I’ve come to believe that the great rift which occurred with Star Wars fans online in the wake of Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi‘s release had little, if anything, to do with the film itself.
While the movie may have been the triggering point for the crusades that happened, I saw less discussion about the film itself than what each faction believed to be true about the other. People were driven from conversations, block lists were built, and presumptions were made freely about the motivation of each person’s opinion.
My own review of the movie was tepid, at worst. Still, because it wasn’t glowing, at least one friend who loved the movie admitted that I would always be viewed as “that guy who hates The Last Jedi.”
I wanted to talk about the movie, but few seemed to want to discuss anything but how angry they were.
A Momentary Disclaimer
This isn’t to say that there weren’t terrible people involved in the conflagration. I’m fully aware that we’re at the point in our cultural history where, to circumvent presumption about my own points, I have to post a disclaimer that I’m neither supporting nor excusing bad behavior.
(Regardless, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if someone still screen capped something out of context. It’s the nature of things.)
I guess I’m just old enough that I’ve seen this animus as a feature, not a bug, of online conversation. I can’t recall any phase of Internet life that didn’t have flame wars, sh**posts, and nerd-gang word wars.
What the Fight Over The Last Jedi Was All About
I don’t know, actually, how definitive this take should be treated. I’m completely aware that, like everyone else in the Social Media age, my view of any debate can be distorted.
But I stayed quiet on the whole, and observed from a distance. As a fun side note, this life-long Star Wars fan actually muted every hashtag that could possibly have to do with Star Wars. I think I kept my sanity through the whole thing because, to this day, the only way I can see the nastiness is to elect to wade into it.
From where I sat, the giant fight triggered by The Last Jedi was just “about”…nothing, really. Some politics, some trolling, some cultural sideswipes. People hurled accusations of all sorts at each other, presuming to know the philosophical/political tendencies of those who disagreed.I saw people who were formerly “friends” throw down and block each other.
The director sided with a questionable “study” stating that Russian Trolls were behind the reaction, which certainly casts it in a political light. It certainly supports the impression that a certain type of person, and of a certain political persuasion, didn’t love the movie.
My point is, I couldn’t find the actual discussion of the pacing, plot, effects, or anything else that I wanted to talk about. That used to be the sort of thing I expected to talk about with a movie.
It’s the primary reason I don’t think it was about the movie.
If It Really Was
If it really was about the movie, I’d like to think it wouldn’t have heated to this point. If it were just about how much people loved these movies, it would be fair to expect more vocal support for Solo: A Star Wars Story in the light of an unfairly tepid-to-brutal reception it got.
Regardless of what you thought of Solo: A Star Wars Story, an excellent film that deserved more word-of-mouth support*, you can’t help but think, “Where are all the fans who were there during The Last Jedi? Why aren’t they going to bat here for the franchise?”
I’ve lived through the ugliness of the Internet forums reacting to the prequels, and that got…well, it got really ugly, too. That gave birth to some truly heinous statements about George Lucas, right in line with Harlan Ellison’s essay about Xenogenesis. That supports the idea that the Angry Fan has been a fixture since the beginning. Maybe the social media era just gave them a louder megaphone.
I concede the point that it’s possible it was all just about the movie. It doesn’t add up, though.
Because of all the nastiness, I walked away and stopped participating in online conversations about it. As people continue to have their vicious fights, they’ll continue to push the reasonable people to the margins. As the reasonable people stop participating in the discussion, things will get worse.
Meanwhile, I’ll still be looking for someone that wants to discuss…the movie.
* I assure you I did my part to support Solo: A Star Wars Story.