It seems like we simply can’t help ourselves so let’s get the panic out of the way first:
Is the Han Solo spin-off doomed?
Is Disney trying to ruin Star Wars?
Will Trevorrow ruin Star Wars FOREVER?!
Feel better now that we got that out of the way? Good. Now, let’s have a look at why it is we worry so, and why that worry is not necessarily always a bad thing.
Star Wars is both like and unlike a lot of other fandoms. Just like fans of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, most of us grew up with Star Wars, saw it reflect the word around us and owe it some of our fondest childhood memories. We are protective of it because it is very much a part of us, of who we are, of how we see ourselves. It is where some of our fandom’s most beautiful and most tragic habits come from. We all come together when one of our own is hurting, but we also turn on each other quicker than you can say ‘But I was going to go to Toshe Station to pick up some power converters’. And while some Harry Potter fans were disappointed by The Cursed Child and some Lord of the Rings fans can’t stand The Hobbit trilogy, it never feels quite as intense as it does with Star Wars. And that is because Star Wars is timeless and relevant in a way perhaps few other franchises are.
From its inception, Star Wars has been inspired by the real world. It is packed full of references, not just to the myths and legends vital to cultures around the world, but also to political events. The Original Trilogy captured the Cold War feeling of resisting powers greater and more mysterious than you, while also hearkening back to the Second World War. Its triumphant ending of different people coming together to defeat a tyrannic empire hellbent of destruction resonated very deeply with many. Similarly, the Prequel trilogy ingeniously predicted the disillusionment of young people in democracy and our governments, the constantly expanding notion of warfare and the conflicting loyalties of a globalised world. The Sequel trilogy is now tasked with finding similarly resonating themes, and Rogue One has already done a great job at reflecting elements of the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and the Cold War. Everyone can recognise themselves in Star Wars, especially now that it is becoming more and more inclusive.
Yet the fact it is so relevant also causes some of our fandom’s deepest, and sadly most vitriolic, disputes. Fans of the Original trilogy at some point started feeling betrayed by Lucas’ new vision for the Prequels. It was different from what they knew and what they had loved, what Star Wars once meant to them. And instead of embracing that change, they went defensive and even aggressive. As such this is no surprise, it’s an expected response to change. But the sheer force of this debate between Original and Prequel fans has left some very deep marks. It has shaken the trust of some fans in not only Lucas and Lucasfilm, but also the love some have for the fandom. It is a divide that has become a staple in popular culture and is talked about incessantly, including, I’m aware, on this blog. Any new director taking on a Star Wars project knows about the fierceness of its fans and it must be quite daunting, knowing that there are countless people watching your every move and questioning every word that leaves your mouth.
We care about Star Wars in a way that some consider ridiculous. There is something about loving science fiction that isn’t yet quite as accepted as loving fantasy. Our worrying and theorizing has given birth to some great fan theories, to brilliant events and stunning non-canon fanfiction, and I never want that to stop. But the vitriol that our fandom sometimes spews needs to stop, because in the end it only hurts the fandom itself. We care, and therefore we worry. We want Star Wars to be the best it can be, but we have to understand that doesn’t mean it always has to be the best for us. I was not happy about the cancellation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and was on the verge of refusing to watch Star Wars Rebels, until I realised it was already inspiring new fans, was giving loads of opportunity to fans to recognise themselves in Star Wars and that the stories of TCW were still being told, but in different mediums. Perhaps we will get a terrible Star Wars film soon, perhaps there will be some major behind-the-scenes drama that throws one of the productions of the rails. But if we as a fandom stick together as a family, we can weather all those storms. If we immediately turn to infighting, each minor hick-up will be a disaster. So by all means, worry, but do it in a productive and supporting way. You don’t save a sinking ship by screaming, and neither do you save a flourishing franchise by Tweeting abuse.
In conclusion, our worrying really is a sign of love. We care a lot about Star Wars, so much that we often think no one could care more than we do. When George Lucas was still in full control of everything Star Wars, we were able to complain much in the way a child does about its parents. They have no idea what we truly want or how we truly feel, but in the end we sort of know they have the best intentions and well, they got us this far. Star Wars has now entered a new phase in which fans are being handed the reigns. J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, Ron Howard and Colin Trevorrow are all Star Wars fans, as is everyone who works and has worked for Lucasfilm. We now get to see new interpretations of the thing we love, things that will be both homages and new additions in their own right. For this we as a fandom will have to keep an open mind to everything that comes. I find this challenging myself, considering I’m not necessarily a big fan of Trevorrow, for example. But while us worrying is not necessarily a bad thing, how we worry is.
Clickbait articles abound, trying to whip us into an ever greater frenzy, so how about we give a little bit of trust to those willing to give us more Star Wars? I have never met anyone taking on something they love in an attempt to ruin it. Perhaps it might not be entirely your cup of tea, perhaps there will be things about future films, books or games you don’t entirely like, but there will also be many things you will like. Allowing Star Wars to grow, letting new fans be inspired the way we were, this requires an open mind. Let people experiment with Star Wars, let it continue to be relevant to now and the future, and don’t let it become stagnant. Our trust may not always be rewarded exactly the way we want it to be, but we will always have Star Wars.
So I want to leave you with this Tweet from Rian Johnson:
I think as long as you start from an honest internal place, the external relevance will always end up being there.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) June 25, 2017
Everyone in Star Wars, whether fan or creator or both, has come from this honest internal place, so Star Wars will always remain relevant to you. This love we have for it will never end, don’t you worry.