We need to talk about Star Wars fans.
The current (and endlessly continuing) Last Jedi controversy might seem new, but it’s an example of a trend as timeless as the films themselves.
Sure, it’s the most recent example of the negativity that surrounds and binds this franchise – fan anger over The Last Jedi has led to hate, which has now led to suffering – Kelly Marie Tran has left Instagram, and Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill have taken to twitter to stick up for her.
But Mark Hamill will be used to all this. He was called a bad actor, whiny, and worse when the original trilogy first came out. And George Lucas will be having a wry chuckle over all the petitions to bring him back to the franchise currently scattered across the internet like particles of an exploded planet.
Lucas evolved from hero to villain in the eyes of the fanbase – we wonder how he feels to have cycled back to hero again. He’ll probably be wondering how long the grace period will last.
That’s because Star Wars fans have always hated Star Wars. Unlike other fandoms where the most vocal members of the tribe tend to be the most supportive of their respective passions, Star Wars fans have generally always taken more pleasure from the dark side than the light.
There are major exceptions, obviously. You only need to take a look at #FanArtForRose on twitter to see that. But those lovely fans are frequently out-voiced by the rest, and the sooner Kathleen Kennedy and Disney realise that, the better.
Before Disney completely changes its content plan in the light of Solo’s perceived failures, the company needs to realise that they’ll never, ever make these fans happy. Disney’s creative teams could live longer than a Sarlacc pit’s digestive period and still never get it right in the eyes of a large segment of this fanbase.
These are the people who hated Return Of The Jedi because it had Ewoks in it. They’re the people who despised George Lucas’ special editions, because the director dared to add CGI effects and new scenes to his films.
And those special editions are actually very significant in the history of Star Wars fandom, because they represent a major turning point.
Their release marked the first time fans truly felt they knew better than the maker – becoming the first rumblings of rebellion that would gain strength when the prequel trilogy came out.
Because, of course, they hated those too. They hounded the child star of The Phantom Menace, Jake Lloyd, and caused Lloyd’s successor, Hayden Christensen, to quit acting (like Mark Hamill before them, the prequel stars were both called a whiny, bad actors). They hated Jar Jar Binks so much Lucas was forced to diminish the character’s role in the prequel sequels.
Binks was also a significant turning point in the battle between Star Wars fans and the property they claim to love. To them, the character’s last-minute narrative shift was evidence that their hatred could have an effect. They complained, and changed Star Wars! That means the property belongs to them now, right?
That sense of power flowed through their veins, and went straight to the fingers they use to type abuse on the internet. It’s a power they still wield today. Let’s not forget, they also hounded Daisy Ridley away from Instagram. Rey was too powerful, they whined. The Force Awakens was too similar to A New Hope, they complained.
So, along comes Rian Johnson, who had to listen to everyone bore on about how The Last Jedi was probably was just going to be a remake of Empire Strikes Back. Then, when it wasn’t anything like Empire, he had to put up with everyone moaning about subverted expectations.
After Solo came out, the fans griped it wasn’t original enough (that is, if they weren’t taking part in a boycott of a film that was specifically engineered to make them happy) – there were too many nods to the franchise, no forward momentum.
This fan entitlement has to end. The longer this cycle continues, the more likely it is that Star Wars will become as terrible as they already seem to think it is. Bold creatives will walk away from the franchise, feeling it’s not worth the hassle. That’s what Lucas did, and now they want him back. What are the chances they’ll also miss Rian Johnson when he’s gone? How about Kathleen Kennedy, one of cinema’s greatest living producers?
Imagine if Luke Skywalker spent the original trilogy complaining about how his dad wasn’t what he was expecting, how he’d done terrible things, how he didn’t look or sound right – it would be pretty annoying. Thank the force Luke was the kind of hero who looks for the good in people, instead of the bad.
We get it, this is a franchise about a gang of outsiders overcoming impossible odds to take down a large Empire that might as well be a corporate conglomerate – if you’ve grown up watching that narrative, we can (sort of) understand the impulse to see Disney as an army of Stormtroopers led by Emperor Kennedy.
But these people aren’t your enemies. They’re pouring as much love as they can into these films – you can see it in the practical effects, the incredible music, the dedication to including the kind of details we all obsessed over when we were little. They’re doing their best to give you what you want.
The Star Wars prequels didn’t feel like Star Wars? Okay, we’ll give you The Force Awakens. Oh, that was too similar to A New Hope? Okay, here’s The Last Jedi. Woah, that was too silly and subversive, okay – here’s Solo (we even fired a couple of directors because we were worried how you’d react to the tone). Still not satisfied? Okay… We’ll start making less films. Maybe a couple of us will quit our jobs. Happy yet?
This should be a golden age for Star Wars fans. We’ve got exactly what we always wanted – a potentially endless stream of movies. But fan reaction is already making Disney retreat from their original plan to release two films a year – with their schedule being redrafted as we write this.
If we keep on travelling this dark path of making people feel awful just because they tried to make a Star Wars film that would surprise and delight us, there’s going to be no-one left to make these movies. Star Wars will stop.
Then, the cycle will begin again. Years will pass. The current trilogy will be re-appraised as a work of genius. Holographic petitions will beg Rian Johnson to come out of retirement to reboot the series. Someone will see the gap in the market, step up to meet the demand – and they’ll be hated too.
How about we all start treating the Star Wars films as – we don’t know – films? If we don’t like one, let’s write a negative review and move on. Let’s not fire out personal insults at our perceived enemies like lightning from our fingers, let’s just wait for the next movie, and the one after that, until we arrive at one we like, then celebrate it.
What we’re saying is, let’s not fight what we hate, let’s save what we love.
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