Wookieepedia’s Apology Falls Well Short

Earlier today, Wookieepedia promised they would respond to the criticism and blowback to their ill-conceived and poorly thought out April Fool’s Day joke that was crass at best and deeply misogynistic if we’re being honest.  They have finally put that response up, and to say it’s lacking would be quite a bit of an understatement.

As a community of individuals, not everyone at Wookieepedia agrees with every action taken by the community as a whole or by other individual Wookieepedians… Due to the size of Wookieepedia, it’s the unfortunate nature of our project that not every addition made to our wiki is controlled in a perfectly efficient manner. The actions of one or a few individuals do not necessarily reflect the entire community, though Wookieepedia nonetheless assumes responsibility for all of its content.

While I do sympathize that it’s hard to enact changes on a resource the size and scale of Wookieepedia, there needs to be a system in place to address abuses of the wiki as was demonstrated on Tuesday. That the article in question remained up for so long without so much as a statement speaks volumes and is rather damning. The size of your community is not an excuse for leaving such crass and offensive material up for so long, nor is it an excuse for that material going live in the first place.

Without attempting to mince words here, the article was crass, offensive, and ill-considered. It was not part of our community-approved main joke, which centered around our wiki becoming a subscription service.

If it was not a part of the “main joke,” there’s even less of an excuse for it to have been left up as long as it was. Again, this does not reflect well on Wookieepedia.

This year our main April Fools joke was the introduction of Wookieepedia Pro, a pay-to-read subscription service. In addition to this, a decision was made to highlight a modified “joke” version of our “Breast” article on the Main Page. Without attempting to mince words here, the article was crass, offensive, and ill-considered.

This is actually appreciated and does address part of what people were upset about. Acknowledging that the joke was crass and offensive needed to be said, and I thank Wookieepedia for owning up to that.

Although I cannot and do not presume to speak for the entire community, I can say with authority that I and many of my fellow Wookieepedians deeply regret this decision, and we offer our sincerest apologies to those whom we have offended.

Author and solid human being John Scalzi wrote a great blog post a while back on the subject of apologies. Early on in the post, he states that an apology can only be effective if you’re actually sorry for others and not just yourself. This apology from Wookieepedia reads, essentially, “We’re sorry you were offended.”  This is perhaps nitpicky, but I’m not sure whether or not Wookieepedia is actually being sincere with this post. Do you regret the joke, or do you simply regret that you were caught and rightfully called out?

The “Breast” article’s main image depicts a partially nude character with an exposed breast. This image comes from the book Star Wars Art: Visions, a fully-licensed Lucasfilm product that was published in 2010. Wookieepedia objectively documents its subject matter for its canon nature despite its sensitive material and therefore treats it with the utmost seriousness.

This is the second major cop-out. Hiding behind canonicity and saying that “Hey we know it was offensive but this appeared in a Star Wars publication so it’s totally fair game” comes off as trying to pass the buck to Lucasfilm in an attempt to avoid consequence for your own actions.

This is not a joke to us nor do we intend it to be offensive, although we acknowledge the latter is an inevitability for some of our readers.

Once again, here’s the “We’re sorry you were offended” line that tries to place responsibility for the problem on the offended rather than the transgressor. But that isn’t even the biggest problem with Wookieepedia’s apology.

In light of this, we have recently added a notice to our Main Page warning our readers that not all of our subject matter is appropriate for all ages. We recognize our significance in the Star Wars online fan community, and that we have a responsibility to act in a duly responsible manner.

The solution, then, is to put up an age restriction warning. Rather than address why what they did was offensive and offer solutions to prevent an incident like this from happening again, Wookieepedia has decided that that the better alternative is to tell site visitors that they’re not welcome here. Let’s not mince words. That’s exactly what they are doing.

Are you not of legal age? You’re not welcome. Are you offended by crass and misogynistic humor and content? Well we’re sorry you were offended, but you’re really not welcome here because we’re not going to do anything to prevent this from happening again.

For what Wookieepedia may have done right (acknowledging the joke was crass and attempting to write up an apology), it’s undone by a complete lack of commitment. This apology is a non-apology. There’s little regret over what was done, only regret that people are now calling them out for this poor behavior. It’s undone even further by what appears to be punitive action against people who stood up and called them out. Edit: and undone to even greater lengths by other Wookieepedia admins stating they didn’t think an apology was warranted.

We hoped that Wookieepedia would understand exactly why the joke was offensive, but clearly they have not. We hoped to see them understand that they were alienating fans, but they have not (and instead have enacted policies to alienate them further). This apology falls short on nearly every level imaginable.

Wookieepedia is an enormous touchpoint in the Star Wars fandom, and it sadly appears many running the site have little regard for that responsibility.

Addendum: Please also go read Dunc’s great take on this apology.