Rise of the Mandalorians: A Star Wars Costuming Fandom Reacts to Intersectional New Canon

Transmediation is often understood as content moving across multiple media platforms, transforming en route to create rich worlds that live beyond a single text. That movement usually flows from print to screen media, then to the fansphere of response and remix (Semali). One of the broadest transmediated universes is Star Wars. Amongst the subsets of Star Wars fandoms exists an often overlooked sort of transmediation: physical making, specifically in the costuming organization Mandalorian Mercs, a fandom that must evolve for a new generation of content—and fans.

Unless you have watched the Clone Wars or Rebels animated TV shows or played the Star Wars video or tabletop role-playing games, you may not know what Mandalorians are, but you would likely recognize one nonetheless. 

Boba Fett

Founded in 2007, the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club (MMCC) is the third official Lucasfilm Ltd. (LFL) costuming charity organization; the others are the Rebel Legion (Jedi, Rebel pilots, etc.) and the 501st Legion (Imperials, mostly Storm Troopers). All three organizations represent canon characters from their faction—like rebel Obiwan Kenobi and Imperial Darth Vader—and the original trilogy’s taciturn bounty hunter Boba Fett, followed by his father Jango Fett, who sired the clone army of the prequel trilogy, inspired the MMCC’s armor designs. 

Jango Fett

Although born of Star Wars canon, the Mandalorian Mercs (short for “mercenary”) set themselves apart from the other two organizations in their openness to homemade, customized armor. This is not cosplay; the Mercs are sanctioned by Lucasfilm and raise money for various charities. But the building of armor and going through the review process for membership approval is a rite of passage into this subculture of a subculture.

The sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney has made two major impacts on fans: prevalence of merchandise is one. Interestingly, for Mercs the market impact has not been the corporate fuel many other respondents have discussed. Given their specific set of material needs, the MMCC hosts a busy forum where, in addition to the usual fan theories, discussion, and art, people post their progress on their armor, get feedback, and find specific items needed to meet the club’s guidelines for armor approval. Prospective and official members can locate expert makers and commission items, especially ones that are difficult to scratch-build, like the iconic T-visor helmet. Thus forms a specialized marketplace made up of and serving the community of Merc makers rather than Disney.

The other major impact of Disney acquisition is new canon. The pre-Force Awakens content most fans grew up with is now the stuff of legend, causing a mixture of trepidation and excitement. For Mercs, the Mandalorian-centric content of the animated show Rebels is most relevant; it features female Mandalorian Sabine Wren, who some speculate may eventually become the Mandalorian leader.

Sabine Wren, Rebels

With Sabine, Twi’lek pilot Hera, and returning Clone Wars heroine Ahsoka, the show demonstrates fairly savvy feminism, which goes far to ingratiate a new generation of decidedly fourth wave fans. Fans widely embrace the show, and discussion of Rebels is popular on Merc forums and social media. Many Mercs—especially those interested in seeing more diverse identities represented—are thrilled with the narrative focus on this fierce Mandalorian woman.

Sabine’s prominence in Rebels also means that new Mandalorian armor styles are appearing frequently, which means new possible armor designs. The Mercs have already approved numerous canon Sabine kits, but this intergenerational fandom of makers has a significant task ahead: to negotiate and engage with a whole new canon in an increasingly intersectional Star Wars universe. Though we have yet to see guidelines for customized Sabine-style armor—or any of the new types featured in Rebels—there is every opportunity for future fan-fueled innovations. 

Pictured: Lauren Woolbright in MMCC-approved armor for her original character, Maia Ocharon

Works Cited

Mandalorian Mercs Costume ClubLucasfilm Ltd, 2016, http://mandalorianmercs.org

Munro, Ealasaid, “Feminism: A Fourth Wave?” Political Studies Association, https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/feminism-fourth-wave

"Sabine the New Mand'alor - Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Theory," The Stupendous Wave, 19 Aug 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-VH1O1xui8

Sadin, Caylie, “Review: The Women of Star Wars Rebels Episodes 1-4,” Nerdy But Flirty, 10 Nov 2014, https://nerdybutflirty.com/2014/11/10/review-the-women-of-star-wars-rebe...

Transmediations in the Classroom: A Semiotics-Based Media Literacy Framework, Ed Ladislaus M. Semali, Peter Lang, 2002

Ward, Jason, “Mandalorian Graffiti: Sabine as a Tagger in Star Wars Rebels is Appropriate,” Making Star Wars, 19 Feb 2014, http://makingstarwars.net/2014/02/mandalorian-graffiti-sabine-as-a-tagge...

Further Reading:

Star Wars: Rebels, Lucasfilm Ltd. 2016, www.starwars.com/tv-shows/star-wars-rebels

“Sabine Wren,” Wookiepedia: The Star Wars Wiki, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Sabine_Wren

“Hera Syndulla,” Wookiepedia: The Star Wars Wiki, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Hera_Syndulla

“Ahsoka Tano,” Wookiepedia: The Star Wars Wiki, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Ahsoka_Tano

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