Dawn Pink is a person I introduced to "Star Wars" and she penned this heartbreaking essay. Here are her words, I'll be back to comment after (there will be spoilers for "The Force Awakens."):
The Skywalker Saga actively influences the way I live my life.
It has changed the way I view and interact with the world. My connection to its protagonists and their allies differ from other connections I have made to works of fiction; in other stories, if they aren’t my favorite character I do not care where their paths lead them. These characters evoke a level of affection from me most reserve for nonfictional people. They live deep inside me, in an intensely emotional space. I celebrate their victories and mourn their travesties. Based off the visceral connection I have, it doesn’t surprise me when people assume I am a "Star Wars" fan. But, as I have been corrected countless times, I, in turn, feel I must correct this assumption. I am not a part of the "Star Wars" fandom.
You see, I love the Prequel Trilogy. The layers they add to the Original Trilogy more than justifies their existence. The intricate politics and subterfuge are brilliantly woven through all three movies. With one exception, Anakin’s awkward, hormone driven flirting is endearing and relatable. Watching his fall makes his redemption so emotionally charged, it never fails to bring me to tears. Obi-Wan is a far superior heartthrob to Han Solo. His wit and kindness (and flirting seen in Clone Wars) flutters this heart far more than Han’s dismissive slights then hamfisted pretentious flirtations. I find Padme falling for Anakin no more unbelievable than Leia falling for Han. Jake Lloyd’s performance is both winsome and tender.
While any of these opinions individually have Real Fans asking for my identification, the character I relate to most is Jar-Jar Binks. I often feel I am bumbling through my existence, trying to do what is right and be the kind of person I admire, only to mess it up through my clumsiness or by being loyal to people who do not have the best of intentions. I have been bullied often throughout my life, judged and demeaned for my lower socioeconomic upbringing and lack of masculine qualities and corresponding genitals. The moment Jar-Jar tumbled into Qui-Gon’s arms, I found my own place in the "Star Wars" Universe, as I knew I was neither Jedi nor Senator nor Sith. The lesson shown to me through the Gungans is the same one I feel people miss with Ewoks. No matter how tiny and fluffy, nor how unsophisticated and silly someone may seem, they should not be dismissed as unimportant.
Then, the uproar happened. The cast of "The Force Awakens" was announced and there was not a single white male protagonist. The furor about Rey being “too perfect” when no one questioned Luke and Anakin’s innate connections to their Force given talents. The idea of a BME Stormtrooper was decreed blasphemous (though I don’t ever recall seeing one without their helmet on in the Original Trilogy). After all the blatant LGBTQIA propaganda in the latest books, this was too much for Real Fans to bear.
So, with my tickets for Celebration London purchased and a new box of tissues ready for my ninth visit to the catwalk, I made a decision to accept that I am not a "Star Wars" fan. The Geonosis Arena will always put me at the edge of my seat. Jar-Jar’s face during his friend’s funeral will forever break my heart. Rey and Finn are my best friends and I will defend them to my last breath. What "Star Wars" has given me isn’t complete without what much of the Fandom stands staunchly against. To give it up now would be to take away the hope it has given me. But, after witnessing the hate and hurt being hurled around, both online and in real life, from the Real Fans, I’m perfectly okay not being one and just loving "Star Wars."
This sort of breaks my heart. I love bringing people into "Star Wars." This is where I want everyone to be, in the playground that has my favorite swing set and jungle gym. And every time new playground equipment gets added, I want to bring more and more people to play. But so many parts of the fandom will pounce on those who have a different idea of what "Star Wars" is to the point where they will attack you for loving the prequels. Or Jar Jar.
Dawn told me about how in the "Harry Potter" fandom, their message boards were filled with consolation when Sirius Black or Albus Dumbeldore died. Online in that space and fandom, she found friendship and help coping and an understanding that she sought after "The Force Awakens." She didn't much find it. Instead, most pockets of fandom who were simply outraged and upset. "I couldn't find any message board or online space where people were just consoling each other," she told me. "There were people in rages about how stupid it was Han was killed or how they didn't like how X character reacted, especially Chewie. When Sirius and Dumbledore passed, there were whole message boards where all we did was mourn. Like they were real people. And no one judged us for it."
I wonder why we can't be a more welcoming community.
When I was first getting into "Star Wars" fandom, it felt like everyone I met had the best of intentions; "Star Wars" fans were Anakin, eager to race a pod to help perfect strangers. The older I get, the more it seems like more and more fans strayed from that true path and down one toward the Sith.
There is good in this fandom. I've felt it.
Maybe we can all be more like Luke and help bring out the light in that Vader that I know is there.