The 'Star Wars' Fandom Has A Toxicity Problem

The 'Star Wars' Fandom Has A Toxicity Problem

As a long time "Star Wars" fan I feel it's necessary to point out some of the negative and toxic aspects that have developed within the fandom
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This one is going to get very personal for me. Last week I wrote about "The Phantom Menace" and, while I didn't say it was a good film, I defended some of its aspects and felt that it doesn't deserve the level of hate that it still receives (almost 20 years later) to this day. However, over-the-top "Prequel Hate" isn't the only negative thing to have wormed its way into the fandom.

Over the last few years, I have noticed some severely negative behavior within the fandom ranging from the relatively minor (horrendous "gate-keeping" behavior) to the extreme and terrifying (straight up racism, sexism, and homophobia). What follows are some of the toxic behaviors I have witnessed from fans within the community. I hope to shed light on these problems, so we can fix them and (hopefully) make the "Star Wars" fandom a fun and welcoming place for everyone.

Here's something that almost everyone knows at this point; a plurality of "Star Wars" fans don't like the Prequels and that's fine. I'm not a huge fan of them either, I feel that they were wildly mediocre (except for "Attack of the Clones" which I consider straight up bad). I mostly just appreciate them for their visuals, world building, music, and the fact that two really good "Clone Wars" animated series spun off from them.

However, do you know what I also don't do? I don't use my feelings toward the Prequels to spew venom at the younger kids who did like the Prequels and I don't tell them that they aren't "real" Star Wars fans for it. First of all, no one should ever use the term "not a real fan". Who are you to say what does or doesn't make someone a fan? Second, what does make a "real fan"? What are the set guidelines needed to reach this ridiculously vague and abstract idea? Does one have to only love the Originals? Does one have to swear all of the other films and Expanded Universe (EU) material?

I bring this up because I have seen some fans try to convey they same behavior toward the still unfolding "Sequel Trilogy." While these fans aren't nearly as large in number as those who dismissed the "Prequel Trilogy", they are still there. I see many "click bait" videos on YouTube in bold attention getting letters titled "Why 'The Force Awakens' Sucks" or my favorite "Why 'The Force Awakens' is the Worst Movie Ever Made" (seriously, that last one actually exists on YouTube).

I know opinion is subjective and you can dislike films if you want to and all that, but "worst movie ever made"; really? I can see people having some issues with it (it's not a perfect film, but what is?) or think it's bad (Many "Star Wars" fans, myself included, think it's a good film), but to call it the "worst movie ever made" feels like an opinion that is far removed from reality.

If you do feel that way, I would like to know what makes it more unwatchable than things like "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," "The Last Airbender," "Disaster Movie," "Movie 43," "InAPPropriate Comedy," or even most of the recent Adam Sandler films.

It almost feels like certain fans are trying to turn "The Force Awakens" (which did receive critical and financial success) into another "Phantom Menace" level disappointment as a way to tell everyone how the "Original Trilogy" was so superior and how anyone who says that they genuinely think it's a good film are either stupid, lying, or are just saying they like it because they let nostalgia blind them, or just "slaves to the brand."

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are prime examples of this whiny entitled fanboy (if you want evidence of this just watch episodes like "Free Hat," "The China Probrem," or all of Season 20). These are seriously possessive and entitled forms of "gate-keeping" in a fandom that can turn off many younger fans who grew up with the newer material and got them into loving the series in the first place.

You don't have to start liking the films (I'm still not fond of the "Prequel Trilogy"), but don't deprive someone else of their enjoyment of it and certainly don't claim they are "not a real fan" for it. If there was ever a reason to say someone "isn't a real fan" it would be for the following reasons.

The "gate-keeping" behaviors I mentioned in the previous paragraphs are pretty bad, but they don't compare to the absolutely vile act of attacking someone or attempting to keep them from getting into the fandom based solely on their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. I thought things like racism, sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia were beneath the "Star Wars" fan community (or any fan community; I'm looking at you, so-called "Ghostbusters" and "Mad Max" fans), but I guess I was wrong. I started to notice this when the first teaser trailer for "The Force Awakens" was released and it featured the character of Finn (John Boyega) in a stormtrooper outfit.

Shortly after racial slurs and hate speech were thrown at John (who is a British citizen of African descent) and at Disney/Lucasfilm for featuring many people of color (which includes Oscar Isaac) as leads in the film. Later, after the film was released, many threw sexist remarks toward Daisy Ridley after her character Rey was revealed to be the main protagonist (similar to Luke Skywalker) of this new trilogy.

Not only is this behavior uncalled for and just morally wrong, it doesn't make any logical sense coming from, supposed, fans of "Star Wars". Why was the inclusion of a black actor as one of the main heroes a problem? This isn't the first time "Star Wars" has had black actors within the main cast.

The "Original Trilogy" had the lovable and smooth talking leader of Cloud City Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). The "Prequel Trilogy" had the strong and skilled warrior Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson). We even have an African American man, James Earl Jones, to thank for bringing giving one of the most iconic film villains of all time, Darth Vader, his iconic and frightening voice. After saying all of this, I literally do not understand where this deep seeded racist reaction to John Boyega has come from considering the long spanning history of black characters and actors throughout the franchise.

I also can't believe the sexism angle, especially since the series gave us strong female characters, such as Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), who were featured heavily as skilled fighters and great leaders (for Padme, these characteristics are shown more in the animated "Clone Wars" series than they are in the "Prequel Trilogy").

Over the last few months, I have witnessed the franchise receive Islamophobic slurs and hate speech from "fans," because the actor who portrayed Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is of Middle Eastern and Islamic descent.

The novel Star Wars: Aftermath received hate due to the inclusion of a gay character. I guess all of this was a symptom of the current political climate we are in, but nothing justifies this level of racism, sexism, and overall hate speech. It has gotten so bad that these "fans" have started a boycott movement called #DumpStarWars over the inclusion of all of the characters that just happen to not be cisgender, heterosexual, white men (and if you've checked the box office returns from the newest "Star Wars" films, you can tell that the boycott is totally working... I hope you can imagine me saying that in a sarcastic tone).

These diverse and varied characters are good for the series, because they help bring in entirely different demographics and can inspire new fans and give them role models. A Muslim can see Bodhi and view him as a hero of the Rebellion, instead of the damaging image of seeing another Muslim depicted as a stereotypical terrorist or villain. A young girl can get into "Star Wars" by imagining herself as the main hero through Rey in the same way many boys saw themselves as the main hero through Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Many young black people, Asian people, and various people of color can see themselves as heroes who make up the important core protagonists of the film; not just as extras, villains, or one dimensional sidekicks to the white lead.

I wrote this because I love "Star Wars" and I love the fandom. Despite everything I just said, the fandom (like any) is mostly made up of good, well-mannered, and kind people. For a prime example of this, look no further than the cosplay group called the 501st Legion. They do amazing fundraisers and charity work for various communities.

Most of my closest friends are die-hard "Star Wars" fans as well, but they are also good people (accept for you, Robert! You know what you did!). That's the real reason I wrote this article. There are kind and tolerant people in the fandom who are necessary now more than ever. We need good people like this to drown out all of the ranting, gate-keeping, and straight up hate coming from certain fans. These "bad fans" are spoiled, entitled, and whiny "snowflakes" who want to force the series to serve them and only them.

If you want a better look at this entitled point of view I suggest you watch Bob Chipman's, a.k.a. "The Moviebob", video called "The Phantom Menace 13 Years Later" on YouTube; it's a really good video. They feel it belongs to them and enjoy hurting others and love the idea of keeping women, homosexuals, and people of color out of "their series."

They are wrong. "Star Wars" is a very human story about fighting for freedom and oppression. It's about the struggle against hatred and how it can cause pain to many innocent people. "Star Wars" is a series that brought me great joy as a child and I want to see the newer generations enjoy it.

I want all people, no matter your race or gender or sexual orientation, to see something important and personal. I want to see it improve their lives and bring them all joy. I want everyone to see these diverse people bring their diverse level of experiences to the franchise, so new and interesting stories can be told within this universe. This is the power that art like movies, books, and video games hold. They can inspire and influence our lives in ways we rarely expect. All I want is to see any human being receive the same experience I had with "Star Wars" and I hope I'm lucky enough to share my experiences with him or her. May the Force be with all of you!

Cover Image Credit: youtube.com

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To the guy that shot my brother...

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To the guy that shot my brother,

On January 9, 2019 my families entire life changed with one phone call. The phone call that my little brother had been shot in the face, no other details. We didn't need any other details. The woman on the phone who called us in full panic told us where he was so we went, as soon as possible. I don't think it helped that not even 10 min prior I talked to Zach on the phone.. kind of irritated with him, and the ONE TIME I didn't say 'I love you' as we hung up. Could've been the last time we ever spoke.. I remember pulling up to the hospital thinking 'this can't be real' 'it's not our Zach' 'this is just a dream Sarah, WAKE UP' I'd close my eyes really tight just to open them, I was still in the hospital emergency parking lot. I could still hear the ambulance sirens coming. It was all real.

The day our life's changed was definitely a test of faith. A test of how strong we were, as a family. I sat in that waiting room ready to see the damage that has been done to my sweet baby brother. Because at that point we had no idea how lucky he got. That glimpse of seeing Zach will haunt me forever. How helpless I felt in that exact moment frequently wakes me up from these horrific dreams I've been having ever since that day. That is a moment burned into my me and families brain forever.

You always hear about these things in the movies or on the news, a house being shot up, someone shooting another innocent person, not to care if they died on your watch. But we found ourselves on the news.. We have been confined to the hospital since that day. Running on barely any sleep, taking shifts of sleep so we don't make ourselves sick taking care of Zach. Watching him suffer. Undergoing surgeries, to repair the damage you did.

Before I proceed let me tell you a little something about the man you shot.

Zachary Keith Wright. A blonde hair blue eyed boy. Who could potentially be the most annoying human on the planet (possibly coming from his sister). A man who loves his God first, loves his family second. Perfect by no means, but almost perfect to me. A 19 year old who was to graduate high school this month. After graduation he was prepping to leave for Marine boot camp in the summer.. being in the military has been Zach's dream since he could talk. Literally. Running around, playing war with underwear on our heads, and finger guns. Some would say we looked like natural born assassins.. growing up he has been a country boy. Let me tell ya country to the core. He loves this country like he loves his family. He believes in helping people, taking charge in what's right, and never leaving a brother behind. He's lived by that his whole life. Until now....

The day you shot him. The day not only did you change my brothers life, you changed his families life too. The day you almost ripped my brother out of this world... for what? A misunderstanding? Because you've let something take ahold of your life that you can't let go you're willing to kill someone innocent over? Luckily for him, his guardian angels were protecting him in your time of cowardice. There were 3 times that day he should've died, the time you shot him, the time you tried to shoot him again as he stared you directly in the face, (even tho he couldn't talk I know you could read his eyes, and he still intimidated you. That's why you tried to pull the trigger again) and the time he was running out of the house. But he lived. A man who was shot in the face, didn't lay there helpless, didn't scream in agony. That MAN walked to the neighbors to get help. Why? Because he's a MAN, and because he's on this earth for a reason.

It's gonna sound a little strange not only to you, but the audience who is reading this. I must say thank you. Even in this situation, this was the best outcome we could get. He gets to live. He will make a full recovery. He will graduate. And he will go off into the Marines. You united my family together. Closer than ever. Thank you. You tested our faith and brought us closer to our God. Thank you. Because of your moment of weakness, you showed us what prayer could do. Heal anything. Thank you. This was a bump in the road, and a helluva way to kick off our year of 2019. But here we are.. all laying in the hospital. I'm looking around as mom is sleeping in her recliner chair exhasted but still here, Zach his awake playing his xbox all hooked up to machines, fighting to heal and get better. And of course I'm writing this letter to you.

See you in trial,

From the girl whose brother you shot.

'Fight the good fight' - 1 Tim 6:12 🤟🏼💙

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