The new Star Wars movie asks and answers one simple question: are you in the Star Wars fandom or not?
If you saw it and thought that it was an okay Star Wars movie, in line with the others, not perfect but perfectly okay in terms of being a movie where things happened – then you are not in the fandom. If you, on the other hand, find yourself having very lengthy opinions about Snoke’s footwear and their exact relationship to canonical lore, then you are deep in it.
It is a simple question, but it tells us something interesting about who you are as a person. And we will have to apply interesting methodologies in order to answer it.
In the psychoanalytic tradition, dream interpretation is used as a means to get at the inner processes of someone’s psychological life. The empirical material to be interpreted are not the dreams themselves, however. Rather, it is the way a person relates these dreams that’s of interest – what is emphasized, what is left out, what is construed as the important parts, and so on. The dreams are radically unavailable to any scrutiny whatsoever, except through process of rapidly decaying personal memories, but the discourse about these memories is eminently analyzable. The dreams themselves, from a practical point of view, serve more as an excuse to get the person talking than anything else.
Something similar is going on with the new Star Wars movie. There is an ever increasing amount of things said about the movie, but the least interesting things about these discourses are their factual contents. Where Snoke came from, why no one has mentioned Canto Bight before despite it being an important in-universe location, or how the events in the rebel fleet and the Jedi Island came to align perfectly for the final confrontation – these are questions whose answers are akin to retelling of dreams. The particular facts are of secondary importance. The real stuff is in the how the telling is conducted.
Thus, simply saying that it was an okay movie where things happened is not a failure to engage with the content of the movie – it is to the contrary an important statement about what kind of person we are dealing with. A person who saw the movie, liked it, and shrugs at questions of internal consistency is a very particular kind of person. Knowing this makes future interactions with this person easier, as you now know something about them:
They are not part of the fandom.
The reverse case – someone who goes on at length about the motivations of the characters, the logistics of rebel fleets, and how the books fit into all of this – likewise tells us something about the person in question. It would be a mistake to analyze these statements on the level of content, however; it is all process and inflection.
That such persons are in the fandom goes without saying.
What is of particular interest is the proliferation of takes mimicking fandom discourse. There are not simply one or two persons out there suddenly having detailed thoughts about how it all fits together or how to reconcile this new information with previous (head)canons. A large number of people want in, and thus launch into endless expositional discourses on the how, where, why, when. Their conclusions, naturally, possess varying degrees of coherence, but that is beside the point. The point being that we now have a large amount of roughly commensurate data abount a large amount of people, and no clear idea of how to use it.
The interpretive work awakens.