An Open Letter to the 501st Florida Garrison Leadership

To the 501st Florida Garrison Leadership,

First, I recognize the challenge of working in conjunction with Walt Disney World on this parade. I do understand that space is limited. I do have full faith that, as an organization, you’ll be able to do what is best for Disney, your members, and the resort guests during Star Wars Weekends. I have this faith because I and many others have seen you succeed at this very event numerous times. The presence of the 501st and Rebel Legion are perhaps the most popular features of the motorcade for both casual park-goers and longtime Star Wars fans.

It is because I’ve seen this garrison do such great things that I am concerned with recent news of character prohibitions that have apparently been made on your own accord and without orders from either Lucasfilm or Disney. We have heard from your own members that characters are not being allowed due to what you have called “recognizability.” More troubling is that we have heard that this policy is being applied in what appears to be inconsistent and seemingly arbitrary fashion. Members have been told that relatively obscure characters like Starkiller are in, but other (and potentially higher profile) characters like Mara Jade are out.

While I understand this policy’s macro goals of promoting costume quality and maximizing parade space, I am worried that it carries with it some unintended and extremely unfortunate consequences. Additionally I understand that this policy has been in place for some time, but it appears that it has never been as strictly applied as it is this year. Perhaps worst is that it restricts a shallow pool of options for female members of your garrison. There are not nearly as many female characters in the Star Wars universe as there are male characters. The subjectivity of a recognizability policy appears to have already cut out options for this already underserved and underrepresented portion of the Star Wars fanbase.

While I may be out of line to suggest this, I feel it’s important to do so. There’s power in representation, but that representation has been difficult to find within the more mainstream confines of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. By barring Mara Jades, Jaina Solos, the Admiral Daalas, and other diverse but less-than-easily-recognizable characters because they’re not as easy to name as Darth Revan or Darth Maul, you take away the opportunity to reach out to the underrepresented.

If these less recognizable characters are allowed in the motorcade and just one young person of an underrepresented demographic (be they a minority, a girl, or what have you) sees someone like them in that parade and develops the first seedling of interest in Star Wars as a result, isn’t that worth it?

I implore you to reconsider how strict this policy is becoming. This motorcade happens numerous times throughout the (now extended by an additional weekend) event. There’s room for everyone, because we’ve seen such a wonderful array and variety of characters before. Allow this to be representative of all fans and to reach out to a larger swath of potential fans.

Going through with this policy may prove to be needlessly divisive. Worse, it may drive away some of the most loyal and devoted members of the 501st and the Star wars fandom as a whole. It carries with it an air of the dangerous and hurtful True Fan mentality and an unintended but present message that says “The character that resonates with you doesn’t matter.”

It’s a big Galaxy, and there’s room for all of us.

May the Force be with you,

Brian Larsen
Editor, Tosche-Station.net
Co-Host, Tosche Station Radio

9 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the 501st Florida Garrison Leadership

  1. Disney sure makes fans wish Gorge Lucas was still in charge.Guess the Disney men club hates females !

    • This decision was not made by Disney or Lucasfilm. As indicated in the post and the links within it, these decisions are being made by the 501st Florida Garrison.

  2. Good afternoon,

    I represent The Flagship Eclipse, the 501st Legion’s Expanded Universe Detachment. Understandably, I have been following developments on this event and how it affects our community closely. I believe the Florida Garrison staff members in charge of coordinating this event are attempting to meet the Park’s request in a fair and equitable manner.

    I understand what amounts to Park’s request to reign in the character assortment and how that is now being perceived within our ranks. But I do not think it is bad news. Consider this; just a few years ago, Star Wars characters from outside the movies were not requested/allowed in the parade at all. I see the few recent Expanded Universe inclusions as progress. Note that most non-movie characters accepted in the parade are masked or helmeted. The Park has every right to be extra-selective about face characters.

    It is true, many of SW female face characters come from the Expanded Universe and as a result are likely not going to be approved by the event requestor for this event. Fortunately, there are many, many other opportunities for all our members to participate in throughout each year.

    Be well,
    Thomas John Spanos
    SL-1876

    • I definitely sympathize with what the 501st here are facing in regards to working with Disney, but I do believe that a lack of transparency at this point is creating a large problem among members of your organization and with perception from others.

      If this is a mandate from Disney, that is understandable. It's unfortunate, but it's understandable. However, right now what is being presented is that it isn't Disney/LFL that's preventing the inclusion of these characters, it's the 501st. Already I have heard from numerous female costumers within the 501st that they are feeling hurt and shunned by leadership. I've also seen sentiments from other costumers that they are now hesitant to join because they feel as if they won't be treated fairly.

      To be clear, what is being presented now (see link above in the post itself) is that it's the 501st making those choices independent of Disney and Lucasfilm, rather than the 501st working under orders from Disney and Lucasfilm. The latter is understandable, the former (and again, that's what is being presented to us) is what many find problematic and raising alarm among costumers and the Star Wars community as a whole.

      If it's Disney, people will be upset but generally understanding. However, the impression that has been provided is that the 501st are the ones acting as arbiters of what is acceptable and what isn't rather than Disney or Lucasfilm.

      Additionally, regardless of whether or not this decision came from the 501st or not, female costumers are feeling targeted and it's not reflecting well on the organization as a whole. The only way to address this issue is to be open and frank with the community as to what is happening, because right now it looks very arbitrary and very subjective and that it's not the fault of Disney and Lucasfilm.

      Long story short, even if things can't change, the community as a whole will be significantly more understanding if this whole debacle is made more transparent.

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