Does Continuity/Canon Matter?

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Everywhere you look in genre entertainment, you’ll find fans upset at how characters, storylines, lore, and canon are being treated in classic genre franchises.

Palpatine is now a clone, Dr. Who has an official backstory, Star Trek is fragmented into two different timelines, Terminator is…you know what? Never mind about Terminator.

The point is, for whatever reason, the continuities of quite a few established properties are being disrupted – for a variety of different reasons. To make matters worse, the new stuff that these changes have paved the way for has failed to justify itself by being, you know, good.

So what I want to ask today is: Does continuity and cannon matter?

My position on this question is complicated. My instinct is to say that I don’t like retcons or disruptions of canon, but that’s not really true. I’m able to keep books and movies separate, as far as story universes go. However, I generally dislike retcons. Except when they’re good. Which is rarely the case.

But I guess what I’m saying is: I’m for good storytelling. If a decision, any decision, results in a well-told story that I can engage with and maybe feel inclined to return to again and again, I’m fine with it. I will applaud a change if it results in a deeper lore and a better overall story.

I’m struggling to think of a change in canon or continuity that has been positive, but Ridley Scott’s Prometheus almost pulled it off. I mean, it didn’t, but I appreciate what it attempted and I think, if it had succeeded, the expansion of the Alien lore would have been a net positive for the franchise.

Basically, with all stories, it comes down to whether you can believe enough in them to invest your energy into them. Whether that’s watching a show, reading a book, watching a movie or consuming any and all media associated with a given property. If a change results in deeper investment, it’s fine. If it takes you out of the story or you decide you can no longer invest in it – for whatever reason – obviously a deviation from canon is undesirable.

It’s tough with these established properties and it’s probably only going to get tougher, because strict rules and a dense lore means less room for a storyteller to flex his or her creative muscles. I would also imagine it greatly reduces the field of potential creatives who would be up to the task of writing and creating within the constraints of these well-established universes.

At the same time, at the present moment, it feels like the people working on these franchises are making unnecessary changes that, from the outside looking in, seem less driven by an interest to tell good stories than, well, I’m not sure what the other reason is. I’m sure it’s different from example to example.

Either way, I don’t see these classic franchises getting better. And that brings me back to my earlier point: I want good stories. If a creator can do that, nothing else really matters. If he or she can’t, well, I’d rather these beloved properties be left untarnished in our memories.

So, does canon/continuity matter to you? 

Let us know in the comments below!

Author: Dhalbaby

I like big Bigbooté, and I cannot lie.