If there’s one thing we as Star Wars uberfans have in common, it’s myopia.
To a degree this is pretty understandable. I’ve been guilty of it and odds are I’ll be guilty of it again in the future. Folks that are ultra-invested in Star Wars fandom kept the franchise alive during dormant periods between films. During those dormant periods, content that was released tended to be catered more towards invested fandom. Star Wars during these stretches felt like it was For Us rather than more casual fans or people who simply enjoyed the movies. In essence, we often feel like we’re owed something for Star Wars having a pulse through the mid eighties to late nineties and 2005-2012.
It’s perhaps those dormant periods that have put our expectations out of whack, and have convinced many of us that Star Wars has always been and should always be about us the superfans. You see this manifest in many ways. When a new film comes out that isn’t about our favorite particular part of the Star Wars buffet table, we get annoyed. When a branch of literature canon ends, we respond with buying angry billboards and sending death threats. When a trailer appears at halftime on Monday Night Football, we lose our proverbial shit because Star Wars is for something that’s meant for us, not those people who obviously don’t love it.
Somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that our circles of fandom comprise the entirety of filmgoers that consume or even care to consume Star Wars. The reality, though, is we’re a hilariously small percentage of the Star Wars content consuming populace.
A Star Wars film doesn’t make two billion dollars just on the strength of our support alone. Sure we might account for a bunch of repeat viewings, but we’re but a fraction of that box office gross. It’s here we have to remember that these films really aren’t for us. Frankly, it would be inexcusable for these films to be just for us. Star Wars is the modern mythology. Tales and characters belong to an entire generation of humanity, not just the select few of us who elected to go deeper into the mythic weeds.
These films are for everyone who has ever been touched by the mythos of Star Wars to any degree and a jumping on point for any who have never experienced it before. By necessity, their reach and appeal must be broad and accessible, approachable by anyone regardless of their investment into fandom. The narrative has to be one that speaks to both superfans and those experiencing Star Wars for the first time.
Sometimes, unfortunately, it means that these films can’t be about our specific favorites. They can’t be predicated on having the viewer possess a deep understanding of multiple seasons of an animated show, or lore from hundreds of books and comics. To do so limits severely who can access these films, and limits the ability for the franchise to grow and nurture new fans. Ultimately, Star Wars is a film-first franchise. While other mediums support and enrich it, the films are the bedrock and foundation.
The films have a responsibility to us the invested superfans, yes. But we’re just one part of the equation. Perhaps there’s a bit more weight placed on us, but we cannot be the sole focus or even majority focus for the storytellers. We’re always going to have that expanded content we can sink our teeth into that can grow our individual favorite things, but for Star Wars to live and grow, we have to let it be about more than just us.
I’ve found that Star Wars seems to have more meaningful for me when I step back and ask myself what does this give to audiences as a whole, rather than what does this give to Star Wars fans. What message is this sending to all those who watched it? Who can see themselves in the characters on screen? There’s great power in storytelling and fiction, and Star Wars is perhaps the greatest evolving tale we all share. There’s a responsibility there to do good works with such a platform and utilize it to inspire and, dare I say, provide hope to as many people as possible. Especially today when the darkness in world around us seems to be creeping in faster and faster.
So when a trailer drops during halftime of a Monday Night Football game in October, just remember: this isn’t for us. This is for everyone.