Having been born in the late 70’s, my formative years were the 80’s. Obviously. Growing up during those years it was impossible not to know what Star Wars was and damn near everyone watched it at some point. My dad somehow recorded the Star Wars trilogy on a couple of blank cassettes and I watched them as often as possible. I had a toy replica of Luke Skywalker’s green lightsaber. It was a large, unwieldy thing, but it was still a lightsaber. I had a toybox full of, ya know, toys, many of which were from that galaxy far, far away. I had the Ewok Village, Jabba the Hutt’s throne room, the monstrous rancor, a Y-wing ship, and several dozen Star Wars action figures. All this to say, I think this makes me a part of Star Wars fandom.
I was hardly alone. People the world over loved Star Wars and consumed it eagerly. There were books, video games, clothing, and more with Star Wars branding that had folks lining up at cash registers shouting “take my money!”
When George Lucas released the Special Editions in 1997 I was stoked. I had always thought that the Star Wars trilogy updated with modern special effects would be amazing. I still do, frankly. The Special Edition releases were not much different from the originals. There were a couple of scenes added, the movies were digitally remastered, and a few new effects were added.
Two years later, Lucasfilm released the much-anticipated Episode I The Phantom Menace. Everyone had been drooling over footage of Darth Maul in the trailers. People began lining up at theaters days (even weeks) ahead of the release date. And then….the movie came out and laid a gargantuan egg.
I guess 16 years between movies gave fans way too much time to build up wild and epic expectations that could probably never be met. Some people were disappointed that the movie was more about galactic politics than space battles. Many people hated Jake Lloyd’s portrayal of young Anakin Skywalker, the boy who would be Darth Vader. People hated Jar Jar Binks due to his over-the-top clumsiness and poorly received comic relief. Mostly, however, people hated midichlorians.
Personally, I liked the movie. I wasn’t a fan of Jar Jar, but I didn’t hate him. Jake Lloyd’s acting wasn’t going to win any awards, but it wasn’t local-elementary-kid quality, either. I didn’t even blink at the reveal of midichlorians. It only made sense that there was some physical way for Jedi to measure a being’s potential for using the Force.
I was in the minority, however. Jake Lloyd was bullied so badly that he had to withdraw from his school. Ahmed Best (the actor who played Jar Jar Binks) was nearly bullied into suicide. Midichlorians were (and to this day, are) ridiculed endlessly in forums and in person. In short, the movie was not well-received by “fans”.
Episodes II and III were similarly received. “Fans” tore those movies apart, so much so that George Lucas said he’d never make another Star Wars movie because (I’m paraphrasing) “people act like bitches and criticize everything I do”. Lucas went back to old faithful – Indiana Jones. Oops. Even Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford couldn’t save Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from the avalanche of hate this movie received, and in the process, the term “nuking the fridge” was born.
Lucas was done with his “fans” at that point, so he sold the rights to Lucasfilm (which includes Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Willow) to Disney. If you haven’t heard how that’s going for Disney so far please give me directions to the cave in which you’re hiding because I desperately want to join you there.
Other fandoms have suffered from similar toxicity. DC in particular has a very loud (figuratively speaking) fandom. The Tobey Maguire Spider-Man fandom was pretty toxic (particularly in regards to Spider-Man 3). The Fantastic Four is another. The X-Men. Even recent Marvel movies/shows have drawn some hate.
I don’t understand toxic fans at all. How can you love something, yet hate it at the same time? That’s like walking into a room that’s both light and dark simultaneously. It’s nonsensical. Not only do these “fans” hate the very media they claim to love, often times they’ll take out their frustration on the actors/creators who portray/created the characters that have somehow offended their sensibilities. Twenty years ago it was Ahmed Best, Jake Lloyd, George Lucas, and (to a lesser extent) Hayden Christensen. Recently, it’s been Daisy Ridley, Kellie Marie Tran, JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, Kathleen Kennedy, Moses Ingram, Leslie Jones, Amber Heard, Jared Leto, and Xochitl Gomez to name a few. I didn’t feel like going any further into my Google search to retrieve more names. It’s quite sad I pulled all those names from the first page of a simple Google search.
The toxicity of “fans” and their harassment of the actors or directors who displease them is not the point of this post, it is nearly the setup for it. Toxic fandom is an entirely different matter. Recently, I’ve seen a growing trend amongst “fans” that, because they don’t like the way a movie, book, or video game was written, they have developed their own headcanon for said movie, book, or video game.
Headcanon refers to something that a fan imagines to be true about a character even though no information supporting that belief is spelled out in the text.Merriam Webster
So there are fans out there who don’t like a creative decision of the very media they’re a fan of and just decide to create and believe that some other events took place instead. Something like whatever this idiocy is…
Here’s my problem with all these “fans” creating their own headcanon and pretending that a writer, editor, or writer and editor hadn’t already created a story. No matter what you choose to believe the story created by the writer/editor is what actually happened. It is canon. The people who wrote the very story you passionately hate worked tirelessly to create a story for you to enjoy. They had a vision for each character and designed a story in which all those visions could dance with one another in a synced choreography – like all the guys dancing behind Michael Jackson in every music video he ever made.
Many projects often have an entire creative team who craft these stories. Producers. Directors. Even the actors themselves. The point is – a story was created and then made public for all to consume. I can’t speak for others, but I’ve always had anxiety when posting a story I’ve created publicly. Will people enjoy it? Is it good enough? If it’s not, what will the reaction be?
You don’t have to agree with, or even enjoy, the decisions made by writers. There’s not one thing on this planet I can think of that every human would agree on. Some people will like the very thing others despise.
I cannot sit here and honestly tell you that if I had written the prequel and sequel trilogies I wouldn’t have done things differently. What I would never do is create my own headcanon for those stories. First of all, that’s completely disrespectful to the people who toiled tirelessly to create a product they hoped I would enjoy. Secondly, your headcanon doesn’t matter at all to anyone. Lucasfilm, Marvel, DC, and other media creators don’t give a shit what your headcanon is – I know certainly don’t. They aren’t going to remake/rewrite anything because you decided what they created wasn’t good enough for you. They aren’t going to change their plans for prequels/sequels to appease your assaulted sensibilities.
If you have great ideas on how stories should be written or how characters should behave, that’s great! Write your own damned stories. Publish your own book. Submit your own screenplay. Do not, however, just pretend that a story some person poured their heart and soul into doesn’t exist. That is fake-news mentality, and frankly, indicative of some kind of personality disorder.
These are stories. Fictional stories. The amount of toxicity fictional stories generate astounds me. How can someone get so upset about something beyond the bounds of reality and then use that anger to generate negativity within reality? How can one exist with so much anger and hate burning within?
Let’s all take a step back and realize that these stories should have no impact on reality and the only reason they do is because of you. Yes, you, the person who sent hateful tweets to an actor who played a character you didn’t like. You, who posted on Reddit that the way that movie ended was stupid and that you’ve concocted your own ending to replace it. You, who has failed to realize the absurdity of filling yourself with rage over things that didn’t even happen.
Chill the fuck out, people.
Yeah, there are plenty of things that I don’t like about certain movies/shows/books. I may even have opinions on what I think could’ve been done to make them better. However, I don’t delude myself into thinking my ideas are what actually happened, and I certainly don’t verbally (Twitterly) abuse the writers/actors/directors who put out the content.
Yeah, humans suck that way…and many others.