What Do Star Wars Fans Actually Want?

The Star Wars sequel trilogy suffered from an identity crisis right out of the gate. Each new instalment seemed to try and make up for the “sins” of its predecessor. And in turn, the portion of the fanbase that screamed the loudest kept moving the goal post.

The Force Awakens premieres, and it’s labelled a “New Hope clone”. So they make a huge departure from the originals in The Last Jedi, but then it’s an “insult to the fans”. Then it all culminates in The Rise of Skywalker, an awkward two-and-a-half-hour retcon/apology tour. Towards the end, neither side of the divide was happy with the trilogy.

Even putting that split aside and assuming that the majority opinion is that Rian Johnson’s take on the series sucked, I don’t even think this crowd knows what it wants anymore. It knows what it doesn’t want, but that’s about it. And a loud part of this crowd has quickly become one of the worst, most abusive fandoms out there.

First, they were mad that Finn was a Black Stormtrooper. They tried to justify their racism with lore by saying that the Clone Troopers aren’t Black, but that didn’t work because Finn clearly wasn’t a Clone Trooper. Then it was “I’m not racist, it’s just forced diversity”, whatever that means.

Then in 2017, Kelly Marie Tran and Laura Dern were the targets. The abuse directed at Tran in particular was so horrific that she was driven off social media. Again, it was all “I’m not racist, I just didn’t like Rose! Her sister was cool!” Y’know, the one who had no lines and died ten minutes into the movie? That’s the appropriate amount of diversity, I guess.

With Disney seemingly caving in to their demands, Rose’s role was significantly smaller in The Rise of Skywalker. In her place, we got awkwardly stitched together Leia scenes (either using old footage or bad CGI), and a fuckton of fan service. In other words, this crowd got exactly what they had been asking for – Rey being related to another main character, Palpatine somehow returning, force ghost shenanigans, Chewie getting his goddamn medal, etc – and it still wasn’t enough. And in their defence, yeah, it sucked. Because a movie without any vision that is purely made to address every nitpick that Reddit had is a bad idea. But has that stopped fans? Of course it hasn’t.

Even the fans that don’t use slurs seem to spend a lot of time defending those that do. Consistently, the fanbase has been more outraged with actors disavowing racists than the racists themselves. And the response isn’t just an indictment of how disgusting this fandom can be, it also shows that they are happy to move the goal post around if it means they can keep attacking anything they deem “woke”. Star Wars, the anti-facist saga where the enemies are literally Stormtroopers, is now woke. Answers on a postcard for what it might have been in the first place.

Recently, Reva actress Moses Ingram shared that she has received hundreds of racist messages and even death threats from Star Wars fans. Since then, numerous actors have backed Ingram, including Ewan McGregor. Much like the last two examples, fans are justifying their hatred of the actress with lore. But that doesn’t hold up when the abuse had already started before the show’s premiere. It also doesn’t work when so many of the comments are about her and the character’s skin colour. One YouTube video that made the rounds before the show’s premiere called Ingram a “darkie”. Ingram herself has received messages that call her a “diversity hire” and the N-word.

One tweet that encapsulates this reads: “The people who believe this narrative that #StarWars fans are racist seem to be forgetting the fact that [there] have been beloved black characters and actors in the franchise for decades with no issues at all.” Illustrating their point, the fan attaches images of John Boyega, Samuel L. Jackson, Billy Dee Williams, and Donald Glover. Ignoring the fact that this argument is just “I have Black friends!”, it again shows that fans have no idea what a “good” Black character would be by their standards. Mace Windu, for example, is brilliant – but plays a fairly minor role in the original trilogy. The main stars of the three films are all white. The same can be said for Lando in both of his iterations. And we’ve already been over the fact that Boyega was bombarded with racism as soon as his role was announced.

So, what makes a good Black character? Going by this argument, they either have to have very little screen time, or wait long enough for another Black actor to be the focus of their abuse instead. Then they’ll retroactively decide they were fine all along.

For the sake of argument, let’s look at the justifications from fans who aren’t bringing up Ingram’s skin colour. Here’s another tweet that bends over backwards to explain the fans’ actions.

“One minute she can read minds, next minute she knows Anakin is Vader, she constantly breaks the rules like a child and isn’t reprimanded by the GRAND INQUISITOR”, comments a fan, adding a laugh crying emoji. “They’ve taken the leader of the inquisitors and made him also some robotic non imploding bad guy.”

Alrighty, let’s go through this:

  • Yes, she can read minds. Force users have been known to do this.
  • It’s true, not many people know Anakin is Vader. But writers don’t tend to tell the whole story in the first two episodes. We will have to watch the whole show to know the whole story. (post-episode 5 update: told you so).
  • “Breaks the rules like a child” is an interesting way to say “is frustrated that the job they’re doing for their murderous boss who likes quick results is taking too long and therefore disobeys orders to get things done faster”. Also, Sith don’t always get along that well.
  • She was reprimanded by the Grand Inquisitor. In both episodes.

What do these fans even want at this point? They say they’re fine with female characters, they just want them to be flawed. But Reva is flawed – she’s just also very strong. Sometimes characters are stronger than other characters. It happens.

Other points made about her are that she’s one-note, one-dimensional and just angry all the time. The exact same thing can be said of Darth Vader up until Return of the Jedi. But it isn’t said, because non-white characters, especially women, are held up to a much higher standard and have much more to prove. Rey’s overpowered because she can kind of beat Kylo in a fight in The Force Awakens, but Anakin isn’t for being a pro pilot at the age of nine. And that makes hyper-focusing on the performance of their actors totally okay, and getting abused is just part of that.

Unless the fandom acknowledges the abuse it has perpetuated, actors will continue to pay the price. Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd bore the brunt of the abuse over the disappointment towards the prequels. But now, we’ve all decided that the prequels were good, actually, so they’re alright. Doesn’t undo all the damage though, does it? And now saying that Finn was a “good minority” doesn’t erase all the racism tossed John Boyega’s way. It’s also racist in itself to act like Finn had to prove himself for Boyega to not be abused.

At the time of the abuse Ingram received, Obi-Wan was only two episodes in, and seemed to already be giving fans what they’d been wanting for years. A dark tone, a gloomy Ewan McGregor (just McGregor at all, really), and if we’re being honest, a male lead. But because Obi-Wan is sharing the stage with a Black woman, it’s hated. Instead of looking at the product as a whole, we’re all hyper-focusing on two-second clips that look kinda silly. When we’re nitpicking this much, it’s clear we have no idea what we want from Star Wars anymore.

I’ll level with you, I think Kenobi is kind of mid too. It’s well-acted, well-paced, and has some great scenes, but much like every project stuck in this time period, it feels uninspired. I don’t have a grand plan for the franchise that could fix all of its problems. I have some things I’d like to see (new characters, new planets, something not set during the Skywalker-era, etc), but I don’t have any story ideas to pitch Disney. And hey, Rogue One went against most of that and ended up being my second favourite film in the whole franchise, so let go of your expectations and just enjoy the ride. Even away from the racially-motivated criticism, The Mandalorian only exists because fans wanted Boba Fett so much, then they kept demanding Boba Fett, only to hate it. Buckle up for Ahsoka, because we might be in for more of the same.

Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, Kelly Marie Tran, John Boyega, and Moses Ingram are not boogeymen hellbent on destroying your childhood. They are creatives working on movies and TV shows which you might not like. They are also human beings who do not deserve the abuse you’re throwing at them under the guise of ‘criticism’. Going into each Star Wars outing with a checklist of things it has to do to get your approval just guarantees you’re going to hate it.

No one is forcing you to like what they’re doing, but as we see yet another figure suffer abuse from the fandom, have a look at yourself. Do you actually know what you want from Star Wars? Because if the last few years have proven anything, the biggest fans are all far more confused and directionless than anyone at Disney.

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