As 2022 nears its tumultuous end, even more rumors have started swirling around Kathleen Kennedy and her future as the President of the Disney owned LucasFilm division. To disregard these rumors would be understandable. Ever since the Star Wars sequel trilogy caused a massive rift within the fanbase, every aspiring writer and hack journalist with a smartphone has claimed to have the inside dirt on Kennedy’s situation and the “information” to prove that she was definitely out as the head of LucasFilm.
This time however, I am of the opinion that this latest round of supposed information holds water. For one thing, the sources reporting on it are reliable. They are news sites that have been around for a good amount of time and have solid reputations when it comes to this kind of reporting. The above link to the direct has quotes structures and numbers all related to the alleged severance deal. You would have to work really hard to fake all of that information. So, unfortunately for Kathleen Kennedy and her supporters, it does look like the end is near.
The Ousting Is Justified Emotionally, But Not From A Business Standpoint
There are swaths of fans who will take delight in reading this news. There have been websites, social media groups, anti-fan clubs, and other forms of assembly for fans to voice their displeasure and call for Kennedy’s resignation. Some of the ire makes sense when it is conveyed in a civilized manner. Kennedy did mishandle the Star Wars brand artistically and sometimes, especially in the case of Solo: A Star Wars Story with very poor marketing strategies and unclear messages as to what the fans were even supposed to be watching.
Now you can argue that she was a busy woman and she can’t micromanage every little thing. Your argument would be one hundred percent correct, she can’t have her eyes everywhere watching everything. This is where her leadership style failed her. After what JJ Abrams did to the Star Trek franchise, he should have never even been allowed to interview for the job as director of The Force Awakens.
She should have been aware of the lack of communication between Abrams and Rian Johnson and told them to stop fooling around and bring the trilogy together in a manner that makes sense. The marketing for Solo exemplified her poor leadership skills even worse. She had a movie coming out that was focusing on one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars Universe. Yet, advertising was scarce. The tie in toys were non-existent. Nobody made any notable appearances on the talk show circuit. It was a crash course on how NOT to promote a movie.
Yet, the movies made money. Making money for the studio is Kennedy’s job. The five Star Wars movies released on her watch earned a staggering 7.8 billion US dollars, netting a profit of 4.8 billion dollars for LucasFilm and Disney. Now, the evaluation of her performance becomes philosophical. One must choose to decide between the artist stance that she sold out a beloved franchise and turned it into a sterile, bland piece of sociopolitical commentary; or the corporate stance that tells us that these obviously aren’t the best movies in the Star Wars library, but she is bringing in money, keeping people employed, and putting food on the table. From an executive standpoint, she kept the wheels greased, the wallets full, and the momentum going. There is nothing logical financially about firing a steward of success. All of the calls for her termination come from an emotional place, and emotions are the mortal enemy of decision making.
Regardless Of Her Job Status, She Deserves Our Respect
Whether her biggest detractors like it or not, Kathleen Kennedy is the reason why many of us love this field and are so passionate about what we do. The Mount Rushmore of Sci-fi filmmaking is now and will be for the foreseeable future: Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Kathleen Kennedy. This is an argument that always causes a kerfuffle when it comes up. Many people would proclaim that James Cameron deserves Kennedy’s spot. That is an ok argument at face value but the accomplishments and contributions that Kathleen Kennedy has made not only to Science Fiction, but to geek cinema in general. While Cameron’s accomplishments are astounding and he rightfully has his own place in the history of cinema, let us review some of the contributions that Kathleen Kennedy has made as a producer.
- The Original Indiana Jones Trilogy
- Thee Jurassic Park Trilogy
- The Goonies
- Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
- The American Tail Series
- The Sixth Sense
- The Back To The Future Trilogy
That barely scratches the surface of the contributions this woman has made to our entertainment needs. She is a Goddess in the film industry and has one of the most remarkable bodies of work ever to be assembled. There isn’t a person reading this article that she hasn’t influenced. To villainize her is akin to excising a good chunk of your childhood memories from your consciousness.
We Still Villainize Her While Giving Other Bungles A Pass
Despite all of the influence that Kathleen Kennedy has had over our lives, hobbies, and passions, many of us still feel the need to rake her over the coals for the few bad artistic decisions that she has made. Making a transition to another field is never easy. Kennedy took a gamble and tried her hand at a job that she had dreamed about for a while.
She soon found out that being an executive is not as glamorous as it seems. When the Studio is happy, the fans hate you. When the fans are happy, the Studio hates you. When they are all quiet, then it is time to run to your panic room and wait your current situation out. For whatever reason, the fans seem to be forgiving of other personalities who have made equally egregious errors. This has always been and always will be wrong.
As journalists, we not only have an obligation to the fans that we write for, but an obligation to ourselves to treat everyone that we write about equally. If we don’t meet those obligations, we need to ask ourselves why we feel the need to demonize someone like Kathleen Kennedy while going so soft on other people in her field.
When George Lucas followed up his unprecedented Star Wars success with the abysmal Howard The Duck, nobody called for him to step down from his position. Steven Spielberg has the dubious distinction of closing out a near perfect trilogy with Indiana Jones: And The Last Crusade and then ruining that trilogy’s legacy with Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. He also inexplicably turned ET into a laughing stock by replacing the guns that the law enforcement officers carried with walkie talkies. Nobody said that Spielberg was losing touch and called for his retirement.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is arguably the most philosophically relevant and important film in the history of cinema. So when James Cameron proudly and shamelessly undid that whole storyline and then doubled down on that decision by turning the T-800 into a housemaid, people just dealt with it. Now, here we are three years after that unmitigated disaster and not only have people not called Cameron out for a decision that was beyond bad; nobody batted an eye when Disney handed him two billion dollars to make Ferngully 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Yet we insist on tearing down Kathleen Kennedy in such vicious ways. The reason for this is simple. Kathleen Kennedy doesn’t defend herself fervently. If you insult George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, you simply just won’t work in Hollywood anymore. James Cameron will just publicly annihilate you while simultaneously giving your mother the middle finger.
Kathleen Kennedy takes her barbs in stride. In this game of egos, being silent and taking your insults in stride is often interpreted as a weakness.
Star Wars is a franchise unlike any other film franchise in history. It is so beloved and so revered that the fans who have supported it blindly for years have come to regard themselves as the unofficial owners of the property. While this has led to many sweet and memorable moments in fandom, this mentality has also bred an ugly side that is ruthless, petty, and malicious.
Kathleen Kennedy is a studio head. Under her watch she produced some movies that were not met with the warmest of welcomes by the fans. Yet, they also gave the studio 4.8 billion dollars in profits. One has to wonder: did she really do as terrible of a job as her detractors say she did?
Instead of celebrating her possible exit, I would like to thank Kathleen Kennedy for trying her hardest with Star Wars. I would like to thank her for a lifetime of treasured cinematic memories. I would also like to encourage her to stay working. There is a generation of fans out there who need her to provide them with her first class touch in film production. However, she does turn seventy years old in June. Maybe she simply wants to live out her golden years in peace.
Whatever her decision may be, it is hers to make and I respect it.
Good Luck Kathleen Kennedy. May The Force Be With You.
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