The image above depicts both the dark side and the light. Have I experienced darkness in the Star Wars fandom? Absolutely. Especially in the years following the release of The Last Jedi. To be honest, it was a very difficult time for me to be a Star Wars fan because I loved The Last Jedi and many fans had a negative reaction to that film. Then, a very vocal minority of fans had a toxic reaction to it by hurling insults at individuals involved with the film, such as Rian Johnson and Kelly Marie Tran. At the time, I had to almost completely avoid Twitter and YouTube comments.
I believe this vocal minority gave a bad name to the Star Wars fandom, but I’m here to tell you that there is plenty of light in the fandom to drown out the darkness. To be perfectly honest, I can understand the criticism of The Last Jedi, because I didn’t like the film the first time I saw it. I really had to give it another chance, and the more I saw it, the more I fell in love with it and got past my own expectations.
In a similar way, I believe we need to give the Star Wars fandom another chance. I had some angry and dark days as a Star Wars fan between December 2017 and March 2019, but my experience at Star Wars Celebration 2019 allowed me to see the light and renewed my excitement for Star Wars again.
In 2019, Celebration was held in Chicago, which is a very doable 6 hour drive for me. My wife and I decided to pull the trigger and get tickets because I knew this would be the final Celebration to feature a “Skywalker Saga” film. Despite the high cost of the trip, it was well worth it and was an experience I will never forget.
Celebration really kicked off on Friday with The Rise of Skywalker panel. We didn’t win tickets to the Celebration stage, so we watched it from the Star Wars Show Stage. We were packed in with hundreds of other fans in a small area trying to catch a glimpse of the screens in front of us that were live streaming the panel. Once the trailer began, the whole crowd went silent, and then erupted in cheers as Rey leapt over a Tie Fighter, Lando piloted the Falcon once again, and the sinister laugh of the Emperor echoed through the room. I will never forget Ian McDiarmid stepping out onto the stage and dropping the mic after he uttered, “roll it again”.
That may have been the single greatest Star Wars moment in my entire life, and I got to experience it with hundreds of other fans who were all there with a common purpose: to show their love and passion for Star Wars. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My Celebration experience wasn’t just defined by the big moments, though. Some of the smaller moments showed me the true nature of the Star Wars fandom.
For instance, my wife and I encountered some Star Wars cosplayers on the Chicago transit system, which we quickly learned is known as “The L”. We found ourselves engaged in conversation with these complete strangers who were dressed as Rey and a Jedi. It was the first time in my life that I felt completely comfortable talking about Star Wars with complete strangers. They even gave us some great advice about how to approach our first Star Wars Celebration.
Another one of the highlights of my experience at celebration was witnessing the Jedi: Fallen Order panel live on the Celebration Stage. We were lucky enough to get seats near the front of the stage. After the panel, I got to meet Lacey Gilleran, John Hoey, and James Baney from The Resistance Broadcast, one of my favorite Star Wars podcasts. We had a long conversation about The Rise of Skywalker trailer, and they were so down to earth and easy to talk to.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to Star Wars Celebration. The vocal minority led me to believe that I might hear the boos of angry fans, but I actually found the opposite was true. I felt such positivity and a sense of unity among people that share a love for something that is more than just a series of movies. Star Wars is so much bigger than that. Star Wars has given me so many feelings in my life, and perhaps the best ones came at Star Wars Celebration. If you ever get the opportunity to attend Celebration, I highly recommend it.
I found the light that I needed in Chicago in April of 2019, and now I am a guardian of that light. That light gave me the courage to talk to one of my best friends about a movie that we very much disagreed about. That conversation led to the idea of doing a podcast that embraces different points of view. No matter what we disagree about as Star Wars fans, we can always come together and find the light.
As Star Wars fans, it is on us to take in the lessons that Star Wars can teach us, and to pass on what we have learned. Choose to embrace the light that exists in this fandom, because I think you will find that there is more light than there is darkness. May The Force be with you, always.