It's Time To Stop Letting A Vocal Minority Of Toxic Fans Ruin Star Wars

I often say very seriously that I do not have memories that date back further than my love of "Star Wars." My mom was fortunate enough to see George Lucas' original 1977 blockbuster classic upon its release that summer many, many times and it became a defining pillar of pop culture for her. As any good parent would do, she opted to introduce me to the delights that a galaxy far, far away has to offer at a young age. "Star Wars" is a lot more than some movies, toys, and TV shows to me. I am also fond of saying (a bit more jokingly) that it is as close as I get to religion. All of this to say, holy s*** do I love "Star Wars."

But the past several years have truly tested the limits of what that love can bear as the fandom has become a genuinely toxic, ugly place ever since the release of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" in 2017. There have been moments of unity and joy, such as when "The Mandalorian" first arrived. For the most part though, anyone with an internet connection who surfs YouTube or Twitter can undoubtedly tell you that "Star Wars" fans have seemingly become a bunch of angry crybabies who voice their distaste to the masses as loudly as possible. (Loud is the keyword here, as one a**hole with a megaphone can drown out ten reasonable people without one.)

After yet another round of toxic vocality hitting us all during "Obi-Wan Kenobi," with many wrongheaded douchemonsters making racist and/or mean comments towards Moses Ingram, who plays Reva on the show, it's time to say that enough is enough. As a longtime fan who spends more time in the trenches than most, I can confidently say that this is not representative of the whole. It's past time that the rest of us stop letting this toxic, vocal minority ruin it for everyone else.

This is not the way

I'm going to let you all in on a little secret: I don't love "The Last Jedi." I remember the pre-release buzz. I was stoked. But when I left my screening, I recall feeling greatly conflicted. Director Rian Johnson's Episode VIII, to me, can best be summed up as a mixed bag. But you know what? I never started a YouTube channel about it calling for Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy's job. I didn't try to raise money to remake the film (yes, this really happened). I didn't feel that Disney ruined "Star Wars." I merely didn't love a movie and, though I debated it amongst my friends and peers, it was never more than that. Discussion. Rational (if at times a little heated) discussion.

The point I'm trying to make here is that I kind of fall on what might be perceived as the ugly side of the line. A lot of people who don't love "The Last Jedi" are the same people with the loudest, frustratingly present voices. This doesn't have to be the case. There has always been room for discussion about "Star Wars" amongst fans and that's part of what makes it so great. Getting petulant and saying racist things about Kelly Marie Tran because you didn't like the character Rose is not the way to go.

In my experience, there are countless "Star Wars" fans that don't like certain movies or TV shows, but are able to have a reasoned response about why they feel that way. There are far more fans who fall into this camp than do the camp of toxicity that outsiders have come to associate with this franchise. It's the loudness of that other camp that permeates. This is not the way.

Social media is not real life

One element of this whole thing that I feel is key to remember is that social media is just not indicative of real life. Those of us who spend a lot of time on Twitter or YouTube can often feel like what is being expressed on those platforms represents the whole. In truth, it's just not the case. The fact of the matter is that most people who are part of any fandom — who love to go to the movies, who enjoy music — just don't engage with it in that way. They enjoy the things they enjoy, maybe post on Facebook every once in a while, and go about their life. That's it.

As such, those already loud voices who make it seem like "Star Wars" is a breeding ground for entitled manchildren only appear to be even more amplified. The vast majority of us that love the ever-expansive universe that is "Star Wars" engage with it in our own way. My mom would be baffled to learn of the controversies surrounding "The Last Jedi" or "Obi-Wan Kenobi." She was just happy to see Luke Skywalker again. It's that simple for my mom who, in my estimation, is about as pure a fan as one is likely to find. 

I hear people all the time now who are turned off by the mere mention of "Star Wars" because the fans are toxic, but while it might seem that way, it's not true. A small portion of them are toxic — and I would have a tough time calling them fans. I'm not one for gatekeeping, but if all you do is complain about a thing and make it hard for others to enjoy, are you really a fan? It's hard for me to see it that way. My mom who went out of her way to take me to see all three entries in the original trilogy in theaters in 1997, when we had very little money? That's a fan. That's loving something.

It's time to rebel

So, what should the reasonable and passionate "Star Wars" fans of the world do about this? To me, it's about not turning to the dark side. It's about not amplifying those loud, awful voices any further. I am not even going to name any of the toxic names here (even if it would be easy to make a very long list), that's kind of the point. Feeding oxygen to a fire only makes the flames hotter. Sure, anyone who wants to say awful s*** to someone or about something can sign up for Twitter, but we don't have to give it any credence and we don't have to spotlight it.

Instead, we can focus on being positive and discussing this thing so many of us love in a constructive way. I'm not saying that we can't be critical — we should be — but there are ways to go about that without feeding the ugly beast. Kill them with kindness, as it were. Let's bring some Babu Frik energy to the party and a little less Kylo Ren.

I think back to my time at Star Wars Celebration in 2019. Here I was, at this gigantic convention full of people who also loved this thing I loved. All ages, sizes, and shapes from all around the world. What did we all have in common? Broadly speaking, "Star Wars," but we all loved it in our own way. You know what I didn't encounter in my entire four days there? A single ounce of toxicity at the absolute epicenter of the fandom.

I know in my heart that this is more emblematic of the whole. Let's find ways to let that bleed through. It's time to make this toxic nonsense a part of the past and, to borrow from Kylo Ren for a moment, it's also time to let the past die. Kill it if we have to.