You are reading "Canon and Considerations" (CC), Suspect Insight's proposal for a new Star Wars versus debating meta to supplant the generally accepted "Shedding Limitations" (SL) debating meta used across 2021. Special thanks to DarthAnt66, The Ellimist, Azronger, DarthSkywalker0, XSupremeSkillz, Praxis, Beast, and Franklin Richards for helping shape this. Although there may be further micro updates or minor corrections, I cannot imagine diving much deeper into the source of Star Wars than this.
I. CANON AND ASSUMPTIONS
In the past, Star Wars versus debaters have generally either been overly optimistic or willfully ignorant of the actual official policies regulating the Star Wars Legends continuity. As DarthSkywalker0 and others have pointed out time and time again, and despite incessant efforts by some like myself to reason one's way to the contrary, maximizing adherence to 'canon truth' is fundamentally incompatible with debating itself. If Lucasfilm were tasked to reveal the 'canon truth' and release their standing 2021 Star Wars Legends power-level rankings, us merely looking at a casual fan's rankings in the YouTube comments section would reasonably be a far better predictor of their output than radical devotion to every statement and statistic found in obscure foreign kids magazines or the the complex theories and arguments sprawled throughout our forum and server. For one, as will be repeated and further detailed later, Lucasfilm neither even has power-level rankings nor recognizes virtually any power-level commentary as canonically binding anyway. And for two, as The Ellimist put aptly, how can there be expectation that Lucasfilm officials like Leland Chee or Pablo Hidalgo -- who probably know as much in an applied sense as a mid-rate debater -- would independently 're-discover' or replicate any of our more advanced creative appeals? Content like XSupremeSkillz's Tenebrae-balloon theory or Azronger's Palpatine-body-cap theory, or even perhaps a simple Darth Caedus fight analysis by DC77 or Greysentinel365, would be beyond Lucasfilm's scope. Indeed, we would need to be actively dumbing ourselves down to their expected level of depth.
Accordingly, starting assumptions must be made for this hobby to even work. Although any debating model beyond an anarchic and nihilistic approach generated from the aforementioned can be thought of as subjective, I believe the intersection point between attention to 'canon truth' and attention to the inextricable traditions of the Star Wars versus debating hobby is the most obvious, reasonable, and defensible hill to build our home upon. The fact we review and want to review sourcebooks, encyclopedias, articles, etc. means the common 'canon truth' definition of 'what Lucasfilm thinks as-is' must be changed to 'what Lucasfilm would think after first reviewing and considering all existing sources.' And the fact we cherish and promote our community's unrivaled debating complexity means 'what Lucasfilm officials like Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo would think' must be changed to something along the lines of 'what an optimally rational, calculating, and intelligent Lucasfilm would think.' Furthermore, there exists two non-fandom models defining the framework and root authority of 'canon truth' to acknowledge and choose between: Lucasfilm Licensing (LFL)'s views of canonicity within the Star Wars Expanded Universe from inception until its 25 April 2014 destruction and reworking under the Star Wars Legends banner, or the Star Wars Story Group' views of canonicity for Legends. However, there exists no actual policies for Legends, meaning all content -- including previously non-canon content like Star Wars Lego, Star Wars Infinities, and dark-side endings -- are of equal (and no) value (Leland Chee). Chee even rejects the notion of a Legends continuity itself (link). Given Legends' definitional absence of 'canon truth' or even the barest hierarchization or reconciliation policies needed for discussion of any meaningful depth and direction, we must assume LFL's prior conception of Expanded Universe is still operational, in place of the Legends 'continuity' and parallel to the 'Disney canon' continuity. These three basic assumptions are a good starting point, but the definition of 'canon truth' must undergo further refining in section III before codifying.
(Addendum: The strength of building a methodology around Lucasfilm rather than some fan-made construct is that the maker of the latter already implicitly recognizes the authority of Lucasfilm given they assuredly use Lucasfilm's stamp of approval to determine what is canon and what is isn't. If they didn't, they would be incorporating fan-fiction into their arguments, but no one is. Adhering to only the Lucasfilm rules you like and not the ones you don't is ultimately arbitrary. Moreover, fully subscribing to Lucasfilm allows us to parse through thousands of different and sometimes contradicting sources without cherry-picking or bias, agree on basic premises that make a discussion or debate even possible, and make strong appeals to new debaters or different communities by operating under the same structure that dictates the Expanded Universe itself. Put another way, if it's between what is 'official' and someone's 'head-canon', good luck winning with the latter. As I try to tell KillBilly, the truth always wins.)
II. CANON AND OFFICIALITY
Before 25 April 2014, Star Wars was split between two universes: George Lucas' universe -- comprising of the films, screenplays, and The Clone Wars 2008 film and TV show -- and the Lucasfilm Licensing (LFL) universe -- which includes, creates, and maintains a sprawling multi-media Star Wars Expanded Universe. (Recall that our debating history and model concerns the LFL universe.) Contrary to common fan belief, and even despite Lucas' lack of involvement or knowledge of most Expanded Universe affairs, the LFL universe is generally beholden to Lucas' universe and whims. That is, explicitly per Leland Chee, the LFL universe "is definitely beholden to Lucas' vision" (link), "must follow certain tenets set by George through the films and other guidelines that he provides outside of the films" (link), "is bound by directives from George Lucas" (link), "would have to bend to fit George's current vision" (link), etc. Indeed, "as always, a story line direct from George Lucas trumps publishing continuity" (Essential Reader's Companion). Testament to this is how 1997's Visions of the Future novelization made reference to Yoda fighting a Bpfasshi Dark Jedi on Dagobah during the Clone Wars. However, the Revenge of the Sith script states Yoda "surveys the unfamiliar terrain" after arriving on Dagobah, so LFL deemed all references to Yoda on Dagobah in Visions to be simply non-canon -- even despite the fact it destroyed the backstory of the novel's central character, Jorj Car'das. This was only reconciled later by pushing the events back until after Revenge of the Sith. However, LFL does have authority to regulate what is and isn't a part of their universe and, in exceptional circumstances, have even restricted Lucas positions strictly to his own universe, generally first with Lucas' permission. For example, although Lucas' universe holds Boba Fett died in the Sarlaac and Palpatine never returned as a clone, the LFL universe does -- but only after Lucas signed off and approved of such happenings there.
So, what does 'canon' mean to the LFL universe? For starters, Keeper of the Holocron Leland Chee considers "anything that has the LFL copyright" as "official" (link). 'Canon', though... 'canon' is a bit messy because LFL has (unknowingly?) fleshed out two distinct thresholds for it.
Canon¹, seemingly analogous to "official," refers to any source that is both published by LFL and approved by LFL (generally via a LFL editor).
Canon², analogous to "continuity" (Sue Rostini), refers to any source that satisfies the definition of canon¹, prevails through LFL's hierarchization (Leland Chee's Holocron database's "canon hierarchy" and other rulings) and case-by-case review of sources, and is ultimately regarded as within the "continuous and unified history of the Star Wars galaxy"(Sue Rostini) and as "the accepted truth of the galaxy" (Leland Chee).
Emphasis on both definitions of canon, or at least the distinction between official content and canon² content. Take Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting Dooku in the Revenge of the Sith novelization, for example. Even though most of that fight is hierarchized as non-canon² due to contradictions with the film (again, canon² = continuity), it's still... official Star Wars. It's not just fan-fiction. It's not just nothing. This importance will be fleshed out further in section III.
Implicit in the term "continuity", and explicit in LFL statements, is that LFL officials and authors alike must be generally beholden to what is 'canon'. More specifically, beholden to what is classified as G-Canon, T-Canon, and C-Canon content. A new source is not permitted to ignore and contradict an existing G/T/C-canon event, and if it does so, LFL officials are tasked to remedy the conflict via retcon or reconcile to preserve the continuity (example). Unsurprisingly, "C-Canon" itself actually stands for "Continuity Canon." S-Canon, which includes gameplay statistics and video gameplay mechanics, is different, however. S-Canon content is "not conclusive" and future authors "can use or disregard such material however they saw fit" (Leland Chee). (Note that I expect readers of the blog to be generally familiar with the canon hierarchy, but I will either update this blog at a later date with more details on all the levels and sub-levels or write a "Star Wars Debating 101" blog including it.)
III. CANON AND POWER-LEVELS
Virtually all power-level commentary and extrapolations are functionally S-Canon.That is, LFL officials have neither expectation nor anticipation for future authors to beholden themselves to prior official power-level indications. LFL does not record power-levels in the Holocron database system. LFL does not advise or change power-levels in upcoming sources (indeed, they give authors total freedom on dictating the power-levels of their work). LFL does not even believe power-levels can be truly "attained or measured" in the first place. LFL regards power-level statements as "colorful prose for a book" or "for marketing purposes" and power-level statistics as "for gameplay purposes only," emphasizing that books should not be "artificially limited" by such. As to how this works, look no further than sourcebooks. The 2001 Dark Side Sourcebook is 'default' C-Canon but all gameplay statistics within are S-Canon. Likewise, all power-level statements within are also definitionally S-Canon as future authors are free to ignore whatever they want. Again, if power-level statements were C-Canon, LFL would record them, consider them binding as-is, and mandate future authors to adjust to them. They do not. Simply put, the conception of 'statements binds' like "Darth Wyyrlok is canonically more powerful than Darth Nihl because he is stated to be such" is incompatible with LFL. Of course, I recognize the gravity of this charge. 'Statement binds' have become the cornerstone of Star Wars versus debating since the establishment of the Coalition of Darkness in 2015 and the rise of Azrongerism in 2016 -- the fuel that motivated and pressured brigades and debaters into an endless search for a killing blow. And though our powers and knowledge have multiplied a hundred-fold thanks to it, to advance further we must shed this final illusion.
The three basic assumptions from section 1, informed by section 2 and the above paragraph, can be thought of as directing Star Wars versus debating to the pursuit of predicting, effectively, the output of a super intelligence that created power-level rankings after reviewing all LFL sources within LFL's known canon² framework. This would give us what can be boiled down to 'LFL fact'. However, 'LFL fact' makes no consideration to anything outside of what is canon² or continuity -- it is divorced from 'LFL intent'. There is no room for authorial, narrative, or source veracity considerations, reasonableness, or even the Revenge of the Sith novelization or The Phantom Menace video game fight depictions. Without external guidance or reference, this mechanical, black-and-white model could potentially yield results far deviant from the most basic intuitions, observations, expectations, or common sense -- far deviant from imperfect but still obviously hobby-relevant heuristics like 'what would LFL think as-is' or "what would LFL do if they produced a new source about it.' However, haphazardly including this multi-variable 'LFL intent' with the standing definition's 'LFL fact' causes clashes interests. Prioritization of 'LFL fact' would continue the current trend of increasingly complex analysis of feats, statements, statistics, etc. and allow us to debate foreign communities. Prioritization of 'LFL intent' would lead to an increasing focus on meta arguments, author interviews, perhaps even poll sampling of casual fan opinions. Circling back to my preface of finding "the intersection point between attention to 'canon truth' and attention to the inextricable traditions of the Star Wars versus debating hobby," tailoring 'canon truth' foremost to 'LFL fact' and secondarily to 'LFL intent' seems necessary. Put simply, most debaters would quit if we did it the other way. Thus, I propose a general definition of 'canon truth' as... 'the output of an omniscient LFL that created power-level rankings after reviewing all canon¹ LFL sources, with adherence to LFL's known canon² framework, then adjusted within the ranges of uncertainty by the power-level rankings output of the actual LFL after also reviewing all canon¹/official LFL sources.' *phew* OK, I know that's a wordy definition, but I hope it will make more sense after we break it down.
the output of an omniscient LFL→ As explained already, we need an optimally rational, calculating, and intelligent LFL here. The actual LFL officials aren't on our level.
that created power-level rankings after reviewing all canon¹/official LFL sources→ Suppose this omniscient LFL reviews every LFL source and ranks characters without considering intent.
, with adherence to LFL's known canon²/continuity framework→ The omniscient LFL structures these rankings using LFL policies like the Holocron canon hierarchy.
, then adjusted within the ranges of uncertainty→ Even an omniscient LFL could not pinpoint the exact power-level for most characters. There's just not enough data. There would be a range across which a character's actual power-level would be reasonably found.
by the power-level rankings output of the actual LFL after also reviewing allcanon¹/official LFL sources→ This time, actual LFL officials run through every LFL source and narrow down the ranges of uncertainty, yielding the final rankings. This allows for the interjection of 'LFL intent' into the equation.
Or, more simply put, 'canon truth' is the combination of 'LFL fact' and 'LFL intent' with prioritization of the former.
(Addendum: 'LFL intent' can actually also be directly derived from 'LFL fact' as LFL's official reconciling system, although having specific quantifiable variables later discussed, is ultimately built around a "case-by-case" assessments that naturally interject the personality, fallibility, and flavor that is 'LFL intent' into the equation.)
IV. CANON AND CONSIDERATIONS
Suppose the omniscient LFL is scanning back through all LFL sources, adjusting its power-level rankings as it goes. Whenever it comes across a power-level statement or statistic, they would pause in consideration toward it. It would say aloud, "Interesting." LFL can take it or leave it, but that's different from a fan-made statement or statistic that would never be interjected into the model to potentially alter its results in the first place. The word "consideration" is especially apt when thinking about this concept. When I say that "a power-level position has consideration," I mean that a power-level position has some probability of being accepted, rejected, or somewhere in-between. It has potential value, but it doesn't necessarily have value, and it certainly doesn't have absolute value. Thus, we must be meretricious in understanding, measuring, and hierarchizing 'considerations'. In the end, the prevailing power-level positions should reflect the prevailing considerations.
The Consideration Temple of 'LFL Fact', shown above, simplifies and visualizes the key considerations of 'LFL fact' into three principles and five pillars.
♟Recency (when was the claim published?): Publication data matters. LFL views canon as an evolving and living -- it is not static. Leland Chee explains that 'canon' is "the accepted truth of the galaxy at the time that content was being created" and that "the accepted truths changed over time" (link), with newer sources naturally being "closer to current canon" than older sources (link). And then there's the concept of "Shedding Limitations" -- that a given power-level position has distinctively less consideration over a future source than a prior source. Suppose a 1999 source states, "Darth Maul is more powerful than any ancient Sith." The level of consideration that would have over Darth Maul versus Darth Malak (created in 2003) is distinctively less than for Naga Sadow (created in 1993). This is repeatedly affirmed by LFL, with LFL official Bill Slavicsek stating, "There was no way we could have included characters that had no yet been created when we wrote the Dark Side Sourcebook," when asked if power-level statements within 2001's Dark Side Sourcebook should be considered to include characters created afterwards (link); LFL's "ambassador" and "official representative" Steve Sansweet stating even in-universe omniscient sources like 2008's The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia "just speak as to the knowledge as of 2008" (link); and Keeper of the Holocron Leland Chee's repeatedly explaining that canon is constantly evolving (link)and newer material is more canon than older material (link). Put simply, published statements explictly neither have expectation nor authority to constrain future lore. That being said, that is not to say power-level statements have no consideration over a future source. The exact consideration, though relatively low, would again need to be determined case-by-case.
♟Frequency (how many sources repeat the claim?): In an interview with Wizards of the Coast, Leland Chee said the factor of "In how many sources does this particular fact appear?" is among LFL's key considerations when sifting through contradictory sources (link). And that especially makes sense with our model, as the more instances the omniscient LFL passes over a claim, the greater the likelihood of acceptance. All other things equal, and supposing a claim has a 50% success of being accepted for sake of example, a position repeated twice will have a significantly greater chance of being accepted than a position with one (75% versus 50% chance).
♟Visibility (how many people are aware of the claim?): In an interview with Wizards of the Coast, Leland Chee said the factor of "Which source has the largest audience?" is among LFL's key considerations when sifting through contradictory sources (link). This tackles one of our hobby's biggest criticisms -- that we build arguments off of "leaflets attached to kindergarten backpacks or cereal-attached toys." Although rare sources have consideration, more prominent sources have more.
♟Coolness (how 'cool' is the claim generally seen to be?): In an interview with Wizards of the Coast, Leland Chee said the factor of "Which explanation is the coolest?" is among LFL's key considerations when sifting through contradictory sources (link). Obviously, this is the hardest pillar to implement because it is inherently subjective, and so probably will be skipped over, but compelling arguments can still be proposed. For example, The Ellimist rhetorically asked, "How 'cool' would it be if The Old Republic writers introduced Palpatine only for him to be easily beaten down by Vaylin?" Large-scale fan polls, if available, can also help guide assessments.
♟Officiality (how involved was LFL with the claim?): Although 'LFL intent' captures LFL involvement more fully, there are still immediate advantages of a source either written by LFL writers or that has extensive LFL review. Higher LFL involvement sources have greater access and attention to official George Lucas mandates (as Chee notes "most of the notes from him are things that George gives to Licensing directly" (link)), Holocron continuity notes, and internal LFL decisions.
★ Conformity (how compatible is the claim with higher or binding continuity?): Although power-level commentary and extrapolations are S-Canon, the fights, feats, and in-universe statements themselves are still G/T/C-Canon. The apparent or reasonable power-level interpretations arising from these in-universe events necessarily have greater consideration because they are needed to make the higher levels of canon and the stories themselves coherent and continuous. Put another way, power-level ramifications are constrained by in-universe events, like how the shape of a blanket must adhere to the framework of what it is underneath. Moreover, although LFL does not aggressively enforce George Lucas' power-level statements or intent, we know that when they have to determine what is canon (in this case, determine the canonical power-levels), as aforementioned in section II, Lucas is effectively Word of God. Thus, Lucas can be seen as having virtually supreme consideration, and so supplanting him with lesser sources -- even a wealth of lesser sources -- would be daunting if not nigh-impossible (although has been done on extremely rare occasions, such as LFL rejecting Lucas saying stormtroopers are either all clones or droids (link)). Emphasis that consideration for Lucas extends to his intent too, as LFL is generally not just "beholden" to his written or oral articles but also his "vision" (link). (Note that although most of the Revenge of the Sith adult novelization fights themselves are non-canon², they can still actually be introduced directly into this 'LFL fact', canon²/continuity framework by arguing it is a close reflection of Lucas' intent. Lucas intensively line-edited the novel such that its author Matthew Stover determined, "What's in that book is there because Mr. Lucas wanted it to be there. What's not in that book is not there because Mr. Lucas wanted it gone" (link). There is a distinction between the canonical significance of the book itself versus Lucas' imbued meaning.)
StarWars.com - Ask the Lucasfilm Council - Steve Sansweet wrote:
When it comes to absolute canon, the real story of Star Wars, you must turn to the films themselves - and only the films. Even novelizations are interpretations of the film, and while they are largely true to George Lucas' vision (he works quite closely with the novel authors), the method in which they are written does allow for some minor differences. The novelizations are written concurrently with the film's production, so variations in detail do creep in from time to time. Nonetheless, they should be regarded as very accurate depictions of the fictional Star Wars movies.
The further one branches away from the movies, the more interpretation and speculation come into play. LucasBooks works diligently to keep the continuing Star Wars expanded universe cohesive and uniform, but stylistically, there is always room for variation. Not all artists draw Luke Skywalker the same way. Not all writers define the character in the same fashion. The particular attributes of individual media also come into play. A comic book interpretation of an event will likely have less dialogue or different pacing than a novel version. A video game has to take an interactive approach that favors gameplay. So too must card and roleplaying games ascribe certain characteristics to characters and events in order to make them playable.
The analogy is that every piece of published Star Wars fiction is a window into the 'real' Star Wars universe. Some windows are a bit foggier than others. Some are decidedly abstract. But each contains a nugget of truth to them. Like the great Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi said, 'many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.'
★ Clarity (how distorted is the claim by medium considerations?): I could write a whole blog on this concept alone. Indeed, The Ellimist has already drafted outlines probing its complexities (link). Although in-universe events bind continuity, they only bind continuity insofar as they are not subject to "foggy mirror" or "exaggerated" mediums criticisms. Reference the quote above from LFL ambassador Steve Sansweet (link). Sansweet uses an an analogy of a mirror. The films are perfectly clear -- "absolute canon" -- and can be seen perfectly. But the "further one branches away," the foggier one becomes. This extends to the type of media: comics, games, novels all have stylistic variations that warp the in-universe events to their nature. And this extends to depictions of how powerful the Force is. For example, when asked, "Have you given any thought to the canon level of the sheer Force power Darth Vader's Apprentice displays in the upcoming Force Unleashed game?” Leland Chee explained, "The Force is definitely amped up to enhance gameplay. Star Wars in its various forms is always going to be tailored to specific mediums, whether it be for gameplay, artistic, or technical reasons. What we see in the films are the true representation of Force abilities" (link). To restate, the films show the true power-levels, so any depictions beyond (given the same base) is a non-canon² inflation. Starkiller's voice actor Sam Witwer further reveals that George Lucas approved of The Force Unleashed's enhanced powers only within the specific context of that medium: "He accepted the idea of the Force being amped up to 11 for all the Force users. He thought that was perfect for a game. I don't think he thought it was perfect for the universe. But for the purposes of the game -- THAT version of the universe -- he was cool with it" (link). The PSP version of The Force Unleashed even shows how film events would transfer to, as Witwer says, "that version of the universe," producing substantive differences in fights, such as Anakin slamming huge machinery onto Dooku (link). Pablo Hidalgo has noted similar about Mace Windu's powers in the 2003 Clone Wars micro-series versus the films: "Mace isn't as powerful in Episode III as he was in the Clone Wars cartoons, therefore we won't see him single-handedly take out an army" (link). Accordingly, out-of-universe statements and statistics can help inform the actual power-levels in exaggerated mediums / function as a constant variable from which exaggerated mediums can scale down to. However, caution that even statements are subject to medium concerns -- both due to the existence of "foggy mirrors" and because some are inflated for "marketing purposes," which is likely why Chee views blurbs as "probably the most unreliable of indicators" for power-levels (link).
★ Consistency (how well does the claim fit within the greater web of claims?): Every power-level indicator can be thought of as a point on a graph, with the weight of every point being influenced both by its own merits and with its uniformity or lack thereof with all the surrounding points. You don't just want a claim -- which is what any bare power-level commentary or extrapolation ultimately is -- you want claim(s) embodying many of these principles and pillars. It's all about the holistic.
After we have optimally narrowed down power-level rankings with 'LFL fact', we move to 'LFL intent'. Any deep dive into how considerations interplay with 'LFL intent' risks 'making things up.' The unstated variables of LFL's "case-by-case" assessments must be analyzed, um, case-by-case. However, there are still three readily apparent core considerations summarized with the Umbrellas of 'LFL Intent' graphic: (1) How it should be, (2) How it is thought to be, and (3) How it would be. That is, the actual LFL, if tasked to create power-level rankings, would almost assuredly ask themselves what should the power-level position be (which is not the same as what it is), be consciously or unconsciously influenced by their standing understanding of the power-level position, and also ask what would the power-level position be / how would they depict the power-level position in a future source (i.e. predicting published fight hypotheticals). Derived considerations, thus, would be (A) authorial intent, (B) alignment with themes and narrative,(C) fandom perceptions, (D) source veracity, (E) profitability, among other factors. As a whole, factoring in 'LFL intent' is challenging but doable.
Canon and Considerations (CC) ultimately proposes a massive overhaul to modern Star Wars versus debating. And if you are still using Azrongerism like most of ComicVine or other lesser platforms, the difference may seem insurmountable. However, its ultimate strength is that all radiates from but only three or four 'assumptions' -- (1) balancing truth and fun, (2) using Lucasfilm Licensing's framework, (3) extending Lucasfilm Licensing to the present, and (4) considering intent, although as aforementioned (4) can actually be derived from (2) -- all of which demonstrably can be rationally justified as either necessary or nigh-unanimously accepted beliefs already. Any other proposed Star Wars versus debating methodology would have more assumptions and weaker support for those assumptions. This is basically as good as it gets. And thus, to summarize, the key emphases, proposals, and changes are as follows:
- The Lucasfilm Licensing universe and the Legends universe are not the same thing, and we use the former.
- Statements are not binding and of similar kind to statistics, requiring a focus on the holistic rather than any one thing.
- Statements are especially not binding to knowledge not known as of time of publication.
- Arguments must consider the consistency, conformity, clarity, recency, frequency, visibility, coolness, and officiality of its evidence.
- Arguments must consider the Lucasfilm Licensing intent underlying and driving sources.