If you have been within a few meters of social media in the past few weeks, you will have no doubt seen the debacle among those involved in the Star Wars community. It is very apparent that this has not been a two-sided affair (contrary to what many will say on social media) and it has exploded into one of the largest keyboard shouting matches online. It isn’t clear as to what started the massive outbreak in the infighting between the community, but today we are taking a deep dive into all of the angles involved to see if there are any possible short-term and long-terms solutions to this new low for the fandom and to help clear the air. I will take the neutral standpoint in this article. Some of you reading this article WILL feel uncomfortable, but I encourage you all to take all sides into account as we break down the common problems experienced in the current fandom debate and help work towards a healthier fandom…
Angle #1: The Casual Moviegoer
In the market for Star Wars, contrary to what many may believe, the casual moviegoer has the biggest influence on the box office totals. If a film gets good word of mouth during the promotional run-up to a film, as well as through its opening weekend, generally people are more likely to see the film. Think about it. If you are watching a good promotional ad or trailer for a film and it peaks your interest, you are more likely to be willing to go out and see said film. Star Wars has done pretty well in terms of its reception to trailers over the last four decades and the box office has shown that it puts butts in seats. The hardcore fans may boost the box office and give a film legs to stand on in the first weeks after its release, but the casual moviegoer truly has the power to give Star Wars the respect it deserves for its box office total. Most of these fans have given generally positive reviews to the new Disney era Star Wars films, with more mixed reviews on Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. Even though Solo: A Star Wars Story still hasn’t had the strength it needs in the weeks following its release, the film has still scored slightly positive, pretty close to scores seen with Revenge of the Sith (65% on Rotten Tomatoes) in the audience scores. Given that Solo: A Star Wars Story is still in theaters though, that rating may trend slightly higher or lower in its later weeks through the release of the home version of the film. Overall, the Star Wars franchise has been pretty rewarding to these cinema fans and their future remains mostly bright as long as Lucasfilm has a successful story ending with Episode IX in December 2019. These people are helping to guarantee that Star Wars has a long and prosperous run, as long as a good amount of promotional material finds its way to them. Solo: A Star Wars Story goes to show that even Star Wars isn’t bullet proof from limited marketing and how important the casual moviegoer truly is to the future of the franchise.
Angle #2: The Fans VS The Creators
Another trend I tend to see on social media these days comes between those who work under the Star Wars creator umbrella and the fans that devour all of the content that is released. Many fans have gone on social media and have voiced their criticisms and displeasure vocally against the current creators of Star Wars content, whether it is the comics, books, movies, TV shows, or video games. The creators have taken the defensive stance in this situation and claim they are working to expand Star Wars in many different ways and working on varying productions. They have vocally come out on social media to defend themselves and feel that their free expression and voice regarding Star Wars matters is justified. The fans that have been vocal against Lucasfilm seem to feel that this free expression has caused a negative image on the brand as a whole for Star Wars and that there should be a certain level of accountability for those involved with the project and how they handle their social media interactions, since some have made some questionable posts on social media. Many of these fans feel that those involved with Star Wars are not handling the brand the way that they want it to be made, or certain characters and stories are not being portrayed in a way that they wanted. Many have argued with the content side that the Star Wars slate feels lacking at times and they wish more content would be released faster. This has been a pretty controversial debate on social media because it involves free speech for creators of the Star Wars brand moving forward.
I hope that there will eventually be a compromise because it is painful to see Star Wars creators having to explain their actions while under NDAs (non-disclosure agreements). There are certain things these creators can’t discuss because of their contracts, even as much as they may want to, and it makes the fans feel like the response from Lucasfilm can be vague at times, or like a waiting game. This has led to a lot of misconstrued fan responses and leaves a lot of open possibilities for fake narratives to be written or assumptions that certain things may be coming soon that actually don’t end up happening. Just because the fans may want something very desperately does not mean its in the cards, even if a certain little bit of small information drops that may fit your narrative to push that fan speculation. This is what leads to a lot of the clickbait we see on YouTube in the Star Wars community.
On the side of the fans, I feel like there should be a certain level of overall responsibility as a Star Wars creator to hold yourself up with some class and not verbally address fans in a bad manner that could shed a bad light on the overall brand. But, just like with the podcast situation, fans should treat these creators with a certain level of respect because they are creating Star Wars for your enjoyment regardless of your general thoughts on the product. Ultimately, we can all do better with approaching the creators, even if it is in response to something we don’t like.
Angle #3: The Fans Fighting For Diversity and Equality
In the era that is Disney Star Wars, it has been a clear idea in Hollywood that diversity and equality are the future of film for many years to come. Whether it is in front of the camera in the biggest film franchises or behind the cameras in the film crew, there has been a major social push to include as many people from varying backgrounds as possible. The fans have openly shown support for the idea that their favorite Star Wars characters should be diverse and creative. In a galaxy as large as Star Wars, there should be something for everyone to find. Even if you don’t necessarily subscribe to the trend that Hollywood has taken, I think we can all agree that a diverse galaxy of characters simply makes sense in terms of the scale that the Star Wars universe has the possibility of becoming. As diverse as our world is to us, seeing relatable characters on the big screen is a step in a new direction. Most fans seem to agree with this trend in terms of Star Wars since it is a concept most fans can get behind because of that scale. Some fans, however, decided that attacking Kelly Marie Tran was a better idea and that was the start of a lot of the recent social media fire that came online recently. Many fans overall felt like the character of Rose Tico was lacking in The Last Jedi, but some terrible online trolls decided to send their displeasure directly to the actress herself. The abuse Kelly got was uncalled for and I am glad to see that these acts were shunned. No one should suffer the abuse of people who cannot separate a character from the actor/actress.
In defense of the of the fans fighting for the diversity and equality in their Star Wars content moving forward, I hear you. This galaxy is huge and there is a place for everyone. Even if the content you want isn’t coming quick enough, I am almost certain that they are coming up with fun ways for you to either see yourself in a character just like you in the immediate future OR introducing new characters that everyone can relate to in some form or fashion. Patience is the Jedi way.
In defense of those who aren’t as open to the diversity, I also understand your frustration since it feels like Hollywood sometimes focuses more on the diversity aspects and less in the area of storytelling. Sometimes those voicing for more diversity have come across brashly on social media because they don’t see themselves in any characters and that can be tough to swallow.
To those of you who felt like Rose Tico was lacking, my personal opinion is that she was written to not be someone of extraordinary value at first, but who had to make a name for herself just like everyone else. I feel like we will get a lot more of her in Episode IX so that she feels less lacking and more of a complete character since she was still trying to be established as someone not part of the main trio. She was written to be the supporting character to Finn, but now she has the potential to be more moving forward. If Lucasfilm decides to use her in more content in the future, that is ultimately a plus on the storytelling side of things, which I think most canon fans can be happy about. JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio will definitely have some sort of plan for that character.
Angle #4: The Hardcore Fans
You’ve read the books, watched the movies a bunch of times, read the comics, bought the toys, watched the animated shows, viewed the trailers hundreds of times, played the video games, met the people involved with the brand, bought Star Wars clothing, dressed up to go to the premiere nights of the films, and talked daily about the things going on in the Star Wars franchise. You demand content at the highest level and nothing will stop you from getting your just rewards. If this is you, chances are you have a certain level of quality you want to see in your Star Wars. The hardcore fans know the criteria of what makes a Star Wars experience great and expect the same greatness for each new film.
But what if that demand has put a damper on the franchise we have come to love? What if our expectations are now starting to cloud the films we are going to see every time we go in? These are things that the hardcore fans have to consider moving forward with the Star Wars fandom. Something I was approached with recently from my friends over at Black Series Rebels was the notion that Star Wars does not need to be groundbreaking every single time. It makes a lot of sense that we put our expectations at the top of the list every time we step in the theater on opening night. We are setting ourselves up to be disappointed in some fashion by expecting earth-shattering new things, instead of going in for the fan experience and to be open to the new things being introduced in each new Star Wars film. This air of negativity ultimately spreads online after the release of each film and becomes a major problem for the fandom. For some within the fandom, it has come across as an arrogance, and in many cases as of late, feelings of ownership. I think every Star Wars fan should feel a little piece of ownership of this fun experience, but never at the cost of degrading others and their opinions on the experience as a whole.
For many, it is an experience that started at childhood and has been there their whole life. Star Wars has been there for a lot of you and that is a very special thing to have. We do need to remind ourselves sometimes that this is a shared experience and we need to leave our individual wants and needs at the door. The best part of being a hardcore fan for myself has been the positive community responses as a whole. Having open and positive feedback with one another helps find common threads of likes and dislikes, but also helps foster a community of people open to the new things in Star Wars, even if it may be things you don’t expect at first. I have found myself amazed by something I never expected to happen at all levels of Star Wars content. I hope more hardcore fans can be open to new content through different mediums and to try and leave expectations to the side. You will enjoy the experience more, even if slightly, if you make room going in ready for the new experiences to hit you. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and you will make better progress to helping the fandom become a more positive place.
Angle #5 – The Legends Fans
For a good majority of the lifespan of Star Wars, the Expanded Universe has given fans a plethora of content beyond the films. For many, it was the lifeblood and entry point into the bigger world of Star Wars fandom. From books, comics, and video games, fans got to enjoy and go on many new adventures with brand new characters that have stuck with them ever since. After Disney purchased Lucasfilm, all non-film content created before 2014, minus The Clone Wars Animated Series and the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic, became officially non-canon and rebranded as Legends. Lucasfilm made it clear that the stories that fans loved would not be gone forever, but some of those story elements would be cherrypicked and added in down the line into the new canon in new ways. Some fans could not stand the removal of their favorite stories from the bigger Star Wars universe because it was a reset button on the entire expanded universe that they had come to enjoy for more than two decades. It gave Lucasfilm a fresh start to come up with brand new content to fit the narrative of the newer sequel trilogy films starting with The Force Awakens. Even in the Expanded Universe, there were multiple tiers of canon that contradicted one another, so Disney’s hard reset on the canon was made to help remove confusion from the fanbase moving forward and set a standard for one mainline canon. Those who did not like this hard reset have gone to extreme measures on social media to attack Lucasfilm, Disney, and the creators of the franchise in an aggressive manner. They have launched boycott campaigns and gone as far as spoiling the film for others in public to get a rise out of the fanbase. They feel that if they don’t receive more Legends stories moving forward, the whole entire brand needs to completely go down with them. Luckily, most of their efforts have been shunned from the larger Star Wars fandom. Those who have politely shared their displeasure online without drama have been welcomed into the fandom with open arms and allowed to discuss the pros and cons of both the canon and legends versions.
The greatest thing to come out of the recanonization of Star Wars has been the overall comparisons to the old Legends content and how it has been adapted in the brand new material. Little nods and easter eggs have made even the most hardcore fans excited. Even Thrawn and Darth Bane have become recanonized in a new light because of the efforts of the Legends material. Solo: A Star Wars Story may have some of the most rich Legends nods of any Star Wars film to date. Even if no more Legends content is produced, it will always serve as a back template for Star Wars canon content for decades to come.
Angle #6 – The Original Trilogy Purists
We actually do live in a world where the holier than thou original trilogy is loved by just about everyone. But what if I told you there are actually fans who only consider the original three films the only Star Wars canon? You would probably say I am crazy, but it is actually true. In recent years, some of these fans have come online to show how much they ultimately despise the prequels, sequels, and spinoff films. To touch the storyline of the characters involved with those films, is almost like committing murder to these fans. To show Anakin Skywalker as a young servant boy and awkward teenager before his rise to Darth Vader seems laughable. Showing Luke Skywalker as a loner hermit on an island who doesn’t destroy everything on Crait like a supreme Force master makes the character look like a total loser and an attempt to remove his almighty crown. To touch these tales of Star Wars days of old is to be completely off base with these fans, and they are hurting the fandom by not allowing new stories to help expand their universe. Instead they are just keeping it in an original trilogy box that can only be contained within its walls and only opened for their pleasure.
I have never felt anything wrong with the original trilogy and find it to be the main basis of what makes Star Wars as loved as it is, but when we allow ourselves to be contained inside a box and not open to new adventures within this world, shouldn’t it get stale for most people after a while? I think that most of the fandom will agree that even if the newer films since 1983 haven’t come to the standard of these films, we would rather come back for the fun new Star Wars adventures because it adds another layer to the universe these films created so long ago.
Angle #7: The Bitter Podcast Cold War
Ever since Star Wars fans started putting their theories out about The Force Awakens, the Star Wars fan community has been discussing it all on Star Wars themed podcasts. Even I was once involved in the podcast community for the last three years, and have seen its ups and downs. As long as opinions have been involved on each individual podcast, many took stances on all sides, and social media has become a haven for debate and malcontent among many Star Wars podcasters and their associated communities. It isn’t all doom and gloom, considering many podcasts have set up podcasting networks and collaboration efforts to help foster peace between programs and help build communities. Once again, the podcast community has shown that even though it goes through troubling times pretty regularly, tensions do cool down over time. The recent conflicts between the Rebel Force Radio and the Making Star Wars podcast communities are not new in the slightest. This is just a new debate between the same communities. Since these podcast communities have such influence on the state of fandom, I feel like it is best to address them each below and explain my general take on these communities over the years:
The Making Star Wars Podcast Network: This is a massive cavalcade of podcasts that all had differing starting points over the years and expanded to make their own niche market of creators. My general take over the years is that they are mostly tied to the Hollywood and film scene, so they have a slight advantage in that regard. Their podcast community is so large, that they constantly have content developed from many different angles to cover each of the interests of their creators. They generally are a more left-leaning production and have been very verbal on social media over the years which has got them in a lot of heat and trouble with a lot of the other communities. MSW has shown time and time again that they can be quite blunt and aggressive towards the other communities outside of their podcast network, which has given their community a downward trend over the last two years.
Rebel Force Radio: As one of the oldest fan podcasts for Star Wars, this brand has taken a long time to cultivate and build. They break down a lot of the news each week and then dive into some of the more controversial topics. They are a mostly right-leaning production and are also quite verbal on Twitter. Their creators have made some pretty bold statements over the years which has generally put them on a more defensive stance in recent times. They have a large fanbase that has openly supported them, but they have also received a lot of backlash against them for their takes. When you are one of the oldest podcast communities, you are going to be challenged by many other shows with varying viewpoints. Rebel Force Radio has weathered comments from all directions and they have made it clear they aren’t going anywhere, even if controversy seems to be a constant theme surrounding their show. They are open to fan questions and willing to address a lot of comments from different perspectives.
However, these are not the only two podcasts involved, just to be fair. Many other podcasts have come out verbally and opposed both sides of this podcast social war over the years or jumped right in the middle of it. Some have remained silent to avoid the fallout involved in choosing a more neutral stance. Everything from a ratings war to a sly comment could be grounds for a podcast firestorm on Twitter these days. The recent fallout revolving around Kelly Marie Tran is just one of the many things that helped brew another podcast firestorm from every angle and I can guarantee it won’t be the last. There have been a lot of threats and shouting online, but it hasn’t broken out into any physical confrontations in public at a Star Wars Celebration yet. If the current trend continues in the direction it has been heading, it could at maximum end up at a face-to-face shouting dispute at Celebration Chicago that would make any Star Wars fan feel disappointed in the creators of their favorite podcast productions for many years to come. Hopefully this trend of drama between productions will eventually stop, but I doubt it will happen anytime soon.
Overall, my general take from the fandom is that we need to hold our podcast creators to some standard. As a creator, you should feel safe voicing your opinions openly for fans to listen, but we also need to have a certain level of class when it comes to social media in addressing fan responses. As for the fans, we should also approach the creators with common decency and not in an aggressive manner to address certain topics. If there is a simple difference in opinion, it should not be the grounds for a social media flame war, but a branching point to open up to other discussions about the franchise. Difference in opinion is a good thing when it comes to podcast content. If everyone agrees or disagrees to the same things, the content tends to come across as lacking. Fans, at times, have heated a lot of the podcast malcontent in the past few years. Egging the podcast communities to duke it out isn’t helping our fandom either, but causes division.
I feel like the community can do better as a whole. Let’s work together on being more open to more possibilities with our Star Wars content moving forward and having fun discussions without erupting into a Twitter war. Fans need to treat fans with polite respectfulness and allow creators to tell these new stories to add to the greater Star Wars mythos. Share kindness even in disagreement. Make friends with those who don’t always agree with you. You will find your Star Wars experience to be much better and broader when you have others around you that don’t always agree with your take on elements of Star Wars.
So what do you guys think? Is there an angle I missed here in this damaged fandom? If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments below. And as always…
May The Force Be With You!