Given that we are on the cusp of the release of the first Star Wars film in a decade, it is surprising how little information we know about The Force Awakens. In a mediascape populated by promotional paratexts, such as trailers that provide detailed synopses and major beats – I am thinking of something along the lines of the latest trailer for Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – the carefully orchestrated marketing campaign has been drip-feeding information via a number of sources over the past year.
Not that dedicated fans of the franchise have been inactive during this period. As Jonathan Gray adroitly explains in Show Sold Separately (2010), first generation, pre-internet Star Wars fans, people who were around for The Original Trilogy, gleaned information from sources such as toy packaging, especially leading up to the release of ostensible final instalment, Return of the Jedi, to construct a narrative at ‘the textual outposts, not just at the site of “the thing itself.” What is arguably different in this case is that The Force Awakens is the first instalment of Disney’s Star Wars, and that the release of new merchandise also came with biographical information about characters that we have yet to see fulfilled on screen.
Following the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 and the news that the Star Wars saga would continue as a cinematic force (Proctor, 2013), fans have actively sought out information about The Force Awakens in various ways. As Will Brooker explains, some fans act as ‘forensic detectives’ (1999:57) and follow clues and promotional breadcrumbs to ‘check’ the text; to assuage anxieties about the fan-object. Taking into account those fans who feel burned by the prequel films, it is hardly surprising that they want to employ themselves as Star Wars detectives to ‘solve’ the mystery of the text to come. In so doing, fans that actively seek out information about the next episode – this ‘new hope,’ if you will – reveal ontological insecurities (Hills, 2012) about the future of Star Wars as a film series. It is the spirit of Star Wars that these detectives hope to uncover in their forensic adventures.
In many cases, spoilers do not spoil: they are an aperitif before the main course, and can often serve as gourmet ingredients of the fan diet. What have you been eating lately?