The Star Wars fandom recently endured a minor shakeup with the premiere of Tales of the Jedi, specifically Episode 6, “Resolve,” wherein Ahsoka fought against a Sith Inquisitor for her friends who had betrayed her. However, fans of the series noted that this was essentially a recreation of a sequence from the Ahsoka novel, and specific details were kept intact that made it clear that this was supposed to be the same sequence, but the time frame and characters were completely different. In spite of the mental gymnastics fans are good at pulling off to justify such conflicts, the truth of the matter remains: two versions of the same sequence exist in Star Wars canon. This is hardly new. Conflicts in Star Wars canon go all the way back to one of the first Star Wars novels, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
Through retcons and rewrites, the Marvel Cinematic Universe likewise has a few plot threads that happen to tie together in strangely conflicting ways. The problem of canon is one that spans far longer than just over a century of movie-making, and it’s hard for fans to reconcile new, apparently conflicting media with one another. The solution to this is relatively simple and has already been integrated into such franchises as Game of Thrones. Though there may be a “true” version of events, that’s not to say this is what fans are presented with. Essentially, the MCU, Star Wars, the DCU and more would profit less from trying to contain all of their stories in a tightly-controlled yet leaky canon. Rather, they would do well to take a postmodern approach: abandoning canon altogether.
Abandoning canon would essentially allow fans to connect in their minds the different storylines and times of Star Wars and Marvel as they see fit. This is a more postmodern approach to the franchises, as it is less concerned with telling a coherent story and more concerned with telling a series of individually good stories with no determined sequence. A strikingly good example of this can be found in The Legend of Zelda, wherein some games are sequels, and some games are dreams, but they all purportedly take place within the same basic timeline. It’s just that there is no way of knowing when a game takes place within that timeline. This post-modern approach has led to fan theories tying the stories together or making them in parallel timelines based upon only their own imagination, igniting greater ownership of the story.
Star Wars, more than any other, exemplifies a franchise that would benefit from taking a postmodern approach. Star Wars canon is essentially anything published after Disney’s takeover of the company, as well as the movies and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The DCEU’s approach to the worlds of its heroes and the multiverse in which they reside consists of several narratives that fans likewise piece together as they see fit. Both Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad presumably take place in a universe shared with Shazam, but not with The Batman or Joker, which likewise do not share a universe. The Arrowverse has a series of different universes that cross over but are not the same universe. The MCU has the tightest canon of all of these, and the tie-in graphic novels and comics, as well as TV series and, of course, the movies, nonetheless conflict so much that mental gymnastics must be undertaken just to determine what is canon.
Star Wars, Marvel and DC Have Lain Canon-Free Framework
Star Wars canon is supposed to be relatively tight. However, there are several books still in print under the Legends banner, which essentially posits that they are not canon, but if they fit, then why not? In other words, Star Wars — which is itself intended to be legend-like — already has a canon with a good deal of grey. Similarly, Marvel has thoroughly introduced the multiverse and continues to expand upon stories within it. DC, as previously mentioned, has nearly a dozen universes currently in production. These franchises are all primed for going canon-free. They simply need to acknowledge that they are making a series of legends and abandon their attempts to closely hew to canon.
All in all, the franchises ruling media are already moving toward a lack of canonicity. With Tales of the Jedi and Star Wars: Visions, Star Wars has explored its universe as a postmodern legendscape more than a single, coherent story. Marvel has introduced the multiverse to help its stories be more consistent, and several of DC’s strongest films are those which are independent of its main film franchise. It would also help with the seemingly unending casting woes of the franchises, as it wouldn’t matter who played Superman or Thor. Each one of these franchises is a legend, and everyone imagines them differently. Though heady, a postmodern approach would not only be a boon to Star Wars and Marvel but would help them become more of the modern myths they are destined to become.