Opinion Column

Fans need to check toxic negativity at the door

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Being a fan does not give you a licence to control every aspect of what you’re a fan of.

It certainly doesn’t give you the right to throw a hissy fit and be the world’s biggest jerk to those involved with a show, movie, band, book or otherwise.

Somehow, however, some so-called “fans” think they’re entitled to do so.

Earlier this week, this kind of attitude from Star Wars manbabies actually drove Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico in “The Last Jedi,” to wipe her Instagram.

I can’t say I blame her.

Despite her open love for the franchise – she was in tears during the premiere of the film, thanking Director Rian Johnson on the Red Carpet for the opportunity to be part of it – she’s endured harassment, sexist and racist insults, as well as general hate for her role. “Fans” went as far to change her character’s page name on Wookieepedia – the Star Wars’ online encyclopedia – to an Asian slur.

Do I have to say this isn’t OK?

I get being a passionate fan – I attend conventions and cosplay and make sure I see each Star Wars film the day it comes out. I’m among the group of fans that would’ve liked to see the original novel-based timeline now known as “Star Wars Legends” make it onto the big screen rather than a fresh start (and as much as I love the new movies, I wonder if this new storyline is better than the original).

It’s OK to have those kinds of thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with having your own ideas about how the story, the characters should be. It’s good to be a passionate fan, and it’s even OK to not like some of the new characters (like Hux, who my family refers to as “Space Hitler”).

It isn’t OK to go all dark side and turn that anger, hate and rage and harass the very real person behind the character. It’s not OK to harass anyone, period.

The sad part is she’s not the first, nor the only one to deal with this kind of backlash. Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey in the new trilogy, also was driven off Instagram, and is open with how bad she feels social media is for mental health because of it.

Social media might make it worse, but it isn’t the root cause of the issue.

Fans, at least the overly obsessive kind, seem to think they have some sort of ownership over the franchise. They believe they should be able to dictate how things should go, and the second a director, actor or producer steps out of line, they grab their pitchforks (or lightsabers) to go after the offending individual.

In South Korea, this happens with K-pop groups. My favourite band, Super Junior, once intended to add a couple new members, including Canadian Henry Lau, following another’s departure over unfair working conditions. Fans were so outraged they actually staged a sit-in of S.M. Entertainment’s building and purchased 58,206 shares in the entertainment company to prevent them from adding the new members.

In their case, they actually did buy their way to having a say, however, in other fandoms that’s not the case. Fans don’t own the franchise and they don’t get to control what happens with it.

We all have things were are fans of that have made significant impacts on our lives, but we don’t get to stake claim over them.

There are children who are inspired by Rose and Rey, and whether we like the characters or not, it’s not our place to say they shouldn’t exist and take that away from them.

If you think you should have that right, you might want to lose your fan card and leave the fandom to people who are just there to have fun. 

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