The Rise of Toxic Fandom

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We live in a time in which we can access information faster than we ever could before. Everything is at the tip of our fingers. In an instant, we can pull up Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, and instantly watch the latest Rise of Skywalker TV Spot or 30 second clip. While this can be a wonderful truth, it has unfortunately led to the age of the “Keyboard Warrior”. According to wiktionary.org, a keyboard warrior is “a person who behaves aggressively and/or in an inflammatory manner in online text-based discussion media”. The keyboard warrior can be found in any social media feed or YouTube comments section. Sadly, the toxicity that this behavior can create has found its way into the Star Wars fandom, which has ultimately led to the quote in the image at the top of this article.

As J.J. Abrams is saying, every single piece of media is under constant scrutiny. Every frame of every shot can be analyzed and picked apart and then broadcast to the world in a very short amount of time. There is almost no room for error anymore. It feels like we live in a society that demands perfection where perfection never existed and never will. Take Season 8 of Game of Thrones for example. People were up in arms about a water bottle or cup of coffee making its way into a shot, or a character making a decision that they didn’t agree with. None of this is new to TV or film; this stuff happens! There are mistakes or missteps in almost every form of storytelling. The narrative that was created from this scrutiny is that Game of Thrones was ruined because of Season 8. The same has been said by many fans about the divisive decisions made in The Last Jedi. Many fans have stated that Rian Johnson ruined Star Wars. Well, I’m here to tell you that neither of those beliefs are accurate.

The truth is, “we don’t have to agree with every single thing to love something.” As a die-hard Star Wars fan since age 10, I absolutely love Star Wars. With that being said, I am not a fan of the overuse of CGI, wooden acting, or poorly written dialogue that can be found in the prequels. However, I still love the prequels! Similarly, I was not a fan of some of the choices made by the characters in Season 8 of Game of Thrones. However, I still love Game of Thrones and I think it is the best TV show ever created. Finally, I think the Canto Bight subplot in The Last Jedi is one of the worst sequences in Star Wars. However, I absolutely love The Last Jedi and how it challenges the characters and (from my point of view) is the most emotionally complex Star Wars film.

Am I saying that as consumers of media we should not criticize? No, I am not saying that at all! Criticism, especially when it is constructive in nature, can be a great tool for improving things. As fans, we should expect and desire quality content. However, from my point of view, the criticism that is being handed out has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with perspective. For example, choices being made about how The Force works or character choices/motivations are a matter of perspective and do not equate to the quality of the piece. There is also a difference between being critical and being toxic. Being toxic is when you dislike something and then hurl insults at actors/creators, boycott future films, ask for things to be remade/removed from canon, etc. For me, this is a problem that comes from the dark side. It comes from a sense of entitlement and ownership of the stories that we know and love. Instead of scrutinizing everything that we are being given, maybe we should be more appreciative of the fact that we have been given the gift of more Star Wars.

For many years, I thought Star Wars was over. When Episode III came and went, I thought that was the end. I couldn’t have been more excited when I found out about the Disney deal, and that I would be able to see Episodes VII, VIII, and IX of my favorite story of all time. Even more recently, I was so excited to see the 30 second clip from The Rise of Skywalker that was released. Unfortunately, I found myself engrossed in the Twitter conversations surrounding this clip. The scrutiny here was that the characters say, “They fly now?” about the First Order troopers. The criticism of this dialogue is that stormtroopers flying isn’t new and it’s been done before in video games and other stories. However, to these characters, this is something new to them! I’m pretty sure Poe hasn’t played Star Wars Battlefront. Come on people, have some fun! I took this clip as something that evoked the fun, adventure, and comedy of the original trilogy, and I absolutely loved it.

Unfortunately, toxic fandom and constant scrutiny can really take the fun out of Star Wars. So, I have decided that I don’t want my experience of Episode IX to be diminished by this. Therefore, I will be actively avoiding Twitter and comments sections surrounding this movie. It’s been a long time since I was this excited about a movie, and it makes me feel like a kid again. It makes me feel like that 10 year old that was filled with wonder when I saw The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi for the first time. I think George Lucas was right all along… maybe Star Wars is for kids. Kids still wonder and dream, and aren’t yet jaded by the world around them or from “growing up”. I couldn’t agree with J.J. Abrams more, “we have to return to nuance and acceptance.” If we can’t find that inner child that allows us to enjoy what Star Wars is, we may be at risk of losing it.

So, my challenge to you is that you allow Star Wars to be fun again and enjoy the ride. Be a kid again, full of wonder and acceptance. On this Thanksgiving, I challenge you to be thankful for what we have, because it is a great time to be a Star Wars fan. And remember, you don’t have to love every single thing about Star Wars to love Star Wars!

May The Force be with you!

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