A Star Wars show by any other name…

Anghus Houvouras on Star Wars: Andor…

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”

This is a quote from William Shakespeare where he establishes two things:

1. The convention of naming things is irrelevant
2. While being one of history’s greatest writers, he wasn’t all that adept at marketing

Shakespeare had a penchant for naming his dramatic works after the main character. Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, King Lear… It was a convention that worked well for the bard. He didn’t need to create a catchy title in order to get audiences to line up for his next tale. This was in an age where live entertainment was the only form of entertainment and the success or failure of the show was based on how audiences felt about the overall quality of the work, rather than competition from other theatrical works.

Nowadays, the sheer onslaught of entertainment options is not only overwhelming but it presents studios with unprecedented challenges in getting their show to grab your attention and stand out from a wide variety of programs vying for the fragments of your attention span that social media hasn’t brutally murdered.

One would think promoting a Star Wars show would be an easy sell. And yet, here we are, in the year of our Lord two thousand and twenty two with a brand new, extremely well reviewed Star Wars shows that fans can’t be bothered to watch.

That show: Andor

Disney has had many challenges with the Star Wars franchise, ever since purchasing the entire toybox from George Lucas. The legacy sequels polarized fans. Solo was met with utter indifference by audiences leading to the first live-action Star Wars failure. Their foray into television had seen more modest success with The Mandolorian becoming ‘must see TV’ and recent efforts like Obi-Wan able to seize the pop culture zeitgeist.

Andor was always going to be a harder sell. It’s a show based on a character that even the most ardent Star Wars fan knew precious little about. Rogue One crossed the billion-dollar mark at the box office, but it has been remembered mostly for the fact that all the main characters died and a tacked-on reshoot sequence featuring a murderous Darth Vader rampage. Cassian Andor was a character with potential that wasn’t fully realized. Creatively speaking, the proposition of an Andor show seemed interesting. How did the character become involved in the resistance? What made him the cold, calculating blunt instrument that is willing to kill for the cause.

The end result is the most intellectually interesting Star Wars show with the strongest characterization and more mature themes. It tries to avoid the easter egg heavy nostalgia of other Star Wars offerings to be something unique and broaden the appeal of the show to more adult audiences. And while the very proposition of a more serious, less four-quadrant Star Wars show was always present, the general lack of enthusiasm is puzzling. And I think I know one of the reasons people are ambivalent.

The name of the show is ‘Andor‘.

This has led to some wonderful wordplay online, my favorite being:

“Why did the writers give him the last name “Andor”?
Because “Grammatical Conjunction” was too long.

Disney has taken a cue from Shakespeare and has been naming all their shows after the characters. The Mandalorian. Boba Fett. Obi-Wan. The upcoming Ahsoka series. This may not have been a great idea. It makes sense to call a show Obi-Wan since it features one of the most famous characters in the franchise. The Mandalorian name works because there’s an air of mystery in the title. If they’d named the show ‘Din Djarin’, audiences might not have been as excited.

Cassian Andor is not one of the most iconic characters in Star Wars. He was part of an ensemble of characters whose names I’m guessing almost no one remembers. And while his story might be gripping, the show’s name is not.

It’s too easy an answer and rampant reductionism, but there’s a part of me that believes that Andor is suffering from the lack of a strong hook. Every Star Wars show had some kind of hook, whether it be the familiar visual aesthetic of The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda or legacy characters like Boba Fett and Obi-Wan. There was a heavy helping of nostalgia to help get people interested in those shows. Andor had no such hook. The stakes needed raising and the marketing required an extra level of energy. A more exciting name for the series could have helped give the show a more compelling hook.

As for what a better title is for Andor, I can’t say. “Rise of the Rebellion” feels generic and on the nose. Maybe they could have called it “Rogue” in reference to the original movie. Anything that eludes to what the story is about, and not a character that made precious little impact from the film where we met the title character.

Names might not matter to Shakespeare, but when it comes to marketing a TV show in a saturated marketplace, names matter.

What are your thoughts on Star Wars: Andor? Does its title do it a disservice? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…

Anghus Houvouras


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