Creators’ Rule Of Engagement

As threatened, I’m writing a manifesto for how creators and fans should engage.  I’m starting with creators first for a few reasons.  Reason one…I found out that a Star Wars author whom I have never directly engaged with or even tagged while discussing him blocked me on Twitter.  The only reason I could think of it happening is that I had criticized his posts and the author must have taken the time and trouble to search his name to see who was talking smack about him.  Who does this?  Doesn’t he have deadlines or something to meet?

Reason two is that creators have a platform that the rest of us do not have.  They have instant name recognition or at least greater recognition than us regular Joes and Janes.  They have thousands if not hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers.  They have the power, directly or indirectly, to unleash those followers to pig pile on an individual while having the sympathy of other fans, the studio/publisher/production company, and the media.

Reason three is that creators are, like it or not, ambassadors for the brand.  I’ve written about this numerous times.  They represent Official Star Wars and this means they have a responsibility to do a good job representing that brand.

First off, Lucasfilm needs a new Fan Relations person.  No one has been in that position since Steve Sansweet retired some years back.   Ideally, it would be someone who Loves Star Wars and is really excited by it AND at the same time is diplomatic, incredibly patient, and has a sunny personality.  That person would be a go-to for fans and that person can provide Lucasfilm with feedback or at least some on-the-ground-intel, and show creators new to the fandom how to interact with us.  I would nominate Ashley Eckstein because she is all of those things and she is widely respected and admired by the fan base.  But she’s a busy gal as it is with Her Universe and other ventures, so that’s probably not going to happen.   Maybe Vanessa Marshall would be a good candidate.  Maybe Sam Witwer.  A creator like Dave Filoni has too much on his plate.  In fact, it definitely should not be a creator.  No writers, no Marvel people, no story groupers, no directors, and no producers.  The idea is to get Lucasfilm out of the siege mentality instead of reinforcing it.  Sansweet was a BNF, the world’s best known Star Wars collector, but I’m not so certain about today’s crop of fans who, shall I say, have a bigger platform.  This is largely due to my not being terribly impressed with their ability to bridge gaps among the fans.  Too many spend too much of their time fighting other fans, posting partisan political rants, and kicking up controversy.  An ideal Fan Relations person publicly stays above the fray.  The only caveat I have about a new Fan Relations person is that we’ve reached the point where if the person selected doesn’t check off the right amount of boxes, then some elements of fandom has a collective meltdown.

Creators should:

 

Treat respectful fans respectfully.  They don’t have to like your work or agree with you, but as long as they’re polite about it, they aren’t owed caplocked curse-outs in return.  Or to be treated rudely in person.  All you can do with genuine trolls, if you’re not handy with mic dropping comebacks, is to ignore them and/or block them.  Mass blocking however, is a TERRIBLE idea.  Only deal with the person annoying you.

Not encourage their fans directly or indirectly to attack individuals on social media.  You have a larger platform than that person does and encouraging thousands of strangers to harass or humiliate or doxx someone for merely being obnoxious or having a different opinion is petty.  It’s like shooting a fly with a nuclear missile.  All you’re doing is throwing around your power.

 Understand that if you take public stands on political or social issues or on fandom controversies, not everyone is going to like what you have to say.  Often the harsher the rhetoric, the harsher the response will be.  That’s the risk of mouthing off on social media.

Understand not all fans are like yourself or geek culture types.  This is especially true of extremely popular shows, movies, books, etc..  Things with broader appeal will have a broader audience.

Never assume anything about a stranger online, good or bad.  It’s grossly unfair to generalize about fans based on their opinions and attitudes.  Without evidence to the contrary, never assume a critic is coming from a place of some kind of –ism.

Realize everyone you interact with is a potential customer/fan/reader/moviegoer.  You don’t owe them the world because they’re fans but those folks don’t owe you their time and treasure either.  There are plenty of other things to geek out over in 2018  besides your stuff.

Never reduce yourself to using racist, sexist, or other kinds of demeaning language against a fan.  That damages you as a person and it damages the brand overall.

 Try to stay out of fandom controversies.  This may be very difficult in today’s environment, since agreeing to appear on a podcast others don’t like could in turn drag you into something you had nothing to do with in the first place.  Stay above frays as much as possible.

Be skeptical of claims some other fan is “problematic” unless and until you are willing to fully investigate these claims yourself.  Don’t take a social media mob’s word for it.

Take the time to get to know the fan base.  Ask fans questions on social media.  Listen in on a few podcasts.  Read some blogs.

Not trash or demean other aspects of the Star Wars saga or segments of the fan base.

Respect George Lucas, even if you never worked with him or on anything he directly created.

Remember, as long as you are producing Star Wars material, you are an ambassador for the brand.

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