A long time ago in a place far, far away, the Star Wars fandom was pretty tightly knit. The sixteen years between the releases of Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace were generally fairly quiet, with fans uniting over books, video games and comics. But ever since the Prequel Trilogy, certain fans have been getting angrier and angrier, with the 2018 release of The Last Jedi tipping a lot of people right over the edge.
That white-hot rage hasn’t subsided and you can’t discuss the aforementioned film online without some frothing lunatic showing up to screech about the “feminization” of Star Wars or to smugly point out physics mistakes in fantasy space combat sequences. Now, however, someone at the very core of Star Wars has expressed his confusion that things have gotten so tense. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Mark Hamill talked about the current situation and said the following:
“I don’t know when, over the period of time, fandom became so contentious. But people are really opinionated, and you can’t help but be opinionated yourself, because you’ve lived with the character so long. So whether it was on Episode VII, VIII or IX, I’d have disagreements, and I would say to whoever it was, “Well, I don’t know if that’s right.” But everyone shares the same goal: you want to make the best movie you can.
I love the new cast. I think the characters are great and all the actors are just perfect. I wish I’d gotten to work with them more, obviously, because I was so isolated. But you know, I never expected to come back at all. It was bittersweet, but I was able to enjoy it from a different perspective than years ago when I was in my twenties. So it was just fun to be a part of it, and it was sad in a way, because I knew it would be the last time I’d ever play Luke.”
My pet theory is that Lucasfilm and Disney have encouraged viewers to not just see Star Wars as a fun movie series, but as a core part of their identity. You can see it in the various promo trailers of people recounting their emotional histories with the franchise, with their goal being to embed Star Wars firmly within the very essence of who you are (which will make you buy an R2-D2 shaped lamp or a Yoda mobile phone case or whatever).
It’s a solid marketing strategy, but one major consequence of this tactic is that any perceived ‘attack’ on Star Wars effectively becomes an attack on peoples’ personalities. This means that when the newer films try to reflect social diversity or introduce thematic evolution, it can feel as if Disney is trying to alter you as well. This hits particularly hard if the politics of current Star Wars differ from your own, which I think is why certain sections of the fan community can be relied upon to blow their gaskets at the slightest provocation.
At this point, there’s probably no way of undoing all that, but if you find yourself constantly angry at Star Wars and typing endless angry comments about it, maybe just put your money where your mouth is and stop. Don’t watch the movies and TV shows, don’t play the games and definitely don’t buy the cheap plastic crap. Maybe you’ll be happier?