Star Wars, Fandom, and Frustration

Author: Matthew I. Wanner

I have been a Star Wars fan since I was a small child running around with sticks hitting my brother. I wasn’t the greatest brother, but neither was he. My writing grew as an extension of my love for all things Star Wars. I wrote fan fiction (we called it a play by post RPG, but it was fan fiction); I learned to write writing Star Wars fan fiction. I’m not even ashamed of that. It gave me a world that I loved in which to play and learn all the things that aren’t worldbuilding, and it taught me a lot about worldbuilding by accident.

I have also always been critical of Star Wars. I think there’s a certain thing that happens along the ever stretching journey to writing well. At some point you read, or watch, or listen to something and go “I could do that better”. There were certainly times, especially reading things in the Extended Universe, where I went “I can do that better.” It doesn’t make me love the series any less, but it has made me aware of its flaws, and it does have flaws. I’m not really here to talk about the flaws though; I’m here to talk about criticism and fandom in a broad sense.

This has come about because I got on Twitter this morning to like Critical Role fanart and see what the world was up to. The big thing filling my feed was Kelly Marie Tran deleting her Instagram posts because of constant harassment. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was floored, and hurt, nonetheless. She is a part of Star Wars now. I know it’s not my place to be hurt, and I can’t even imagine how she feels, but this was something I love hurting somebody who helped realize a new chapter of it. I would like to say I thought better of the Star Wars fandom, but the fact is that I don’t.

I love Star Wars, but I hate the fans, or the so called fans anyway.

That Star Wars group I mentioned earlier brought me some of my dearest and oldest friends. It also was filled with toxic behavior, harassment, and assholes. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t part of that at one point too. My experiences in the world, war, and being surrounded by people that made me question my convictions changed that, and I hope I did some good in the end, too late to save the group, but some.

These, well I’m just going to call them assholes, have, unfortunately, been in the Star Wars fandom for a long time. They’ve made it so that I cringe whenever I talk to someone that didn’t like any of the new movies. Thing is, I didn’t like Rogue One. There are legitimate problems with the film that I enjoy discussing, but I can’t have those discussion because, to paraphrase something I saw on the discord for that now defunct group, “it’s just a bunch of women and minorities killing white people” has become about the level of criticism I can expect. These assholes have made any criticism of Star Wars a minefield, where any sort of reasonable criticism has been drowned out by the asshole’s nonsense. It is nonsense, nonsense I have no time for, so I usually don’t engage with other Star Wars fans anymore.

This fandom has to change. I know it can, too. Star Wars doesn’t need people chasing off stars of the fucking movies. Star Wars is fucking silly, but it’s beautifully silly. Rogue One may have been my least favorite movie, but when I got back from Solo and needed to mainline some Star Wars, guess what I watched? Twice.

So women and people of color have a more prominent role. So. Fucking. What. There’s no reason that the only people that can start in it are white men. We’re talking about a series with people that are fucking blue and have tails coming out of their heads. Jabba the Hutt is fine, but Rey is garbage? Give me a fucking break.

I guess I’m just venting some frustrations here, but I am frustrated. I hate how these films that I adore are dividing people over fucking nothing. I hate that there are people so filled with hate for god even knows what that they will gleefully try to bomb this series they claim to love. What’s happened with Kelly Marie Tran is disgusting. It has no place in any fandom, much less one of a series so concerned with oppression.

A few years ago, when I came back from Afghanistan for leave near the end of my deployment, long before Disney bought the franchise, I bought two really nice replica lightsabers. I bought a Darth Vader one for myself and an Anakin one for my friend, these things weren’t cheap, but they were cool, then I bought a hundred dollar Darth Vader helmet. A couple days later, in the little playground area in front of my friends townhouse, we saw some kids playing with lightsabers, so we went out with ours, let them play with them, played Jedi and Sith with them for awhile, I put on the Darth Vader helmet and let them beat the shit out of me. I did this because it was exciting to see kids enjoying something that had brought me so much joy since I was their age. One of them was a little girl and she was just as into it as the boys, and beat the shit out of me just as bad. Now I wonder, is this fandom going to try chasing her out of it? Is this fandom some place that’s going to represent these kids, and be something they can be excited to get their own kids into? Or is it just going to be a bunch of assholes shitting on everything?

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