This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time and have held off on posting because honestly, I’m reluctant to bring up unpleasant topics. But it’s been my intent ever since last May the 4th when I got into an argument on Twitter with somebody. (Coming May 2016: Why I’m Done With May the 4th). Here’s a faux internet holiday meant to celebrate Star Wars and the celebrating I get to do is argue with a stranger, who naturally took advantage of the day to bash the stuff he didn’t like.
Such is one’s experience with Star Wars fandom and thus it has been for a long time. So here we are with a new movie looming closer, the first of a bunch of new cinematic offerings. There’s certainly excitement among fans but the divisions and dysfunction among active fans, especially online, have become deeper and more exacerbated. Some of this can be blamed on the tack being used to promote TFA. They could have chosen a campaign designed to bring everyone together. Instead we got a convention season campaign designed to appeal to prequel haters, critics, and nostalgics. Worse yet as a fan who loves all of the Star Wars movies, I felt like I was being asked to cynically shrug off throwing those movies and the people who worked on them under the bus for the sake of some Greater Good. If this was how TPM was promoted, I could 100% understand the backlash against the film. Maybe it wouldn’t have been fair but it would’ve been completely understandable. Some of the rumors and trial balloons about Ep. VIII are showing a more conciliatory attitude toward the prequels and their fans but we’ll have to see if they pan out. In any case, it’s going to stick in my craw for a long time.
A lot of this can be blamed on the media, which is going right along with the marketing tack because a lot of people in the media, especially the geek/comic book/movie/entertainment industrial complex, hate the prequels and/or use anti-PT sentiment as reliable clickbait. To Darth Media, it’s conventional wisdom the prequels were awful and the fans uniformly hated them. If I have to read one more condescending piece on how somebody has to “save” Star Wars or one more hack who makes the same lazy, uninformed assumptions, I’m going to barf. A pox on all of their pixels.
But the fundamental problem is the treatment of Star Wars as two competing trilogies that have nothing to do with each other, with competing, incompatible fan bases. Only one base can “win” and the other must “lose.” So the OT-only part of the base is declared real and legitimate and its favored trilogy is deemed the only real Star Wars. Those other movies are deemed illegitimate and the dopes who love them are frauds and pretenders. This attitude has been purchased wholesale. As a result, just about everyone has been looking the other way on or even celebrating some terrible behavior over the past several years. It’s not just one set of fans have an opinion that’s different from the opinion of another set of fans. This has been a vicious scorched earth campaign with trolling, bullying, flaming, threats, and harassment. Much of the anger was directed at Lucas and any accomplices working on the prequels. But since there’s only so much you can do to Lucas, who has been wise enough to stay off of social media and the internet as a whole, the brunt of the ragefest was aimed at those attempting even the slightest defense of the movies. Those who embraced the prequels have been put on the defensive and viewed as outliers, outcasts, and worthy of contempt. That is if prequel fans aren’t outright ignored. I could write a book about some of the stuff I experienced: discussion threads trolled and derailed on other sites, nasty grams from strangers, a guy at a collector’s meeting loudly ripping the prequels even after he realized it was annoying me, getting called “stupid” or a “hate monger,” being told I don’t know anything about movies or that I’m not a real Star Wars fan, etc.. There was one guy who thought it was charming to post in the comments to a well-known fan news site a picture of the prequel DVDs on fire. If there’s anything that has taught me that People Suck, it’s been my experiences in this fandom.
Prequel fans have been pretty much kicked out of geek/nerd culture as a whole. Most geek sites only refer to those films in a disdainful way and you’ll get set upon by trolls if you don’t toe the line. Pro-prequel panels are rare at conventions. A panel at this year’s SDCC about different starships from different fandoms flat out refused to discuss anything from the prequels because “they don’t exist.” Those who sat through Celebration Anaheim’s streaming coverage had to put up with blatant and subtle digs at the prequels. And Lord help a writer who tries even the faintest attempt to defend the movies on any geek/comic book site.
In popular culture and the media, the prequels don’t get much of a break either. They get mocked by the faux geek hipsters on “The Big Bang Theory” or on TMZ. For some who worked on the films this behavior has driven them from social media and damaged careers. We were even debating here whether it had any influence on Jake Lloyd’s alleged struggles with mental illness. Somehow people found it acceptable to harass someone on the internet because they didn’t like what their target’s father had done with a movie. They found it okay to be a jerk to Ahmed Best or Hayden Christensen, even in person. Yet hardly anyone in fandom or in geekdom or the media has ever addressed this issue. You’re not supposed to talk about it much less show any sign of it bothering you. Worse yet, somebody like Patton Oswalt can say he wanted to beat George Lucas to death with a shovel and still get treated like a hero. Simon Pegg practically got to be creative consultant on TFA in spite of well, everything.
There seems to be very little patience and understanding for fans like us and at the same time, we’re expected to think of these bullies as “fellow fans” and “family.” I keep thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I don’t want to waste any time with awful people who live only to make others miserable. Unfortunately if you venture anywhere near fandom, you’ll encounter them and sometimes they go out of their way to find you. Now that more prequel fans are finally finding a voice, the reaction is, “Shut up!” Over the past summer I’ve seen prequel fans called out for being “too negative.” That’s rich after what’s happened for the past several years! What really gets my goat is the insistence there’s actual parity between prequel fans defending what they love about Star Wars or themselves and the likes of calling for Lucas’s death by shovel, bullying a young actor, or issuing threats against fans and their kids. There isn’t. I’ll bet you money the knuckleheads who decided to troll Daisy Ridley’s Instagram the other day weren’t prequel fans. And in any case, it’s what I call the Five Year Old’s Argument: “Mommy, he did it too!” Sorry fandom…prequel fans are NOT the problem. They never have been. We have every right to stick up for what we love about the saga as any other Star Wars fan. Somehow no one seems to understand this as though fandom isn’t about celebrating what you enjoy but about being constantly told you’re wrong for enjoying it. Who wants that?