By now, Star Wars fans will have heard the latest casting news: the highly anticipated Episode VII will feature Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen, who were found at open casting calls.
This is great news for Clarke and Andersen — but not necessarily so great for Star Wars fans. Clarke and Andersen, for all I know, are great people who deserve every bit of recognition they’ll get. They may be stars and fan-favorites in the making, who will see many more headlines in their time. But, as someone who doesn’t need to read about Clarke and Andersen in order to get excited for the movie, I wince every time I see another bit of information about Episode VII out there. So here’s my personal plea: let’s stop talking about every little bit of Star Wars news, at least for a little while.
In the months since Episode VII was announced, tidbits of information have been released at a fairly steady pace. Some of it is newsy (Harrison Ford’s on-set injury) and some of it is legitimately interesting (the casting of some very famous women, after initial skepticism over the gender imbalance in the initial cast report). Some of it is meta and some of it is fake. But a lot of it — like the photos from the set — is just the normal goings-on of making a movie, hyped up because this isn’t just any old movie. Buzz-building marketing is unsurprising, and it’s natural that the world wants to know what’s going on with Star Wars, but there’s just so much buzz that it’s already, for me, mixed with a touch of dread. At this pace, how is it possible that we won’t reach peak excitement far before it’s possible to pre-order tickets? How can the two hours or so spent actually watching it live up to years — years! — of analyzing its creation?
Consumer psychology has shown that buying something can be less gratifying than thinking about buying it, especially for people who care more than most about material acquisition. New York magazine’s long-running feature on “the undulating curve of shifting expectations” traces a similar phenomenon when it comes to pop culture: wanting something too much often gives way to backlash, and the inability to enjoy the thing once you have it. (And, lest anyone believe that Star Wars is immune from backlash: Jar Jar Binks.) The research firm Gartner has dubbed it the Hype Cycle, a theory that shows that technologies experience a “peak of inflated expectations” followed by a “trough of disillusionment.” The journal n+1 has declared that the way to deal with cultural Hype Cycles, the overwhelming and ever-more-present nature of buzz, is to be too cool to care.
Episode VII doesn’t come out until December of 2015, and that’s plenty of time to reach Star Wars overload — or, perhaps worse, to feel like the movie itself is merely part of a marketing machine. When I pitched this story, my editor compared the constant flow of news to being fed a meal ingredient by ingredient, which feels right but worrisome: Yoda forbid the movie feels like half-digested mush, with no way to admire the finished product — nutritious though it may be.
When I saw A New Hope as a kid, it was with fresh eyes, not knowing a Carrie Fisher from a Calrissian, and the experience was one of not just joy, but also surprise. I later sought out information about how it was made because I loved the movie; I didn’t love the movie because I already knew what went into it. There’s no way to recapture that freshness for Episode VII — not with six movies coming before, not with my being an adult, not with the Internet existing. And there’s no reason to be super secretive about things like the casting of minor characters, since that’s — in itself — a form of buzz-creation.
But hundreds of movies a year get made without the world having to study each new development. Extreme fans will find the information on their own and be able to sustain multiple years of regular Star Wars thoughts without wanting to think about something else (I thought about Buffy the Vampire Slayer every single day for multiple years without hitting the backlash stage, so I know it’s theoretically possible), but more casual consumers and mid-level fans are better off without it.
Years from now, when they’re super famous, if Crystal Clarke or Pip Andersen hurts an ankle filming Episode XVII, that will be worth reporting. But for now, let’s leave them alone so they can do their jobs. The world will still be interested in a year and a half.