There’s a problem in the world, and it’s felt acutely in “Star Wars” fandom. There are people who still live in some sexist fantasy land of the ‘50s and think that women can’t be warriors in films. They don’t think women can be directors on par with men. They don’t think women are anything but objects.
With the pending release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” there have been many unsettling things going on that have left me shocked.
From #dumpStarWars (a movement based on a fake meme about the film being reshot to be anti-Trump) to fans questioning the wisdom of a reporter doing their job at a press conference by pressing Kathleen Kennedy about female directors, things have been getting out of hand lately. The most high-profile of these alarming indications might be the review of the film in The Hollywood Reporter. Their chief complaint about the film is that a female is leading the movie. Todd McCarthy writes in his review:
What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega’s Finn in “The Force Awakens”) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm.
Having seen the film, I can honestly say that these attitudes aren’t warranted and make new fans that happen to be women (or even young girls) feel not welcomed into the fandom. My enthusiasm for the film remains sky-high, and I found the men in the film compelling, flawed, and real. None of them was a glorified macho avatar, and that was a good thing about the film. This criticism isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Lucasfilm seems pretty dedicated to better representation in “Star Wars” films. Sure, it makes business sense, but it’s going to create a much larger, more inclusive fandom. People are going to have to come to terms with that.
I’ve been in the Star Wars fandom for almost as long as I’ve been alive, and it’s been dominated, for the most part, by people who look like me. It was my refuge from the rest of the world, my safe place. When the other kids didn’t get it, I knew I had that one or two friends at any given time who I could talk to about Star Wars. And now the floodgates are open to a whole lot of people who don’t look or sound like me.
For some, that can be threatening. They want their safe space, and they don’t want any encroachments from others. I get it, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Star Wars fans need to be as inclusive as the new casts of the films. More so, even.
This is part of why I wanted to throw my support behind the Jedi Pledge and I’m asking Star Wars fans to sign it. We need to protect everyone coming into the fandom and celebrate its diversity, rather than hope that it returns to its former homogeneity.
Here’s the pledge and you can sign it here:
For too long, aspects of Star Wars fandom have been a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Divisions amongst generations of fans have torn apart the galaxy like the Clone Wars. With the release of Rogue One, even more fans will be coming into the fold of Star Wars, but the level of online harassment is on the rise. As a Jedi Knight of the Rebel Alliance, I pledge to make all fans of Star Wars feel welcome. To welcome new fans and help guide them through Star Wars, rather than chide them for being new. To call out bad behavior as we see it, and to ensure everyone feels safe proclaiming that they are a Star Wars fan in any setting, no matter their level of fandom. Rebellions are built on hope, and it is our hope that Star Wars fandom can become the most welcoming and inclusive fandom in the galaxy...
It’s a worthy ideal. And maybe the next generation of film critics will realize that you don’t need a man of action to engage the audience.
For an in-depth, spoiler-filled discussion of the film, tune into the Full of Sith podcast on Thursday, 12/16 at 7pm EST for a 2-hour special episode.