Stacks of Star Wars-related media has been released over the last 5 years – from major films, to comics, to several long-form television series. And that popularity and demand means viewers are becoming more discerning about what they love (or don’t) about the universe.
Klaudia Amenábar is the co-creator of Star Wars podcast Rebel Dispatch. I spoke with her about the development of fandom within the vacuum of space, the role and aspirations of the podcast and the overall growth of fan awareness and accountability to media.
Rebel Dispatch started in August 2018 and focuses mainly on the television programs within the Star Wars universe such as The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels and Star Wars: Resistance. But the three hosts often branch off into other topics of discussion that regularly come up in modern conversation. Intersectionality, representation and character identity are common talking points.
In the wide scope of Star Wars canon there is plenty to discuss. Within fifteen minutes of the first episode, hosts Holly and Klaudia jump from discussions of character designs to how much more colourful the team is in comparison to the original trinity of Star Wars, both in terms of ethnicity of characters and voice actors and tonality; retaining the light-heartedness of A New Hope and keeping it safe for a children’s program while still suggesting a more nuanced and complex plot than the original trilogy.
When speaking of the difference between the characters of the films and television programs, Klaudia said it can be easier to find favourites within the wider media because “there are many characters that we can attach ourselves to for their potential rather than their actual quality”.
With the addition of so much more lore and character capacity to the Star Wars canon, having characters that can develop over hundreds of hours can show much greater and more satisfying character development than in one two and a half hour film.
The concept of identity and finding yourself within a piece of media you are passionate about is not new, nor does it go unexplored by the greater public of Star Wars fans. Amenábar also co-created a Star Wars hashtag that was retweeted and endorsed by Star Wars writers and actors called #SWRepMatters (Star Wars Representation Matters). It’s a monthly discussion conducted by fans of the series that highlights some successes and failures of the franchise, celebrating the growth of diversity within the wider Star Wars universe, while conceding there is much more progress that could be made.
It’s true that not everyone who consumes media does so in a way that is critically focussed on representation and identity. Rebel Dispatch is determined to keep pushing Star Wars toward the future, describing themselves as “not a watchdog, but keeping an eye on saying that they [Disney/Lucasfilm] are dedicated to representation and holding them accountable”.
Disney has a stronghold on many successful franchises, and there has been a recent rise in performative diversity. Rebel Dispatch offers honesty and a willingness to ‘call people out’ when they stray from helpful growth, especially with groups that have had limited or stereotyped characterisation within media.
The community around podcasting is one of the most inclusive and non-judgemental, with Klaudia saying there is less of a competition between podcasts and more of “if you like one true crime podcast, chances are you’ll listen to another thirty because that’s what you’re into”. This proclamation of community is one that Star Wars itself has been heralding for decades: we are stronger together and are able to take down evil, whether it be regimes, corrupt politicians or angry young white men with entitlement issues, and Rebel Dispatch follows that.
Amenábar frequently recommends other Star Wars podcasts, mentions another hashtags that impacted the creation of #SWRepMatters and spoken highly of content creators and consumers, both online and public forums like the 2019 PodCon in Seattle.
Since its conception, Star Wars has broadcast a message of hope, empathy and community around the universe, and these three women have locked onto those co-ordinates and are leading the charge back to a galaxy far, far away…
Rebel Dispatch can be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify and comes out fortnightly. Follow them on twitter at @_RebelDispatch or on Facebook here. The hosts can be found on twitter at @kaludiasays (Klaudia), @_hollytweets (Holly) and @MandatheGinger (Amanda).