On Monday, former Hollywood Reporter editor Marc Bernardin took it upon himself to explain the ongoing failure of the new Star Wars lineup to set the world aflame. His answer: the fans are the problem.
Calling your audience a bunch of deplorables didn’t work well for Hillary Clinton; it’s not going to work well for Disney, either. But that didn’t stop Bernardin from laying all the blame for Star Wars’ failures not at the feet of studio head Kathleen Kennedy but at the feet of the “toxic fandom.” According to Bernardin, it’s a series of internet trolls who have destroyed Star Wars’ luster and caused the newest film in the canon, Solo, to bomb. That problem started not with The Force Awakens, but with The Last Jedi. These toxic fans, Bernardin writes:
Hated everything it stood for. Hated what they saw as a social justice warrior remix of the Star Wars they grew up with. And they hated Tran’s Rose most of all because they decided that she was the avatar for all that was wrong with the franchise. Those fans — a minority but a loud one — found their “them” in the very thing they used to love. Those who chose this particular vein of the Dark Side, emboldened by the faceless intoxication of the internet, went hard on Tran. Racist invective, misogyny, rape and death threats all hurled at her constantly, unrelentingly, transforming what had been a Cinderella story — The Last Jedi was Tran’s first major film — into a modern-day nightmare.
Now, let it be known that it’s absolutely revolting to attack an actress because you didn’t like her part in a movie. That’s absurd. And bigotry of any sort is disgusting. But it’s not the faceless Reddit trolls who killed Star Wars. That’s why Bernardin struggles to explain his preposterous theory:
But if The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were too progressive for some fans, why didn’t they comfort themselves in the warm blanket of Solo, co-written by Star Wars standard-bearer Lawrence Kasdan and directed by Lucas’ Willow collaborator Ron Howard? It should’ve been everything they wanted in the prequels they didn’t get, without the “too many ladies and people of color” issues they claimed hurt the new films. But judging by the gross, they didn’t want Solo either. What is Star Wars fandom against? Turns out, the answer: itself. Or, rather, the realization that Star Wars is and always has been for children, and they aren’t children any more.
Yes, the fans just don’t get it. Don’t listen to those stupid fans. You know, the ones who actually show up for the films. The ones who buy all the gear and have John Williams’ soundtrack on loop in their cars. The ones who introduce their two-year-olds to the Imperial March (guilty).
Why all this effort to blame the fans for the series’ troubles? Because we must never – ever, under any circumstances – blame Kathleen Kennedy. Kennedy, you see, is woke. The Lucasfilm story group is entirely female. Their goal, according to The New York Times: “They wanted to tell beautiful stories, fulfill the expectations of loyal fans and create meaningful female characters.” The Times gushes, “Today, the Lucasfilm story group is a diverse outlier in Hollywood: five of its members are people of color, and the team includes four women and seven men. … A new, unpublished analysis of Star Wars films shows striking progress in their representation of gender and race.”
Now, Kennedy could have had these priorities and created good movies. Instead, she didn’t. She created a bunch of goop. The Force Awakens is garbage; The Last Jedi is double-garbage. That’s because Kennedy had two choices upon being granted the helm of the Star Wars universe: (1) fast-forward fifty years, beyond the original characters, and reboot, losing the nostalgia of the original characters but gaining freshness; (2) recast the original characters and pick up where Return of the Jedi left off. Instead, in fully risk averse fashion, she chose door (3): leech off the nostalgia while introducing new characters a few years in the future. This led her to the idiotic decision to murder off all the original beloved characters in increasingly stupid fashion — and then to the doubly idiotic decision to go back and create new movies around those now-dead characters. She pissed off all of us who grew up on Star Wars, and in doing so, destroyed whatever good will existed among us for the newer batch of characters. Solo and Rogue One are good movies — but Han Solo was killed by JJ Abrams in The Force Awakens after being turned into a loser drifting around the galaxy in his iconic Millenium Falcon, the equivalent of a deadbeat dad who abandoned his family in the 1970s to trek the country in his bug van; Rogue One revolved around a set of characters who all die.
And then even the new movies were chained to the most risk averse strategy: instead of teaming Rey up with Kylo Ren (the only moment of The Last Jedi anyone liked) or killing off Finn for effect, Kennedy’s team saved Finn and essentially rebooted the series to Episode IV by splitting Kylo and Rey. All the SJW antics of the new stuff (from Solo’s odd droid-rights narrative to The Last Jedi’s class warfare-animal rights jaunt) are ancillary to the fact that Kennedy has wildly botched the landing on Star Wars.
But she must be saved.
Thus the audience must be blamed. That’s why we’ve seen a spate of articles in the last week attempting to defend Kennedy’s garbage record (see here, here, and here, for example).
Kelly Tran’s hateful trolls are hateful trolls. But they’re not the reason this series has run off the rails.