“Stark Raving Fan” is a column about one man’s love for all things involving popular culture – television, movies, and all facets of pop culture from here to there. Of course, it’s not the kind of love that unites a group of people like a bunch of hippies. More like the kind of love someone has when they’ve blown a gasket and have something to say. After all, aren’t we all just driven mad by fanaticism sometimes?
A few days after Memorial Day, word spread around my office that the resident Star Wars purist had gone off to see Solo: A Star Wars Story over the holiday weekend. Now, this is a guy in his early 30’s who swears the Star Wars franchise died when Lucasfilm – really, George Lucas -sold all proprietary rights to Disney back in October 2012. All of the novels that released before that date became meaningless and shifted to form the new Expanded Universe, woven of non-canonical stories that had no weight onto any future films, comics, or novels. Die-hard fanboys went rabid at the change and still snarl at folks who’ve accepted the latest crop of Star Wars films. This individual is one such person who wags his finger indignantly and seethes, “WRONG, NOOO YOU’RE WRONG! WRONG!”
Hence why our entire office tries to not engage in conversation with this gentleman. Trying to maintain my nice guy visage, I flagged him down as he was non-nonchalantly walking towards our break room. He smiled and approached my desk with a warm smile. We do occasionally chat when our paths cross but that’s a rarity, since I tend to walk the opposite direction before being chastised for my opinions. I decided to take a chance. Maybe people can change.
“So I hear you saw Solo over the weekend. What didja think?”
He began to go into a brief review of his love for the film, which nearly made me fall backwards out of my chair. He has a total hatred for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but found a special place in his heart for Solo: A Star Wars Story? I was ready to jump in the air like Ron Burgandy and shout a victory cheer. We rambled on for a couple of minutes, talking about what we appreciated about Ron Howard’s film and what needed fine-tuning. Then I added the trivia that Howard re-shot 70 percent of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s footage, with parts of the originally-shot material still in the film. I saw his eyebrows furrow. Uh oh.
“No, you’re wrong” came the response. I tried to explain to him about the lengthy Variety article detailing the on-set shenanigans. “NO, YOU’RE WRONG.” I barely opened my mouth for a retort, uttering just six or seven more words. “NO, YOU’RE WRONG.”
I mean, the proof is all right here in the Variety article. That’s right, all in there. The numbers, the behind-the-scenes drama, the entire story. But no, I guess I’m the chucklehead who’s in the wrong. Oh wait, no, I’m sorry, I’m actually right and someone is too proud to get off his pedestal. I sorry, I bow down oh humble and surely errant leader of fools, oh I beseech thee to not smite me into damnation!
See, what I’m getting at here is that these so-called Star Wars purists are dirtying the waters. Ever since Lucas sold his beloved and independently-owned film studio off near five years ago, Star Wars has found itself quite valuable again. We’ve had two more episodes of the Skywalker saga delivered and one to go in the third trilogy, though much to the chagrin of the quibblers who don’t want to see new characters such as Rey, Finn, or Kylo Ren take over from the old guard. (As I said in my review in December The Last Jedi stands as one of the franchise’s best. Get over it, you babies. I’l buy you some milk.) I’ve spent a lot of time trying to deduce what these die-hards want so badly. What is there not to like I would ask really? A story that isn’t the exact same? Surprises you think you can guess but you’re thrown in the opposite direction instead? The lack of blue screen? Or is it because George Lucas took the money and ran off from the franchise he created?
No – I think it’s because the purists refuse to accept that Luke, Leia, and Han are no longer the center of the Star Wars universe. Nor George Lucas.
Okay, I’ll give those nutters that The Force Awakens had a little bit of SSDD Syndrome. Honestly though, did you all think that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford were going to remain forever young? No one’s discovered the Fountain of Youth nor the cheat codes to never age a single day. (Plastic surgery doesn’t count, nor Botox.) We all get older minute by minute, day by day. Accepting age is not always the easiest facet of life. Lord knows even at 33 I can’t accept that I went to see the special editions of the original trilogy over 20 years ago. But getting older is a part of life. Looking at the weathered face of Harrison Ford saddens me because there will come a day to mourn his loss. When Carrie Fisher passed away I bawled, the first princess I ever knew as a kid rising up to the stars. Even Mark Hamill, who looks damn good after getting back in shape, still lacks the fresh face he had over forty years ago.
That’s right – 1977. The first ever Star Wars movie hit cinemas back in 1977. Most of you reading this editorial were probably not even born yet. I wasn’t. And you probably didn’t discover Star Wars till you were a bit older. For me the time was the late 1980’s. The two made-for-television Ewok movies were what I remember first. Then we rented the films on VHS until the tapes were nearly destroyed from how much I watched them. The stories were timeless, the struggle of good trying usurp evil in a galaxy much unlike our own. These were the stories that I loved. And yet, even as George Lucas single-handedly funded the second trilogy, I still preferred Episodes IV, V, and VI. The old school special effects, lack of green and blue screens to insert characters into life-like sets, the simple storytelling and narrative. That’s what people want still, isn’t it? To be transported away from their everyday lives into a universe nothing like ours, the heroes always in a corner trying to fight their way out? Those films weren’t meant to rattle your emotions, but enthrall you. Plain and simple.
But now, even with new movies being released from Lucasfilm after almost a decade of dormancy, people’s stubbornness is dirtying the franchise. The stories now aren’t as political as the prequel trilogy. The new films, set thirty years post-Return of the Jedi, are the same fun and bombastic tales that were regaled to us as youth. They’re bombastic, they’re gritty at times, they’re fun and light and tense. Sure, there’s some padding in there for good measure, but the original trilogy was never a damn allegory for the state of politics. It was good versus evil, the light versus the dark. Lucas’ original vision was big and bold, something that was only heard of in radio serials. Yet for some reason there’s a sect of people who can’t accept the new movies trying to do something different all over again. What, you think we with open minds will let you deter our love for what other stories are to come from Abrams? Father and Son Kasdan? Rian Johnson? I’ve got bad news – but good luck with that.
Worse yet, there’s the purists who attacked Kelly Marie Tran on social media so badly that the young actress actually quit all forms of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all gone and shuttered, all posts deleted and to be forgotten. Why? Because Star Wars is currently creating young and empowered woman who are becoming the faces of the new franchise. At first I was aghast hearing the news because, honestly, anyone attacking Tran is juvenile, sheltered, and small. Very small. So small the space they occupy in the gutter isn’t worth mentioning. Then an article via The Guardian hit the Internet stating that a pro-‘straight white male’ Star Wars group admitting they’re behind the slanderous attacks.
Now, I’m not much one to wish harm onto others but – these guys? Going after both Kellie Marie Tran and Daisy Ridley? May I offer the advice of taking a long walk off a short bridge? You’re set in your ways that’re antiquated and brimming with vitriol. Honestly, if you can’t contribute any positivity to any fandom, then what sort of fan are you? Fans are members of a community that are centralized with their passions on the properties they love. Just because your memories were turning stale doesn’t give you the right to belittle anyone who enjoys something new, something different. Doesn’t matter if you’re lambasting another fan or even the actors themselves, my advice to you – grow up or get off of the wagon.
The amount of negativity breaking the foundation of this franchise is jaw-dropping so here, let me speak for those of us who are real fans. Star Wars doesn’t need your negativity though or your inability to watch something new, bold, and exciting. Stay in your safe spaces. Avoid the Internet. Never watch Rogue One or Solo, we certainly don’t care. We are the honey badger and we ain’t havin’ none of your crud anymore. Yes, everyone wants the original unedited regular versions of the original trilogy – and we’re damn close to getting them too – but can’t you just let people enjoy what we have now? Many of us were born after Return of the Jedi hit theaters back in 1983. Actually, many of you are part of that group of fans too. I’ll never understand the failure to embrace new tales in a franchise that we all love and hold close to our hearts. If you think for a hot second Disney and Lucasfilm care that you boycott the new releases, well, you got another thing coming. Just because Solo: A Star Wars Story opened tepidly doesn’t mean we won’t see more films. We will. So while you all are angrily typing away anonymously on your keyboards, the rest of us are pulling a Yoda. We’re laughing. At you.
There’s the door. Kindly see your way out of our fandom. Until next time I’ll keep writing them, you keep reading them, and we’ll keep debating everything in-between.