Life as a Star Wars fan
Star Wars, or at least, the Skywalker Saga, ended late last year. Watching the final chapter of the saga that startet 42 years ago (fun fact: I’m three days younger than the premiere of the first film), I was left elated, overjoyed, but also strangely relieved. I loved this film, as I have loved all the Star Wars films that came before (you can see my review of Rise of Skywalker here), but something had changed in how I viewed the whole franchise.
Lately I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting and ruminating about Star Wars, the Star Wars fandom and my place in it. As a result, this post will be quite personal, and even a bit rambling. It has swirled around in my head for about a month now, ever since I left the theatre after the premiere of Rise of Skywalker, discreetely drying away the tears that were running down my face.
I could go on and on about what Star Wars means to me. I could write about how going to film school let me appriciate the films in a whole new way, and how reading Joseph Campbell let me see the deeper narrative threads running through all the films in the saga. Or I could write about what I found after an academic deep dive into what fandom that I did as a part of a marketing degree. But this is not a post about that.
I still remember my introduction to Star Wars. I was maybe about 7 years old, and my father had rented the first Star Wars film on VHS. For the younger readers, a VHS is a cassette tape with abyssmal picture and sound quality, compared to today’s standards. Anyway, I remember exactly where in the house I was. I remember what everything looked like. Sounds. Lights. That VHS cover with an overly muscular Luke Skywalker holding his lightsaber. I remember my joy of realizing that I was about to see that film all my older brother often talked about (even though he was really more interested in Smurfs than Star Wars…)
Star Wars has become more personal for me. It is hard to describe, but in a way, the franchise has been with me for all my life. I always loved to talk about Star Wars with my friends, many of whom are fans themselves. I never joined a club and seldom took active part in fandom events, but I regularly watched the films. As a kid of the 80s, I collected the action figures, and I read the comics. Star Wars posters decorated the walls in my room. Seen Stranger Things? That’s me in the 80s.
With the return of Star Wars in the late 90s and early 2000s, my enthusiasm for the franchise really kicked back in gear. I loved the prequels and I began to pay extra attention to the various Star Wars novels and reference books coming out. I also started playing the Star Wars roleplaying game regularly. Another fun fact: West End Games, who published the first Star Wars roleplaying game in the 90s, defined much of what became the expanded Star Wars universe seen in later movies.
But this was also the time when internet driven, negative, and even toxic fandom reared its very ugly head. I’ve written more about negative fandom here, so go check that out. There were plenty of kicking and screaming about the prequel Star Wars trilogy. Fans (often defining themselves as “true fans”) attacked George Lucas, saying he dropped the ball on what Star Wars was supposed to be (he didn’t, of course, but that is a different discussion). Cast and crew were harassed to the point of mental breakdown. The fandom was in a bad state, and I wish I could say it would become better with the years.
But it didn’t. I truly enjoying the prequels, and I consider Revenge of the Sith as one of the better films in the franchise. But with the new sequel trilogy, produced by a now Disney-owned Lucasfilm, history repeated itself. Some fans, feeling that Star Wars was something they should own, again had the internet as their perfect soapbox and loudspeaker, harassing cast and crew online.
I loved the sequel trilogy, and I really enjoy just about anything that is canon Star Wars (and plenty of stuff that is not canon). But seeing how the certain parts of the fandom reacts to any change in relation to how they feel Star Wars should be, removes the joy of being a part of that fandom.
So what am I really trying to write here? Lately I’ve been avoiding any negative stuff about Star Wars in social media, and I’ve “unfollowed” just about anyone posting negativity about Star Wars, be it Youtube channels, Twitter accounts and even friends on Facebook. I make it perfectly clear to anyone who wants discuss Star Wars with me that I would much rather listen to what they love about it than what they hate.
These days, the constant stream of negativity and bile coming from self-proclaimed Star Wars fans tend to hog the spotlight. Now, the Star Wars fandom is often associated with negativity, and even harassment, sexism and racism. It is important to remember that this comes from a minority, but look at any comments section under an article or social media post about Star Wars, and to mistake it for the norm. People with something negative to say are often the loudest.
I’m a fan of Star Wars, but I no longer consider myself a part of the active Star Wars fandom. It makes it easier to truly enjoy these films, series, novels and comic when you stop paying attention to the the dumpster fire the Star Wars fandom often feels like.
The Star Wars Saga is over, but there are alot more Star Wars to come. The Mandalorian has shown us how great a live action Star Wars series can be, and we won’t have to wait too long for new movies. And there are rumours of a sequel series to Star Wars Rebels, my absolute favorite animated show. And Ewan McGregor returning as Kenobi? I can’t wait!
It is a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Celebrate what you love about it, and let others do the same. And if there are parts you don’t love, try to keep in mind that there are those who do. And above all else, be nice to each other.