A little over a year ago (and the many months beforehand) I was on what I liked to call “the bummer brigade” when it came to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I wasn’t excited about the movie at all and I was the one in the back pointing out that trailers can be deceptive and that Star Wars doesn’t have the best record when it comes to good versus bad movies. I wasn’t so much trying to ruin the party as I was trying to bring the party smashing back to reality so everyone kept their expectations reasonable.
Flash forward to the present day and I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to come out for months. The only thing that I was more excited for was Captain America: Civil War. I’ve been reading books, buying merchandise, and devouring everything I can Star Wars- related ever since I saw The Force Awakens. There is a certain subset of fans who would look at that and hate me for it.
Allow me to give some context; I have always liked Star Wars. Since we I first watched them on VHS as a kid to seeing the prequels in the theaters I’ve watched all the movies multiple times and I appreciated the series for what it did for film. However, I wouldn’t have said I was a fan. I never got into the Extended Universe, now called Legends, and I remember not liking the prequels very much. Star Wars was a fandom I respected but didn’t actively participate in. It wasn’t my thing until a year ago when The Force Awakens brought me on board. I was late to the Star Wars party and, to some, this makes the accusations of not being a ‘real fan’ come out.
There is no wrong way to be a fan, for the record, and this concept of the ‘fake fan’ or the ‘fair weather fan’ if we’re looking at sports culture, runs rampant now that geek culture is mainstream. We have comic fans telling fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that they aren’t ‘real fans’ because they haven’t been reading the comics for decades. We have Star Wars fans sneering at people like me who didn’t get into Star Wars until The Force Awakens as if I was somehow being a fan wrong. There is no wrong way to be a fan; if you like something then you are a fan of it and that’s the end of it.
The purpose of adaptations from a different medium, like the Marvel or DC movies or rebooting a series for the next generation like Star Wars and Jurassic World, is to bring in new fans. However, older geeks haven’t learned that being mainstream means we need to change our way of thinking. We see people liking Star Wars and not getting beaten up for it and we don’t like them. I had to bleed to like my thing, so if that person isn’t bleeding then they aren’t as legitimate as me. I was supporting this sports team when they were losing and that person only came on board when we started winning. I suffered so they should suffer too. We have been victims of bullying for so much of our lives that it’s built into our identities.
We, as a community, need to reevaluate our identity. We act like beaten dogs; we lash out at anyone whether they are trying to pet us (new fans) or even if they try to feed us (creators). We were once the persecuted minority, now we judge those who once judged us. We had to defend ourselves against people who made fun of us for liking things they considered ‘childish’ so now we’re on the offensive against new crowds. If someone doesn’t fit into what we consider to be a nerd or a fan archetype then we decide they aren’t worthy of us and that isn’t right. We need to accept that we are mainstream and with that means we have to be more willing to let new people into our ranks.
We are so prone to attacking back that we have started to do it to the creators that are making the things we love. It seems like a comic creator or artist can’t change the hair color of a character without a bunch of people coming in and claiming everything is ruined forever. We send those people death threats over social media just for changing the things that we grew up with. There were entire segments of the internet who lost their minds over the new Ghostbusters instead of embracing all the new fans who could join the fandom. The fact that there were little boys and girls alike dressed as the Ghostbusters last Halloween didn’t matter because it was different. We are so prone to feeling attacked that we perceive ‘change’ as an attack. We perceive evolution as a personal attack but that is an entirely different article I could write.
I’m coming to the Star Wars party very late but that doesn’t mean my passion or the passion of anyone else who only started watching Star Wars recently is any less valid. I know a lot of us are still bitter that we got beat up and teased and bullied for liking the things we liked but that doesn’t mean the next generation of fans should have to suffer, too. We were once on the fringes but now we’re on the inside looking out. We are better than this; we are better than the bullying and the infighting and the gatekeeping.
I didn’t bleed for my newfound love of Star Wars but I still want to sit there with you in the theater, giddy with excitement when another movie comes around. I hope you’re willing to let me join in that party even if I did show up a little later than you were expecting me.