Shadows of the Dark Side: A Look at Fan Backlash

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Celebration Crowd
Celebration Crowd

Star Wars fans have always been some of the most passionate of any franchise in existence. For some, it’s a nostalgic love of the films, and the childhood they represent. For others, it’s an exciting form of fun that brings friends together. However the most noticeable group are those whom Mark Hamill lovingly named the Ultra Passionate Fans, or UPFs for short.

This segment of the fan base comprises people from all walks of life, from every ethnicity and nationality. As fans of Star Wars there are no boundaries, only friends brought together by a common interest. The UPFs display their passion in many different ways, be it cosplaying as their favorite character, or amassing a collection of Star Wars memorabilia.

One thing is for certain, fans of Star Wars are the heartbeat of the franchise, and everyone in the industry takes note of that, from toy designers to the creatives, and everyone in between. They all take great interest In the work they do, because it is enjoyed and loved by all.

That is at least, until December 2017, when Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit theaters worldwide. By industry standards, The Last Jedi was a global success, raking in $1.3 Billion in ticket sales alone, and just shy of breaking the record set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens two years prior.

It was well received obviously and set the stage for an emotional ride to Episode IX in 2019. Or was it? Apparently, many within the fan base did not agree with the creative decisions taken by director Rian Johnson. Of particular dislike were the scenes involving Princess Leia using the Force to escape the vacuum of space, as well as Luke using a Force projection to face down his tormented nephew Ben Solo.

These were the two most prominent scenes to receive criticism, however there are many more points of conflict in The Last Jedi. Among them are Luke Skywalker being portrayed as a hopeless recluse, cut off from the Force, the death of Admiral Ackbar, as well as the battle sequence on Crait, which seemed like a new version of the battle of Hoth from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

I must admit, I did not like those decisions either, however In the end, I still liked The Last Jedi, and I have chosen to accept those decisions and move on. After all, each actor, director, and writer all contribute something different, something unique, to the franchise. Unfortunately, not everyone has viewed those decisions so objectively.

In the weeks and months since The Last Jedi was released, there has been a growing number of fans who have become uncivil about their opinions, and have chosen to take their stance to greater extremes on a daily basis. In the beginning, it was an outcry over the two scenes previously mentioned, but it failed to cease there.

Fans began to harass actress Kelly Marie Tran, who portrayed Rose Tico, the Resistance tech who teams up with Finn. She received so many abhorrent tweets from fans that she closed her Instagram account. Actor Mark Hamill came to her defense, but the hate continued.

A group of fans then called for a remake of The Last Jedi, which received little to no response from Lucasfilm. To many, these actions seemed childish at best, and yet they mirrored the backlash by fans in 1999 over Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The results of harassment then caused George Lucas to make decisions in part which would lead to him selling the franchise in 2012.

On a more personal level, actor Ahmed Best who portrayed Gungan Jar Jar Binks recently admitted that he had considered suicide because of the severity of the harassment that he had received from fans. Even Jake Lloyd, who portrayed young Anakin, was harassed to the point that he quit school.

As recently as yesterday, Andi Gutierrez, co-host of the Star Wars Show, and super fan girl in her own right, received backlash on Twitter over a white coffee cup with the label “fanboy tears” that she used three years ago!

So where does this all lead, and will it stop? And what influence will these fans have on future decisions made by Disney and Lucasfilm? In the short term, I don’t see an end to this behavior unfortunately, as Lucasfilm has yet to address it in a direct and public manner; something I don’t foresee occurring. In the long term, it could lead to decisions that may alter future events for the safety and security of actors and guests. What the rest of us need to take away from this, is that this is more than fans disagreeing with a creative decision; it is in part a misconception that any new films in the Skywalker Saga should mirror the originals. This is a mistake, for many reasons. Even if the sequel trilogy were a soft reboot, as has been previously alleged, it was for the most part well received, as evidenced by the sales, and the reviews.

Those of us who are fans of the original trilogy must see that we won’t be here forever, and that we must be willing to pass on a new hope, to a new generation of fans. Which leads to the other driving factor behind this obsessive behavior, greed. It is a sense of entitlement that some fans have developed, that would cause them to perceive any new projects in a negative manner.

This too, is an error on their part, as each decision that is made by Lucasfilm from the story group, all the way to the props department, is taken with the fans in mind; We are the reason why these films are still here. In closing, allow me to say that I am just as passionate about Star Wars as anyone else out there, and I don’t always agree with or like the decisions that are made, but I do however understand why they are made, and I respect that on every level as a fan, and an artist. I am grateful that Star Wars is still here, and that we are able to continue the journey that began a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Start the discussion in the comment section below.