Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why I Almost Left the Star Wars Fandom – And Why I Came Back

(Originally Written for Jedi News)

Hey, remember me?


My unscheduled hiatus had a lot of factors going into it, most of it having to do with personal scheduling issues and added real-life stress. But once I got back on my feet, I struggled for a while to get back into writing here because, simply put, I felt like I no longer belonged.

It’s no secret that the Star Wars fandom has one of the most toxic sub-pockets of any fandom – and that’s saying something – and my column was borne out of that toxic element getting the most mainstream attention and attempting to steer the public discussion on the Saga for many years. It was always an uphill battle, but the Disney sale has made it harder since the powers that be are directly marketing specifically to this haterbase with The Force Awakens.

The terrible truth is that when people like Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams and Anthony Daniels talk about a “return to practical effects,” I frankly get insulted. I get insulted that they’re perpetuating a bold-faced lie about how I-III were made (especially Daniels, since he was there and should know better). I get insulted by the hypocrisy considering Awakens clearly has liberal use of CGI as most blockbusters do this day and age. I get insulted that myself and the rest of the Saga fans are being essentially disenfranchised to try and “win back” this section of the fandom who will likely hate Awakens no matter what since nothing lives up to their unrealistic expectations. But most of all, I get insulted on behalf of the cast and crew of I-III who are essentially getting thrown under the bus to appease people who are acting childish and bullying – especially the maker himself. George Lucas has been demonized for decades when he should have been lauded as one of the greatest visionaries of his generation, and to hear rumor that his treatments for VII-IX were thrown out entirely makes me want to see the new films even less.

With every blow, it was being made clear to me that the Star Wars I loved and defended no longer existed. Was I, like the Galactic Senate, defending a Republic that was becoming an Empire? Did I need to separate myself entirely from it, call it a good run, and retire in peace? For the first time since I started writing about Star Wars almost four years ago, I sincerely considered hanging up the robe.

Spoiler Alert: I didn’t.

It started slowly. The first thing that peaked my interest was Disney Infinity 3.0. Now, I sadly have not been able to procure my own copy – finances forbid it until the holiday season – but the mere fact that Anakin and Ahsoka were the starting set in this box filled me with delight and excitement.

Then, I started seeing more and more pro-Saga and especially pro-I-III comments on web articles both defending and attacking the Fall of the Republic. The tide, it seems, is beginning to turn and more fans are finding their voice.

Then, on a more somber note, Paul F. MacDonald (author of the blog and book “The Star Wars Heresies”, one of my greatest inspirations) decided to retire after facing many of the struggles that I was facing. He had attempted to begin analyzing Force Awakens and try to be optimistic, and his analyses and predictions were the only things making me slightly excited for the newest installment. Unfortunately, there are some – though not as many as the haterbase would have you believe - in the Saga camp who are twisting into the very thing we’ve been fighting against, and poor Paul couldn’t take negativity from both sides at once. I thought – did I really want to give up my voice as well?

Then, Force Friday happened. I had exactly zero interest in the first wave of merchandise featuring Force Awakens at the time, but to my surprise and delight it was far more Saga-oriented than I could have hoped! There’s still room for improvement, naturally, but it’s beginning to balance out. Jar Jar was even represented in the delightfully odd Hero Mashers toy line!

Then, out of the blue, I watched Phantom Menace again. My favorite motion picture of all time. And I remembered why I fell in love with this world and these films in the first place.

Finally, I heard a rumor. Rumor it may be, it may or may not be true, but if it is, it is the most wonderful news I’ve heard since the sale – the possible return of Hayden Christensen in Episode VIII.

And it was then I realized – these steps happened because people like me were fighting back, calling Disney out on ignoring a vital part of the Saga. If I gave up now, the mainstream haterbase would win.

So I’m back. I may or may not end up writing as regularly as I once did – I’m trying my best not to repeat myself - but I’m seeing this through until history judges all of George Lucas’ films equally. I’ll continue to share what I love about the movies because we all should and not enough of us are. And, in a Jedi-like manner, try my best to let go of the hatred and fear the lead-up to Awakens has engendered this year.

Oh, just one more thing…

I made a promise to myself that I would avoid all information on The Force Awakens as far as possible characters and plot until the merchandise came out to tell me who these people are. Well, it’s out. There’s not really much information (and I refuse to read “Aftermath,” at least for the time being, because the movie should tell me what’s going on without me having to read a book first), and what information is there is probably stuff everyone else has known for a while, but since I want this to be my final thoughts on Force Awakens until I actually see the film – so I can focus on what I started the column to focus on – I thought I’d share my impressions as a Saga fan on where this all may be going.

In general, I actually am far more interested than I was months ago, though still not nearly as much as I was for Phantom Menace or even the Special Editions of IV-VI (which was my first time seeing them all the way through). I admit to being fairly bored by seeing X-Wings and TIE fighters again; I want something new. Also, this whole First Order vs The Resistance thing – if it was still George behind this I’d wonder if this was a cyclical thing, but as it is it feels more like a retread of the old “Empire vs Rebels”, and Return of the Jedi saw the end of the Empire (why else add the celebration scenes?). Still, the implications of Sith Fanboy Kylo Ren seem fairly interesting, and Finn strikes me as having a possibly exciting storyline ahead of him (though I may be biased in that John Boyega has been the most publically inclusive of the entire Awakens team and has stated his love for all the films many times). Rey and BB8 are still a mystery to me, and Poe seems to be “Wedge 2.0” and doesn’t really come onto my radar.

Finally, I am still not sure about the names. “Kylo Ren” seems like something Lucas might come up with; “Finn”, “Rey”, and “BB8” are borderline; “Poe Dameron” sounds like someone trying to ape what they think is the Star Wars style and failing miserably, it strikes me as SUCH an Expanded Universe/self-insert fanfic name (now watch as that name turns out to be the only thing surviving from Lucas and I’ll need to eat my words).

All in all, while this setup does lend itself more to an unoriginal appeal to false nostalgia, there are enough really interesting ideas that make me sure that, provided they’re handled properly, this could very well be a worthy successor. Much time, and two more movies, will tell on that.

Until then, I am off to a more civilized age, where our discussion will pick back up next time.


  1. Yes, you are back! I missed your insightful blog posts. I am a fan of all the Star Wars movies as well as the 3D The Clone Wars series and Star Wars Rebels. I am glad we have someone like you in this fandom to defend the Prequel Trilogy as well as the Special Editions of the Originals. I was actually in a somewhat similar position you were and contemplated leaving, but thankfully I stayed.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I'll be writing more this week.

  2. Great to have you back! Sorry about all the crap you've been through.

  3. Welcome back, old friend.

    I know how you feel. I've been in much of the same agony as far as fandom is concerned as you and Paul.

    I still think though that we are in for a possible pleasant surprise. I get the feeling that we've only seen about 20% of the movie so far, so we could be taken in a bit of a misdirection.

    There are some hints that the New Republic is around, so it may be more complex than simply a Empire vs Rebels thing all over again.

    Hopefully, some of that GL material still made it into the final film.