Star Wars Celebration Is A Reminder That Fandom Is Far Healthier, And Far More Positive, Than The Internet Would Lead You To Believe

If you're into the famous space opera franchise that is Star Wars, you have probably heard of the Star Wars Celebration fan gathering. Whether you had the time and money to attend is another question. But anyhow, I was at a place in my life where I could fly over to Chicago, Illinois for the 2019 edition.I am overall a loner when it comes to any convention or comic con experience. I like meeting up with fans, some of whom I have met online and podcasted with, and I haven gotten to know my cool hotel roommates and their Game of Thrones love. But I attend events unaccompanied for the most part.With the state of my wallet, the merch on the exhibition floor was there for me to gaze at rather than have. Collectables, action figures of Rey and Luke Skywalker, patches, fashion – I wanted it all. Cosplayers dressed like robed Jedi, cloaked Siths, rebels, armored Mandalorians, droids, supporting players, and background incidentals. Some costumes are tailored to the canon, and some have their insane modifications, like a tuxed-up Kylo Ren seeking to take Rey to the prom. Unfortunately, I could not cosplay — unless you count my cheap green sweater from Amazon as a flimsy attempt to resemble the Jedi Kanan Jarrus from Star Wars Rebels.Each fan has their different origin story about how they came to love Star Wars. Me, my late father introduced me to the Prequel Trilogy and I slowly became beholden to the space fantasy myths and its fiery characters fighting for justice. Many fans came for the trailer of the final movie of the Skywalker Saga, some fans come for the action figures, some came to learn about the new Galaxy Edge theme park land in California, some wanted sneak peeks of the upcoming Disney+ TV series The Mandalorian. I come like many others to celebrate Lucasfilm Animated productions, whether it's the return of Clone Wars, the Remembering Rebels panel to celebrate the bygone Star Wars Rebels, and learning about the future of the Colossus in Star Wars Resistance. I did not enter The Mandalorian and The Phantom Menace 20th Anniversary events with as much celebratory energy as the audience, but their cheers, waving lightsabers, were infectious.I find at Celebration I'm in love with the Star Wars community more than Star Wars itself.Being among the community at Celebration is a cheering counterpoint to the documented toxicity in the fandoms, be it debates over Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi, the vitriol thrown at Ahmed Best, the man who played Jar Jar Binks, or the online abuse that drove Kelly Marie Tran out of social media. When you're in the room where it happens, the energy is contagious. I see them roar and stand for Tran's entrance at the Episode IX panel. I see them roar for Rey when she did her Force-fueled backflip over Kylo Ren's Tie-Defender in the Rise of Skywalker teaser. I see them roar for Ahsoka Tano's return in the final season of Clone Wars. I see them roar for Ahmed Best, who is overwhelmed by the outpour of support and love. At the Star Wars Resistance panel, I see them roar for the puff-head alien janitor, named Opeepit, a running-gag background character with only a few sweeps of screen time. Crowds cheered for lightsaber-wielders Rey and Ahsoka Tano, Ian McDiarmid's pop-up appearance at the Rise of Skywalker teaser screening as well as his signature Sidious laugh in said teaser, a Mandalorian bounty hunter, and the little janitor who just wants his floor-sweeper back. They cheered for those big and small.FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, can strike real hard when you're indecisive about which panels to attend or when depression swarmed your brain without warning. The biggest blow to me was missing the "#SWRepMatters: Celebrating Diversity in a Galaxy Far, Far Away" and the "Sisters of the Force, A Celebration of Women and Star Wars" panels. At one point, when the Worldbuilding panel was full, I ran into an acquaintance and her family on a scavenger hunt so I tagged along with them. The community had my back.2020 will kick off a pivotal decade for the USA and the Star Wars universe. By that time, we will know if the Resistance triumphs over the dark side. Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker will have its run on the big screen. We will know by then what happens to Rey and the gang of the Resistance, including the fate of Leia Organa after the untimely loss of Carrie Fisher. The Mandalorian will have run on Disney Plus. The Clone Wars will have its final season. And then Disney is going on Star Wars movie-making hiatus.Always in motion the future is. Whatever the galaxy may bring, I look forward to new story paths but not as much as revelry of the next Star Wars Celebration. I hope to see you all in Anaheim, California 2020 and may the Force be with us all.