The Internet is a pretty powerful tool. Give Twitter the power to make a decision (Boaty McBoaty face scandal I am looking at you), and be prepared for either immediate regret or, on some rare occasions, actual advice.
Admittedly I spend far too much time online, especially down one of the many gates to hell that is ‘film Twitter’. Predominately seen to be full of film critics from generations gone by who just can’t understand how you can call yourself a ‘film fan’ if you don’t know about La Jetee or actually liked Avatar – their aim isn’t so much as to spread the love and appreciation of film, but take it away from those who enjoy it by shaming them on how much others know about cinema. From this perspective, it’s a pretty depressing place to hang out (I swear I do have friends).
Yet sometimes the internet can work wonders. When the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog was released last April, few people at Paramount (let alone anyone who had seen the trailer) probably slept well. The biggest problem the Internet had? The teeth. Sonics’ teeth were terrifying. One headline on PC Gamer put it best: it was “creepy as hell”, and the 46,000 dislikes it currently has on YouTube reflects that pretty well. Director Jeff Fowler, however, took the more constructive criticism on board, tweeting; “Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear… you aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be.”
And everyone stayed true to their word; the release was pushed back, and the Sonic we see in cinemas at the moment is much more reminiscent of the video games and much less likely to give you blue-hedgehog induced nightmares.
But, unfortunately, trolls loom round every corner. The more ‘opinionated’ members of the online film community somehow become the loudest voice in the room. In 2018, Kelly Marie Tran left social media, after the Internet backlashed against her role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Despite her character, Rose Tico, being the first female lead of colour in the franchise, the ‘Wookieepedia’ page for Rose was “altered by contributors with offensive, racist language” (as reported by Variety).
But who was controlling the language and toxicity of the fandom? Who should? As Tran wrote when speaking out for the first time in her op-ed piece for The New York Times; “It wasn’t their words, it’s that I started to believe them. Their words seemed to confirm what growing up as a woman and a person of colour already taught me: that I belonged in margins and spaces, valid only as a minor character in their lives and stories.” This case of toxicity in fandom proves the need for more diverse film critics, who have a big influence online. I don’t what to know what Rose Tico meant to a middle-aged man who doesn’t like the sequels – I want to know what she means to that young Asian-American women who hadn’t seen herself represented in that cinematic universe before.
These are two contradicting examples of fandom online. I’m extremely lucky with the interactions I’ve had, but not everyone is. Fans are supposed to be united by a mutual love; there is no ‘rule-book’ on how to be a “proper” fan. But I do know that you don’t have to know every minute detail about the Millennium Falcon. You don’t have to have seen all the films ten times over, and you don’t have to have read every Marvel comic in existence. There’s no checklist to ‘become’ a fan – because as one, you’re not entitled to much, except sharing a love for cinema.
Below: Heroines of Star Wars panel from Star Wars Celebration 2017.
In response to the amount of abuse aimed at female members of the Star Wars fandom by other ‘so-called fans’ online this panel was set up to celebrate the contributions of female cast, crew & fans to the franchise.
Panellists include Daisy Ridley (Rey), Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano), Tiya Sircar (Sabine Wren) & Lucasfilm’s ‘Story Group’ member Carrie Beck, alongside head of Lucasfilm animation Dave Filoni. Hosted by Women of Star Wars author & mega-fan Amy Ratcliffe.
Last modified: 20th February 2020