Despite a near life-long love affair with Star Wars, it’s only in the last year that I’ve immersed myself in the Twitter scene. It’s allowed me to carve out a corner of fandom that shares my sensibilities, whilst also introducing me to other ideas and viewpoints. Being able to be part of the discussion around the release of a new movie or, more recently, the first season of Resistance, has been a blast. But recently I’m seeing more and more people bullied into setting their accounts to private or leaving social media altogether.
In a lot of ways, Star Wars is my safe space. There’s a comfort in its familiarity, not just repeated viewings, but its whole aesthetic. The franchise has its own unique look, sound and style that soothes my soul whatever the content, a continuity that means those same instantly recognisable sound effects from the movies can be heard even in online-only shorts. And its kooky naming conventions and deep history resonate as much in a book as moving images.
If I’m struggling with anxiety and depression, or if I’m just having a bad day, Star Wars will always be there. It’s something I can depend on, something that doesn’t let me down. That extends beyond the screen or page and into the community. I’ve had a few nasty comments here on the site, and some others over on social media, but my online experience has been pretty positive. Sometimes fandom can get overwhelming and I’ll need to take a break for my own sanity, but I’ve met some great people over the last twelve months and feel like there’s a real place for Raising a Rebel (alas, I’ll have to wait until next Celebration to meet everyone in person).
But sadly my experience isn’t a universal one. For some, Star Wars – or, more specifically, fandom – hasn’t been a safe space. That goes as much for fans as those involved in the creative side of things. Whether it was driving Jar Jar actor Ahmed Best to the point of suicide, contributing to Jake Lloyd’s breakdown or, in more recent years, systematically harassing Rose Tico actor Kelly Marie Tran off Instagram. It’s easy to say it’s only a small minority, but that’s cold comfort to those on the receiving end of targeted, often unrelenting verbal abuse and harassment.
At one end of the spectrum, Star Wars offers a beautiful, silly myth that we each can find a part of ourselves within, to bond over and enjoy. But at the other end, it’s downright frightening. It’s not that Star Wars itself is the perpetrator, but the ideology peddled by some harassers – the so-called “true fans” – means they’re often inseparable.
Sometimes this fandom scares me, but often it’s a safe comforting space. I truly wish that everyone touched by this saga could say the same. But we’ve still got a long way to go. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ll keep trying to make this fandom that much brighter, that little bit more welcoming, because Star Wars is for everyone.