Let me start off by saying how thrilled I am to have all the new fans in the Star Wars fandom. Welcome to an obsession with a fictional space that has thrilled many of us since before we were old enough to be aware of the toys we were playing with from yard sales (yes, I had a Rancor and Luke Skywalker before I had even seen the movies, which made them all that much more magical for me.) There’s nothing quite as thrilling as being able to share an affinity for something you’ve loved for a long time with a new group of friends you never expected to be interested in it. There’s also a risk to it, however, because those new friends might not find the same value in the thing as you did.
When I was in college, a buddy of mine went to see “The Scorpion King” starring with Dwayne Johnson still being billed as The Rock. This was the perfect intersection of his interests, as a life long fan of wrestling (he explained it as a soap opera for men) and as a sequel for one of our group favorite movies in The Mummy movies, he was sold. So much so that he went to see it before any of the rest of us in our friend group. He hated it. So much so, that he convinced the rest of us not to see it.
A year or so later, we all decided to watch the worst movies we’d ever seen and do a Mystery Science Theater 3K treatment on them. After commenting our way through another terrible sequel (Jurassic Park 2) and loving it we put this bad boy in and started watching. Within the first 15 minutes we hadn’t made a single comment, but were laughing so hard we could barely breathe. The buddy who’d hated the movie so much stood up and declared loudly, “Screw you guys, if I’d have known I was *supposed* to laugh at this movie so much I’d have loved it!” We had a blast watching it, and it’s a favorite of all of ours now. The gambit with this movie was taking the camp of the original Mummy series to an obvious terminal point, and no one could have done it better than The Rock. My buddy had his faith in his fandoms restored, thankfully, by the presence of new perspective from his friends.
This is the advantage of revising our old fandoms. It’s also the danger. We take these memories out of their pristine boxes, and much like the little crystal balls in Pixar’s Inside Out, we run the risk of breaking them if they are not handled with care. Sometimes the memory is so much better than the actual experience was, and whole pieces of our identity are built around them. To lose them, is certainly to lose vast sums of who we are, especially where they were forced to be niche and kept apart from civilized interaction.
I’ve gone through this cycle more than a few times, I think all of us have. Dungeons & Dragons is a wave I caught as a 10 year old, though it was already nearly 20 years old by the time I picked it up, it still wasn’t mainstream, by any stretch of the imagination, and there were still people calling it Satanistic (like the Harry Potter series even now.) It’s much more mainstream now, and I love reveling in it with people, especially when it hits a big moment like the beautiful treatment the game got on several occasions of Community. I can promise you, the writers have played Dungeons & Dragons, as this is the most accurate series of representations I’ve seen to date of the groups I’ve gamed with.
While I hate to bring up a sore spot, Game of Thrones is another that I was into before it hit the main stream. I’m not at all upset about the directions the TV series has deviated from the books, far from it. I love retellings of stories, and I would be the last to tell you that the book is better than the movie, because they are so completely different in their telling of the same story. What does irk me about GoT, and GRRM is the fact that the last couple of books are not going to be out before the series is finished. I hope they do finally come out, and that we aren’t just left with a series finished inaccurately in TV form to fill in the major questions left at the end of the book series.
And this is where we discover the hazard of a fandom becoming popular, or getting a refresh, or finding a new audience. When the new model overtakes the old one in popularity, interest, or commitment, then us original fans have to take a step back and reevaluate those memories. They sometimes shatter under the new scrutiny, and we hurt, because years of defending our stance on a thing, or being devoted to it, becomes hard to justify when we really look at it, especially to what we see as casual interest from the masses.
I don’t want to justify anyone’s behavior in being denigrating to cast members, or even writers and directors, for their participation in producing new, fairly popular versions of films. Even creators like GRRM and Lucas deserve a pass here, in some regard. The popularity they gather to themselves and their creation makes them nigh unquestionable, and if there is anything you take away from the behind the scenes looks at the original Star Wars trilogy, it’s that Lucas needed those level voices to balance his world building with good character development and storytelling.
This brings us back to Star Wars. Welcome new fans, I’m glad you’re here. I hope you enjoy the lightsaber fights, the sweeping space battles, and the amazing story from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. To all you old fans who feel like your childhood is being ruined… enjoy the memories you have, they wouldn’t have been worth any less if the new movies had never been made, so don’t make them worthless because the new movies have been made. If you want to make new memories with the new movies, make them. If not, ignore them and like what you like. The one thing that can’t be taken from you is the experience that made your fandom so awesome to you in the first place. That’s the key. Also, remember, that someone is having the doors opened to this amazing world, and they’ll be able to find the memories, and quality for themselves, and that’s okay, because that’s how you found it as well.