Is fan power ruining Star Wars?

The recent calls for a remake of The Last Jedi are the latest embarrassing episode of problematic fandom.

Ever watched a movie and thought “I could do better than that?” well, Twitter account Remake The Last Jedi is putting someone else’s money where their mouth is, crowdfunding the budget to remake Star Wars: The Last Jedi in a manner that pleases them and the vocal minority that have led the backlash against the film. So far, they have well over $300million in hypothetical pledges. The Last Jedi’s cast and crew have responded in a bemused fashion, with director Rian Johnson even offering a jokingly enthusiastic response. Taken on its own merits, it’s the petulance of a group who didn’t get what they want. In a wider context, however, it shows a worrying trend that may be ruining the fun of A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Hounding stars online

This isn’t the first incident to arise from The Last Jedi’s release. Actor Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico, was forced to close her social media accounts due to months of sexist and racist abuse via users angry at her performance. It’s a backlash that has been condemned by Johnson, her cast mates, and right-minded Star Wars fans everywhere, but also highlighted the dangers of public figures being so accessible online.

The evolution of trolls

Angry fanboys are nothing new. Warner Bros were inundated with snail mail when Michael Keaton was cast as Batman in the 80’s; while in the late 90’s Quicktime videos of Jar Jar Binks’ head being shot off a la Marvin in Pulp Fiction did the rounds in email inboxes.

In the social media age, the abuse is more instant, and more vitriolic. Stars like Tran can be found within seconds, and abused personally. Most alarming is that the abuse is often pointed towards women and Persons of Colour. Tran is the highest profile target of The Last Jedi haters, while two years ago the remake of Ghostbusters led to the film’s one non-white star, Leslie Jones, having personal photos and legal documents posted online. All for the ‘crime’ of acting in a film some people didn’t like.

Intergalactic entitlement

Of course, not every angry fan is motivated by gender or race. However, the existence of things such as Remake The Last Jedi point to an entitlement among fans that doesn’t seem to have existed as loudly before. If the new films aren’t precisely to the liking of ardent enthusiasts, all hell breaks loose to the point where fans are attempting to rewrite history.

It also glosses over some basic truths. Firstly, many people liked The Last Jedi. It was well reviewed and made over $1.3bn in worldwide box office. That’s a dip from The Force Awakens’ $2bn, but far from the catastrophe of recent spin-off Solo. Secondly, it’s also not like there’s never been a bad Star Wars movie. The prequels were forgettable, and even the Original Trilogy cast have skeletons in their closet in the form of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.

In short, bad movies happen and not everyone’s going to be happy. However, creating such a backlash for something that doesn’t meet a particular group’s standards taints the legacy of the franchise they purport to protect, and will no doubt make dynamic film makers think twice about being involved as the series move forward. To quote Johnson in a recent tweet, “on social media a few unhealthy people can cast a big shadow on the wall”. Perhaps to save the future, some fans should be a little less precious about the past.