I originally posted this on my LiveJournal yesterday but was urged to post it here as well.
Star Wars needs to renounce geek culture.
That might strike you as a bit weird, as though I’m saying we need to cut ourselves off from oxygen or gravity. Isn’t Star Wars part of the geeky universe after all? How could it possibly divorce itself from the worlds of comics, collectibles, cons, and cosplaying? It just isn’t possible!
Well, I’m not saying Dark Horse needs to stop publishing and far be it from me to suggest I wouldn’t want a Star Wars presence at Comic Con. God forbid! But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that “geek” and “Star Wars” aren’t necessarily synonymous and indeed, they shouldn’t be.
Sure, Star Wars was the first film marketed at Comic Con and it was marketed at Worldcon 1976 in Kansas City. But ultimately it has turned out to be an ill-fated partnership. It was geek culture that turned on the series and on Lucas. It dictated what fans and casual viewers alike are supposed to think about it. Because geek culture drives the media these days, the attacks on half the saga and on Lucas have been relentless and effective. (And regular moviegoers made ANH a hit, not the couple hundred people at Comic Con 1976.)
That isn’t to say Star Wars isn’t popular. But it’s popular with two kinds of people: loyal fans like me and Minivan Nation. Families with kids. The kind of people whose opinions aren’t as likely to be shaped by geek culture. Besides, regular moviegoers made Star Wars the megahit and cultural touchstone. Geeks create small devoted cults. The rest of the world picks the big winners.
But old habits die hard and it seems like up until the present, there’s a persistent need to try and keep Star Wars relevant among professed geeks. I think Lucasfilm is totally wasting its time with them.
For one thing, geeks are conformists of the worst kind. “Independent thought” doesn’t make you popular on geek sites. Voice a different opinion from “geek orthodoxy” and they will come down on you like a ton of bricks to punish you for your heresy. Why is that? I think it’s because there are a lot of very insecure people behind those oh-so-clever screennames. After a while it becomes learned behavior that if you deviate, others start to hate.
Geekdom is fickle and driven by hype. They are like the fair weather sports fans who only get on the bandwagon if the team’s heading to the Super Bowl or World Series. They like to be part of the cheering crowd of fellow geeks. They want to be where the cool kids are. Right before the Special Editions came out, there seemed to be an awful lot of Star Wars fans. I can also remember a lot of the same people who camped out for two months prior to TPM opening and went to see it several times over the summer quickly vamoosed once the backlash was underway. Why? Again, insecurity. On to the next hyped feature! These people often change their minds on what they consider cool or acceptable. They have lots of passion but they also have the attention span of that dog in “Up.” While looking at the Geek Mom blog on its Star Wars week, someone posted that Star Wars was as dated and kitschy as an Elvis impersonator. Yeah, those people are loyal!
Heroes die hard and almost never regain respect. When you’re on top in Geek World, you could be making Zeus clean your toilet on Mt. Olympus. Many geeks are not religious but geek heroes are as close as they will ever get to worshipping a god. But boy oh boy, displease your audience and you’ll fall further than Lucifer ever did. They take disappointment very personally and will never, ever forgive you for it.
Star Wars needs to establish itself independent of geek culture, a modern mythology accessible to everyone. If geek nation happens to like it, fine. If not, oh well. Disney has a large number of diehard fans and collectors, but they’re not necessarily part of geek culture. “The Wizard of Oz” continues to have a following after 73 years without the approval of Gizmodo, i09, and AICN. I don’t have a plan on how to make it happen except to say instead of focusing on geeks, focus on everybody else.