The fandom menace: Why I won't let toxic Star Wars fans take me to the dark side
There's been a disturbance in Star Wars fandom.
For the last two years the community has been divided over this new Disney era for the franchise, mostly thanks to perhaps the most divisive film in Star Wars history, 2017's The Last Jedi.
Get any group of Star Wars fans together these days and it won't take many parsecs before disagreements break out over Episode 8.
Was Luke Skywalker's death handled carelessly? Should Princess Leia be able to fly in space? Are porgs actually cute or just annoying alien puffins?
I've been involved in these discussions. They can be fun, but for some fans the negative comments have calcified over time into a general hatred of the Disney-owned era of the franchise.
The truth is, it's never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan.
Over the last several years, we've been inundated with new movies, live-action television, novels, video games and even theme parks — more than most fans can keep up with.
I'm not saying you have to enjoy any content just because it exists, but for those of us who have loved Star Wars since the '70s and '80s, we need to take a minute and just be a little bit more grateful to live in such a bountiful period for fans of a galaxy far, far away.
Remembering the dark times
I was born in 1983, the year Return of the Jedi came out. By the time I was walking, talking and playing with action figures, Star Wars was starting to fade from the pop culture zeitgeist.
Star Wars geeks refer to those years of the late '80s and early '90s as the "dark period" — when there was virtually no new content or merchandise from the franchise for close to a decade.
That was the era in which I actually became a fan, and I was left with hand-me-down VHS tapes, as well as toys and books from my older brother and his friends to nurture my interest.
So when the franchise returned in 1999 for George Lucas's prequels (also divisive in their own right) and then again in 2012 after the Disney acquisition, I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) the heck out of every minute of it.
Look, I have my criticisms of the sequels as well, but when I hear fans saying things like "Disney ruined Star Wars" or creating petitions for The Last Jedi to be remade, I can't help but shake my head in nerdy disapproval.
So go see the new movie, and soak up the fact that a piece of your childhood is in theatres in 2019.
It also makes me nervous. Nervous that toxic fans will influence the future of Star Wars while the rest of us have been silently enjoying it the whole time. As someone who had to cobble their own fandom together in the '90s, I don't take these abundant years for granted.
With more shows and movies on the way, we still have much Star Wars to look forward to. The success of the recent hit Disney Plus streaming show The Mandalorian and subsequent pop culture phenomenon "Baby Yoda" is starting to unite fans, which should give us all new hope.
Next week The Rise of Skywalker hits theatres. It's the final episodic film in the Skywalker Saga — and the end of the 42-year telling of the flagship storyline of the Star Wars franchise.
Even if the film doesn't repair the damage you think was inflicted in The Last Jedi, try to focus on the things you do like. The new films are something many of us never thought we would get to see.
So go see the new movie, and soak up the fact that a piece of your childhood is in theatres in 2019. You never know when Star Wars could once again take the jump to lightspeed and disappear into the dark regions of pop culture space.