The actions and behaviour of Star Wars fans, along with genre fandoms in general, has been in the spotlight of late as the response to popular entertainment has become increasingly more hateful, vile and toxic with personal insults, threats of violence and a terrifying level of entitlement all being the order of the day, usually with some measure of misogyny, racism and homophobia thrown in for good measure.
Recent victims of note have been director Rian Johnson who following the 2017 release of his film Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been besieged daily by hate and scorn on social media that goes beyond any genuine, decent or constructive film criticism. That film's star Kelly Marie Tran has also come under fire and following incessant racist and sexist comments caused by those less than enamored with her character Rose Tico, causing the actress to subsequently leave the social media platform Instagram.
While it may seem like this is a new phenomenon spurned by those resisting an age of wider representation who have simply co-opted the Star Wars franchise for their own uncivil rhetoric, this behavior is tragically nothing new. Even before social media and a sequel trilogy that nudged the entitled fantasy of many, fans of George Lucas' space-fantasy franchise have allowed their feelings on these films to disconnect from reality, and their disproportionate rage in response to fiction has had some very real-world results.
In a Twitter post this week, Ahmed Best, known for playing the maligned Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace revealed that the fan response to his character, who persists as a cultural punchline to this day, almost led the actor to take his own life.
There's a way to respond to art and entertainment that you don't enjoy but for some reason genre fandom has struggled to realise that and often when the topic does arise the narrative turns to a defensive "not all fans" mentality as opposed to a mature acknowledgment and denouncing of those who display a behaviour not becoming of either an emotionally well adjusted human being or a fan of a franchise that teaches good of heart and unity above most else.
One can only hope that Best's comments serve as a sobering reminder that creators and performers of the entertainment that we consume while having placed themselves in a position to receive criticism for their work are not, no matter our feelings, deserving of the excessive and personal vitriol, ire and aggression that many in this culture display.