I’ve noticed a trend in Star Wars fandom lately. All criticism of anything Star Wars is assumed to be in bad faith, and thus gets dismissed as being from a ‘hater.’ As a fandom, that’s not a place we want to be. We must have room for nuance.
I’ve been in the Star Wars fandom for pretty much my entire life. Since I was born in the ’80s, I clearly missed being able to see the original trilogy in theaters, but I grew up with the VHS tapes and eagerly consumed more cinematic content as it became available. From seeing the new films on opening night to staying up late to watch new episodes of shows as they drop on Disney+, I’ve been extremely excited to experience new stories in this universe that I love so dear.
I haven’t always liked everything Star Wars. Jar Jar always bothered me. I will defend Han Shot First until my last breath. Also, I think Attack of the Clones is pretty boring. Sorry. I just didn’t dig it. But I’m still a Star Wars fan. Always have been and always will be. A few things off about the franchise is not enough to turn me away.
At one point the only pushback I received over any criticism is from the angry dudebros who thought Lucas could do no wrong. They are the gatekeepers that poisoned things twenty years ago and made the fandom miserable back then. After years of their nonsense, I’ve learned to brush them off. Gatekeepers are toxic and not worth our time.
But things have shifted in Star Wars fandom. Many of those dudebros hate everything Star Wars now, and they are ready to record a harsh critique and throw it up on YouTube within minutes of anything new coming out. They hate the stories, the characters, the diversity. They hate Disney and they hate Kathleen Kennedy, seemingly for just being a woman in charge of Star Wars stuff. Nothing works for them anymore, but they still linger in the fandom spreading toxicity.
It seems that the Star Wars fandom has basically flipped around, and the people who were against any and all criticism do literally nothing BUT criticize the franchise. It’s clear that their criticism is in bad faith, and I may spend a few minutes laughing at their unfounded rage, but I can generally just brush them off. My enjoyment doesn’t hinge on their opinions and they don’t matter to me. They seem to thrive on hate and that’s their problem. Not mine.
However, the unfortunate response to these bad faith arguments is the immediate shut down of any and all criticism of Star Wars. Extreme tribalism has formed in the Star Wars fandom that allows no room for good faith critique. It’s now assumed that if you take issue with something in Star Wars, you are part of that group. If you have a problem with something in Star Wars, you are a misogynistic Kathleen Kennedy hater who just hates anything ‘woke.’
This is obviously not true, but this is how the fandom has evolved over the years. We’ve been divided into the “love it” camp and the “hate it” camp with no room in between.
This extreme divide in the Star Wars fandom became incredibly apparent after the most recent episode of the Book of Boba Fett. The episode introduced a biker gang that teams up with Boba Fett. The design of the gang bothered the heck out of me. Their hair and clothing felt remarkably earth-like. Their bikes felt like modified Vespas instead of vehicles from the Star Wars universe. And the chase sequence felt like a reworked scene from Back to the Future, using trope after trope after trope.
Quite simply, I hated this scene. And I tweeted my displeasure accordingly.
Anyone who has been paying attention to my Twitter account knows I’ve been loving this show a lot. My biggest critique so far was that the first episode seemed too short. In all honestly, that is just me wanting more Star Wars content as soon as possible. It was kind of a selfish critique, really.
The show delivered with episode two and I think the two flow into each other incredibly well. I absolutely adore all things Tusken and have a mega crush on Fennec Shand. If they are on screen, I’m having a good time. So this is the first issue I’ve had with the show of any substance, really.
While I haven’t received any direct pushback for my criticism, I have seen people pass blanket judgments of anyone who took issue with the biker gang.
There’s an insinuation that if you think they are too colorful, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to other Star Wars content. I certainly have been paying attention, but I don’t at all think this comparison is the same. Any argument I make to distinguish them is likely to be assumed to be in bad faith, though.
We’re told that since there are other ridiculous things in Star Wars, we should just ‘shut the f* up’ with our criticisms. Apparently, you can’t find some things endearingly ridiculous and other things immersive-breaking ridiculous. All ridiculous things are the same, I guess.
These are just two examples, but the criticism is pretty prevalent. And it’s coming from people who are on ‘my side,’ so to speak. It’s coming from people who love Star Wars and hate the gatekeepers. This reaction is coming from people that are tired of the YouTube haters. It’s from people who just want to enjoy their Star Wars in peace. So I get the knee-jerk reaction to issue blanket statements about any and all criticism. In fact, I’ve probably done it before, too. It’s a defensive response to a constant barrage of hate. I get it!
But we shouldn’t do this. We absolutely shouldn’t.
There’s room for good faith critique in Star Wars fandom. Not everyone who has an issue with a plot point or aesthetic decision is a hater. If we start thinking Star Wars can do no wrong, we are no better than the Lucas dudebros who now think Star Wars can do no right. We must have room for nuance.
Quite simply, the Star Wars fandom needs to recognize this defensive response and realize there’s a difference between good faith and bad faith arguments. We are failing miserably at this, and it’s not helping with the toxicity issues. Let’s do better.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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