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Andor: A Guilty Pleasure?

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Two episodes away from the end of Andor’s first season, the new Star Wars series on Disney+ is gradually winning over audiences after being well-received by critics.

Although this series is not enjoying audience numbers as good as The Mandalorian -to date, each episode of Andor is watched by the same number of people who re-watch the episodes of The Mandalorian released two years ago-, the series about the first steps of the Rebel Alliance is being liked by critics and fans of the Star Wars saga alike, against all odds.

This consensus between professional critics and fandom is surprising for several reasons. First of all, because the world of popular culture has been experiencing an obvious disparity between what the specialized critics dictate should be liked and what the fandom really values.

If we stick to the evaluation of specialized critics, we find that series such as Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk or Obi-Wan Kenobi, which are poor products made by and for wokes, have better ratings, by far, than great works such as American Psycho, Fight Club or Joker, which have become cult movies for the so-called incels.

It seems obvious that for specialized critics, the politicization of entertainment products is a determining factor when awarding their ratings, both high and low. The same, but in the opposite direction, happens among fans: when the series or movie is more concerned with the politics around it than with the quality of its content, viewers punish them with low scores.

However, Andor has scores around 90% for both critics and audiences. This could be due to the fact that despite the high political content of the series, it is not partisan and does not try to be a sobering commentary on current petty politics, but rather talks about high politics, that of the struggle of the governed against the government, whatever label it may have.

andor rotten tomatoes
Screenshot of Andor’s score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Despite the occasional wink to the woke, such as the hinted lesbian relationship between two of the rebel fighters, Andor focuses on showing the consequences of a despotic government that has turned the galaxy into a police state, and does so in a much more mature and less Manichean way than Star Wars has us accustomed to.

Andor is concerned to reflect that neither the good guys are always so good, nor the bad guys are evil for the sake of being so. In this point, precisely, lies the second reason for astonishment among the fans who are enjoying the series.

It bears almost no resemblance to Star Wars, and that has scared off many of the more casual potential viewers, but its original approach is also what is retaining die-hard fans and captivating new viewers, fascinated by the series’ more somber and mature tone.

Andor is not a space opera of blaster fire and lightsaber duels between old Sith and Jedi lineages, but rather a thriller of palace intrigue, espionage, counter-espionage and political discussions on how to evade taxes to finance and organize a rebellion against a tyrannical government.

The lack of action and epics make this series not a family-friendly Star Wars product that you can watch several times, but its interwoven intrigue and suspense make it one that many fans are enjoying learning how imperial policies affect the daily lives of the inhabitants of the galaxy far far away, and how many of them, like Cassian Andor himself, are practically pushed by circumstance into a heroic and almost suicidal rebellion against an empire that rules with an iron fist.

The references to the Star Wars universe are subtle and elegant, unlike the blatant and sometimes irritating fan service that other products in the franchise are guilty of. Andor is arguably independent enough from Star Wars for any viewer to understand and enjoy, while providing details that satisfy the curiosity of even fans with the most encyclopedic knowledge of the saga.

Andor is merely acceptable, but that’s good enough nowadays

Finally, there is a third, much simpler explanation for why Andor is being liked despite not being a masterpiece that will leave an indelible mark on popular culture or even the Star Wars universe itself.

Disney has simply lowered the bar on the saga so much and has so disappointed fans of the universe created by George Lucas with such numbing, legacy-humiliating clunkers as the sequel trilogy and the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, that Andor is being overrated for being a minimally acceptable product.

Disney should take note that fans really want to fall in love with Star Wars again. Disney might as well give up on its efforts to deconstruct the saga in order to use it to cement its new woke ideology, and return to the fundamental principles that made Star Wars great.

Andor is the perfect example of how it is possible to innovate, take a different approach and even subvert Star Wars expectations without demolishing its original values and archetypes.

Ignacio Manuel García Medina, Business Management teacher. Artist and lecturer specialized in Popular Culture for various platforms. Presenter of the program "Pop Libertario" for the Juan de Mariana Institute. Lives in the Canary Islands, Spain // Ignacio M. García Medina es profesor de Gestión de Empresas. Es miembro del Instituto Juan de Mariana y conferenciante especializado en Cultura Popular e ideas de la Libertad.

Social Networks: @ignaciomgm

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