Debate Club: Canon SHOULD Matter

On Tuesday, Chris posited

that having pieces of lore ousted as part of the overall canon of a fictional universe shouldn’t bother us.  Truthfully, there are some of his points that I whole-heartedly agree with.  The main difference between his stance and mine is that I personally believe that the argument of how important “canon” is to a series depends greatly from series to series.  It’s not something that can be evaluated as a whole.

In his argument, Chris used the example of the Batman franchise, stating that there have been, for some time now, several different Batman storylines and universes all existing at the same time.  In these universes Batman’s costume and personality are different, the rules of the universe are different, etc…  Honestly, I agree with Chris that in the case of Batman, that’s fine.  It’s fine specifically because that’s kind of how it’s always been.  As he mentioned, there was really only one Batman universe for the first few years of the character’s existence.

With the Star Wars universe things feel a bit different.  Now admittedly, I’m no Star Wars lore buff, but I’ve always operated under the impression that unlike franchises like Batman, where alternate universes were a non-issue, that Star Wars lore was all canon.  As I understood it, if a piece of fiction, be it a game, book, comic, etc… was realized with the Star Wars logo, that it was an official part of the universe.  In that sense, people who are deeply committed to the series must feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them.  To have played Knights of the Old Republic, gotten emotionally involved in the storyline, and then found out years later that the everything that made that game a special part of the Star Wars universe was now being erased seems infuriating.

I don’t necessarily feel like keeping lore canon is always the best thing, and I don’t think it makes all that much difference for many franchises.  There are a few though, where what is considered to be canon is very important to fans.  Star Wars is one of those universes.  For the last season of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek recorded a very funny, tongue-in-cheek alternate ending to the show.  In it, Cranston and Kaczmarek play their characters from Malcom in the Middle.  As Hal, Cranston wakes up from a fevered dream and recalls the events of Breaking Bad to his wife Lois as if they were nothing but a nightmare.  Funny as that was, can you imagine the outrage there would have been if Breaking Bad would have actually ended like that?  People would have lost their minds.  The reason I bring all of that up is because non science-fiction series, like Breaking Bad, are often treated as serious works of art, and the fans are treated with respect.  To end Breaking Bad as a fevered dream would have been a cop out and a disrespect to fans of the series who had remained devoted during its entire run.  The same cannot be said, apparently, for fans of sci-fi series.  There are people who have followed the Star Wars franchise as loyally as any Breaking Bad ever has, and they’ve been doing it for a lot longer than five years.  In return, they’ve had a large chunk of the fictional universe they’ve come to love and care about pulled out from under them.

Once again, changing the lore, backstory, etc… in a series isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Chris’s point about Batman makes perfect sense.  But with Batman, we’re used to that so we’re ok with it.  It’s completely different when there is a respected piece of established canon that’s existed for years without any debate of its legitimacy as part of the overall lore, only to have it yanked out of existence without warning.  In my opinion, removing KOTOR from the Star Wars lore does cheapen it for me.  It means that the deep and rich story the game told effectively never happened.  In my opinion, that sucks.