Opinion: 'Star Wars' Fans Shouldn't Ignore Constructive Criticism
What Would You Like To See The Franchise Improve?
As Star Wars fans, we love to enjoy Star Wars. We love to watch, analyze and speculate about it. Star Wars is basically the only thing that's kept me sane throughout this great disaster of a year. But just because something brings us joy doesn't mean it's above critique. Though sadly, many Star Wars fans seemingly prefer to ignore constructive criticism when aspects of the franchise are notably flawed.
This can be seen no more clearly than in the fandom's response to the upcoming Ahsoka series. Written and directed by creative powerhouse Dave Filoni, the series starring Anakin Skywalker's former Padawan has been beset by multiple controversies. These include the allegations raised against lead actress Rosario Dawson back in 2019 and the reported casting of Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren, who many have pointed out has a noticeably lighter skin tone compared to Sabine's. Transgender fans and fans of color have rightfully been drawing attention to these issues, only for them to be largely overlooked as many fans remain excited for the series while only paying occasional lip service to the aforementioned criticisms.
This is sadly something I've seen in the Star Wars fandom a lot over the past few years. In response to the massive swell of bigotry and toxicity in the community during the release of the sequel trilogy, many fans have become focused on creating a positive and welcoming environment in the fandom. This sounds good on paper, but the focus on positivity has created issues in the long term. Toxic positivity has become a real problem in the fandom, with many members becoming so explicitly focused on the positives of Star Wars that they end up discarding critiques being raised by marginalized members of the community. In trying to combat negativity steeped in racism and misogyny, the Star Wars fandom has begun to foster an equally toxic environment where constructive criticisms from queer and non-white fans are commonly ignored or pushed back against.
Aside from Ahsoka, this attitude could also be seen in the response to 2021's The Bad Batch. Since their debut, the series' titular cast of clones were criticized for their character designs, as many fans posted screenshots comparing the appearances of the clones to that of their live action actor, Temuera Morrison, and found that the clones in animation possessed more Eurocentric features not exhibited by the Māori actor. This led to the creation of the hashtag #UnwhitewashTBB, under which fans compiled numerous examples of whitewashed character designs seen throughout the series. Sadly, this movement has failed to attract the attention it deserves, as many fans have continued to solely focus on the show's positives while rarely acknowledging its negatives.
Now this isn't to say that none of the criticisms raised by marginalized fans have been addressed. The most notable example of Lucasfilm listening to criticism this year was with the firing of Gina Carano. Leading up to the premiere of Season 2 of The Mandalorian, the actress, who portrayed former Rebel shock trooper Cara Dune, came under fire on social media for many inflammatory comments which mocked transgender people, the Black Lives Matter movement and those advocating for vaccinations and mask-wearing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Carano's dangerous rhetoric reached a fever pitch in February of 2021, when the former MMA star made posts on Twitter making light of the Holocaust and falsely suggesting that voter fraud occurred during the 2020 election. As #FireGinaCarano trended on Twitter, the actress was finally let go from the franchise in a press statement released by Disney and Lucasfilm.
While this firing was certainly deserved, and cathartic for marginalized fans, there are still many criticisms that either Star Wars parent company have yet to address, including the aforementioned controversies surrounding Ahsoka and The Bad Batch. Unfortunately, the fandom itself has been even less receptive to these critiques, as the queer and non-white fans who continue to bring up these issues are still being talked over and harassed on social media for speaking out against the very real issues affecting them. Since its humble beginnings, the Star Wars fandom has struggled with toxicity and bigotry within its community. If this is truly going to change, then it's up to the more privileged members of the fandom to listen to those less protected than them and to help them bring more attention to these issues.
Ignoring these problems won't make them go away. Much like the dark side itself, only by acknowledging and confronting them head on will we be able to resolve them and make our way towards the light.
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Written by Zach Bernard
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