Spoiler Warning for various Star Wars media that tells the story of Grand Admiral Thrawn.
The Star Wars Actors Guild 77 (SWAG 77) is a social media entertainment and performance fan group dedicated to providing strong, accurate, and authentic online portrayals of Star Wars characters on various social media platforms. We tell stories on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. I am the owner of this group.
But, this article is about the owner, me, Dr. Gina Moore-Sanders and my campaign to include the beloved villain, Grand Admiral Thrawn in the latest Star Wars canon. The campaign was organized with the professional training and experience I received from several sources listed here:
- Service to my Spelman College Amnesty International chapter
- Service to the group I worked with to end Apartheid in South Africa after seeing it as a human rights violation.
- My work with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., from domestic violence to healthcare education to elections within the organization for over 25 years.
- My work with breast cancer and women through Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Seattle, Washington.
- My work with the American Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) to pass that legislation. Repeatedly, I fought for causes for black women’s health and wellness in my city, state and federal government. Then I educated individuals for STEM careers, particularly molecular genetics after I earned my doctorate and post-doctoral research degree.
When I decided to leave science, I found solace in science fiction. Star Wars was my old childhood friend. Get Thrawn In Star Wars Rebels became a primary focus for me.
It was October 2014 and season 1 of Star War Rebels had just been released. I was excited to see Star Wars return to television and the new tales that would be told. I started Twitter accounts for many of the lead characters: Sabine Wren, Hera Syndulla, Agent Kallus and my group of players resurrected an old account, The Inquisitor.
All of the female accounts were harassed by trolls who hated Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm Star Wars. None of the male accounts were harassed. At that time, I blocked instantly. Any suspicious content was cause to block. I started a fan-led Star Wars Rebels account to answer general questions. The image below includes the typical harassment that appeared in our mentions constantly.
After the appearance of Star Wars Rebels season 1, episode 11 “Call To Action” with Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, I realized, the season needed more than a replay of the movie, Revenge of the Sith, with the fight being only Jedi vs Sith. It also needed more of the Galactic Empire or Imperial presence. The vibe I got from the show was that the Empire was “incompetent”.
In 2014, new novels were released and I read how the Empire was efficient and the Rebels were lucky. To show that idea, an Imperial leader would be required that many respected, including the Rebels, and would bow to the Empire’s plan. That is when the idea of including “Grand Admiral Thrawn” entered my mind.
In Star Wars Rebels season 1, episode 15, The Grand Inquisitor dies, and while I watched it, I wondered who would replace him. If the writers and producers bring a Force stronger than the Emperor or Vader, the story would turn bland with recycled stories and lack the diversity of Star Wars. But, if they brought in an enemy that outsmarted his opponents, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, the story would be much more compelling.
Grand Admiral Thrawn is a male Chiss, a species in Star Wars. He has blue skin with red corneas and red sclera or red-in-red eyes. In the Star Wars Legends universe (Star Wars Expanded Universe) he comes from a planet Csilla in the Unknown Regions and is trained in the military. He was exiled to the outskirts of Chiss space in charge of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet (CEDF). At that time, between the Star Wars prequel movies, The Phantom Menance and the Attack of the Clones, he encountered two potential incursions: 1) The Republic chasing after a rogue Jedi ship headed outside the galaxy; and 2) beings that were never part of the galaxy, called Far-Outsiders. Based on Thrawn’s calculations, the Republic interaction was a preferred strategy than fighting the strange living ships of the Far-Outsiders.
Based on his choice to destroy the rogue Jedi ship in Outbound Flight, a novel written by Timothy Zahn, the Chiss government exiled him on an unknown planet where he was the sole survivor until the Empire discovered him and took him in for training. While at the Imperial academy, he spent his time absorbing as much as he could about history, philosophy and art in the libraries. He taught classes in military strategy. He was seen as an expert in Imperial Naval Warfare.
The Star Wars Rebels show needs a villain that uses their intelligence rather than just the Force to defeat their foe. The Jedi vs Sith show is utterly destructive, overpowered, overplayed and provides no thoughtful strategy. In storytelling there is more to it than that, even for children. Grand Admiral Thrawn would “level” the playing field, and the audience would have to choose a side and engage it.
In late December, 2014, The Star Wars Actors Guild 77 was accepted to have a fan table at Star Wars Celebration, 2015 in Anaheim, California.
By January, 2015, my group completed a podcast with the famous voice actor, Tom Kane who was kind enough to give us a professional voice job for the sound of Thrawn’s voice. I envisioned Thrawn sounding authoritative because he is a “Grand Admiral” which is a rank in the navy of the Third Reich. I wanted an accent tinged with aristocratic New York 1920’s American, but given the time, I could not relay that information as effectively as I had hoped. As of this time, the Executive Producer, Dave Filoni decided on a Danish-English accent from actor, Lars Mikkelsen. I think that is awesome and a very interesting take.
In Februay, 2015, my father got very sick and I had to leave Seattle and return to my hometown in San Diego, to care for my family. That was when I received another attack by trolls and a Facebook page dedicated to hurting my business. Facebook ignored my reports. It was one of the worst times in my life. Moreover, fans of Star Wars dedicated solely to destroying anyone in their way, decided to target different Facebook pages, mine included, to either support their line of thought or be ostracized on a target list. I write about that behavior on the SWAG77 website.
I got out of the doldrums by reading Star Wars novel, Aftermath by Mr. Chuck Wendig. The best part for me is at the end, about a Fleet Admiral, who listens to “classical music” and tells a fellow admiral he needs to think more about his plans. The officer he was talking to was Rae Sloane, a black woman.
After reading that excerpt, with a podcast, I decided to move fully into the campaign with the idea of promoting fine art and classical music to Get Thrawn In Star Wars Rebels. We would also start to “Chiss Up” images of famous people and the Disney Lucasfilm production for fun. My hope was to attract a person who could code for a meme for “Get Chiss’d Up”. Fans could add images of their face, and they would be “Chiss’d Up” with blue skin and red-in-red eyes. Then they could transfer the images to their favorite social media site.
Fine arts and classical music requires STUDY. I started with the fine art I knew, Star Wars Rebels type art. Art that makes a statement. I used BANKSY then transitioned to Monet, Manet, Dali. I moved from Renaissance, to Post-Raphaelite to Jackson Pollack, there is some digital art. For the classical music, I started with Beethoven, Mozart, Stravinsky, and Holst. I discovered for my own listening pleasure, Gustav Mahler, Saint Georges, Rachmaninoff, and Bach. The more I “re-introduced” myself to classical music, the more I was reminded of my childhood in San Diego Symphony Young People’s Concerts where I met, Dr. Jonas Salk as a child. Amazing sounds with amazing people. It is why I have Classical Music Mondays and Artful Thrawn Thursdays. We humans are a creative people, too, despite our arguments and failings.
By April, 2015, I set up my booth for Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, and I got a sick with a very bad sore throat. I could not speak. I had given up on standing in the lines, therefore, I decided to man my booth and catch people to play “Death Star Putt Putt” mini-golf. On the final morning my husband and I were setting up our booth when we noticed a man looking at our crazy set up with a smile on his face. That is when my husband told me it was none other than Dave Filoni.
He walked away before I could make it out of our booth. I was in so much pain that I was unable to chase him. I did see a smile leave his face. At that point, I knew there was something up. I was unsure what it was. In retrospect, he had finalized his plans for Thrawn at this show.
From summer of 2015 through March 2016 I had been posting art, music, images of Thrawn, then suddenly, our petition was closed by change.org. I felt I had failed fans. I felt our presentation was not intrusive or cruel or offensive to Disney Lucasfilm. I had hoped they would tell us their answer.
I wrote another letter to Lucasfilm and sent some “Canadian born” Ysalamiri sock puppets, an animal that Thrawn uses in the most famous of his books, Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. I wanted to communicate that we will keep trying to get Thrawn in a Star Wars show. The sock puppets were crafted by Ms. Becker.
I was starting to lose hope. But the art and music kept me going. Then in July, 2016, the first trailer to season 3 of Star Wars Rebels aired at Star Wars Celebration Europe in London and right when the music started, I knew…
A new book will be available in 2017, and the news series will have him in it. No one can imagine how I felt the minute I saw him. All the activities my group and I did meant something to Disney Lucasfilm!
As far as trolls, fans are going to hate and they are still hating.
But, I know that my group and I got Thrawn in because we had a solid platform and the TV show is going to be great. It will entertain. Perspectives may change. But either way, what it took for us to put that smile on Dave Filoni’s face, to the Disney Lucasfilm employees chuckling at our funny Bad Fanfic, Baking with Thrawn and the ysalamiri; Thrawn chillaxing to brutal hardcore death metal music; the shipping roleplays; this campaign and how it was done was worth it to me. The personal costs were high, but it still is about my love for Star Wars and its fans.
Saturday, September 24th 8:30 PM WEST COAST TIME on Disney XD channel cannot come soon enough for me. SWAG77 will hold a LIVE TWEET from our key lead characters on Twitter. To learn more, please visit our Star Wars Rebels Facebook page.
By Dr. Gina Moore-Sanders
Owner of the Star Wars Actors Guild 77 Ariafya LLC
Copyright 2016 Black Girl Nerds