The greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst: A call for civility in Star Wars fandom

A few weeks ago, a few concerned EU fans started the Petition of the 2000, a request that asks George Lucas and The Clone Wars crew to take note of what’s been established in books and comics. They are not attacking George or the show. They are not demanding. They are simply asking that the show take more consideration of the existing Expanded Universe.

Think what you will of the petition – I think it’s a little silly, honestly – but I’m far more concerned with the reaction to it. From some of it, you’d think they were demanding that Del Rey firebomb Skywalker Ranch.

This is symptomatic of an attitude that seems more and more entrenched in fandom these days. See, this isn’t really about a petition: It’s just the most recent example. It’s about the ‘true fan’ mentality.

People don’t deserve to be raked over the coals and belittled for a difference of opinion. You don’t have to agree with them, you don’t even have to acknowledge them. But attacking them over it? Really? Is this fandom or America’s Next Top Star Wars Fan?

Star Wars is a gigantic franchise, with many different facets. You don’t have to love every single piece of it to be a fan, and I think it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to do that. (More power to you if you can, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way for all of us.) If you love something about Star Wars, you are a fan. Star Wars is just too big and too varied and not everyone is going to love everything. You might even despise parts of it. Hey, it happens. What’s really important is how you express it, and how you treat others.

And that diversity – over years and generations and just the sheer amount of stuff – means that Star Wars is not always an easy fandom to be in. The old Star Wars fans hate Star Wars column is very much on point. (Also hilarious, but that’s neither here nor there.) People feel very strongly, and tempers are bound to flare.

Yes, there are a lot of people who really don’t like one part of the franchise while still valuing another. You see this on all levels: Movies, books, comics, games, creators, fan fiction, even down to blogs and forums. There are people who despise certain things, and are still angry and hurt and willing to wallow in it. That’s the internet for you.

But a few – or a lot – of assholes don’t give anyone license to turn around and be assholes back to the folks who are actually being civil. Forgive me for quoting a meme, but haters gonna hate. And it’s time for so-called ‘true fans’ (whatever that means to you) to be the bigger people and stop perpetuating the circle of douche.

It’s time to grow up. An eye for an eye is not a sound strategy. Get over the victim complex. Liking The Clone Wars does not make one a better Star Wars fan, any more than liking the Expanded Universe does, or thinking Boba Fett is the world’s biggest badass, or liking whatever the ‘right’ movies or books happen to be today.

Yes, you can be a fan of Star Wars and not think that George Lucas is a flawless filmmaker. Having some issues with the prequels does not automatically mean one thinks that Lucas trashed their childhood. Yes, you can be a Star Wars fan and not give a hot damn about the EU or The Clone Wars. And I, for one, try my best not to judge you for what you like or how you like it, but how you treat others in the face of that.

This isn’t impossible. Club Jade, as an organization and mainly a mailing list, has been around since 1995. And though we were united by our love for Star Wars, snark, and Tim Zahn’s novels, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. We haven’t always agreed over everything that’s come along since the 90′s, and we haven’t always done it gracefully. But what unites us in the end is our friendships and respect for each other. (And the snark. Always, the snark.) And we’re still here.

We all have our focus, our favorite facet of Star Wars that we love best. The franchise is big enough that we can all prioritize different aspects of it. And that is okay. Being a jerk – about any of it – does not make you a better fan. It just makes you a jerk.

Stop letting bad behavior excuse more bad behavior, and respect each other as Star Wars fans. Not as Clone Wars fans or Expanded Universe fans or original trilogy fans or prequel fans or New Jedi Order fans or whatever it is that floats your boat. As people who love Star Wars.

The fandom is big enough for everyone, and there’s enough negativity out there already. It’s time to calm down, put the anger aside, and be the adults I know many of you actually are.

56 thoughts on “The greatest people you will ever meet, and the worst: A call for civility in Star Wars fandom

  1. Lyn

    Agreed, although I’ll admit when it comes to the Continuity Police (see Keeper page on facebook) I get a tad impatient. LOL

  2. Josh

    Hear hear!

    My definition of a True Fan is someone who’s never said “you’re not a true fan” to a fellow fan.

    That may sound convoluted, but I know what I mean.

  3. Austin

    Very well written, and I totally agree. Reminds me of that tweet I sent last year that got a bit of attention: “Hey, enough. I’m tired of “prequel hater”, “true fan”, Lucas basher”, “actual fans”. Just drop these words right now. They have grown old.” I really like Josh’s definition of a true fan. We all should read this and really think about how we act in fandom.

  4. Michelle

    I concur 100%. I love the movies, The Clone Wars and the books (although some of the books were horrible). It’s really nothing to get so worked up about. I try and take everything with a grain of salt. If something happens in one of the books that doesn’t jive with The Clone Wars then that’s ok. It’s all just part of a wider universe and it’s perfectly ok to love both. Star Wars should be enjoyable and give you pleasure, not pain. The Force is in all of us and we should try to act like it :)

  5. Pabawan

    As a true fan, I only love the limited edition Star Wars soy sauce dispensers that were released overseas. That’s it. Anyone who doesn’t or likes anything else is an idiot. /internet

  6. Brian

    I like to look at it like this. Star Wars is “A long time ago” right? So everything, movies, books, comics, tv shows, the works…it’s all history. And sometimes history is a little murky in its recording. So any continuity issues are different historians (film makers, authors, etc) with a different interpretation of events/maybe some faulty info/biased toward a certain view of things.

  7. jedifarfy

    Completely agreed. I don’t care about the Clone Wars and don’t read every book. Doesn’t mean I don’t like Star Wars. Talk to other sci-fi fans, though, and they LOVE to bring up things like the Prequels or some other unflattering aspect, and then question if you are even a fan. Drives me crazy!

    Also, love the ‘Mean Girls’ reference. :P

  8. Doyle

    It’s an excellent sentiment, Dunc. So many get so caught up in these things, and I always like to think that cooler heads will prevail…but I also know that this sort of situation is why I keep so much distance between myself and fandom to begin with.

    And really? Attacking people because they politely asked that previous continuity be given some consideration? That’s tremendously low, even for fandom. The letter that this group has put together reads as respectful and thoughtful (if not overly wordy); it belittles no party and expresses a simple concern that is shared by many. What about this is so offensive that it deserves to be attacked by another branch of the fandom?

  9. jawajames

    As one of my friends said upon hearing about my local SW club’s drama a few years back: “It’s Star Wars, isn’t it supposed to be fun?”

  10. Mark Newbold

    Great piece, hits the nail right on the head. There’s a similar thing here in the UK with Football fans, who say if you don’t go to live matches you’re not a ‘real’ fan – what a load of bull, and this is the same.
    Look, I can understand the thinking that if something is run past LFL’s stringent licensing department and allowed to be sold as a ‘Star Wars’ product (book, comic, whatever) then people are very entitled to gripe when it’s suddenly decided that it’s not ‘cannon any more. That undoubtedly devalues the product immensely – why buy it, it’s just licensed fan fiction for profit (which I can get anywhere, for free).
    That said, no one’s ever going to tell me they are ‘more’ of a Star Wars fan than I am (33+ years and counting), and I wouldn’t dream of saying it to anyone else – our experiences are uniquely personal and individual, for reasons of age, location, creativity, whatever. I am no more of a Star Wars fan than my 13 year old god son (happy birthday today Ben) or my 6 year old nephew (hiya Owen), who are mad on Galaxies and Clone Wars respectively.
    Also just to say I find CJ the best place to voice my thoughts and to read those of other similar folks, whether I agree with them or with me – keep up the great work Team CJ.

  11. kevin

    i agree with the comment that Star Wars material has to be looked at as written by different historians/different accounts of events. On the whole, the continuity of all the Star Wars material out there is MUCH better than many of the other franchises, such as Star Trek, Transformers, and the major comic book universes. People tend to forge this

  12. Mark "Jedi" Hurliman

    I agree with the article, and I have to agree with Doyle as well. I signed said letter knowing it wouldn’t change anything. But found the added hate comments untasteful.

    I mean the petition would be the way to foster change in a corporate world. Are people really that worried it might succeed? Cause I didn’t and I hope it does. lol

    One thing I know- Star Wars is FOREVER.

  13. Sean

    “If you love something about Star Wars, you are a fan.”

    Thank you! Lately a lot of fans, including two otherwise amazing SW podcasters, have been saying that if you don’t like the prequels, you’re not a fan. I find it offensive to be told that I can’t truly enjoy something if I don’t embrace every aspect of it. I love the OT, I like a lot of the EU, and the prequels annoy me, but I’m still a HUGE fan, and I fully embrace the whole community. You guys rock!

  14. DarthPahl

    Dunc, as one of those oldies who was around with you and the other CJ old guard when SW was still on RASSM, I do wonder if this is a symptom of a general coarsening of the debate and hardening of positions seen everywhere in fandom. It might partly be the sense of entitlement that arises in fans with some content holders so actively pandering to their fan base. There’s also the immediacy of communication when one person somewhere says something that wasn’t especially adroit and suddenly 1,000 people have linked to it in their LJs, DW, and Twitter accounts. There’s no margin for human error — if you apologize it’s not enough and if you take down the offending post, people jump on that too. Do you remember when we used to say think before you post? The deep breath and count to 10 before letting loose in the great wilds of the anonymous Internet is perhaps not so prevalent anymore. To quote Jon Stewart, “We may disagree but I’m pretty sure you aren’t Hitler.”

  15. Sammygirl

    Here here! Great post! I remember the dark days of the mid-80s when my check subscribing to the Star Wars fan club–the one advertised in the back of Marvel comics which sent you a free ESB patch just for joining–was returned because the club had shut down. Bitter disappointment. And then the sheer joy of getting on the net in the mid 90s and finding kindred spirits on bulletin boards and e-mail lists. Fans today have such an immense media universe to play in, and I’m glad. But anyone using the “you’re not a true fan” accusation is operating contrary to what Star Wars fandom is really about. The choices are so broad and there’s so many entry points to fandom now, but it doesn’t make you “less” of a fan because you came in by a different door.

  16. Dooku

    Fantastic article. I read the petition and agree with a lot of it, but I didn’t sign it because of thinking similar to Brian’s comment (#9). However, my main issue is that it’s aimed at the wrong people. It’s silly to think George is going to change what he’s going to do. Rather, I wish Lucas Licensing would handle it better by being more willing to throw something out of the continuity and then be apologetic about it.

  17. Josh

    “Lately a lot of fans, including two otherwise amazing SW podcasters, have been saying that if you don’t like the prequels, you’re not a fan.”

    To be fair, I’ve seen it said the other way as well (that if you like the prequels, then clearly you don’t understand the true spirit of Star Wars, ergo you’re not a true fan).

    It cuts both ways, and I think that both sides could benefit from accepting that the other genuinely believes what they’re saying.

    Pro-PT People: The anti-PT crowd aren’t just doing “what’s cool”, they genuinely dislike the prequels.

    Anti-PT People: The pro-PT crowd aren’t just sheep who are kidding themselves, they genuinely like the prequels.

    Same goes for EU, Clone Wars, whatever else fans are divided over.

    It sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s a principle we should all take to heart.

  18. Sean

    “Anti-PT People: The pro-PT crowd aren’t just sheep who are kidding themselves, they genuinely like the prequels.”

    I agree. I have a hard time believing that they’re all pretending :) The prequels aren’t bad films, I just like the style and pacing of the OT more.

  19. Mek

    While I like that Clone Wars doesn’t adhere to continuity by the letter, I p. much agree with a good deal of this. The general ‘eeeeugh’ atmosphere about SW fandom these days is why I don’t even get into a majority of it outside of a small circle of friends/family.

    Heck, I remember one time someone over in an LJ community said that people who liked Cad Bane were “bandwagon hoppers” and weren’t “true fans”. Aside from the fact they tore down a character (and their fans) in order to make their pet favorite look good (in this case Boba Fett), the fact they used the “true fan fallacy” really rankled my nerves. Like you said, if you like a certain part of SW, you’re a ‘true fan’ no matter what some faceless person on the internet says.

    Although fwiw, I have seen some pretty bad rancor (ha) on the pro-EU side regarding Even Pell, so there’s always going to be bad apples in every bunch. *shrug*

  20. Dunc Post author

    First of all, thanks to everyone for the comments. I was a little nervous about this post, so I’m glad to see it so well received.

    Josh: My definition of a True Fan is someone who’s never said “you’re not a true fan” to a fellow fan.

    Bingo. As hippy-dippy as it sounds, everyone is free to love SW in their own way. ;)

    Austin: Reminds me of that tweet I sent last year that got a bit of attention: “Hey, enough. I’m tired of “prequel hater”, “true fan”, Lucas basher”, “actual fans”. Just drop these words right now. They have grown old.”

    I remember that tweet – I think it sparked a long discussion on the topic. And it’s a good point. This finger-pointing isn’t productive and it isn’t raising the level of discussion. You can’t take the high ground by acting just as badly as (or in the case of the petition, worse than) the folks you claim are in the wrong.

    Pabawan: As a true fan, I only love the limited edition Star Wars soy sauce dispensers that were released overseas. That’s it. Anyone who doesn’t or likes anything else is an idiot. /internet

    Oh, Pablo. ;)

    Brian: I like to look at it like this. Star Wars is “A long time ago” right? So everything, movies, books, comics, tv shows, the works…it’s all history. And sometimes history is a little murky in its recording. So any continuity issues are different historians (film makers, authors, etc) with a different interpretation of events/maybe some faulty info/biased toward a certain view of things.

    I love this, and I’ve done it myself. For instance, Courtship of Princess Leia is actually a Bollywood-style Hapan musical. (Luke’s dance number with the Blue Desert People really brings down the house.)

    Jawajames: As one of my friends said upon hearing about my local SW club’s drama a few years back: “It’s Star Wars, isn’t it supposed to be fun?”

    Right? And while I hate to say it’s just fiction… It’s just fiction.

    Mark Newbold : Also just to say I find CJ the best place to voice my thoughts and to read those of other similar folks, whether I agree with them or with me – keep up the great work Team CJ.

    Aww, thanks.

    Sean : I find it offensive to be told that I can’t truly enjoy something if I don’t embrace every aspect of it.

    Right? I’ve been called a ‘basher’ a few times. I find it sad/hilarious, because I don’t really hate the prequels at all. True, I don’t love them, and I’m willing to admit that they have flaws. (Which I guess is enough?) If anything, I’m pretty apathetic about them, and the era as a whole – the same goes for some of the EU, actually. (KOTOR? Yawn.) And yeah, sometimes I get annoyed with The Clone Wars for my own reasons. But I’ll also freely acknowledge that those things aren’t really for me, and I usually only post about them when there’s actual news in the offing. Note that I don’t do any of TCW reviews here – hell, I mostly don’t even watch the show.

    Does disinterest in some of the franchise invalidate all the time and effort I’ve spent in fandom, and all that I’ve enjoyed? I don’t think so, and I wouldn’t dare imply that about anyone else, either.

  21. kataja

    I’ve missed the entire controverse but it’s hard not to agree with what you say, Dunc. There is, and should be, place to all of us. We’re here for the fun of it!

  22. Star Wars Fan

    *shrugs* Happens in every fandom when controversy strikes. Some fandoms are even crazier.

    For instance, in Harry Potter fandom – Support Ron/Hermione? Ah, I believe there’s an entire page on the Fandom Wank Wiki devoted to what some fringe members of the Harry/Hermione shippers have said about them, including that supporting Ron/Hermione is like supporting abortion of female infants in China. (Something like that – I swear I could not have made that up if I tried.) Support Harry/Hermione? You are of course one of the fringe lunatics, aren’t reading the same books as everyone else, and will die alone and unloved, frothing at the mouth all over your Ron Weasley voodoo doll.* And let’s not even TOUCH the issue of Severus Snape.

    *[I disclaim that this is in no way, shape, or form my opinion. Unfortunately, this isn't much of an exaggeration of what some people think of Harry/Hermione shippers.]

    If this sort of behavior is unusual in Star Wars fandom, then I’d say Star Wars fandom is relatively sane. :) (Okay, I do know about the prequel controversies, but I meant the rest of it. :P)

  23. Fred Herman

    There’s little less explicable–or more pointlessly hurtful, when you’re on the receiving end–than intelligent adults willing to end friendships over differences of fannish opinion. But it’s a real and rather terrifying phenomenon.

  24. Doyle

    @ Fred:

    An extremely true fact. This exact thing more or less happened to me a couple of weeks ago (my situation was a little more layered than your synopsis, but I suspect that most are what with people being people) with a whole GROUP of people who I’ve known and been friends with for the better part of a decade. I’m left with the feeling that I should be more hurt and upset by it, but I’m just too busy being so confused by it.

  25. jawajames

    Dunc has unlocked the achievement “True Fan” .
    Dunc now has earned 43 of 68 achievements in “Star Wars fandom”. Saving data…

  26. Dunc Post author

    DarthPahl: I do wonder if this is a symptom of a general coarsening of the debate and hardening of positions seen everywhere in fandom.

    And in the real world? ::ducks::

    There’s also the immediacy of communication when one person somewhere says something that wasn’t especially adroit and suddenly 1,000 people have linked to it in their LJs, DW, and Twitter accounts. There’s no margin for human error — if you apologize it’s not enough and if you take down the offending post, people jump on that too.

    Yup. I see this all the time, both professionally and in fandom. There’s such a rush to get things up NOW NOW NOW that sometimes you don’t have a chance to cross your t’s and dot your i’s.

    But then, there’s the tone issue, too. For example, I’ve seen people interpret things like the blog’s tagline (‘melodramatic space trash’) completely straight.

    Do you remember when we used to say think before you post? The deep breath and count to 10 before letting loose in the great wilds of the anonymous Internet is perhaps not so prevalent anymore.

    Heh, yeah. I was never very good at that back in the day.

    Sammygirl: The choices are so broad and there’s so many entry points to fandom now, but it doesn’t make you “less” of a fan because you came in by a different door.

    Nice analogy!

    Josh: Pro-PT People: The anti-PT crowd aren’t just doing “what’s cool”, they genuinely dislike the prequels.

    Anti-PT People: The pro-PT crowd aren’t just sheep who are kidding themselves, they genuinely like the prequels.

    Same goes for EU, Clone Wars, whatever else fans are divided over.

    Can we make this statement mandatory reading?

    It does go both ways. People have equally good reasons. And they mean it. Nobody is brainwashed.

    Star Wars Fan: For instance, in Harry Potter fandom – Support Ron/Hermione? Ah, I believe there’s an entire page on the Fandom Wank Wiki devoted to what some fringe members of the Harry/Hermione shippers have said about them, including that supporting Ron/Hermione is like supporting abortion of female infants in China.

    Oh yeah. I didn’t much address shipwars here, but ironically they’re probably the form of fannish flamewar I’m most familiar with, having fought a few myself back in the day. (And reading a lot of Fandom Wank, back before everyone knew about F_W and went underground.)

    Hell, I’ve heard stories about epic Han vs. Luke wars back in the zines before ROTJ. (And met at least one fan who still wasn’t over it nearly 20 years later…)

    I suspect shipwars are a standard rite of passage for many female fans. And they can get ugly.

    If this sort of behavior is unusual in Star Wars fandom, then I’d say Star Wars fandom is relatively sane.

    Well, I’ve yet to hear anything on the level of MsScribe, but that may just be a simple matter of the bandwidth-boosting measures not being there at the time. I don’t think Harry Potter fandom – or at least their fanfic factions – were ever as scattered as SW has been.

    Fred Herman: There’s little less explicable–or more pointlessly hurtful, when you’re on the receiving end–than intelligent adults willing to end friendships over differences of fannish opinion. But it’s a real and rather terrifying phenomenon.

    Doyle: An extremely true fact. This exact thing more or less happened to me a couple of weeks ago (my situation was a little more layered than your synopsis, but I suspect that most are what with people being people) with a whole GROUP of people who I’ve known and been friends with for the better part of a decade.

    That sucks, guys. Sorry. :(

  27. Dunc Post author

    Rich! Thank you. :)

    Note: I received a comment today that went into the canon issues of TCW and the EU. I just want to reiterate that this post was very much not about canon or continuity: It’s about respecting other fans, no matter what part of Star Wars they love best. Full stop.

    And though the comment wasn’t really attacking anyone and didn’t use language any harsher about the EU than I myself have on various occasions, I’ve chosen not to approve it in the interests of not derailing the real point here.

    There are plenty of places to debate that stuff already, and I’d appreciate keeping the specifics of that particular debate there.

    At least for now. I am considering writing a follow-up/update/expansion of my ’09 opinion piece on The Clone Wars and the EU. (Also linked above.) I can’t say for sure when I’ll finish it, or even IF I’ll finish it, but I’ll try.

  28. Donsinluv

    Per DarthPahl, the discussion, as it were, is coarsening. Of course it is. It always was (remember RASSM?). It’s just that the online audience, so to speak, was smaller in those days. But as we found out the hard way, the LFL mission statement was that George is/was and ever shall be, in charge or something to that effect. That means that we, as fans, or used to be fans (or something) have absolutely no say. But we can vote with our proverbial feet. Over the years, many of us have done just done that. So have many of the media critics, both highbrow and otherwise. Generally, it’s a matter of instinct and a bit of self-preservation. For the past years, I have mourned for what could have been, or perhaps should have been but, all in all, wasn’t. Or to put it in current management language, it’s all about Results Oriented Employment. If the expected results don’t turn up in a reasonable amount of time, the employees get fired. So you have to ask yourself, especially as the ultimate consumer of said results, are they satisfying or not? And then act accordingly.

  29. MattDoc

    Since you just Tweeted this again, figured I’d throw a fresh comment in…

    This was a great piece. For a long time, it was the groups who didn’t like some aspect of Star Wars (the prequels, EU, collecting, whatever) that were the very vocal and often rude ones. They would make you feel guilty or stupid because you liked something they didn’t and would often try very hard to convince you that you were wrong for liking what you liked. I think this was mostly during years that the prequels were being released. “Haters” were popping up everywhere.

    I think, unfortunately, that has recently become reversed. The “haters” have calmed down for the most part. Maybe it’s because the dust has settled since the prequels came out and the Clone Wars kind of flys under the radar. The problem now is that many of the “likers” have become the more rudely vocal ones.

    Anyway, I agree here…it just needs to stop. Like what you like and don’t give others crap for thinking differently. Don’t try to convert others to your beliefs.

    My only gripe over the years is how many “prequels suck” arguments I’ve gotten in when the other person can never actually give valid reasons why they didn’t like them and why I shouldn’t like them. Your argument loses all validity at that point.

    Lastly…”stop perpetuating the circle of douche” may be the greatest statement in the history of everything. I want that on a t-shirt.

  30. Dunc Post author

    I think, unfortunately, that has recently become reversed. The “haters” have calmed down for the most part. Maybe it’s because the dust has settled since the prequels came out and the Clone Wars kind of flys under the radar. The problem now is that many of the “likers” have become the more rudely vocal ones.

    Exactly. And far too many PT fans have let their victim complexes take the lead. Let’s hope that they get over the force-choking stage and see the light.

    Lastly…”stop perpetuating the circle of douche” may be the greatest statement in the history of everything. I want that on a t-shirt.

    Thank you!

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  32. Jessica

    Yeah, pretty much. Yours won’t be the first article saying this, and it won’t be the last either but it always bears repeating. And it’s applicable to tons of different fandoms too.

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  37. Ted

    Thank you thank you thank you. I DO have my issues with the EU VS Episode VII, but I am SOOO sick of the infighting. I used to love cavorting with the fans.. but NOW when I think of overall fandom one phrase always springs to mind…
    It is a period of civil war….

    1. Dunc Post author

      Well… I did write this more than a year before the Disney/Episode VII bomb dropped… But I think/hope it still applies.

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