Two squirrels tumble in the crunchy autumn leaves as their red and green lightsabers clash. The first squirrel is dubbed to say, “It’s over, Anakin. I have the high ground.” And the second squirrel responds, “You underestimate my power!”
This viral video — a recreation of the final battle in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith — is a video effects masterpiece and currently stands at 24 million views on Facebook. Yet when I saw it, my first reaction was, “Both lightsabers should be blue” (just like how Anakin and Obi-Wan had in the original duel). My second reaction was, “Oh, my god. I am a prequel purist.”
With a complex mix of pride and shame, I realized I’ve become a stickler for the finer details in a trio of films most people have spent years trying to forget. Meanwhile, here I am, thiiis close to putting “prequel meme curation” on my resume under “special skills and qualifications.”
However, I wasn’t always so open about my odd affinity for the highly-criticized prequel trilogy. In fact, for over a decade, I was near-secretive about being a Star Wars fan in general because admitting you like the prequels is like telling people you enjoy Coors Light.
But now, I’m celebrating my longtime love for the franchise by sharing my Star Wars story: what the prequels mean to me and why I’m obnoxiously proud to defend them. Oh, and I’ll also attempt to lure you to the dark side, too. ?
A long time ago in a Cineplex theatre four kilometres away from my parents’ house…
I was 10 years old when my parents took me to see my first Star Wars movie. The shiny starships, intense lightsaber duels, adorable droids — I had fallen in love with this universe for the same reasons original trilogy fans had. Except it was with Episode I – The Phantom Menace. *RECORD SCRATCH*
So my parents took me to the video store and rented Episodes IV, V, and VI to get me acquainted with the movies they grew up with (and probably to teach me how to have better taste in movies). And after watching them back to back to back, Star Wars had made a home in my little preteen heart.
Then, sadly, this is how the next 18 years of my Star Wars story went:
- 1999 – 2000: Rocked a Phantom Menace t-shirt almost every day from age 10-11.
- 2002: Got swept away by the Toronto Maple Leafs’ run to the Eastern Conference Final, which made me forget all about the release of Episode II: Attack of the Clones until later that year.
- 2005: Saw Episode III – Revenge of the Sith while on a “date.” I loved it. He said “it was kind of shitty.” So did everyone else.
- 2005 – 2017: Only engaged in casual Star Wars chit chat through high school, university, and my adult working life. As soon as any prequel bashing would start up, I would slowly back away.
For over 10 years, I was a Star Wars fan in hiding. And it didn’t help that I was underwhelmed by The Force Awakens and Rogue One. I couldn’t identify with these new Star Wars movies, in the same way Padme could hardly recognize Anakin when he was turning to the dark side: “I don’t know you anymore! You’re breaking my heart! You’re going down a path I can’t follow.” But at the same time, I wasn’t ready to be Force-choked for my Mustafar-hot takes — defending the prequel trilogy over the newer films — so I continued to distance myself from the franchise.
‘I need someone to show me my place in all this’
Then one night when I was scrolling through Twitter, I noticed a friend, @AngryFeels (currently @KlausBromi), had tweeted a series of memes featuring the very characters and scenes I loved in secret:
I found out there is a prequel memes reddit and I am all about it. pic.twitter.com/xkp0z681uH
— Santa Klaus (@KlausBromi) March 30, 2017
By the next day, I was obsessed with prequel memes:
— jes tongio (@exitghost) March 31, 2017
Since then, prequel memes have become a part of my daily life. Between following the @PrequelMemes bot on Twitter and scouring Google Images for more gems, they’re the perfect jolt of silliness I need before, during, or after a long day.
But what I love most is meeting more and more people who embrace these memes as a way of expressing their own weird love for the prequels. It’s like this goofy little corner of the Internet made it OK for us to come out of hiding by poking fun at these ridiculous movies and at ourselves. Have you ever cheered for a subpar sports team cursed with a lengthy championship drought? Yes, it’s like that. Those same underdog feels. And I can confidently say the prequel meme community has helped me find my place in the Star Wars fandom, deepening my love for the universe without feeling ashamed as to why.
Here are some of my favourite prequel memes:
After 10 years, it was like I was Luke Skywalker in exile on a rocky island on Ahch-To, and the Internet was Rey, holding out a bunch of silly prequel memes for me to take and reunite with Star Wars once again:
“That scene isn’t even from the prequels,” you say. “They suck so hard, she can’t even find anything decent enough to draw parallels to.” I am aware. Just chill and read on.
In defence of the prequels
Look, we know the prequels are bad, but there’s an added joy to celebrating them with a mix of jest and true appreciation for what they tried to accomplish. While there are certain things they do well (see below), we are fully aware the prequels aren’t true feature presentations. Nor are they even the trailers. Hell, they’re not even the popcorn. Instead, they’re more like the sticky theatre floors — kinda gross and you could do without them, but they do add a distinctly odd charm to your overall experience.
So by creating and sharing prequel memes, we poke fun at their obvious shortcomings, acknowledge the (unintentional) comedic hit they take for the franchise, and take power away from the negativity towards them. If people don’t care to look past the bad acting, cringey script, and poor visual effects, that’s fine. But by disregarding the prequels completely, you miss out on what they do have to offer (including a welcoming community of nerdy weirdos). This meme sums it up perfectly:
“I’ve seen people who really do love the prequel trilogy, grew up with the prequel trilogy. This is their access to Star Wars. And those of us who are massive original trilogy fans should not denigrate that. Because they’re loving Star Wars as much as we’re loving Star Wars, from a different angle. And there’s enough Star Wars to go around for everybody.”
There’s even enough prequels to go around for everybody if you stop and look at some of the things they did well. Here are two pieces that do that better than I could:
- “George Lucas nearly wrote a perfect prequel trilogy. He just didn’t notice” — This post by David Houghton discusses how all of the plot elements required to make the prequels tell a meaningful, more nuanced story are already there. But for whatever reason, George Lucas glosses over them.
- “5 things the Star Wars prequels did right” — Self-explanatory title. No, it’s not a trap.
And here are a few of my personal favourite things about the prequels:
Ewan McGregor portraying young Obi-Wan Kenobi like a perfect cheeky bastard in Episodes I to III. This makes Alec Guinness’ line “I don’t seem to remember ever owning a droid” even more believable in Episode IV. I like to think what was actually happening in that scene was old Ben being like, “I’m just f*cking with you, Artoo.” And R2 beeping back, “Screw off. You were a terrible pilot. #TBT.”
Yoda’s quote “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose” is Zen AF. Even if it does foreshadow Anakin going against that advice and accidentally choking his own wife to death with the Force. Oops.
The opening battle over Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith is gorgeous. The colours, the score, the sound mixing. Just an embodiment of the ? emoji.
Revenge of the Sith also showcased some of R2-D2’s finest moments as a total badass. In this scene, he single-handedly takes out two battle droids, then calmly resumes being the best thing to happen to anybody ever.
Four words: DUEL. OF. THE. FATES. This Darth Maul vs. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber TRUEL (awesome word) is iconic. Plus John Williams’ work on the theme music is a total banger (I just learned that word, too). Maybe it’s my Phantom Menace bias talking, but I’d say Maul vs. Jinn/Kenobi outranks Luke vs. Vader in Empire Strikes Back. Hey, the staff at starwars.com agree with me. Still though, don’t @ me.
‘I’m just a simple [fan] trying to make my way in the universe’
After the prequel memes lured me back out into the light, I discovered more of what it was like to be a Star Wars fan on the Internet. I’m grateful for connecting on a daily basis with several fellow fans who have given me some game-changing recommendations in the last year:
- Jedi Council — A weekly show by Collider that reports all the latest news and theories from across the Star Wars galaxy. I like to hoard unwatched episodes and then binge-play them in the background while I’m doing chores. Quality hosts and quality discussions.
- Auralnauts Star Wars Saga — Imagine an alternate dimension where the Jedi are incorrigible douchebags and the Sith are responsible business types. C-3PO is reimagined as “Creepio”, a mentally unstable sociopath, and it’s delightful.
- Galactic Empire — This band does insanely epic metal covers of Star Wars music, from The Imperial March to Cantina Band. I often have The Throne Room / End Title on repeat. And it’s worth mentioning that their rendition of Across the Stars is a gorgeous metal ballad that perfectly captures the passion and anguish in Anakin and Padme’s forbidden love affair.
‘Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is’
Part of the joy of being a Star Wars fan is getting to feel like a little (or big) kid again every time you come across a piece of that universe — whether it’s a new teaser trailer, a new action figure, or, in my case, a new prequel meme. And now, for Star Wars fans across the globe, we get a new movie to add to our collection of experiences.
But I’m not just excited about The Last Jedi because it’s a new installment in the saga. I’m excited because rejoining the Star Wars community this past year has felt like a wild ride aboard a dinged-up but plucky Corellian freighter. Making friends with fellow prequel lovers on Twitter and meeting them IRL, winning Star Wars trivia nights, and sharing dank memes make me feel like a part of something special.
I hope this new generation of Star Wars films gives young fans the same exhilaration I felt when I was that 10-year-old geek loving every second of The Phantom Menace. Welcome to the club, kids. There will be ups, downs, and unnecessary spinning, but take what you like and leave what you don’t. One fan’s trash is another fan’s fodder for a good meme.