Turning Toward the Light Side of the Force: Countering Toxicity in the Star Wars Fandom

There’s no question that there’s divisiveness among the Star Wars fandom these days. It may just be a reflection of the divisiveness rampant across most of North American society these days, and it’s no doubt fueled in part by internet trolls that make extreme statements just to get reactions, but it’s still sad. And I want to take a stand against it.

It’s okay to not like something and still be friends with someone who likes that same something. Or, in internet terms, it’s okay to scroll past differing opinions without feeling the need to respond with outrage or scathing comments. Really. It’s not that hard.

When Fans turn to the Dark Side

As a Star Wars blogger I get my share of differing opinions posted in the comments sections of my articles. Most of them I accept and even respond to, because other fans expressing a different opinion is an essential part of the engagement. We should be able to talk to each other and exchange different viewpoints without hating each other. I welcome it, especially when it comes to Who is the Most Powerful Force User, which I’ve discovered over the years is a topic a lot of people have a really strong opinion about. I draw the line, though, when comments just turn into insults against me personally. It’s not about me, or you. We’re just having a discussion about a make-believe universe that we all enjoy.

I had a comment recently on my Review of Star Wars: Ahsoka that is a good case in point. The commentor opens by saying that toxic fandom isn’t really a big thing – and then goes on to say, at length, how everything since The Last Jedi is garbage and how Disney has ruined everything. Don’t get me wrong: everyone is welcome to their opinion. But to make a blanket statement that everything created in the Star Wars universe under Disney is garbage is a bit of a stretch. What about Rebels? What about Rogue One? What about Clone Wars Season Seven? What about The Mandalorian? Heck, I even liked The Last Jedi.

My point is this: we’re so used to the toxicity now that we sometimes don’t even realize we’re contributing to it. There are so many articles out there that basically blame Disney for everything bad in Star Wars that it’s accepted by a significant portion of the fandom as fact. In reality, the changing nature of Star Wars is a complex and nuanced subject that can’t be adequately described in a single sentence. The commentor I mentioned probably doesn’t even think they’re being toxic. But writing off an entire generation of Star Wars with little more than sneer doesn’t show much respect or accommodation to all those fans who do enjoy the Star Wars made since 2015. Like the Sith, this sort of attitude is dealing in absolutes: uncompromising, unsympathetic, dismissive and, ultimately, hostile.

(You’ll note I didn’t respond to that comment, because there didn’t seem to be any point.)

Bringing Balance to the Fandom

I’m not saying I’m immune to this either. As part of my research as a blogger I read a lot of Star Wars articles by other pundits, and there’s no shortage of snark in many of them. And this snark has sometimes found its way into my writing. I recognize this and I’ve even gone back and edited some of my harsher opinions in older articles – not because my opinion has changed, but because my opinion was never really as strong as I stated it in the article. I may still not like something in Star Wars, but I can state that fact with respect.

I choose to embrace the Light Side, focus on the positive and respect those who disagree with me.

A Shout Out to the Force Center Podcast

I’d like to take this moment to thank Jennifer Landa, Ken Napzok and Joseph Scrimshaw of Force Center, a show that actively chooses to celebrate Star Wars and avoid the toxicity. I discovered their podcast a couple of years ago and I absolutely fell in love with their positive attitudes, their gracious acknowledgement of opposing viewpoints and their in-depth analysis of all things from that Galaxy Far, Far Away. The Force Center folks have made a conscious choice to embrace the Light Side of the Fandom and I’m a better fan for listening to them.

Thank you, Jennifer, Ken and Joseph.

Moving Forward in the Light

I realize that any article I write about Star Wars is going to invite criticism, because ultimately it’s just my opinion and there are plenty of differing opinions out there. No worries. I welcome divergent views. But I do ask that anyone who wants to comment on one of my articles to please do so with basic courtesy and respect. By all means, write a lengthy piece on why you disagree with me – if it’s respectful I’ll be happy to engage.

Let’s all move forward together in the light and celebrate our favorite space fantasy series.

Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning, best-selling author and ghostwriter of science fiction and space fantasy series. His newest novel, Light in the Abyss, is launching in May 2024.

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