Star Wars Fandom: Clearing the Air
Greetings Star Wars fans! This piece is intended to help continue clearing the air in the Star Wars fandom, which is something I started to do with prior articles on this site. This piece is something I decided to write after reading a post in a Facebook group I'm in and seeing some of the responses to it. The post was made by a Star Wars Expanded Universe fan criticizing Disney and Lucasfilm and indicating enjoyment of others doing the same. It is a mentality that still exists in some Legends fans and mirrors how those fans vented in the earliest days of the Expanded Universe Movement. The post went on to talk about things like the billboard in San Francisco and the successes with Darth Revan and Jaina Solo getting Black Series figures, all in a positive light. It did one other thing, however; it cast a bad light on fans of the new canon or those who are fans of both canons. While I understand and can empathize with the writer of the post for the most part, there are parts of the post that keep me from doing so completely, especially when venting in a way that hurts the Movement's goals.
To be fair to Legends fans everywhere, similar posts frequently happen all around the internet on all sides of this issue. No "side" of the fandom is innocent in making posts like this. So why is that? What drives Star Wars fans to attack one another as though someone had just insulted their family members to their face? After all the positive actions and direction the Expanded Universe Movement has taken these past couple years, why do we continue to see so much animosity?
I believe it boils down to a growing level of frustration in the fandom coupled with misunderstanding between the various groups, born out of a rocky history and intentional misinformation being spread by trouble makers. My opinion is based on my own point of view, which is one that has me speaking with all kinds of fans, many of which have become friends over the past couple years. So let's dive into this thing and see if we can sort it out. First, let's look at the frustration. Legends fans are frustrated that they still have no new official Legends content beyond a couple short stories and a few releases between Fantasy Flight Games and Hasbro Fan Poll winners over the past few years. Canon-only fans are frustrated that Legends fans appear to be out to ruin their enjoyment of the franchise. The fans who are fans of both canons feel the frustrations of both sides! So what should we do to address these frustrations? Pulling blasters and sabers on one another is close to what we are doing now, and that clearly is not working. So let's try negotiations without that "aggressive" bit that Anakin seemed to favor, shall we? Many of you likely do not know this, but in my college years I took some creative writing courses. One of the very first things we were taught in those classes was how to do constructive criticism. Anyone can do the criticism part, but the constructive bit often eludes so many of us. Finding something positive or something you like in something you are out to criticize can be a tough task! Finding a balance can often be even more challenging. But, in the interest of attempting to clear some of the miasma that permeates the Star Wars fandom today, I am going to do my best to apply those lessons to three different sub groups of the Star Wars fandom: Legends-only Fans, Canon-only Fans, and those brave souls who probably outnumber both of the other sub-groups, the "All things Star Wars" fans. Let's start with the part of the fandom I know it best, the Legends-only fan. Please keep in mind this is generic as all of these do not apply to anyone who identifies with any particular group, but at least some of them should!
To All Legends/Expanded Universe-only Fans: These are tough times for you. You have spent the past three and a half years starving for new Star Wars Legends content. After all, to you Star Wars most likely IS the Legends timeline, and the original six movies are simply a part of that. When the announcement happened in April of 2014, you were torn between outrage and mourning. Many of you opted for the former response of the two and the result of that still plagues you. You have many adversaries who do not know all the good you are doing in this world because of that outrage and how you all decided to channel it initially. I understand why you did it. I was one of them who was right there with you. What you have done wrong:
Your emotional outrage and continuing to allow it to inform all you do damages your message and makes it easy to spin lies about you.
Attacking fellow fans for not siding with you does the same.
Attacking those who are the only ones who can give you more of what you want, Disney & Lucasfilm, makes it increasingly likely you will have to wait even longer before you see new Legends content. (Who wants to help those who attack them?)
What you have done right:
Most of you have shifted towards channeling your rage into something more positive. That's a smart and healthy move.
Most of you recognize now that everyone can like whatever they want, and that does not make them your adversaries.
Most of you have found ways to bide your time, which allows you to vent your frustrations in ways that do not damage the EU Movement's efforts. Well Done.
What you need to do going forward:
Fight that frustration you feel. Three and a half years is an enormous drought to not have Star Wars Legends content. You were used to many new Star Wars stories, games, toys, etc,. coming out each year, for nearly four decades. We were all spoiled. 2014 was a massive shift and you need to adjust to it as it will likely be another couple years before Disney and Lucasfilm can shift any portion of their attention back to Star Wars Legends. In other words, endure, remain positive, remain engaged with the movement and remain persistent. Know that if you manage to do this, you will see Legends stories come out in the future. It is only a matter of time. Demonstrate this as often as possible to your fellow fans in the right ways and Disney and Lucasfilm will have to take notice. (As they have already begun to!)
Also, recognize that EVERY Star Wars fan is a potential ally and none of them are your enemy. In fact, you have no enemies! You only have those you need to convince to join your cause, even if they are not fans of Legends themselves. After all, you want more Star Wars just like every Star Wars fan does!
To All Canon-only Fans
These are amazing times for you. Every where you turn there is a group discussing every minute detail of the new movies, books, comics, games, and toys. So many fans with so much to discuss and enjoy! The speculation is everywhere. Funny memes and breaking news about the new films spread faster than the Falcon made the Kessel Run. What you have done wrong:
Not understanding what Star Wars Legends were and are today before condemning that timeline and its fans.
Not understanding that for Legends-only fans there is nowhere they can go that is only talking the Star Wars they like. (Legends fans need places they can go to talk with other Legends fans without having to read or see about the stuff that keeps them from getting more Legends!)
Not understanding just how much of a shift April 2014 was for longtime fans of the franchise. Change is not always easy to adapt to, especially when that change is happening to something as established and loved as the Expanded Universe was!
What you have done right:
Most of you have learned what the Expanded Universe was (which was canon prior to April 2014)
Most of you understand that Legends fans are frustrated and have good reason to be. Empathy is appreciated!
Most of you understand that Legends fans are not out to rain on your parade despite some misinformation out there. Way to fight the lies!
What you need to do:
Continue to try to understand where Legends fans are coming from and recognize their growing frustration for what it is. Four decades of a constant stream of new content, most of which was actually quite good, was cut off without warning. It would be like Disney/Lucasfilm switching back to Legends and ONLY Legends now in the middle of their movie production without announcing any intention to continue work on their currently planned movies and the stories that surround them. That would surely frustrate you too!
Recognize that Legends fans are not out to end the Star Wars you love. What they want is the Star Wars they love to officially continue while not interfering with what you love. In other words, they want more Star Wars too, just like what you have now! They do not wish what they are going through on you or anyone else!
To All Fans of Everything Star Wars
Wow, how awkward is this for you? You have people raging who love Legends. You have people raging who love the new canon. You even have some in both groups masquerading as fans of the other in an effort to paint one group or another as the "bad guys." It is a virtual warzone complete with espionage, raids, propaganda campaigns and more!
What you have done wrong:
Insist that both sides need to learn to compromise.
Not understanding why all Legends fans could not move on to the new canon like you did and enjoy it.
Not understanding how divisive April 2014 is to the fandom and why.
Failing to defend the actions on one side or the other or to put a halt to the fan rage at all in places of open communication, thus ensuring some places became unfriendly to one side or the other.
What you have done right:
Some of you have started to put together places intended to bring all fans back together. Well done.
Opening yourselves to the fact that those Legends-only Fans or Canon-only fans are also Star Wars Fans.
Recognizing that there are elements within the fandom out to fan the flames. You are doing what you can to marginalize them. Excellent.
Killing misinformation being spouted off about both sides whenever you can. Again, well done!
What you need to do:
Continue to act as the voice of reason. You are the bridge spanning the gap that Lucasfilm created in 2014 within the fandom. If things are to improve, it is fans like yourself who need to step up!
Carefully police your groups/comment sections/forums/etc. Recognize when one side or the other is letting their frustrations get the better of them and remind them that we are all fans and we all simply want more Star Wars.
Recognize that compromise requires two or more sides to meet somewhere in the middle. If anything, compromise does not need to happen between the sub-groups of fandom. That implies that the groups can give each other what they are collectively after and that is simply not the case. Canon fans do not have the ability to give Legends fans what they want. And because of that, Legends fans do not have the ability to give Canon fans what they want. Instead, ask for understanding.
Encourage everyone into understanding the other fans out there! Try to get them to understand where they are all coming from. Try to get them to understand what they are all after is the same (more Star Wars!). Try to get them to understand that they are all simply fans! There is an element of fear at work when it comes to misinformation and that is easily countered with truth and understanding. Spread that understanding whenever you get the opportunity and watch that wound in the fandom heal rapidly!
Okay, now that I have successfully criticized all fan sub-groups in a way I hope was constructive... To ALL Star Wars Fans: Every fan of the franchise is a fan for their own reasons. We have all come into our fandom in our own separate ways; we have different experiences, and different opinions. And that's okay! In fact, that is what makes this fandom fun! Every new fan you meet is another new way to approach the franchise! When a franchise like Star Wars gets as big as it is today, there is simply so much out there that no single person can possibly see it all. So there is always that chance you will find something new to enjoy when meeting fellow fans! Simply recognize in your fellow fans that you all love the same thing, even if it is for different reasons. When you do you will find you are a long way towards clearing the air. Recognize that there is a gap in the fandom and that it still exists. Do not ignore it. Instead, do everything you can to correct those spreading misinformation, be it about Legends fans or Canon Fans. Expose the lies and those who are out to watch the world burn. Help heal this fandom and remove the toxicity. Work together and do not stand in the way of one another and you will all end up with what you want, more Star Wars. With as crazy as the world is lately, it needs a positive Star Wars fandom more than ever! Star Wars fans are everywhere across the world. We have the power to do so much good collectively, even if it is simply by providing a healthy environment to escape into for a time for fellow fans. Eliminate this source of animosity and you might find that even though it is all fiction, it is capable of positively affecting the real world around us.
That seems like a worthwhile goal to try for to me! We can make it happen by taking that first step of understanding one's fellow fans. From there, the rest will easily fall into place!