in the Walking Dead game as the same character she is in the comics, but Kirkman and company made them say she isn’t after and even had them alter the game somewhat because when the prequel novel came out it had a conflicting backstory for her. They decided the novel was canon Lilly and the game Lilly was a different Lilly. Except I could give a crap about the cash-in novel. The game is my canon, that Lilly is the same Lilly, and that’s the story I’m sticking with.

  • klecser

    I don’t buy your argument at all. Saying that people get upset about what “Officially” transpires in a fictional universe is essentially akin to you admitting that you won’t take responsibility for your own emotions or have a neuroses that puts your own personal judgment of something in someone else’s hands. In short, you are incapable of making your own decisions. I don’t think we should enable “canonism.” It is a form of self – deprecation in which the opinion of others outweighs a person’s value and gives other people “control” over their emotions. I love a lot of things. And I could give precisely two craps about what happens in canon for anything. I decide what I like about a fictional world: not a writer. This is the emotionally immature side of nerdery and there is growth to be had by some individuals.

  • goseebananafish

    it’s all make-believe. There is no canon. It’s like debating which Santa Claus is canon.

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