In 1986, Alan Moore prefaced his classic Superman story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” with the line: “This is an imaginary story. Aren’t they all?” This now-famous line always comes to mind whenever I see heated debates on the canonicity of a fictional event.
Splitting hairs over whether one made-up event happened more than another one has always seemed like a waste of oxygen to me, though I grant that it appears to be very important to some. But now this opinion has some backup from a very unexpected source: Star Wars Story Group member Matt Martin.
Over a series of tweets, he said:
“What is and isn’t canon informs how future stories may be told but it doesn’t need to dictate how individual fans enjoy their own personal Star Wars story. So in the example earlier the person was asking about “recanonizing” a past story since that specific story hasn’t been explored in the new canon. And I said if they like that story there’s no reason they can’t accept it as “real” in their version of Star Wars, but if there was an opportunity to tell that story now that new creator would not be beholden to that old version of the story.
So to summarize: there is a reason that we need to internally know what is and isn’t canon so we can keep our line of official storytelling as aligned as possible but that doesn’t mean fans can’t individually pick and choose what they want to accept as true. It’s all fake anyway so you can choose to accept whatever you want as part of the story.”
It’s a somewhat surprising perspective because (as he explains) the Star Wars Story Group’s job is ensuring that the Star Wars universe fits together neatly. Disney’s strategy with the franchise after purchasing it from George Lucas was to replace the sprawling Extended Universe (now known as Legends) with the new Unified Canon. In this, everything that happens in any Star Wars universe product ‘happened,’ whether it be in a video game, TV show or blockbuster movie, and they all have to fit together.
Martin wraps up by saying that just because something isn’t canon doesn’t affect its quality. For example, I grew up reading Star Wars novels that were often terrible but still have a warm place in my heart. After the Lucasfilm purchase, a lot of my favorites – like Mara Jade, the Yuuzhan Vong, Jacen and Jaina Solo and, of course, Luuke Skywalker (no, that’s not a typo) – were instantly rendered non-canon. But if I wanted to, I could still re-read and enjoy their adventures any time I wanted.
So, I’m with Martin. Who cares if it’s canon or not, just enjoy the stories that you enjoy.