“Game of Thrones” + “Star Wars” = Hollywood synergy at its most shameless

Image: Lucasfilm
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Lucasfilm announced something yesterday (Feb. 6) that, deep down, we all knew was inevitable: The Game of Thrones creators are making a new series of Star Wars films. Because of course they are.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will write and produce an upcoming Star Wars saga that is entirely separate from both the existing Skywalker trilogy and the recently announced trilogy from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson. That makes three different Star Wars film series in the works (that we know of) in addition to the never-ending string of intergalactic prequels, sequels, and spinoffs, like the beleaguered Han Solo movie due out in May. (Game of Thrones is also undergoing a bonanza of spinoffs of its own.)

The series will marry the co-creators of the most lucrative television property in the world with perhaps the biggest film franchise in history. It represents global entertainment’s two most popular mediums synergizing into one unstoppable Hollywood juggernaut.

This is our future.

In an industry bereft of original ideas and also reluctant to invest in voices that haven’t already proven themselves on studio’s balance sheets, Benioff and Weiss’s entry into the Star Wars canon is a snug fit. The pair have exhibited an ability to build a massive, complex fictional world once before (albeit one based on an equally complex series of books). More important than that, though, is that the duo are known commodities. They are safe, commercial, expected. That’s exactly why Disney hired them.

Hollywood’s addiction to franchising everything—from enormous “cinematic universes” to loosely defined brand unity—has gone hand in hand with the consolidation of the industry’s biggest companies. As the content creators increasingly combine into omnipotent monoliths, the content itself is doing the same.

Rather than embrace weird and risky ideas, that cycle doubles and triples down on what’s worked once in the past. And all too often it also marginalizes minority voices. Variety TV critic Maureen Ryan found that 96% of the Star Wars film franchise’s writers and directors have been white men. The addition of Benioff and Weiss makes that sorry percentage incrementally even higher. The only surprising thing about that statistic is that it’s not 100%.

That’s not to say there should necessarily be a diversity quota in our biggest franchises (though some, including The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams have floated similar ideas), or that a white man can never again work on a Star Wars film. But if Hollywood continues to draw its blockbuster talent from the same pool of storytellers, then how will other voices ever get a chance? And what message does it send that there are multitudes of women and people of color who have proven themselves fully capable of handling a Star Wars movie but have never received the opportunity to do so?

The new Star Wars series is not just shameless for the way it transparently attempts to capitalize on the popularity of a TV show, or just for how it once again fails to reckon with the industry’s diversity issues. It’s also shameless because Disney is counting on the fact that, despite these things (and despite evidence that maybe audiences are beginning to get a bit of Star Wars fatigue), it will still make more money than can fill the Death Star.